More than a year since COVID-19 began its onslaught, the world as we know it has been changed in a way that seems to be in a point of no return. Many businesses have not been able to function at full capacity and office employees have continued to work from home. People are no longer as free to mingle like they used to. The wearing of a face mask has become a common fashion statement, and vaccination has turned into a symbol of health and passage to work, venues and in the near future international travels, among other things.
Relatively speaking, Australians are much more compliant in adopting inoculation as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in comparison to Americans, based on the percentage of individuals who have so far accepted the jab. This is not to say that there are no skeptics here as there are over in that part of the world, as evident in some protests. But it is more so about a nation’s zeitgeist and the government’s push to mandate vaccination as a necessity towards a pressing public health issue that shows no sign of letting up everywhere around the globe.
100% of cases in Australia are now recorded to be of the highly transmissible Delta variant, and there are reports from some countries, including the United States that the new ‘Mu’ variant is running rampant. With the virus evolving faster than we are able to adapt to its twists and turns, greater are the uncertainties that arise than our medical experts have managed to solve in more than a year. However, this magnitude of precariousness should not imply that we are close to defeat—it is just mostly an uphill battle. But it is the hope of understanding the situation that is raising many people’s faith that it will all come to pass eventually.
So, what can we expect life would be like with COVID-19 as a seemingly inescapable element in the overall picture?
Primarily, many of the public health measures we are all experiencing, like mask-wearing, hand hygiene and social distancing measures will remain. This means getting used to the idea of running a business at less-than-full capacity and thereby anticipating reduced profit. This also implies that more people than ever are opting to work from the comforts of their home and away from the office, which will continue to affect the economy.
Waiting for the daily updates of new COVID cases in the morning has become a habit now that we go online to check how we fare. Students have even gotten used to having classes for a few months and all of a sudden shift to online studies when there are increasing new COVID cases, but there will be a phased return to face to face classes in the coming weeks.
While the changes imposed by the pandemic have all been on the downside for everybody, it, too, does come with its upsides. With enterprises operating at lesser hours, business owners and employees now have more time than ever to spend with their respective families. With fewer people to interact with, we learn to value the existence of our fellow human beings and even be more appreciative when a good old conversation takes place.
As for the vaccine—which is being put at the pedestal as the solution to this ravaging worldwide problem—it will likely remain controversial, fuelled by both adopters and skeptics who are at the two opposite ends of the argument. With greater vaccination levels, however, it is clearly expected that certain restrictions will be eased as part of the national plan to ‘open back up’. How this plays out will depend on how the proposed ‘vaccine passports’ will be used, which is leading to the implementation of the requirement to be fully vaccinated in order to enter public venues. Not only will the need for a mask become a consideration for a safe meeting or gathering, but also whether those around us, our friends, colleagues and loved ones are vaccinated, which will most certainly impact how we interact while ‘living with COVID’.
Vaccine hesitation is real for some, and there may be arguments along the way, but with greater education, support and encouragement, those who are hesitant will become more confident to join the millions of Australians that have already been vaccinated. Not only does getting inoculated protect us from dying from COVID, but it is also our ticket to living a life that resembles some sense of normality. It is the freedom we all want back.