The new ‘normal’: life after lockdown

June 18, 2020

Image by Willfried Wende from Pixabay

Arjan Arenas contemplates how we might emerge from this prolonged period of uncertainty

We’re getting well into the third month of drastic prevention measures during the pandemic and young people are increasingly tired of being largely stuck at home, unable to physically socialise with friends or see extended family.

However, as the infection rate and death toll slowly begins to decline in Britain and other countries, while New Zealand has beaten the disease altogether and seen a return to normal life, the national conversation has now shifted to how and when we’ll emerge from lockdown.

Over the past few weeks, the government have announced a series of incremental but significant relaxations of the restrictions which have defined the pandemic for many people. In England, people can now meet outside in groups of up to six people from different households, and two households can meet up in so-called ‘support bubbles’.

You can exercise with friends and have a kickabout with a football in the park. There’s even been talk among some members of the government and scientists of relaxing the two-metre social distancing rule to keeping just one metre apart from people. This has in turn led to discussion on the re-opening of schools and possibly pubs in the short term.

Lack of certainty is causing a great deal of anxiety, especially among young people

All of this gives the impression that we might be on our way out of lockdown – plenty of people are certainly hopeful that this is true. However, none of the proposed changes are certain. For myself and many others, a defining feature of the pandemic, other than the restrictions on public life, has been the lack of certainty as to what’s going to happen and when it will all end. It’s this that is causing such anxiety, especially among young people.

In all the uncertainty, perhaps what we’re thinking about most is what life after lockdown will actually look like. What we’ve learned as we’ve adjusted to the striking changes in our everyday lives should give us some ideas of what “the new normal” will look like.

The professional need to keep in touch with colleagues who are working from home, as well as the all too human need of young people and others to stay in touch with their friends and family, has meant that apps like Zoom have become increasingly popular, with some initially suggesting that they might become a permanent part of the social landscape.

Once lockdown is over young people might embrace (literally) the chance to meet up with friends

However, more recent research suggests that many people are growing tired of Zoom. Promisingly, this could suggest that more young people will no longer take face-to-face contact for granted once lockdown is over and might embrace (literally) the chance to meet up with friends and visit family members they haven’t seen for a while.

The impact of coronavirus isn’t solely human either. Many have pointed out how, now that human activity outside has decreased, our heavily polluted environment across the world has been taking the chance to recover.

Maybe this will encourage us to become more environmentally aware, to appreciate the importance of caring for the natural world. Of course, conversely plenty of people may seize the opportunities they’ve been deprived of for so long and pollute the environment again. We’ll see.

Until the pandemic ends, we won’t be able to fully gauge the true impact of Covid-19, nor will we be able to determine how long it will affect our lives for.

As horrific as the pandemic is, I think there might just be a few reasons to be optimistic. There’s a chance that young people will emerge from lockdown with a renewed appreciation of the world and people around them.

Let’s hope for these precious few silver linings as we slowly move towards some form of normality.

Arjan Arenas studied history at King’s College London, then completed a master’s in the history of international relations at the London School of Economics. He has worked with Exposure since January 2018, and is particularly interested in history and politics, as well as books, film and television. Outside of his work with Exposure, Arjan has written reviews of films and television programmes, as well as theatre productions in London’s West End.

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