What the Post-Covid World Looks Like!
The world is on a standstill. The unfolding of unfortunate events has parked us in the middle of a pandemic. Something as basic as breathing fresh air without the hindrance of a mask seems like a far fetched dream. If not far, at least uncertain as to when man will be able to go back to his 'normal' routine. This expectation, of falling back into the comfortable previous lifestyle, has the underlying assumption that we will in fact be able to attain that same sense of normalcy. The real question is that, will the mankind ever have the same normal or the pandemic will lead to a shift to a 'new' normal?
As addressed above, there are some who expect to go back to the old living state, such an optimistic mindset is questionable. However, there are men who believe that the post-pandemic world will carry certain lifestyle changes, consequentially result in the formation of a new perception of normal. This mind-frame could be considered realistic. Neither of these school of thought could be validated since no one knows the future. Although an educated guess could be taken to understand which has a greater probability of occurrence.
Does History Teach Us ?
Let’s consider the changes that took place post past pandemics that dawned on this world. It could be noted that there were numerous steps taken during the Spanish flu (believed to be the deadliest outbreak in world history and also because Covid-19 is compared to the 1918-19 pandemic) such as isolation and quarantine facilities, sanitation, travel restrictions and public hygiene efforts, all of which prevalent today. However, what history fails to predominantly highlight is whether these practices were continued unconditional to the presence of a virus or were imbibed in the civilians to adopt it as a lifestyle. Few to no articles cover or address on what were the societal changes after the pandemic was over. The probability of what could be the possible future is inconclusive on the basis of researches of the pandemic history. This eliminates one way to reasonably justify what could be our near future.
Besides the precautionary efforts, the humans were, naturally, the only constant throughout these pandemics. This brings a very peculiar human-character in each of these events, making them similar and comparable in some way or form. Thus, we can turn to the behavioural aspects of human beings with, some credibility, to account for the plausible product of the pandemic.
What Does Human Habits Suggest?
Humans learn from experiences and some of them are even passed on. Man's brain is trained to be prepared for future contingencies based on past incidents. Yet, evidently, man seems to be under-prepared for most of the future challenges, because he fails to realise that the learning is still of the past and the future problem might not be exactly same as what he had faced previously. Exactly this behavioural trait of humans leads us to act, if not in the same then, in similar manner every time we come across a crisis.
This isn't it.
Man is also an animal of habit. Habits, easy to develop and harder to get rid of. Situations, internal temptations or external influences gearing the formation of habits. The subconscious registers these numerous experiences and habits we develop throughout our journey, directing or reactions and actions to situations and integrating our character as an individual, specifically, and as a species, generally.
These human psychologies can be verified with former events similar to the present. As mentioned earlier, the precautionary measures used now are alike to the ones practised in the previous pandemic too. Not just that, the isolating traditions can be dated back to the Justinian Plague of 541-542 A.D. The current methods are definitely upgraded, speedy and arguably efficient however, the underlying is the same, lacking substantial innovative measures. For an instance, lets assume that the measures so carried out were continued after the medical crisis, if it did, it has certainly faded with time. Take an example of a very recent Ebola virus break out of 2019, WHO states, ‘Currently, no country has implemented travel measures that significantly interfere with international traffic to and from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Travellers should seek medical advice before travel and should practise good hygiene.’ Evidently, even while the outbreak was on going there were no strict curbs or interventions.
All these reasons, of same-to-similar practices and the habit of falling back into the old living patterns, lead me to reasonably state that there is decent chance that all the current actions, tight or lenient, might discontinue after a practical amount of time.
Coming back to our original controversy, does this actually make sense to believe the realists are in fact being real and that the optimists should be blatantly questioned. In my opinion, it is irrational to do so. Thus, with fair confidence I assume the post pandemic world will resort to its previously lead life.
Concerns for Economic Growth
But why is it so important to know what will follow next? This is where the worries for the financial stability and economic growth come into play.
One more thing consistent with the previous pandemics is the economic standstill caused due to these outbreaks. Tremendous globalisation has changed the face of the world economy, since the Spanish Flu. Giving more value to the knowledge of economic and financial repercussions. Following the formerly established opinion, as the people start settling in, what they originally knew as, their normal routine the economic activity will surely start elevating to its original levels. The fear really is about the time the economy will take to elevate.
India is a country with the maximum (>60%) population being in the working age. There has been a shift in the consumption patterns of this age group, particularly. Instead of saving, the working age is more consumption oriented. Be it because of the western influence or greater social media interaction leading to such rise in demand. Increased per-capita income or the desire to lead a better lifestyle could also be attributable to such shift in the consumption patter. Whatever might be the case, the demography will resume consumption until it reaches the pre-pandemic levels (again, out of habit), if not higher. Although this would not be possible, in the short term, if the economy experiences inflation but the incomes don’t rise (stagflation) or an overall depression in the economy. In such a case, the authorities (the sovereign government and the central bank) take aggressive measures – modify policies and roll out schemes, to bring the economic numbers to the expected levels.
Provided all of the above, will require time. Considering the time lag of resuming activities – regaining momentum in employment, implementation of required policies, and its result – improved state of the economy, could be anywhere between one quarter to a year.
In my opinion, taking all the factors under review, the post-pandemic world would definitely be different but only for the near to short term, after which things will return to the usual. Hence the perceived sense of the ‘New Normal’ might prove to be an image painted out of fear more than a probable reality of a longer horizon.