So what kind of world we’ll have in post-COVID-19 era? A return to life before COVID-19 and what we had at the start of 2020 is some ways away, even though in some places lockdown restrictions have been eased. We shouldn’t take it for granted that coronavirus will dominate our lives for a long time.
First of all, the pandemic will definitely affect our mannerisms and etiquette that we were used to before. No more shaking hands when introduced to people or hugging friends and relatives on birthdays. Whether to adopt to place one’s right hand on one’s heart or do the Indian Namaste salute will be up to each individual.
We have been told to stay home and self-isolate. Employees who are able to work from home have seen its benefits and enjoyed the freedom and flexibility that it gives. They will likely continue doing so if given the chance while employers have realized that staff working from home saves office space and rentals.
We were forced to socialize with relatives, friends and neighbours via Skype, WhatsApp, Zoom and other digital platforms. Webinars galore mushroomed on every subject and on every aspect of our living. We were educated and entertained by them to the extent that we are now dependent on using them regularly. I have already participated in four Zoom sessions organized by relatives. Authorities are gradually easing restrictions but it would be some time before you can dress up in your Hugo Boss suit and wear a tie to attend weddings and funerals.
A joker friend remarked recently that now would be the time to die because funerals would be cheaper – fewer people, no more expensive wake or a party to celebrate the life of the departed soul.
Astute entrepreneurs have seen the opportunities that the pandemic has offered. New factories manufacturing masks, sanitizers and gloves will erupt in various cities as they would become fashionable for people to wear and carry in their pockets. I wouldn’t be surprised if designers like Gucci and Chanel would join the frenzy and capitalize by producing designer masks to meet the demand from our upper classes.
Many of us are eager to visit the barbershops and hair salons, some of which are already open, to disguise one’s greying hair while some of us have decided to go grey permanently, making the salt-and-pepper look stylish and trendy. For the time being, expect long line-ups at your favourite salon while the staff accommodate customers one at a time. No more watching TV or read outdated magazines while you wait. The brave ones amongst us will probably sport a tail to contain overgrown hair and grow a beard, looking like Robinson Crusoe, a castaway who spent 28 years on a remote tropical desert island, encountering cannibals and mutineers.
It’s unfortunate that some retailers and small firms would be victims of the lockdown due to falling sales and rising costs, who won’t be able to reopen in the next few months. Some may simply throw in the towel or hand over keys back to landlords.
The biggest victim of COVID-19 pandemic has been the travel industry. Aviation experts are already predicting huge losses and some bankruptcies by airlines. Several airlines in the U.S. and U.K. have already collapsed due to COVID-19 outbreak. Our national airline, Air Canada, announced they’ll eliminate 20,000 positions. As a frequent traveller, I lament the fact that I won’t able to travel for a long time. There is no doubt that after months of staying at home, many of us will be itching to travel. However, whenever we travel again, it would be common to see thermal imaging cameras checking temperatures of all passengers as we walk through airports or railways stations.
Airlines will also have to make changes by distancing their passengers. Easy Jet has already announced that it plans to initially keep the middle seat empty to ensure that passengers are not seated too close to each other. It’s likely that other airlines may follow suit. It the process, ticket prices very likely may go up, making flying an expensive venture.
Authorities are bound to impose stringent check-ups at border points and travel may still be restricted to and from infection hotspots. Immigration officers will have to screen not only illegal migrants, but they will also have to identify and restrict people from coronavirus destinations. Open borders and visa-free travel will come to an abrupt end, replacing special health requirement for international visitors, including proof of negative corona tests, vaccination etc. A standardized global certificate accepted by all counties and proposed by international bodies such as WHO may be needed for the travelling public.
Social distancing being a problem for commuters of trains, tubes and buses, may force many people to prefer working from home. Municipalities may think seriously of legalizing alternative modes of transport such as bicycles or electric scooters by creating special lanes for them.
A new chapter in distance learning is on the offing and drastic changes in our educational system may be on the horizon. According to UNESCO, 90 percent of the earth’s children are out of classes, learning online with digital lessons offered on a scale never seen before. Universities and colleges, which are used to getting students from all around the world, will have decreased enrollment of international students as the appetite to study abroad, far from family, will not be as strong as before.
One important thing that the pandemic has taught us is the importance of relationships. Until now, many of us must have not realized how valuable our friends and relatives are to us. I definitely miss the casual “good mornings” and “have a nice day” greetings that I am accustomed to getting from people in my neighbourhood’s Tim Horton. We should be thankful for being reminded of how important our community and acquaintances are.
COVID-19 has provided us with a wakeup call, but it also has been a cruel teacher, providing a series of lessons not to be forgotten. Our provincial and federal governments have to continue learning as to why countries like Germany, Iceland, Singapore and New Zealand have been able to maintain their death rates low while U.S., Italy, Iran and now Brazil have suffered with high death rates. It would be a lesson to remember!
Mansoor Ladha is a Calgary-based journalist, travel writer and is author of Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West and A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. Currently, he is working on his third book and a novel.