By Salman Parviz

Many changes due to pandemic irreversible

June 16, 2021 - 17:9

Previously plagues such as the Black Death and the Spanish flu pandemic had huge ramifications for the world afterward. Black Death is the most fatal pandemic recorded in human history from 1346 to 1353. Some 75-200 million people in Euroasia and North Africa and Europe perished.

The Spanish flu or the 1918 influenza pandemic lasted two years, infected 500 million people – about a third of the world’s population at the time – with the death toll of 20-50 million.

With over 10,000 new cases recorded daily, Iran’s confirmed Covid-19 cases surpassed the three million. Global cases countdown stands at 176 million with 3.8 million deaths.

In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, we will witness countless changes -- adopted to control the outbreak -- will be here to stay.

The lockdowns have made many people feel lonely and anxious. Family members had to survive living constantly under each other’s heels on one roof at the same time. For the period of lockdowns, family members had to redefine their schedules and relations.

The same thing happened with the neighborhoods, with people getting to know their neighbors for the first time under the new normal. Reminds me of the neighborhoods in Tehran during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war when during the blackouts people would get out of their buildings and meet neighbors.

During the lockdowns, many people residing in the same city have been using videoconferencing tools to keep in touch. The pandemic broke the ice on these applications, which will continue to improve.

Conferences and meetings went virtual as the attendance skyrocketed. This eliminated travel, dining, and lodging costs making conferences more affordable and expanding the audience.

Workplace

Much of the world wrestles to imagine what the workplace will look like as the pandemic begins to recede. One emerging pattern is the number of companies switching to working from home. This pattern may continue as lockdowns gradually fade, but we will still need to maintain social distancing in the short to medium term to control the spread of the outbreak.

Some companies and employees might make this permanent simply because it is economically feasible and the right-thing-to-do in this climate of global warming much of which is caused by people commuting back and forth from work. Almost all major cities have witnessed a reduction in air pollution due to the pandemic lockdowns and protocols.

Since restrictive measures were applied and protocols adopted due to the outbreak, Tehran and some other cities in Iran enjoyed cleaner air than under normal circumstances.

The health benefits of low air pollution, traffic jams in rush hours, and unnecessary premature deaths and diseases caused by air pollution are a few of the benefits in major cities worldwide. Bustling offices with multiple employees using the same desk space can indeed be a thing of the past.

An added benefit of working from home is the flexible hours that can lead to the disappearance of the so-called “9-5” work-hour schedules altogether.

With this pattern, the demand for downtown office space will drop as more businesses and employees demand the opportunity for remote work. With that in mind, the prices of commercial downtown real estate will plunge while residential and rural housing prices will surge.

Virtual education

Another cause of the low air pollution globally has been the shutdown of schools replaced by online education. The absence of commuting back and forth from schools of millions of children in Tehran has reduced pollution in the capital.

Can schools be a thing of the past and the Coronavirus pandemic generation might end up growing at home? Online education has a negative aspect to it as well because schools provide a human side to learning.

One’s school friends are the life friends. Behavioral learning from a teacher cannot be replaced by a monitor. Lessons learned from schoolmates and teachers are invaluable.

This is one of the psychological drawbacks if schools become extinct and a thing of the past. Of course, schools cannot be totally eliminated but in the future, they could be an exclusive privilege for the rich.

Coronavirus may be indiscriminate in who it infects – rich or poor – but the effects it wrecks are anything but equitable between disadvantaged or privileged members of the society.

The pandemic has widened the disparity on micro and macro levels. On a global scale, it has made the poor nations sink further into poverty, to such an extent that their recovery from the pandemic is not possible without external help.

On a micro level, it has made the richest people get richer. Companies like Amazon, whose founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is considered to be the richest man in the world, prospered during the lockdowns as people started to resort to online shopping. Since the depths of the Covid-induced market crash in March 2020, Bezos has gotten $80.5 billion richer, reports Forbes magazine. Tech companies like Facebook, Netflix, Microsoft, …, have also gained out of people’s need to isolate themselves.

Nobody can predict the end of the pandemic as this crisis can prolong into next year as many countries struggle with the new variants and questions about their vaccines. The two most populous nations in the world, India, and China are examples.

How we come out of the pandemic and its aftermath remains a matter of speculation. But you might as well get used to a few aspects as some changes will be here to stay.
 

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