Covid-19: What you need to know today
How do you coexist with a virus?
How do life, work, and play go on when a highly infective and potentially fatal disease is still extant.
It is unlikely the Covid-19 disease will be wiped off the face of the Earth, like small pox was.
It is unlikely that there will be a tipping point, a safe-after date, beyond which the virus will not pose a threat to humanity.
And finally, even when a vaccine is discovered, it will be some time before everyone in the world has been inoculated against the virus (and knowing how flu viruses work, anyone who wants to be safe may well have to take a shot every year).
Yet, life and work (even play) cannot wait. This is not a passing tornado or a storm where one can hunker down and wait for the crisis to pass. There is not going to be an it’s-safe-to-go-out-now moment in this case.
Which brings us back to the original question.
How do you coexist with a virus?
Much of it depends on who you are. If you are a person over the age of 65, or 70, or 75 — different countries will define their senior citizens differently — be prepared to face significant restrictions on what you can and can’t do, and where you can and can’t go. This could last till a vaccine is discovered and widely available, or until we achieve herd immunity (60-65% of the population is infected, which means it is immune).
Schools and offices will continue to function, but again, with significant restrictions and very strict sanitation and social distancing protocols. Many people will be encouraged to work from home, and a lot of learning and assessment will move online.
Travel, especially international travel, will be restricted, cumbersome and expensive. The UK has already said it will enforce a 14-day quarantine for air passengers; many other countries will insist on similar quarantines; and that will pretty much kill business travel. No one is going to want to make a four-day business trip to another country if it is book-ended by 14-day quarantines. To be sure, there will be green travel channels, even between countries, but these will emerge over time, as more people, companies, and countries get used to living with the virus. Domestic travel will be easier, but not entirely without curbs. And both domestic and international travel may require screening for the coronavirus disease, perhaps even rapid testing.
Huge recreational events are out for now. If a vaccine isn’t in place and widely available by early next year, it is unlikely that the Olympic Games will take place. Indeed, mammoth multilateral sporting games are probably going to be the very last thing on anybody’s list of what’s safe. Theatre and musical performances will move online, and we will probably see significant innovations in the space, thanks to virtual reality and augmented reality. Gyms, health clubs, and swimming pools may not open for a long time, and while restaurants will, dining out will be a very different experience and also an expensive affair.
Fear of the coronavirus disease will restrict our movements and interactions, and while there may be few of us willing to risk it all, families, societies, organisations, service providers, even governments will try and insist that people follow basic safety protocols in everything they do. And all of this will happen. This is how individuals, companies, and governments are thinking right now.
This, then, is the new normal.
By early next year, if there is no vaccine (or even if there is), we will all know how to be safe, and how to carry on with life and work in a new world.