June is with us. Summer around the corner. Since the number of Covid cases in Malta has reduced to slightly above a hundred, and with some shops, restaurants and businesses slowly re-opening, everyone slowly working to create revenue again. I am still working from home due to my child still being out of school, and the businesses I worked with before Covid are still not fully functional, and in this time of surrendering to the unknown, I cannot help but think of how our island and the rest of the world is going to have to change its ways of doing things.
Will businesses afford to employ people if they are not selling enough to cover costs and salaries?
The economics are fairly straightforward. Businesses exist to make a profit. If they can’t produce, they can’t sell things. This means they won’t make profits, which means they are less able to employ you. Businesses can and do (over short time periods) hold on to workers that they don’t need immediately: they want to be able to meet demand when the economy picks back up again. But, if things start to look really bad, then they won’t. So, more people lose their jobs or fear losing their jobs. So they buy less. And the whole cycle starts again, and we spiral into an economic depression.
I hope that this won’t happen to our island where the economy has been quite stable.
In a normal crisis the prescription for solving this is simple. The government spends, and it spends until people start consuming and working again.
But normal interventions won’t work here after Covid19 because the governments don’t want the economy to recover (at least, not immediately). The whole point of the lockdown was to stop people going to work, where they spread the disease.
One recent study suggested that lifting lockdown measures in Wuhan (including workplace closures) too soon could see China experience a second peak of cases later in 2020.
One way in which people could possibly get back to paid work and have less pressure on the business owners is to have proposals to include reducing the length of the working week, or, you could allow people to work more slowly and with less pressure.
Neither of these is directly applicable to COVID-19, where the aim is reducing contact rather than output, but the core of the proposals is the same. You have to reduce people’s dependence on a wage to be able to live.
What will surely change
We’ve seen it all during this global public health crisis; overwhelmed hospitals forcing patients to sleep on the floor; mounting fear of being in proximity to others; but also the importance of a robust healthcare system. As a consequence of our collective and individual experiences throughout the pandemic, things will change in the healthcare landscape. Below we discuss three of the most significant changes we’ll experience.
1. An unprecedented toll on healthcare workers
During this global tragedy, it’s not only the economy or the population that are being affected but also the healthcare professionals on the frontlines. The latter have been enduring extreme work conditions and sacrifices in order to help the infected. Despite a shortage of personal protective equipment , they have been showing up to work for endless hours, with a high risk of being infected. Many have been working overtime and witnessing patient after patient succumb to the disease.
The anxiety of knowing you might be at risk when you’re doing your job can be very challenging for health care workers,” After this pandemic subsides, we will have to brace ourselves for the aftermath on medical professionals on the frontlines. They will need a much deserved rest.
2. Diminishing trust in the globalised world
In the pre-pandemic globalised world, we enjoyed a certain level of trust we mostly took for granted. We could travel almost without limitations, meet people without restrictions and order products worldwide. This will simply change after billions of people had to stay indoors for weeks.
We will not be able to travel that freely or enjoy the supply chains of the world so easily. We will think twice before going somewhere or to meet someone. The pandemic is already exacerbating signs of social anxiety and agoraphobia. Regaining trust takes time and these trends will take place for months after lockdowns are lifted.
3. Focus on the healthcare system
It’s tragic how the pandemic highlighted the shortcomings of healthcare systems worldwide. The overburdened hospitals need an upgrade on every level from their infrastructures to their processes. These will be needed to ensure a safe environment for the personnel and patients, as well to better cope with any emergency situations.
What Will Happen?
Surveillance as an ongoing public health measure
No one wants to be surveilled, but what if it’s for greater good? That’s what certain governments had to resort to in order to facilitate contact tracing. Countries from Germany through Israel to Singapore are using phone tracking data to locate and alert those who might be infected. South Korea went the extra mile by using CCTV footage and bank transactions in addition to phone use in its tracing process.
This could lead to certain governments, in particular totalitarian ones, to erase a layer of privacy from citizens’ life. It brings a whole new dimension to privacy and ethics issues like we’ve seen in South Korea. But under the guise of another major public health crisis, such measures could become the norm.
Awareness for personal and public hygiene measures saw a surge thanks to the contagion. Health authorities are advocating for regular handwashing with soap for at least 20 seconds. Social distancing measures are in place. People are getting used to wearing facemasks for grocery shopping.
If this pandemic taught us anything, it’s that our life (as it used to be) is not sustainable for our planet. We all had to experiment with digital solutions, be it virtual meetings for work, digital education for students and virtual events instead of in person conferences. These proved not only to be effective but also an environmentally-friendly way to operate in a connected world.
There is light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel
The COVID-19 saga will come to an end without doubt. We will get back to our lives and visit the great outdoors. But that life will be significantly different. Moreover, reaching that point will depend on our current actions. We must respect social distancing measures and reduce the spread of the disease. Only then will we experience the post-pandemic world.
It will take us time to adapt to being comfortable in social areas with large crowds again but when the cases worldwide will diminish drastically, then we can start to relax even more. I personally don’t feel comfortable in large tight groups, without social distancing and it will take me a while to be comfortable hugging people who are not family or very close friends.
The important thing is that we work together in communities, just as we have done to save our lives and the lives of our families from the virus, now more important is that we must help eachother to overcome issues such as anxiety, depression, and possibly poverty from lack of work available.
We need to remember that we are all human and we are all the same under the sky. We now must more than ever join forces for the better good, and not accept the things that did not work out in the past.
Now we will also need more people from the mental healthcare sector to step in to guide people mentally through their difficulties without giving them medicinal solutions that don’t solve anything, We will also see an increase of wellness and spiritual sectors to assist for the better good. We need more healers and entertainers to keep our morales high and overcome this phase holistically in harmony and peace with one another.
I pray for all of you and all your families that you may find the strength to keep moving forward and keep strong against all odds.
Together we stand.
Love and Light