Boris Johnson returned to Downing Street last week and although the UK ‘is beginning to turn the tide’ on battling the Coronavirus, the Prime Minister has said that this isn’t the time to relax the nationwide lockdown.
Johnson is expected to roll out the UK’s coronavirus exit strategy in the coming weeks and he’ll most likely be monitoring how Spain and Italy begin to ease some of their restrictions.
Globally, politicians are under constant scrutiny regarding their approach to tackling the virus and the necessary steps required to flatten the curve. Not only has their decision-making garnered criticism and speculation, but the lack of empathy displayed by some of the world’s leaders has also come under fire.
Experts in the financial are foreshadowing the re-emergence from a global lockdown over the coming weeks and months will be fitful, fragile and partial. And ‘The Wall Street Journal’ stated that life after lockdown “isn’t like a light switch on and off”
It seems like everyone’s top question following ‘When will the lockdown end?’ is ‘What will the new norm look like?’
Currently, most nations around the world have begrudgingly adapted to this bizarre new way of living – from how we grocery shop, work and even walk down the street. It’s become second nature to queue outside a supermarket two metres apart and sanitizing your basket or cart, before you shop, is now standard practice. Walkers, runners and cyclists can be seen zig zagging back and forth on pavements and in parks in order to avoid coming too close to fellow exercisers. Major online retailers like AMAZON in the US are seeing business boom while NEXT in the UK saw its web site shut temporarily from the volume of online demand even while its overall outlook remains uncertain.
Those fortunate enough to be able to work from home have found a new way to operate and maintain business as usual. Laptops, monitors, keyboard and mouse sales soared in mid-March – IT monitors saw sales increase by 133.9% by volume and 132.3% by value.
Lounge wear and track suits have become the new business casual. Virtual meetings have replaced boardroom meetings and zoom has replaced water cooler chats. Beauty tutorials have popped up online providing quick and easy hair and makeup tips for being ‘on camera’ and how to angle a webcam for a more flattering appearance.
Many workers are complaining that they are working longer hours under lockdown, finding it challenging to step away from their keyboard even momentarily. It has also become more prevalent for managers to monitor their employees every click by installing software that allows them to know what sites their employees are viewing, how long they attend virtual meetings before clicking to another window and when they’ve stepped away from their desks. Some staff members are becoming increasingly anxious as leaving their work station to make lunch, visit the toilet or even stretch results in a ‘check in email’ from their employer, which requires an immediate response.
The real question is ‘What will post lockdown life look like?’
There has been speculation that offices will introduce rotating weekly schedules for staff, encouraging employees to work from home a couple of times a week and eliminating the trend of hotdesking. Schools may rely heavily on virtual learning and also introduce a tiered approach for those attending school in person. Restaurants, movie theatres and airlines have toyed with the idea of operating at half capacity and increasing the sanitation schedule of their establishment. Professional sport leagues are in talks of making a return, but players will no longer relish competing in front of thousands of cheering fans – instead silent stadiums and empty arenas.
Factories are also investigating how they will attempt to control the spread of disease by reducing the number of workers on assembly line and reducing output significantly. Volkswagen opened this week, implementing hundreds of changes including disinfecting tools between shifts, canteens remaining closed and hundreds of hand-washing stations have been installed.
Shanghai has slowly started the process of reopening; theme parks are enforcing thrill seekers wear a mask at all times and submit to a temperature check before gaining entrance. Germany and Singapore have enforced a compulsory face mask wearing policy if residents venture outside their homes – specifically on public transport and shops. Denmark and Australia are banning gatherings of over 10 people.
Here in the UK, it’s believed that things will not be fully operational until a vaccine is available – which experts are predicting will not be for another year. Over the next few weeks, as the world slowly starts lifting lockdown measures and governments start to reveal their exit strategies; we can only speculate what the new norm will look like. One thing is for certain – the way we interact, work and play is unlikely ever to go back go back to the way things were in a pre-COVID-19 era.