Social Distancing: A New Normal?

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In early January, people watched as the coronavirus blazed through Asia and Europe, claiming the lives of many. It was just a matter of time before the virus made its way to the United States. As COVID-19 spread within the country’s borders in February and March, government officials leaped to action with mandatory stay-at-home and social distancing orders and closures of offices, schools, retail stores and restaurants. This was done to encourage social distancing and decrease the spread of the virus. Since the restrictions were imposed, millions across the nation were forced to adapt to a virtual world- leaving many to wonder: when will things go back to normal?

social distancing graph, flattening the curve, coronavirus

Flattening the curve

We’ve watched numerous health officials give their take on the novel coronavirus and while opinions may differ- one phrase proclaimed in harmony is ‘flatten the curve.’ The curve they refer to is a graph that shows the total number of people that contract COVID-19 over a period of time. While the S-shaped curve may be different for each nation, the overall goal is to flatten the curve- meaning fewer people get infected over a longer period of time.

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S (CDC) claims that the most effective way to flatten the curve is through social distancing. If fewer people come in contact with each other, it lowers the chances of the disease spreading. Cities like Wuhan, China have seen positive outcomes as a result of aggressive social distancing measures. Data recorded in China at the start of the virus showed 80,000 cases and 3,200 deaths. This has now decreased to fewer than 100 new cases and 30 deaths a day.

Is Social Distancing The New Normal?

Mandatory lockdowns can do wonders for lowering the number of coronavirus cases but it is not a sustainable solution for the long-term. Restrictions in the U.S will eventually ease as a result of growing economic concerns and pressure from its citizens. However, even if the country were to re-open its doors, we still need to consider what a new normal will look like.

With great uncertainty and no cure in hand, businesses are unlikely to return to pre-COVID-19 normalcy. A stimulation conducted by Harvard University on how the pandemic can play out showed that we may need social distancing until 2022. This is done to ensure that should there be a second wave of cases, the healthcare system is not overburdened with patients. Given the unpredictability of the virus, it may be worth considering that certain aspects of our life may be changed forever.

Life In A State Of Pandemic

Businesses that rely on people coming through their doors will need to find new ways to adapt in a post-COVID-19 world. Gyms, restaurants, movie theatres and day-cares are just some of the places that are likely to make drastic changes to their business model to adhere to a lifestyle that includes social distancing. There may also be a boom in the ‘shut-in’ economy which entails living life from the comfort of your home.

However, a ‘shut-in’ lifestyle is not a viable solution and maybe be disastrous for economies in the long-term. So how do countries adapt to a new way of living? For many nations, the answer lies in revamping the health-care system. Pandemic units will need to be more assertive when it comes to identifying and controlling new diseases. At the same time, the production of medical supplies and testing kits needs to increase. States should not find themselves in a ‘survival of the fittest’ predicament when it comes to procuring ventilators for their hospitals. Individuals, on the other hand, need to accept social distancing as an inherent part of daily life. Movie theatres may only book half of their sets while restrictions on distancing may be imposed at work meetings. Gym members may also need to pre-book their time slot to avoid overcrowding.

While we don’t know what the future holds, with social distancing ingrained in our society, it’s certain that there will be changes in the way we live, work and form relationships. However, there is a beacon of light amidst these dark times. The virus can serve as a learning opportunity for nations to fix the gaping inequalities in their public welfare system that put the lives of millions at risk.

Author: Divya Prem

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