Do you remember the times when travelling on crowded roads was a regular routine? When malls were flooded with people, going to college, travelling in the metro and meeting your relatives were activities as banal as the daily cycle of day and night. But then, COVID-19 made its entry into our lives and these simple things became life risking ventures.
It’s been almost 7 months now, that the world has been battling with the COVID-19 pandemic. The major looming question over here is whether the world will ever be able to return to its ‘old normal’ or is there an ongoing evolution of a ‘new normal’ emerging amid this crisis. With the advancing circumstances and the adaptations that people are inculcating in their lives, to me, the latter seems to be transforming into a reality.
The surge of this pandemic is followed by an immediate realization of the fragility of lives, reducing everyone to their renounced humanness and making them value the simple joys of life. Human beings have even started to acknowledge the fact that the major climate changes, the fires of Amazon and Australia, floods and even this virus are the results of some wrong human choices made in the past. Through this article, I wish to highlight the lifelong positive and negative effects of coronavirus on our lifestyle.
Let’s start with The Positives
During the past few months as the cities initiated COVID-19 lockdown with the increasing cases of coronavirus, we have witnessed the healing process of nature. With transport use, electricity demands and industrial activities being cut-down, we have seen clear blue sky, lush green trees and the chirping of birds. The people from smog-choked towns like Jalandhar have even spotted the snow-capped Himalayas (distance between Jalandhar and Himalays is 859 km) which have been invisible since two generations.
The world has recorded the greatest fall in carbon dioxide emission with the International Energy Agency recording, that as many as 2.6 billion metric tons of CO2 and an estimated 8% for the year has not been emitted into the atmosphere, which has surpassed all the records of prior crises. Though the CO2 emissions are not stabilized and brought to Net-Zero and are even rebounding with the easing of the lockdowns it has at least given us a worldview for future climatic fights in the form of this greatest downfall of CO2 emission. Now it is in the hands of humans who have to learn from this positive and curb it for the betterment of the human race.
Work from Home
As this pandemic forced us to digitally transform our work, there are certain predominant benefits that have been culled out of it. Even the owners of huge multinational companies have come to a resolution and now believe in the futility of commuting which did nothing but increase the carbon footprint. When employees work from their home, they have an ambience and schedule of their own which increase their efficiency and the number of hours they work for.
If we consider financial practicalities then work from home trend is going to speed up because then the vain practice of building up huge offices would be reduced thus lowering the real estate price which could economically be a great leap. Even some companies like Facebook and Twitter have proposed the luxury of working from home even after the COVID-19 Pandemic. Work from home is a sheer escape from a hectic schedule, hours of travelling, office politics and traffic while still saving money and working in the same domain and hence, can remain trending for the coming years of our lives.
One of the major benefits of the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased awareness about sanitation and hygiene among people. The virus has finally brought people to wear a mask which could not be done when Delhi-NCR was struck with smog in November 2019. Now there is a normalization of people wearing a mask, carrying a sanitizer and performing social distancing which earlier was seen as something alien to earth.
The practise of wearing a head cap, mask and gloves by the chefs at restaurants and even roadside food stalls, sanitizing their tables and chairs is something which should have been done from ever since but this is a sad reality of our society that a pandemic had to occur to make them realize their ignorance towards these basic essentialities of life. Now, the cautiousness regarding hygiene is so deeply rooted among people that has become an inseparable part of our lifestyles and will remain to be in the coming years.
Reduction in Fuel Prices
The increase in travel restrictions due to this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has led to a drastic fall in the price of fuel ranging from USD 55-60 ( March) to USD 25-27 within four months. This is a great opportunity for countries like India which are 80% dependent on imported oil. The increasing prices of crude oil will assist the government in reviving the economic growth of the country while it is struggling to increase the spending capacity of the citizens.
Fall in Crime and Road Fatalities
The International Road Federation (IRF) states that India contributes 12% of global accidents, which is in no way less than the pandemic. But the good news amid the gloom of this pandemic is that the number of mishappening ( 4233) and deaths ( 2314) which have been recorded in May 2019 have been dropped down to (1964) and (1185) in May 2020. There has also been an approximate 40% fall in murder cases and 70% in the number of rapes filed. These numbers though temporary introduce us to our wrong choices and can function as a scaffold for the betterment of society.
It’s Family Time
The life we lived before this COVID-19 pandemic was no less than a survival battle which was loaded with hectic schedules, piles of office work, tension, social breakdown and no time for family. This lockdown came as a refuge from all this and a chance for us to strengthen and revive our renounced bond with our family. The social media being flooded with pictures of families playing indoor games together, trying out new recipes together, valuing both the time and life, gave a sense of renewed optimism which for some time appeared to be forever lost.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made a drastic change in the way we work, study, socialize and even the way we eat. There is a huge shift to home cooking, healthy and organic eating. People have come to a realization that eating nutritional food will not only immunise them from coronavirus but will also strengthen their immune system, thus reducing their chances of acquiring not only this virus but any chronic diet-related illness, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and even hypertension.
This inclination towards healthy eating will also help in the restoration of businesses like that of a nutritionist or a dietitian which are often presumed to be passive or less important professions. With the spreading mass awareness and stringent food safety, we can hope for better diet quality and nutritional status for our mother lands in the years to come.
Even before COVID-19, there have been huge adoptions in education technology with global Edtech’s investment reaching up to US$ 18.66 Billion in 2019. Research shows that online learning increases 25%-60% information retention and consumes less time which hints at it gaining permanence in our lives. With the spread of the coronavirus language-learning apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing, free access to classrooms ( BYJU’S), and other online courses have gained unprecedented popularity. Though a sudden and unplanned shift to the establishment of online education is impractical. But yes the possibility of it becoming the future of learning cannot be denied.
