How will the economic condition be? Will we be able to go back to our daily routine? These are among the questions raised – post COVID-19 virus. To date, approximately 3 million confirmed cases around the world are recorded and it seems that the trend is increasing. The numbers of death are at an astounding 200,000. Clearly, it is a virus that shows no mercy. As the world struggles in handling this new virus, the term ‘new normal’ is chanted by the people in every part of the world. We are told to prepare and adapt to this ‘new normal’ in our daily lives for an unknown duration of time.
Amid the COVID-19 virus, we were introduced to practices in life such as social distancing, wearing a mask when going out of the house, and practicing extra hygiene by frequently washing our hands. Adding to the matter, most countries had to impose a movement control order or a lockdown as one of the measures in order to curb the virus from spreading. Mass gatherings are banned; schools and offices closed as well as businesses ceased operation. In some countries, the control served its purpose while in some others had struck a nerve of the people. Nevertheless, the world was at a halt as a result of this worldwide pandemic. While developing a vaccine for this virus is still months away from the success the virus has yet to show any sign of diminishing.
Since the pandemic hit we have been adjusting our lives as we see fit. The most obvious change is that people will continue to practice social distancing. Outdoor activities must be minimized, mass gatherings are still banned and face mask is an essential item for protection when leaving the house. Hence, this is the new normal for all of us in Malaysia – since the government imposed the MCO (Movement Control Order), proposed safety practices such as leaving the house wearing a face mask and carrying your own hand sanitizer must adhere. Adding to the practice, it is also advisable to have only family members of the same household to travel in the same car. Washing your hands has become a frequent routine. To enter any commercial building, it is required to register your personal details including full name, telephone number, and at some places your identification number. This will be for tracking purposes. Before allowing access in, body temperature is taken ensuring that you do not have a fever. Practice social distancing with an estimation of 1 meter apart from the next person. Shaking hands are not permissible. Upon reaching home, wash your hands again, change your clothes and if possible, take a bath. This is how we live our lives, at least for now until we are told otherwise.
Due to the ban on mass gatherings, schools and educational institutions are closed down for the time being. Bringing us to the question of how long? The answer is most probably longer than expected. This situation led to education ministries around the world proposed to intensify usage of online learning. Hence, the new normal for education is classes are moved from offline to online. Teachers and educators are finding and creating new creative ways online to ensure students keep learning despite being at home. From organizing classes via Zoom, Google Meet, and Webinar to giving homework through WhatsApp, Telegram and Facebook, teaching and learning online has become a game-changer for the education industry. However, it is still at a preliminary stage. For Malaysia, online teaching is not massively implemented nor considered as a main teaching tool. Our education system still strongly believes in classroom education. Nevertheless, both teachers and parents are making the best of what they have. At the very least, every household does own a smartphone thus teaching and learning activities can still be done.
Around the world, the economy took a hit downturn. Industries came to a sudden stop with a vague prediction of the future. Economic analysts believe that until a vaccine is discovered, the economy is unlikely to return to normal. Consumers forgo shopping, dining in their favorite restaurant, traveling to their wish list counties, and watching their favorite sports. They are also becoming more mindful of their expenditure. However, as the economy is set to re-open, precautions are taken by both sellers and consumers. For example, businesses will have shorter business hours, they will have to space workers and customers 1 meter apart; restaurants serving fewer customers at a time, traveling will be less common, and activities involving large crowds will still be off-limits. Many businesses may continue to see some significant reduction in their sales as consumers are adjusting to this new norm in life and some common business practices will become obsolete. Nevertheless, this pandemic may close the door to one long economic practice but will have introduced new opportunities.
Social distancing has made digitalization to be more meaningful. The movement order control or lockdown implemented around the world will eventually end, but the people have already created online buying behaviors and habits leading to the growth of online businesses. Basic needs such as grocery shopping will no longer be done the conventional way. Online grocery shopping, apparel shopping, and entertainment will replace mall visits as people are still reluctant to go back to conventional ways due to fear of safety. As such, it creates a new market condition with personalization of web content, pricing, offers, and promotions while offering consumers a time-saving, safe, and convenient shopping experience. This takes delivery services to an entirely different new level. Previously, delivery services were more likely to be associated with food such as pizza but today the delivery has widened its delivery products to groceries, apparel, and household items. With the outbreak, the delivery sector may continue to experience growth in the future.
What does the future hold for us? We will survive co-existing with this virus under controlled conditions. We will also be looking at a slowdown of our way of life and everything related to it. Even if the condition stabilizes, it may never be as it was before. Realistically, experts are saying it could take 6 months to 2 years to curb the virus. This pandemic is a test for our system and patience; however it also trains us to be resilient, critical, creative, and innovative in creating solutions for our future.