The new normal is waiting

The habits formed during the pandemic might linger way after the lock downs are lifted

Several lockdowns have been imposed in recent times. We adopted new habits, learned and worked through video conferences, made social distancing an everyday habit and face masks a fashion item. But we all hate these, don’t we? It’s 2021, and economies all around the world are suffering following a global pandemic that has disrupted them to their core, trying to find financial short-term band-aid solutions to stop the bleeding, and the race for vaccination is on.

The actions and policies that countries need to take to be ready for the new normal imposed by the Covid-19 crisis, include dealing with digital currencies, remote working and learning, accelerating telemedicine, and maintaining global cooperation as key drivers for both economic recovery and building these economies better.

Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. So far, new more contagious variants of the coronavirus are being investigated, raising questions about whether the Covid vaccines currently in use will provide protection against mutations.

The new Covid-19 variants are pushing the health system into crisis. Like much of the country, understanding how new variants of the coronavirus in Brazil, South Africa and the UK are altering the behaviour of the virus will be crucial in our vaccine arms against Covid-19.

Viral evolutionary biologists are developing an early warning test that might help detect new potentially worrying variants of Covid-19 as they start spreading. What do the new coronavirus variants mean for a return to normalcy?

We’ll all take this year with us in some form or another. The future of work has arrived faster along with its challenges. There will be a vaccination passport of some kind. It will provide safety for travellers and hosts alike, and it seems that governments feel the privacy concerns raised soon enough by NGOs, experts and the media.

Such a passport will function in a similar way to how passports and visas work. If you are certified to be immune to the virus, you will get a pass to resume your daily routine, and if not, you will have to stay indoors. The UK government is already considering it and other countries might follow suit. Airlines have started developing a similar travel wallet tool their websites and mobile apps.

In similar fashion, the habits found during the pandemic might linger way after lockdowns are lifted, leading to awareness of personal and public hygiene measures. People are getting used to wearing face masks for grocery shopping. Health authorities are advocating for regular hand washing with soap for at least 20 seconds. We might see people wearing masks wherever they go and be more cautious around the elderly.

The new norm includes refraining from the handshake and social distancing measures are in place but what comes thereafter? Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in the US, thinks that we should never shake hands again.

Time is ripe for Pakistan’s digital revolution in the fight against Covid-19. It has accelerated e-commerce in Pakistan – an indication of what is happening worldwide. Pakistanis are switching to online options for banking, groceries, etc

The new normal is a chance to reassess our attitudes to the environment. In terms of sustainability, rising global temperatures, coupled with the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, are predicted to cause changes in the seasonality, geography and “intensity of infectious diseases”.

Disrupting those ecosystems can make us more susceptible to diseases, meaning fighting climate change is crucial in the lives of future pandemics. Will new variants scupper efforts to get life back to normal? However, few countries tend to seriously invest in a green and sustainable high-tech business in a sustained way that can take fundamental scientific discoveries and changes.

The new normal is not a full return to the old normal. Overall, the ongoing pandemic has played a pivotal role in further shifting in Pakistan. Time is ripe for Pakistan’s digital revolution in the fight against Covid-19. It has accelerated e-commerce in Pakistan – an indication of what is happening worldwide. Pakistanis are switching to online options for banking, groceries, healthcare and education. We expect the pandemic to push Pakistan towards more digitalisation more quickly than previously anticipated.

During the pandemic, the country made a prominent announcement to shift away from a coal-based pathway towards renewable energy by announcing a target of achieving a 60 percent clean energy mix by 2030. As it is apparent, the post-Covid-19 recovery will be a new platform for an ecosystem restoration fund that has already been launched and which
Pakistan has joined.

Nature is demanding a rethink and Pakistan has heeded the call. Pakistan is all set to launch its first green Euro Bond and carved out an opportunity amidst the crisis, by rebooting the economy with a green stimulus.

Eventually, the Covud-19 saga will come to an end. From the new normal to a new future, we will get back to our lives and visit the great outdoors. But I think that life will be significantly different. Experts say the new normal in 2025 will be far more tech.

Going forward, Pakistan needs to work proactively to build an indigenous open-source digital vaccination verification solution in collaboration with global tech and with the hospitals to issue a digital vaccine certificate that one automatically receives on one’s smartphone. But, where are we on handling new variants and will vaccines work?

Pakistan must plan a deal with biopharmaceutical companies to redesign and tweak vaccines to a better match against future variants. Further, in Pakistan, low literacy rate and a general lack of awareness is leading to non-seriousness towards adoption of social distancing and hand hygiene.

It requires a more efficient and strategic management on a large scale. Our government was late to catch up and emerged unclear about the agenda. At least we must respect social distancing measures and reduce the spread of the disease through awareness campaigns.

The writer is a researcher based in Islamabad

The new normal is waiting