If you think that normalcy will be restored once the lockdown is over, think again. COVID-19 has already brought radical changes to our society and culture. From elevated hygiene standards to falling economies, change is apparent since the outbreak. And these outcomes are a mix of positive and negative scenarios. While some countries report cleaner air and swimming dolphins, others see a rise in domestic violence and divorce rate. And this makes people wonder, will this change remain or disappear once the pandemic ends? The answer to that is not concrete.
First, scientists are not sure of when a deployable vaccine will be available. So whether or not the pandemic will end completely is a big question. While it is best to stay optimistic, it is also important to keep track of the ‘what if’ scenarios. Secondly, the changes that the world is collectively going through hasn’t ended yet. So to say that the changes are permanent would not be correct. But, to believe that it will not be lasting is also questionable. So the right way to approach this uncertainty would be to look at the major ways in which COVID-19 has presently affected our society and culture.
Feeling of Vulnerability
COVID-19 has certainly made human civilization realize their vulnerability. The world has gone through a series of outbreaks in its history. From mild upsurges to ones that swept a quarter of the world population, we have seen it all. But with passing time, the world had crept into complacency and false comfort of materialism. And COVID-19 put us back into the vulnerable state.
It is true that second hand experiences will never create a 100 percent level of understanding. And initially, when only China was experiencing a surge in COVID-19 infections, most people would never have thought that their time will come too. Now that each nation is on lockdown, the virus has become dangerous. Most common human behaviors like social gatherings, hugging, kissing and even travel has become dangerous. Most importantly, the unpredictability of the virus, the fact that it can infect anyone has become dangerous. This makes the feeling of frailty and vulnerability overwhelming.
Communal Values Have Become Important
The current outbreak has definitely changed the way we look at the world and the world looks at us. There were days when every nation had its internal and external strifes, whether political, economic or social. But, now that the world is facing one common enemy, all nations have a common focus.
The level of understanding and empathy is equal around the globe. And nations are sharing their intellect and reaching out to help others. China’s decision to help 82 countries to fight COVID-19 is a great example of this cooperation between nations. This consideration is not only on the international level but on individual levels too. Prevention has increased knowing that the virus is quite infectious and also fatal for some people of the community. People are staying indoors, washing their hands and wearing masks to protect themselves and others.
Most people are also cooperating with the authorities and considering the hard work of the people in the frontlines. Basically, lost humanity has been restored.
More Dependence on Technology
Where can a quarantined person spend most of the time without getting bored? On the internet. Now that the world is reduced to a phone or a laptop screen, most countries are seeing a 50 percent rise in internet usage. This forced most streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+ to reduce their bandwidth usage to accommodate more users.
The most apparent change is the use of technology at work. People can’t leave their homes to reach their workplace so the workplace is brought to their homes. Schools and colleges are continuing online and even trainers are instructing their clients via video call. Most importantly, medicine has shifted online. Telemedicine has boomed in the past months. And now that the government has realized its potential, all restrictions on it are being revoked.
The government is also using technology to keep track of the patients. Mobile apps and tracking bracelets are underway to know the location and condition of quarantined individuals. With such prominent changes in the functioning of the world, it is possible that dependence on technology will remain moving forward.
Major Changes in Healthcare
Without a doubt, the healthcare systems took the hardest hit from COVID-19. Even the most developed nations known to have the finest healthcare facilities in the world have succumbed to COVID-19. France and Italy, who sit at the top two positions are one of the worst-hit nations. This is why the present focus of flattening the curve is aimed to reduce the pressure on the healthcare facilities. But the past four months of the outbreak has led to one important conclusion- flaws in the healthcare system.
Most people in the US don’t have health insurance. And this has made it difficult for them to get treated or even tested for COVID-19. The bills for treatment are not affordable for a major fraction of the population. And this creates fear and panic among people and so they try to evade authorities. In addition to this, COVID-19 has exposed the lack of primary care in the US which further adds to the cost of treatment.
With every fault coming to the fore, people now question the government and maybe even ask for better healthcare in the future. And seeing the present scenario, the government may have to agree too. But, it is all an assumption until the uncertainty starts to clear.
Rise in Racism
What once caused rebellions and revolutionary movements has now returned with COVID-19. Though shades of racism were still prevalent in some areas but they weren’t as dark as it is now. People have become violent against the Chinese, physically and verbally. And sadly it’s not just the Chinese bearing the brunt but also South Koreans, Thai, East Indians and Nepalese. Basically, everyone whose facial features are similar to the Chinese. In addition to all this, Trump calling COVID-19 a ‘Chinese virus’ did no good to ease the situation.
People are blaming China for having created the virus. And this hatred has risen to a level where even a Chinese who has never been to China has to face the brutal racism.
There is no solid answer to if all these changes will remain forever or not. While we may hope for some to be permanent, others are better left in the past. However, only the future will determine the course. Until then, stay home, care for others and practice all the precautionary measures with diligence.