IN TOUCH: A new normal is upon us

When the president of the country announced on that fateful day way back in March that South Africa would be going into an unprecedented lockdown, no one thought it would last very long.

43 days and counting, we are still practically on lockdown as level 4, that started last week, does not return us to anything resembling a normal life at all. Many sectors of the economy are still barred from operating and the rising number of infections is making it exceedingly difficult to see us approaching less restrictions anytime soon. Make no mistake, people understand, in the main, why we have to live like this, but that does not make it any easier. I think it is slowly sinking in to people that we may never go back to life as we know it – the ‘new normal’ is upon us.

All through history, catastrophic events have resulted in great hardships, but have also led to great innovations and advancements. This kind of events changes traditional and cultural practices and disrupts the socio-economic situation where they occur. Calamities have a way of focusing the mind and lead to great leaps in technology and development. Today there are many technological advancements which we can trace directly from calamities like wars and pandemics. 

For instance, canned food came from the Napoleonic wars as they needed to feed large numbers of troops with food that could be carried over distances and last for a long time without rotting. Things like microwaves, duct tape and sanitary napkins were invented during wars and the internet and wi-fi we take for granted today have their origins in the military. So what will the Covid-19 pandemic usher in? What will it change forever in our lives? How will it inform and alter the way we relate to one another and how we do things in future? Let us take funerals and all other related practices. Week time night vigils are prohibited and attendance at the funeral itself has been reduced to 50 people with no tent or sit-down catering provided. Surely, this one should be kept in future, with a few amendments.

Many people have been saying that funerals, especially in black communities, have become way too big and the costs have been spiralling out of control. Maybe this pandemic is the catalyst we all needed to effect the much-needed changes.

Another one is meetings. The pandemic and lockdown have shown that meetings can still be held effectively without transporting and accommodating people at huge expense. Many companies have sent people to work from home, including this newspaper and it has been shown that it can be done successfully. So what kind of world will we wake up to when the lockdown is finally ended? The way we conduct funerals and traditional rituals will change as more cost-effective measures and better hygienic practices become the norm.

There will be less large gatherings like conferences, workshops and meetings as technology takes over. This will lead to huge savings for institutions and reduce time away from home for employees. I am not sure how employees feel about that. As 5g network is ushered in, more and more services will be taken to online platforms which will need a complete overhaul of many of our methods in industries and educational institutions. Cheaper cell phones, airtime and data killed off public telephone businesses. One wonders which industries and sectors will be killed off by the post Covid-19 world. Out of the ashes, the Phoenix will surely rise.

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