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Opinion

The new normality of social distancing – editorials

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With more than 2.6 million cases of coronavirus (Covid-19) disease worldwide, states are battling the most serious public health emergency in a century. The most preferred route to deal with this is locks. They are often necessary, but not sustainable. At best, they provide an opportunity to break the transmission chain and improve health infrastructure. But the restrictions will eventually ease, either because the pandemic is waning (as happened in Wuhan, China), or because miscommunication and partisan politics erode citizens’ support for extreme measures (as is visible in parts of the states). States), or because the associated economic costs are too high (as companies and labor in India increasingly feel).

But that cannot mean a return to business as usual. With an uncertain future and no cure in sight, a group of Harvard researchers conducted computer simulations that modeled how the pandemic can develop. They suggest that some sort of social distancing will be needed until 2022. This will ensure that when a second wave of infection arises, after restrictive measures are lifted, health systems are not overburdened with new cases. This requires that there be a radical change in everyday life, in the way people meet, socialize, travel, educate, study and work.

As the end of the blockade approaches in India, this lesson is valuable. Restrictions will be eased, facilitating greater mobility and economic activity. But the importance of social distancing will not diminish. This is easier said than done, given India’s poverty and high population density. Governments will have to frame policies accordingly. Citizens must see themselves not only as potential victims, but as potential threats, and adopt best practices, for themselves and for others. Institutions must create new work systems. The end of the crash will not lead to normality, but will create a “new normality”.

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