What comes after the virus and how will our world change?
The pandemic brought changes in our way of life. Facemasks are a norm everywhere you go. Hand sanitizer stations at doorways. Stretches of space between people. No mass gatherings. The dating world has died. Pubs, clubs and bars are ancient history. This isn’t the first outbreak in the UK, historically it happens a lot. It is the first advanced virus in terms of spread, the jump from animal to human species and the lack of treatment options for something so similar to the flu. The long-term or terminal impacts on the vulnerable members of society -elderly, disabled, those with pre-existing conditions, pregnant women- are devastating to the wider population in terms of our families, economy, livelihood and wellbeing.
Outbreaks in the UK
There has never been a world-wide pandemic leading to extreme measures such as quarantine, social distancing, closure of shops, enforcement of fines, closure of public spaces, and travel bans. A 2019 audit showed the UK government was unprepared for an outbreak. Other news reports show similar problems over the globe. It is likely the world is still underprepared for future outbreaks.
It sounds like something out of an apocalypse movie. Yet, the world survives. Books and films tend to be overly negative about the likelihood of the extinction of the human race. Life finds a way. It’s the pressure on services, the economy and structures build by civilised society that damages our ways of life.
Now the argument stands whether the approach to global health crises is what needs updating or whether it’s our way of life that needs adapting to the ever mutating, always evolving world.
The irony is the advice we give today hasn’t changed from the advice given a hundred years ago.
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases was a slogan first used in the United States during the 1918–20 influenza pandemic – used in the Second World War by Ministries of Health in Commonwealth countries – to encourage good public hygiene to halt the spread of the common cold, influenza and other respiratory illnesses. Did it work? No.
Modern society has had to face a cruel and disgusting truth; we, people in our society, are unhygienic as a general rule: we don’t wash our hands regularly, some don’t shower routinely, we spit publicly, cigarette butts are thrown on the floor, we sneeze openly and cough without covering our mouths. It just took the spread of a global virus that resulted in mass disruption for us to realise it.
What does the future bring?
Like the Black Death spreading along the trade-routes strung along the spine of 14th-Century Eurasia, Covid-19 emerged in China and spread extremely quickly along the modern-day Silk Roads: intercontinental flight paths.
There are a number of possible futures, all dependent on how governments and society respond to coronavirus and its economic aftermath. Hopefully we will use this crisis to rebuild, produce something better and more humane. But we may slide into something worse. From an economic perspective, there are four possible futures: a descent into barbarism, a robust state capitalism, a radical state socialism, and a transformation into a big society built on mutual aid.
- Temperature checks
- Thermal imaging
- Decrease in public transport
- Increase in cycling, car-shares, taxis and walking
- Flexitime / work from home
- Holidays at home
- Local economies replace global economy
- Door to door services
- Larger households
- Decrease in marriages
- Decrease in childbirths
Facemasks a fashion trend
No mass gatherings or public events
Increased hygiene standards
New technology for community
The facemask is here to stay. In ten years, expect to see catwalk models striding down the platform with mouths covered.
PPE will be the norm. Gloves, masks, visors, you name it. Viruses mutate and evolve quicker than modern medicine, and alongside poor air quality, facemasks are essential.
Sporting events, festivals, clubs, protests, all these types of mass gatherings will likely be regulated for a long time to come. It might be that activists change their methods and harness technology to their advantage.
Weddings, funerals and other such events will remain downsized with a capping to secure the maximum to a lower number.
Industrial strength cleaners to steralise every surface in public spaces -schools, playparks, libraries, museums, galleries, community hubs- as well as increased cleaning will be maintained. This will be imposed by the government upon employers to ensure all premises are virus secure. Sanitizer stations will become as numerous as public benches.
Apps like track and trace will become common use to document spread of viruses and disease.
Communication technology for socialising at home will fill the market gap left by hospitality. Virtual hangouts will be the new coffeeshops. Ways to spend time with family without risking their health.