Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Covid 19 – Blip or Turning Point?

Looking back on the fact that we have now spent the better part of this year living with this Covid-19 virus, I have been thinking about how this tiny micro-organism is changing the way we human beings live and get about our activities of daily living.

What will society look like in the post Covid world? Will this pandemic be just a blip in the march of human history – or will it be a major turning point?

History has shown us that pandemics come and pandemics go – and the world continues to function after the pandemic has gone. The Spanish Flu of 1918, coming so soon after the horrendous First World War, decimated populations and destroyed societies. Different countries tackled the problem in different ways – and even in the same country, while San Francisco did one thing, New York (like Frank Sinatra) did it its own way. But by 1920, with the pandemic having wreaked its havoc and gone away, the world was back to functioning again.

In 1665 the Bubonic Plague (Black Death) devastated London and killed off a sixth of its population. Following the Great Fire a year later, the city was rebuilt on essentially the same street plan used before the fire – and life went on as before.

So can we be confident that in the course of time even this 21st century pandemic will come under control? The question of course is how long it will take to be controlled – and whether we will we go back to the old “Normal” or a “New Normal”. If the latter, what will the “new normal” state of affairs be like ? Will we be able to reclaim our Health, our Time, our Travel and our Community?

Will Covid accellerate the flexibility of the workplace? A recent survey in the UK revealed that 87% of office workers stated that they wished to work from home in a post lockdown world. Will we change the way we work? Will there be less commuting as we work from home when we realise that we are able to work more productively, not in central workplaces an hour or more away from where we live, but in flexible workplaces closer to our homes or even from our home itself?

How will the way we access food and shopping change? Already businesses are seeing an exponential increase in online shopping. Even now when we do go to buy things at shops and food outlets we seldom use cash or coins – we use contactless cards. Will tattered bank notes and grubby germ-coated coins become a things of the past?

Will we continue to greet each other sensibly as the Indians and Chinese have been doing for centuries with the no touch technique of putting our hand together or bowing – rather than the germ sharing methods of kissing and hugging and shaking hands? Will we become less averse to wearing masks – not only to prevent catching germs from others but also to prevent ourselves spreading our own germs to others, as is customary in Japanese society?

We have for many years and in many countries been coasting along in unprecedented affluence with nary a care for the world and the environment that provides us with life. Perhaps this pandemic will teach us that sustainability and unbridled capitalism cannot go together. This virus has humbled us to realise our own vunerability and the very frailty of our being.

How we shape and accept the New Normal will have far reaching consequences well beyond our own lifetimes.

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This entry was posted on September 14, 2020 by in Health Matters, Opinion and tagged , , , .
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