New normal: What to expect in a post COVID-19 society

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By Michaela Tangan and Hannah Mallorca
Features Writer, The Philippine STAR

Illustration by Tone Dañas

“Can we still live the lives we left behind?”

As the world awaits for COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) developments to unfold, we grapple for answers. What we know for certain is that we have to change our behaviors and live with the new norms.

In the Philippines, Sen. Manny Pacquiao is pushing for a New Normal Law that will establish social distancing and health and hygiene protocols.

Earlier in March, he also filed the Anti-Spitting Act of 2020, which seeks to ban and penalize spitting, coughing and sneezing in public.

Meanwhile, Dr. Edsel Salvana, director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the National Institutes of Health – University of the Philippines Manila, stresses the importance of precautionary measures after the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).

“If the ECQ is going to be modified, it needs to be modified slowly and allow for the data to catch up so we know what is truly going on. Social distancing and universal mask wearing need to continue. Schools should remain closed,” he said.

We gather some new norms that we may expect post-ECQ:

THEN NOW

Greeting and physical distancing

Common types of physical contact done in public include handshakes, beso-beso (cheek-to-cheek), mano (hand blessing), hugging and kissing.

 

To avoid physical contact, other forms of greeting such as nodding, waving hands, bumping elbows, tapping feet or gesturing the Namaste hand prayer are introduced as new alternatives.

Before the pandemic, physical distancing was barely observed, particularly in public transportation vehicles and informal settlements.

Once restrictions are eased, maintaining two-meter distance, especially in public places, will have to remain in place to avoid the resurgence of cases. The housing sector leaders must look into the improvement of housing conditions in the country.

Food and retail

Shoppers may freely visit restaurants, groceries and other retail stores anytime within the typical 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. operating hours.

To cease possible reescalation of COVID-19 cases, law enforcers as well as business owners may consider continuation or implementation of a more well-organized window hours for running errands.

 

e-commerce and online shopping should also be improved given the expected change in consumer behavior.

Health care

Prior to COVID-19, most patient consultations were conducted by visiting doctors’ clinics and hospitals’ outpatient or specialty departments.

Since those with pre-existing conditions are vulnerable to the COVID-19, hospitals and clinics are ramping up their digital consultation platforms to attend to patients, especially for follow-up checkups and non-urgent cases.

Observing healthy lifestyle and proper hygiene were advised prior to the emergence of COVID-19, but were overlooked.

Due to the deadly pandemic, individuals have become more aware of the importance of having a healthy lifestyle and proper hygiene such as eating balanced meals, exercising, handwashing for 20 seconds, and coughing and sneezing into the elbow, tissue or face mask, among others.

 

It will be mandatory to sanitize hands and check temperature before boarding public vehicles or entering public places.

Healthcare facilities were undermanned and inadequately equipped with medical resources. Areas outside Metro Manila and key cities face difficulty in infrastructure building, human resources and distribution of other needs.

Effective mechanisms should be in place to address health inequities and health system insufficiencies. The World Economic Forum suggests that protective equipment be in place and intensive care beds on standby in hospitals.

Religion

Masses and Sunday services play a huge role in our culture where people flock to churches and other places of worship. Bible studies, youth ministries and other activities related to religion are also held.

Church leaders, priests, pastors and other religious groups hold online Masses and worship services. Some Christian churches post highlights of Sunday preachings in social media as well.

Education

Many schools in the Philippines begin the academic year in June.

The Department of Education (DepEd) is leaning towards opening the next school year in August, and is considering Saturday classes — depending on the recommendation of the Inter-agency Task Force on Emerging Diseases and President Rodrigo Duterte.

Classes and school activities are conducted face-to-face within the walls of educational institutions.

As soon as lockdowns were imposed and schools closed, learning was taken into a different platform: online. Teachers have to come up with creative ways to engage students. Class enrolment and other school activities are accomplished using online applications.

Some board exams are scheduled during March and April.

The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced the cancellation of board exams for March and April.

In the Philippines, graduation season is held from March to April.

On April 20, the DepEd said it is considering to approve schools’ request to hold online graduation rites.

Work

White-collared workers were required to report for work in an office space. Meetings were also conducted face-to-face.

Post-coronavirus, workers will have to get used to working remotely. Managers and employees will have to learn how to run effective virtual meetings and utilize available resources.

While various industries utilize data management in day-to-day operations, they continue to explore the best practices to keep up with the growing volume of data available.

Stakeholders will have to conscientiously invest in people’s data management skills as well as proper infrastructure to take advantage of big data. This will enable the country to improve its efficiency in decision-making, especially during critical times.

Science and research

Pre-COVID-19 outbreak, there was an increase in wildlife exploitation. A study conducted at University of California suggests that the spillover of viruses from animals to humans are linked to wildlife exploitation.

To stop the animal-human transmission of viruses, law enforcers, advocates, doctors, veterinarians, ecologists and other scientists, including communities, must collaborate to stop illegal wildlife trade, survey animal diseases, and study prevention and risk of possible outbreak.

The few laboratories capable of detecting the disease had limited proper equipment and personnel to conduct the needed tests.

 

Since demand for tests could balloon if lockdowns are lifted without a methodical plan, stakeholders must continuously invest in proper clinical management and infection control as well as wide availability of testing capability in various health-care settings.

Entertainment

Sports events, concerts, meet-and-greet events and parties are common forms of entertainment, where social distancing couldn’t be seen.

Sports organizations, musical institutions, singers and bands will continue holding virtual events for audiences worldwide.

Economy and policy making

The Philippine economy was in a boom prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government focused its funding on infrastructure development.

 

 

The government is prioritizing food security and health care of vulnerable sectors, as well as the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up the bulk of businesses in the country.

 

Policy makers are fixing holes in the current healthcare system, implementing aggressive strategies as the economy reopens, and creating sustainable policies to increase global health crisis preparedness.

Despite the growing number of recoveries and medical discoveries — and until we find the vaccine — the battle against COVID-19 is far from over. But it doesn’t mean that we have to stop ourselves from moving forward. By accepting proper habits and health-conscious norms, we can halt present and future pandemics.





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