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OP-ED: Towards a new normal

  • Published at 09:58 pm August 13th, 2020
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How new standards have emerged all over the world

Nearly half a year into a global pandemic and we still find ourselves in an endless limbo of uncertainty. Since the advent of the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak back in December, death tolls have risen to over 700,000 worldwide with confirmed cases currently staggering at 19 million. 

Countries have adopted non-therapeutic preventive measures including travel bans, country-wide lockdowns, and most importantly the art of social distancing. Now, after months of being taunted by this virus -- massively disrupting economies, health care, and the education system -- the world begins to glint towards a new normal in the post-Covid era.

A new beginning

With lockdown measures slowly easing, pubs, restaurants, and even hair salons have been opening worldwide. Among the nine prevalent winners of this deadly battle are the countries of New Zealand, Tanzania, Fiji, Vatican, Montenegro, Seychelles, St Kitts and Nevis, and East Timor. A 100 days into New Zealand’s declaration of being corona-free, lockdown measures have been lifted and everyday life is almost back to normal, with some social distancing. 

However, borders still remain closed to foreigners for now, with no indication of reopening. The victories of these countries serve as a glimmer of hope for people worldwide; the hope of a new beginning.

Risk assessment

Even though lockdown measures continue to dwindle and we are granted some freedom to feel the sun against our cheeks once more, the post-corona anxiety clutches onto us. Hugs and handshakes have been traded for awkward nods, constant social gatherings sound like a myth, and the ones that do take place only stem from the necessity of human interaction. We find ourselves carrying hand sanitizers like packets of gum, assessing the levels of congestion before entering a store. 

Wearing masks has been made trendy. Office hours sound menacing even though it was the normalcy that we craved in the throes of lockdown. 

Corona in Bangladesh

It has been about 145 days since the first cases of corona was announced in Bangladesh, with total cases now having risen to a whopping 269,000. For one of the world’s most densely populated middle income economies like Bangladesh, the novel coronavirus was a menace we would never be prepared for. 

The government, however, remained adamant with enforcing preventive measures enforced by countries throughout the world. Among initiatives exclusive to us were Bangladesh Bank’s announcement regarding a moratorium on loan payments till September 30, 2020, the government’s Tk50bn stimulus package for export-oriented industries, and the prime minister’s declaration of stimulus packages of Tk677.5bn planned to implement through four programs (increasing public expenditure, formulating a stimulus package, widening social safety net coverage, and increasing monetary supply). 

Even with tax measures, economic stimulus measures, and employment related tactics, it is impossible to implement full lockdown measures in a densely inhabited country with workers fending daily to feed families. For us, herd immunity or a possible vaccine may be our only salvation.

Lockdown limbo

On July 4, fireworks erupted as Britain emerged from lockdown after more than a 100 days. Melbourne went into a second lockdown while Hong Kong battled its third wave. New travel bans were enforced as new coronavirus outbreaks swept through Europe. 

As Europe is expected to be on the brink of the second coronavirus wave, we are forced to retract our hopes of being free. A second wave is indeed a very plausible circumstance and thus any ignorance would result in no bliss.

As we still trudge through this once-in-a-century adventure, we find ourselves adapting to a new standard. While this outbreak may have wreaked havoc worldwide, new artists and chefs have emerged out of this pandemic. 

The gratitude for life, the sharp realization of our mortality, and the importance of health care will remain engraved in the memory of survivors and of course in the history books of the world to come.

Gazi Sharita Fairooz is a freelance contributor.

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