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Wait and see – life in the ‘new normal’

By Vernon Khelawan, vkmoose@gmail.com

Scientists and thousands of medical professionals are still puzzled over the speed of infections by this devastating coronavirus, fully cognisant that a viable vaccine is at least a year away. However, with laboratories moving at 24/7 timelines, there is some hope for an earlier breakthrough.

Here in Trinidad and Tobago as well as globally, there is an obvious recognition that life as we know it will be vastly different. And although the government and medical people have been able to contain the spread of the virus, a new normal is soon to envelop the entire world. We just have to get prepared to adjust to that ‘new normal’.

There will even be new ways devised by the criminal element to commit crime. And in so doing, making our senior citizens and very aged become much more vulnerable.

It seems to have not yet dawned on a large slice of the population the magnitude of the changes to come, because those changes will not come all at once. The public service will be affected as well as the private sector. There will probably be job losses. Many new ways of conducting business, including banking and other financial transactions, will affect a great number of people, customers and owners both.

Social distancing (I prefer to call it physical distancing) will be with us for some time in the future, so there will be upheavals in banking; supermarkets; drug stores and pharmacies; transportation, maxis and buses and even taxis will change.

Ever saw a taxi or ‘Private Hire’ (PH) carrying three huge people in the back seat and realise how uncomfortable they must be? There will certainly be change here. There is a strong possibility that these situations may be adjusted by law.

On the religious side, there will not be the usual practice of moving around to give the peace sign or even greetings like hugging, kissing or shaking hands. Even the seating arrangements for the choirs and musicians and the larger congregations would have to be different. In the Catholic churches there will be need for much more space in the sanctuary.

What then happens to family gatherings or outings? Are we ready to accept the restrictions? What about picnics or the favourite pastime of a beach lime? Nightclubs, casinos or even the many watering holes in the country, would they be able to accommodate their large number of patrons? I think we can look forward to many changes in socialising.

House parties, whether to mark celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries or baptisms will have to change. Even the formal dinner parties will be different.

I shudder to think how physical distancing would affect the ordinary, run-of-the-mill workplace. So many of them are already choked up with little or no room for expansion. Many do not have any more space.

The manufacturing plants will have little choice but to adjust assembly lines and this could probably mean a certainty of job losses. There are many sophisticated companies in our midst which can conduct most, if not all, of their business from the home of their employees. This means more rental spaces available. Rentals increase or decrease?

What about our schools, and I mean all schools, from nursery to university? What happens here? Do our schools have the capacity to truly observe physical distancing? I have my doubts. Reduction in class sizes, back to the shift system, more and improved digital learning. What? The Ministry of Education needs to tell us their plans.

Just some of the outcomes of the ‘new normal’ brought about by COVID-19. I am sure there are many more. We will just have to wait and see how it all evolves.