[Post-Covid World] Would the post-Covid humanity become more disjointed?

People walk by Central Park as workers set up a camp in front of Mount Sinai West Hospital on March 29, 2020 in New York ... Show more KENA BETANCUR, AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

“Post-Covid World” is about inconspicuous changes that model the face of the future. These grains can be lost in a heap of terrible details about deaths and deprivations, which are formed the current picture of the day. We believe that very soon the time to put down the armor and take up the ordinary life will come. What things will be in demand in the world after the pandemic? What skills will be important to you to find your place? The first note of the series, “Sharp thorns of the New post-virus World”, is available here.

The coronavirus pandemic provoked a huge amount of discussions about the future. For example, some expatiate whether people would still shake hands, as prescribed with the centuries-old culture of the West, although it is unhygienic, or will switch to other types of greetings. The alternative is multiple. For example, most of the India’s population, that is near 1.3 billion people who are not used to shake hands, greet each other with a ‘namaste’ gesture. And Japanese bow (or ‘rei’) is a part of sophisticated but everyday ritual.

Bryan Lufkin, the BBC author, starts his analysis with Anthony Fauci’s words (Mr. Fauci is a key figure in the US response to the virus): “I don’t think we should ever shake hands ever again, to be honest with you.” An opinion of Kanina Blanchard, professor and lecturer in management communications at the University of Western Ontario, finalized this essay: “As places like China, the Middle East and India become increasingly influential in the world of global business, customs in those cultures could become the international norm.”

Although all these things are nothing more than assumptions about the fall of English as the basis of international communication, people may begin to refuse to shake hands around the world because of fear. Could it become a habit? Yes, if the pandemic would last long enough.

Other experts try to understand whether a pandemic will change the organization of urban areas radically. Jack Shenker from The Guardian writes: “If proximity to one’s job is no longer a significant factor in deciding where to live, for example, then the appeal of the suburbs wanes.” It sounds sad for real estate companies that advertise cheap newbuilds on the outskirts of any world capital in the midst of a pandemic.

Does it mean that people around the world will come back to the villages more actively, as it is happens already in the northern countries? Actually, We do not believe.

As a result, the tension between two trends that Jack recognizes will only increase. In his definition, first is “densification – the push towards cities becoming more concentrated, which is seen as essential to improving environmental sustainability”, and second is “disaggregation, the separating out of populations, which is one of the key tools currently being used to hold back infection transmission.”

Social distancing is useful for pandemic prevention that was proved in 1918, during the Spanish flu epidemic, Abigail Beall recalls in a publication for the BBC Future. We wouldn’t discuss this in details.

Social distancing is the subject of another recent article in the HK’s South China Morning Post. The pandemic has engaged the world into an unprecedented social experiment: fixing a “new normal” social distance, Sarah Zheng writes. This experiment is much deeper than marking in front of such places as a cashbox, which make it is easier for people to stand 1.5-2 meters from each other.

“Working from home may become a more common phenomenon. Face masks may become normal in places where they were initially rejected. More lectures, meetings and conferences may be held virtually. Hand washing may become second nature,” Sara recites.

Hong Kong has already survived strict government measures in 2002-2003, during the SARS outbreak, the author recalls. On the other hand, Hong Kong residents do not trust their administration – 2019 protests are still fresh in mind. They continued visiting pubs and gathering in sports halls when the pandemic began, Sarah admits, until the pubs and gyms were shutdowned.

Note that the forcing’s to social distance level in different countries is different. Fines are the most civilized of measures, but it happens that the govts act much harder.

In the Philippines, the whole Luzon Island where the capital Manila is located and half of the country’s population lives is under the ‘general community quarantine’ or the ‘enhanced community quarantine’ (ECQ) regimes. The president Rodrigo Duterte shocked the world with the statement that the police and the military could shoot to kill quarantine violators. Stay-at-home is problematic for the poor, who need to leave home every day to earn for a living. In Philippine prisons, it’s impossible to distance oneself from each other: they are 310% loaded, Jason Castaneda from the Asia Times reports. Hundreds of Filipinos have been arrested for violating social distance and quarantine rules, adds Sarah Zheng.

