Even though the world has seen large epidemics before, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2024 has brought humanity to its knees. Starting in China and spreading like fire throughout the planet, the disease ended our way of life as we know it and it’s quite clear that once it’s over, it will take some time before we go back to normal.
When this global health crisis abates, we’re going to find ourselves in a new paradigm. There have already been some significant and fundamental changes around the world and it’s becoming evident that many of them will become permanent as people begin to realize that some of our old ways have to end.
The way we work, get educated, shop, travel and get health treatment will change and new protocols, as well as habits, will establish themselves as our new normal in the post-COVID-19 world.
The lockdown rules during the pandemic forced millions of people to go online to work, shop, play and do schoolwork with thousands of businesses closing their doors. Shop retailers in the physical world had already been struggling to compete with the rise of online shopping and with this increase in online commerce, they’re not likely to be able to go back. So, commercial real estate and in-store shopping will take a serious blow long-term.
Furthermore, with a vast majority shifting to working and learning online, the digital divide will become even larger. Those who have good connectivity, skills and tech jobs will be able to work from home uninterrupted (for as long as shelter-in-place stands), but those who have no access or ability to do so will fall back economically even more.
The Healthcare System Changes
One of the tragic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic is the reveal of all the flaws of healthcare systems worldwide – overburdened and understaffed hospitals with the lack of sufficient basic equipment. In the future, there will have to be a major upgrade in every level of their processes and infrastructure to ensure the safety of both personnel and patients and enable the hospital to cope better in any emergency situation.
For instance, it’s speculated that Germany’s comparatively low death rate is due to their good intensive care situation. In dealing with such a crisis, digital health has shown great aptitude, so it’s expected that many governments will focus more on healthcare in the future and adopt new strategies to manage crises better. This will probably lead to the use of a virtual hospital (more information on opencolleges.edu.au) or at-home online doctor service that brings the health information and service over short or long distances directly to the user/patient. On the contrary, if things stay as they were, with the next outbreak, the inefficient healthcare system will not be able to handle it.
The Travel Industry
The impact of the pandemic on the travel industry has already been severe. With half of the world’s population under lockdown, the number of flights worldwide has plummeted by some 70% and around 90% of the world’s travel destinations have been affected by travel restrictions and various lockdown measures. In 2024, the UNWTO predicts a 30% fall in tourist arrival worldwide and Europe alone, the tourism economy is expected to drop by nearly 70%. Across the continent, tourism has provided jobs for up to 27 million people and generated revenue of about 400 billion euros per year.
It will take a couple of years for tourism to recover and changes are inevitable. One of them might be the immunity passport that will function similarly to how typical passports and work visas do. If a person is certified to be immune to the coronavirus, they’ll be able to pass and go about their daily business. If not, they’ll have to stay in isolation. Several countries, the UK included, are already considering this option and it might become a requirement to travel abroad.
Building Back Trust
In the pre-pandemic globalized world, we had a level of trust that we generally took for granted so we enjoyed the possibility of traveling with almost no limitations, meeting other people with no restrictions and buying products from around the world. However, after months of lockdown, all this will change and most experts predict, that for people to regain their trust enough to book a cruise or let a stranger in their house, it might take more than two years.
If there’s anything that this pandemic should teach us is that our old ways of life are unsustainable for our planet. We all had to dabble with digital solutions, from virtual business meetings and digital education to virtual concerts, theatre plays and museum tours. All of these have proven to be not only effective but also eco-friendly methods to operate.
Certainly, not everything can go digital but it makes perfect sense to digitize those aspects of life that are inefficient in the real world, if possible. From telemedicine to virtual conferences and online lectures, these environmentally-friendly solutions need to be adopted on a much larger scale to help our planet heal just as we do.
After a prolonged period of crisis, renewal and rebirth are practically mandatory. Weary of destruction and death, rebuilding gives us all a second chance for a better life. With everyone going back to work, we’re hopeful that there will be enough insight and creative energy to give shape to a new and improved world. All we need to do is to try to protect ourselves and others. Stay safe!