Adapting to a new normalcy | Sunday Observer

Adapting to a new normalcy

24 May, 2020

The global health emergency made countries around the world to impose draconian measures to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Social and trading restrictions were imposed to slow down the spread as much as possible. Compared to a majority of the countries in the world, Sri Lanka stands out, not only in controlling the spread effectively but also as regards the rate of fatalities. In this light, the World Health Organization has identified a criteria to be followed for the countries that are looking forward to lift the lockdown as the risk of resurgence of the virus is expected to continue for an indefinite period of time.

As the continuation of these health restrictions will remain effective for a substantial period of time, the public needs to adapt to the changes required. Maintaining social distance, wearing masks, washing hands constantly, avoiding social gatherings, and practising personal hygiene are some of the routines to be continued for a long period.

Of the criteria introduced the WHO specifically recommends compulsory preventive measures in workplaces, schools and similar gatherings as important. They also advocate that communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to adjust to the ‘new norm’.

Covid-19 has rapidly changed the outlook of the lifestyle, work practices and even educational methods. The ‘new normal’ concept of this public health emergency has become a challenge to economies, health authorities and the public at large in Sri Lanka. The bright side is that many of the new normal habits are providential and a heaven sent opportunity to society in many ways.

Sri Lankan society, best known for hospitality, will be a highly disciplined nation in a brief period with the continuation of these new tendencies.

No doubt the experience of going through the pandemic will teach society many lessons in self discipline. This happens through constant messages and tips offered through the print, electronic and social media.

It also teaches society to reconnect with people, acquire new skills and most importantly simple living. The crisis has brought out the best human behaviour, volunteerism, tolerance and many other exceptional human qualities. It is imperative that the citizenry carry on and maintain this culture in the future.

The public will be compelled to be cautious about frequenting crowded and closed enclosures such as movie theatres and stadiums, and most importantly public transport. The country will undoubtedly see a decline in the patronage of movie theatres, stage dramas and sports events of all types. In addition, strollers will keep away from the streets and spend more time in family environments to enjoy quality time together.

Traditionally, Sri Lankans are known to show impatience in queuing up in normal circumstances. The present environment of Covid-19 will remedy this psychological phenomenon to a great extent as everyone has to wait in line to enter a common space.

When taking meals at restaurants, a wedding reception or a private gathering, people will be cautious out of fear of contagion. It is a cinch that most people would curtail attending parties and other social gatherings. At restaurants, the customers will be exceedingly alert about the cleanliness of the surrounding as well as the crockery and cutlery. Also eating from roadside kiosks and carts will be minimized or avoided altogether due to doubts about the hygiene in such places.

The recently acquired popular culture of buying food for lunch or dinner, particularly by the urban and suburban communities, will also see a marked decline.

Instead, people will be more inclined to carry packed homemade lunches and cook dinners at home. This would not only provide them an opportunity to consume clean and nutritious food without various flavouring agents but also save money for the use of other essential family matters.

The healthcare sector in the country will adopt new changes by encouraging e-consultations wherever possible. At present, the system is geared to make appointments through e-bookings but consultations are always done with the physical presence of the patient at the hospital or the clinic. If the public is educated properly through a well prepared awareness program, many patients will switch to e-consultations due to the convenience of evading travel time, traffic congestions and waiting hours at hospitals.

Public health system will be more mindful about the applications and the environment. It is commendable how the entire fraternity rallied round the task of fighting the pandemic, risking not only their personal well being but also distancing from their loved ones, week after week. They will continue to be attentive towards patients in the future too, as they have captured the affection of the whole nation.

In business, first and foremost, Government intervention will be more forceful to serve and save the private sector, on which the country’s economy depends immensely.

It is a consolation to the private sector that the country’s post Covid-19 economic impacts are managed by an efficient state machinery under the heavily task oriented and strong leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In no uncertain terms, the President conveyed his message to everyone in the Government, both politicians and bureaucrats, to fall in line with his policies, and if not find alternative work.

Since his election to office, so far, President Rajapaksa’s policies seem more efficient and result oriented than that of all his predecessors. The country will see a rise of contact-free business transactions wherever possible.

Digital commerce and automation will be decisive to Sri Lankan entrepreneurs in the post Covid 19 phase. Most of them will voluntarily grasp the system mainly due to lower costs and less labour related issues. Human contacts will be minimized but will not be eliminated. Companies will shift to digital solutions wherever possible and reap the benefits of online approach.

Companies will reconsider their strategies to cater to the new normalcy with more resilience. Sri Lankan businessmen will revamp their respective business models in line with the President’s vision of promoting indigenous manufacture and nurture native agriculture through advanced technology as promised through his election manifesto.

Investors are ready to devise ways to incorporate new resiliency metrics. Together with the promised Government backing, the business community will rally round to reverse all negative effects of the pandemic and lead the way to develop the nation’s economy.

It is said that ‘necessity is often the mother of invention’. The pandemic has brought in many positive outcomes. It has created a new normal living and new paths to business activities. Individuals, communities, businesses establishments and the Government are fast learning to connect and to co-exist with more understanding and tolerance.