Opinion: Curbs Gone: But Will Life Be the Same Ever Again?
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By Sandeep Sahu
No lockdown. No shutdown. No night curfew either. The markets, parks and other public places are choc-a-bloc with people again. With all restrictions on movement of vehicles gone, driving is back to being the nightmare it always was. Why, you can take your family out on a dinner and even have your chhota peg in a bar now! Though large congregations still remain a strict ‘No No’, life hasn’t been any closer to being normal since March. After months of living under the stifling, suffocating and exasperating curbs in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, people have started breathing easy again.
But will life be the same ever again? Will things ever return to what they were before March? Will there, for example, come a time in the foreseeable future when one can roam around without a face mask without any fear of being hauled up by the police? When ‘social distance’ is no more the norm and people can mingle with each other like they used to do in the good old times?
When people will not be greeted, whether in homes or commercial establishments, with a can of sanitizer- with or without a thermal scanner? The answer to all these questions is: not any time soon!
Just as we are learning to live with Corona, we have to learn to live with all these paraphernalia for quite some time. With the vaccine reaching the business end of experiments, the days of the Corona pandemic may be numbered. But the changes in personal and domestic hygiene and social behaviour brought about by the dreaded virus have come to stay – at least in the near future. It is, in short, the new normal!
While restaurants have been allowed to open, it’s not business as usual yet. They have to follow a certain protocol which, among other things, includes adequate distance between tables and people. What it means is that we are not going to see an eating joint crammed with people as was the norm in the pre-Corona days. Such has been the scare spread by Covid-19 that not many people would venture out for lunch or dinner in the near future even if the restaurants are open. Marriages are allowed, but only with a maximum of 100 people. The same goes for funerals, but with only 50 people in attendance. The Unlock guidelines for September allows social and other gatherings after 21st, but again with a cap of 100. This means marriages and other social gatherings are not going to be the crowded, boisterous affair they usually are. And things are unlikely to get back to the ‘old normal’ in a hurry.
The places where the biggest gathering of people takes place – schools, colleges, cinema theatres, temples and so on – still remain shut. And with a reason! Schools have been ordered closed till the Puja vacations for now. But it is possible that the reopening may be delayed further if there is no let up in the pandemic by then. As for temples, it would be a brave government indeed that would allow temples to reopen any time soon. Ganesh Puja has been washed out and Durga Puja, a huge festival in our part of the world, looks set to follow suit. For all one knows, even Deepavali could end up as a Corona casualty!
It is, however, the economy that would take the longest to return to the pre-Corona level. The GDP has witnessed a free fall since the onset of the pandemic in March and there is no sign that the fall could be arrested in the near future.
Lakhs have lost jobs; thousands have shut shop. With demand at an all-time low, any recovery, if at all, is going to be a painfully slow affair. And that too if all goes well. And the ongoing skirmishes with China on the LAC don’t snowball into a full-fledged war!
While the external trappings of society may still return to ‘normal’ in a few months – or years – some of the fundamental changes wrought by the Corona pandemic – the changes in personal hygiene and social behaviour, for example, look set to stay for good!
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)