Let’s talk about some of Negatives
The vulnerability of human lives was so high that the authorities were not left with any options and had to impose lockdowns in various cities to “flatten the curve” of infection. According to the International Monetary Fund(IMF), these restrictions have gravely affected the global economy leading to its 3% shrinkage in 2020 which is the steepest slowdown since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Economies such as the US, Japan, the UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain are expected to reduce by 5.9, 5.2, 6.5, 7, 7.2, 9.1 and 8 % respectively. With the shutting down of factories and markets, there are millions getting unemployed ( 20.5 million in the US) and falling under the realms of poverty. This drastic fall in the manufacturing outputs affects both international and domestic demands.
With poor medical facilities, a limited number of ventilators and the inability of the government to reach out to every section of the society, the consequences of the economic recession can be even worse in the developing countries. COVID-19 has also invisiblized the speedy recovery of the. Indian Economy which was visible by the end of 2019 and early 2020. The estimated downfall of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for India is by 0.2% points for the fiscal year 2020 to 4.8% and by 0.5% for the fiscal year 2021 to 6%. Amid the looming uncertainty about the future and the global economy being shackled by the virus, it is hard to estimate the time its recovery would take.
Unemployment and Poverty
With the closure of workplaces, an estimated four out of five people ( 81%) in the global workforce of 3.3 billion are affected, as stated by International Labour Organization(ILO). Though the whole world is battling against this COVID-19 virus, the most affected are the low income and impoverished countries with no social protections like unemployment benefits. India is estimated to witness its 400 million workers falling deeper into the realms of poverty. To make the case worse there is a marginalization of the poor by the authorities.
While the privileged suffer from COVID-19 pandemic the poor are left to suffer from a pandemic, food shortages, scorching heat, travelling on foot and the batons of police officers. It is believed that over 25% of people will lose their jobs by the end of 2020. These figures leave us in fear and dilemma as to when will we return to the ‘old normal’ or if we ever will?
Affected Mental Health
With the imposed travel restrictions due to the spread of COVID-19 we are all confined in our homes. For some, home is a luxury, for others, it is a space of loneliness while some do not even have one. According to the report of the World Health Organization(WHO), there is an increased level of stress and anxiety among people since the onset of quarantine which gives way to depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, harmful alcohol and drugs use.
Apart from personal, mass concerns like unemployment, social exclusion, change of lifestyle and poverty are also becoming a major reason for the physiological breakdown. The fragility of mental health is such that once caused it cannot be easily cured and hence all we can do for the coming years is to spread its awareness and talk to the person next to us or at least to the ones whom we know.
Huge Cultural Shift
COVID-19 virus has upturned the whole cycle of our lives, starting from our education, workplace, shopping, entertainment, conferences and even our diets. There is a huge cultural shift which has seeped deep into our routines by now and to change it after the end of the pandemic would surely be a difficult task. Everything has been transformed into a virtual reality making us a 24/7 screen addict which impairs our personality development, interpersonal skills, mental health and above all distances us from reality.
The sudden shift in the mode of education from offline to online came as a surprise to the world and had its repercussions especially in developing countries like India where the backbone of online learning is not laid and even the curriculum is not designed according to that format. This unplanned transformation in the process of learning posed challenges to students, already struggling with the education system of the country.
WHO reports an increased lack of interest among students, leading them to become passive learners in this process. Even some teachers were not fully prepared for this changed methodology and found it difficult to cope up with online classes. Above all, the discrepancies in the internet facilities dysfunctions the entire teaching procedure.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a huge financial strain on the tourism industry due to the lockdowns, travel restrictions and sealed borders. The travel and tourism council warns that this pandemic could cut up to 50 million jobs worldwide in the tourism industry with Asia being the worst affected continent. The travel industry contributes 10% of the global GDP, which in turns affects the global economy, with the Airlines, cruise operators and hotels facing a setback.
According to AirDNA, an online rental analytics firm, new bookings on Airbnb are down 85 per cent; cancellation rates are close to 90 per cent.Messina estimated that the tourism industry would take 10 months to restore and function at its normal pace after the end of the pandemic which means we have to survive another year without travelling.
With the imposed restrictions and the shutting down of businesses there is an increase in the prices of goods in various sectors. The breakdown of the supply chain in the US and slow down of transportation facilities has led to a rise in the prices of grocery products like eggs, rice, meat and flour. On April 1, 2020, the government of India increased the Goods and Service Tax(GST) rate on smartphones from 12% to 18% making the purchase of a new gadget in the coming years no less than a dream.
The aviation industry has suffered a great loss during the lockdown period with some small companies being on the verge of extinction and even the well-established ones functioning amid losses there is an expected rise in the price of air tickets making travelling even more expensive. Our lives today are no less than the survival of the fittest where the definition of the ‘fittest’ is clearly being established in monetary terms.
Instilled Fear and Doubt
With the easing of COVID-19 lockdowns and an attempt to restore the prior normalcy there is a noticeable fear with which people step out of their homes, suspecting every person and thing they come across. People have become more self-centred and reluctant to help strangers. Along with showcasing ideas like physical distancing and social cohesion, there is also a social divide setting into motion in the background.
There had been marked ostracization of poor who are sadly the ones supplying goods and services at the bottom of the structure. People view slums and low-income settlement as unhygienic and high-risk areas without even acknowledging the plight of the people living there. Engineers can surely alter the infrastructure as per the norms of social distancing but the negative social impact fabricated in the mindset of people can hardly be undone.
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