Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

The 'new normal' must also be a better normal

The pandemic has exposed the limits of our current social and economic models

As the British government further relaxes Covid-19 lockdown measures, this week sees preparations made to open non-essential stores and transport for London. Getty Images
As the British government further relaxes Covid-19 lockdown measures, this week sees preparations made to open non-essential stores and transport for London. Getty Images

It is now mid-June, and the world is bracing for a summer largely characterised by a pandemic, even as restrictions have been eased around the globe.

Today, non-essential businesses in the UK have been allowed to reopen. Major football leagues in Europe are back to playing games, even though they are without fans. Here in the UAE, Dubai public sector employees were allowed to work at 100 per cent capacity as of yesterday, with the exception of individuals who are pregnant, elderly, have young children who are homeschooling or have underlying conditions.

There is a semblance of normality on the way, but only what has been dubbed a “new normal.” Face masks, temperature checks and restricted flights are now facts of life until a vaccine for the coronavirus is discovered and widely distributed.

In the meantime, it is our collective responsibility to strive not only for a new normal, but a better one.

The pandemic has exposed the limits of the social, political and economic models that dominated before the outbreak. Many had previously considered it unfathomable that entire organisations could function fully with their employees almost exclusively working from home. Some employers expressed concerns that this trend would undermine productivity. Now, working remotely is set to be a bigger part of the future in certain sectors.

Additionally, border closures enforced by worldwide lockdowns, together with the limitations on exports of basic necessities imposed by some countries to meet national demand, have encouraged governments to invest further in agriculture and local businesses, and to prioritise food security.

The pandemic has also exposed vulnerabilities in many of the world’s healthcare systems. Even in countries renowned for medical excellence, the pandemic has pushed hospitals to the brink. These challenges, which have sometimes cost lives, must serve as a wake-up call for institutions around the world to start planning ahead for the long term instead of focusing on immediate, short-lived successes.

Some nations have already drawn lessons from the virus’s impact. The government of Pakistan has announced it will double healthcare spending in its next budget, while the UAE is redoubling its investment in agriculture technology and local farming.

The pandemic has exposed the limits of the social, political and economic models that dominated before the outbreak

Companies and governments bear an immense responsibility when it comes to keeping residents safe from illness. However, that responsibility also remains largely with individuals. The pandemic has proven how interconnected the world truly is. Even if one individual is unlikely to develop a severe case of Covid-19, their disregard for hygiene measures could lead to other, more vulnerable populations becoming infected.

The price of recklessness is too high. Observing physical distancing, wearing a mask in public and washing one’s hands frequently are all key to beating coronavirus and protecting one another from disease. In the UAE, AlHosn app has been introduced as a tracking app that can also deliver results directly to those being tested. It can help curb and control the spread of the virus. In a post-pandemic world, it is imperative to develop resilience, and that begins with preparing ourselves well for whatever may lie ahead.

Updated: June 14, 2020 05:15 PM

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