Gradual return to normality at work, home, etc.

On June 9, I resumed my face-to-face teaching after three months. Our work venue has been tailored to ensure physical distancing, and we are obliged to wear a face shield. There are arrows directing where to enter and exit; each room has information on the number of people allowed inside and a bottle of gel to hand sanitise. I have four students in an area of 18 square metres that can accommodate 20 people. According to them, my face shield produced echoed sounds. Likewise, I could not hear well what they were saying. With our great sense of humour, we did not notice the time passing by; after an hour and a half of the lesson, the flipchart was filled with nouns, verbs and adjectives.

Confinement and social distancing have resulted in financial hardship, work stress, and relationship difficulties. Many of us have now gone back to our pre-COVID routine; however, there are still millions of people negotiating the transition back to what it used to be the “normal”. Should common areas at home remain as workspaces? How many days per week should employees telework? Should religious service continue in car parks? Are drive-in cinemas a new vogue?

In her article “Life And Work After Covid-19: The Problem With Forecasting A Brighter Future", Josie Cox stated: “Our longing for a pre-pandemic existence (look no further than social media) is hard evidence of the fact that we will most likely revert to old habits and behaviors, both good and bad, when lockdowns are lifted and social distancing called off. We like the comforts and freedom of choice. In the workplace and beyond, we tend to choose a path of least resistance because that’s just the way we’re wired”. (link to the article, seen 16/06/20).

On June 18, my husband and I went to the cinema (movie theatres opened on June 17 in Luxembourg and June 22 in France), and “Just Mercy” enthralled us. It is a compelling true story about Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative and Walter McMillian (who was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit). We took off our masks only after we had sat down on our allocated seats. There were only eight of us in a room for 200 people. How long will it take for cinemas and theatres to attract crowds again?

Currently, in France and Luxembourg, workers who interact with customers and their colleagues are required to wear facial coverings. Unlike in China and some Asian countries where mask-wearing is a conscious act, this is not the case in cultures where it is associated with vulnerability and fear. Hence, I do not know when this “new normal” will disappear in Europe.

Even with government support programmes, many families and companies will simply not bounce back or recover overnight. The scars of COVID-19 will always remind us of the fragility of our lives, employment and economy. On the other hand, it has made us more resilience and able to confront fear, uncertainty and impositions at home and work than ever before. It has awoken our admiration and gratefulness for the work of health care workers, home delivery people and Samaritans. It has made us think deeper about our relationships and environment.

As Europe opens its borders today (1 July 2020) and the summer holiday is getting underway, there are still controversies regarding the EU’s lists on who are allowed to enter and not. Brazil, the USA and Russia are not on the approved list; whereas Algeria, Australia and Canada are on it. The UK is neither, and China is subject to confirmation of reciprocity agreement. (Source, seen 30/06/20).

As we go back to our pre-COVID work premises and lifestyle, let’s not be complacent. It is not yet totally safe. Therefore, we must remain alert and respect the remaining restrictions:

  • Do not shake hands or greet people with kisses on the cheek.
  • Respect social distancing staying at least one metre from others; otherwise, wear a mask.
  • Wash both hands often.
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm and turn around/away from people.
  • Use single-use tissues to wipe your mouth and face, and throw these away right away.

The good news is that we are born with immense capacity to adjust, readjust and survive. “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” — Leon C. Megginson (1921-2010), Professor Emeritus at Louisiana State University, USA).

Stay safe and cheerful.

(This article also appears in my website Rolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com)

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