Covid-19: What to expect next?
Updated: Jan 30, 2021
by Imaan Hinguin
Coronavirus. Covid-19. SARS-CoV-2. Whatever you name it; it is the hot topic of 2020, and I dare say it will affect us in many more ways than what we anticipate. When will life ever be ‘normal’ again? After a few more months? A year? Or a decade? Life after this outbreak will definitely change us, our outlook on life, as well as affect the socio-political and economical realm of the whole world.
According to Boris Johnson, the country can turn the tide “within twelve weeks” while an overly optimistic (or some would say ignorant) Donald Trump suggests the US can open up again “fairly soon” (Meredith, 2020). Well, the BBC announced the USA’s whopping unemployment rate to be 14.3% (and rising), the highest it has been since the 1930s; while the global death count reached over 270,000 and is further increasing.
On a philosophical level, this lockdown has led me to think about the deeper meaning of life. I had ample time to watch my favourite shows, bake, work out and keep up with university work, but yet something was missing: human connection through social interactions. We often overlook our friendships and relationships, and take for granted the opportunities we have. I have travelled to over 3 countries in the past year, and was devastated to realise I would not be exploring places any time soon. Yet, I was surrounded with my family, living comfortably under a roof and could not be more blessed.
How will life change (or not)?
Retail was already having a tough time. However, the lockdown will have ripple effects and affect our High Streets (Simpson, 2020). The larger players still able to satisfy the customers will prosper. Some smaller retailers are more likely to suffer: rising costs; falling sales. It will be intriguing to analyse human behaviour once the lockdown is eased. The surge in shopping will be present, but I assume short-lived. Indeed, most of us have endured the past weeks/months without fashion! In my humble opinion, I would favour small retailer over multinationals and well-established companies to uplift local entrepreneurs who have greatly suffered in what feels like a ‘pause’ in life.
The University of Manchester just recently became the first university to announce that all lectures next term (starting October 2020) will be delivered online (Turner, 2020). It seems to be the safest option, considering the practice of social distancing might be unattainable in lecture theatres. Very plausibly, other universities will follow the lead. Worldwide, the coronavirus has taken a toll on education. Most year/semester abroad have been cancelled, further studies postponed, or summer internships brought to a halt. It feels like the world has been paused.
According to UNESCO, the current education disruption will have on-going effects for years. With more than 90% of children out of classes, most teaching is being done online. This unfortunately hits some more than others. Many students across the world do not have access to technology, or do not own smartphones or laptops, and this is clearly disadvantaging them in a society now reliant on those devices to pursue education. The inequality gap is further widened, and no vaccine currently seems available.
On that note, travelling for fun will probably not happen anytime soon. The airline industry has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. However, Doramas Ideron believes this is short-lived because the aviation industry is being put under unprecedented strain, but should be able to overcome it eventually (Robotti, 2020). Flights over Europe have nearly evaporated, and many governments have placed travelling bans and restrictions which have forced companies such as EasyJet, Ryanair or Lufthansa to cut flights by at least 80% while several local airlines are going in administration (not able to repay their debts). Now that the situation seems to be going better and countries have started easing their confinement laws; international flights should (hopefully) be next on the agenda but within limits. Safety procedures and distancing (such as empty seats) should be respected, and recovery should not be expected until 2021. When will we next go on a holiday? Only time will tell, and I honestly cannot wait to hop back on a plane.
Identically, the number of people on trains, tubes and buses is likely to be lower than pre-crisis to avoid a resurge in affected numbers. Some companies will favour work at home for a while, and other independent transport methods such as bikes will be favoured.
The only positive note of this global pandemic has been on an environmental scale. Pollution and greenhouse gas emissions have fallen across continents in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. Levels of pollution have reduced by nearly 50% in New York. China’s fell by 25%.
How long will this dip in emissions last? When the pandemic eventually subsides, will it “bounce back” to the original point? The main reason emissions have dropped is due to the decrease in use of transport. While routine trips are never going to come back – such as commuting to work and back – there might be a surge in travel once the option is back on the table. The impact of today’s outbreak resembles the recent financial crash of 2008 where global emissions had dropped immensely for a year (due to reduced industrial activity). Overall, some researchers have noted that 2020 may still see a drop on 0.3%, with less rebound than previously. Clearly, our response matters; and this unexpected outcome has shown the difference communities can make when they look out for each other.
Clear skies in Lebanon, known for its air pollution. (Credit: Getty Images) https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment
Covid-19 Bills/Acts were promptly drafted after the outburst to deal with the societal repercussions on businesses, employees, high-risk patients, among others. These are unprecedented times, and businesses should be able to assess its legal obligations and exposures, and restructure their mode of operation to comply with those. The health (physical and mental) of workers and the stability of the business are at the core, especially during the move to virtual or remote working. The laws being created across the world include the injection of millions into the economy in the tourism sector, leases, and/or secured loans for SMEs, and prioritised at highest risk, while trying to avoid an economic depression.
Singapore has been applauded for its effective responsiveness and support to local businesses to mitigate the aftermaths of this pandemic. Minister for Law K Shanmugam SC commented: “You’re looking at economic devastation. Businesses destroyed, people’s lives ruined, and in such a situation, you don’t talk contract. You talk equity, you talk justice, you talk about what is the right thing to do.”
It is safe to say that the coronavirus pandemic has hit us in every aspect of our lives; and is bound to affect us in many more ways than initially anticipated. Indeed, its repercussions might have both implicit and explicit consequences that might last for years. Nonetheless, it has also somehow brought some calm in our chaotic routine, and made us appreciate our surroundings and be grateful for what we have. Only in the future can we guarantee how this will pan out and when it will all be back to “normal”.
Roborri, C. 2020. ‘Does This Change Everything? Air Travel and Coronavirus’. European Investent Bank. [online] at: https://www.eib.org/en/stories/coronavirus-impact-air-travel
Kleinman, Z et al. 2020. ‘How will coronavirus change the way we live?’ [online] at: https://www.bbc.com/news/explainers-52356136
Human Rights Watch, ‘UK: COVID-19 Law Puts Rights of People with Disabilities at Risk” [online] at”: https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/03/26/uk-covid-19-law-puts-rights-people-disabilities-risk
Turner, C. 2020. ‘Manchester University is first to confirm that all lectures next term will be delivered online’ [online] at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/05/12/manchester-university-first-confirm-lectures-next-term-will/
Henriques, M. ‘Will Covid-19 have a lasting impact on the environment?’ (BBC, 2020) [online] at: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200326-covid-19-the-impact-of-coronavirus-on-the-environment