In Malaysia, a partial lockdown dubbed as ‘movement control order’ (MCO), and a full one is called ‘enhanced movement control order’ (EMCO). Violators can be arrested. In the first two weeks of restrictions, the police detained 611 people. The whole country is divided into zones from green (zero cases of infection, soft restrictions are introduced) to red (residents are strictly forbidden to leave their homes even to buy food, the govt supplies food). Authorities are blocking certain groups of buildings or settlements, setting up barbed wire and army roadblocks around.

Does this have a depressing effect for people? Undoubtedly, they have no choice but to obey.

However, if you think that people are social animals, and they often need to get together to survive only in Southeast Asia, look what happens in Mexico right now. “Markets are crowded with people, street food stalls and small restaurants known as fondas continue to attract large number of customers, public transit is full, children are playing in the streets and locals have parties,” Mexican doctors told El Financiero.

You make a mistake if think that social distancing persists when a state or emergency ceases to force people to follow the rules. “And as we see after every Ebola crisis, the halt in handshaking in churches is temporary; normal practices will resume after this crisis,” Bankole Falade, social psychologist at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, said.

Getting a coronavirus vaccine would further contribute to the restoration of the behavior that was common for the majority of the people in the era before the pandemic.

So, the circle has been closed?

Rather! Social distancing due to the epidemic may not disappear for the several more years worldwide. One explains us that it takes 18 months or more to make an effective vaccine. And how long does it take to instill the inhabitants of the whole earth?

“Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022” in US unless critical care capacity would be increased substantially or a treatment or vaccine would become available,” researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health wrote in their report, according to the CNN. Covid-19 surveillance should be maintained “since a resurgence in contagion could be possible as late as 2024”, they added.

Thus, we all can be locked in the terribly changed Old World, where you can’t stand next to each other in public even if you live together.

Govts around the world have already figured out, as best they could, what we must do in exquisite detail. “One passenger besides the private vehicle driver can be permitted in the backseat, in case of four-wheelers. In case of two-wheelers, only the driver of the vehicle is to be permitted,” a ministry of health guidelines India Today quoted. The cheapest transport in South Asia, motorcycle taxis (in Indonesia they are called ojek, in Thailand and Cambodia – tuk tuk), was also prohibited as two-wheeled transport. But what about the three-wheeled tuk tuk?

India is under lockdown nationwide since March 25 and till May 3. There are many questions to the authorities regarding the severity of the lockdown measures. People who spit on the street can now be fined; wearing masks has become mandatory – this is understandable and not bad. But why the sale of alcohol and tobacco is prohibited?

So, the Brave New World, when it comes, threatens to be much poorer in close personal communication. People are social animals, but they also habituate themselves to everything. And here is another detail.

Britain’s health secretary Matt Hancock said: If people could take tests that prove they were immune to the coronavirus, they will receive a “certificate of immunity” (possibly a bracelet) and might be able to return to normal life sooner. Will Bedingfield from Wired said that it’s a bad choice in terms of medicine, psychology, and law. “It’s not hard to imagine how the split might generate resentment. Only imagine being locked indoors while your immune neighbors are hanging about the park. Social cohesion will suffer,” Robert West, a professor of health psychology at University College London, says.

Despite this, no one’s objection prevented Chile from being the first country in the world to declare: it has created “immunity passes” that it will start issuing next week for those who’ve recovered from Covid-19, allowing them back into the workforce, Eduardo Thomson and Philip Sanders from Bloomberg reports.

To clarify some of the important features of a future post-Covid-19 world, let’s hold to a plan. Firstly, how we started to behave following a simple route: home-shop-home? Secondly, how we build relationships with other people: friends, relatives, colleagues, superiors and subordinates?

Both of these new parts of our research would give you information on changes in consumer behavior that may have a great future.

To be continued.

Russian version of this article available here.

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