The New Year is being awaited with anticipation given that year 2020 has been a rollercoaster ride. With the vaccine ready and vaccination in progress, some optimism is warranted. However till a sufficient population is covered to achieve some level of herd immunity, things may not drastically change as soon as we usher the New Year.
Masks are likely to stay, so is some level of social distancing. Experts have already asked people, even those vaccinated, to keep wearing masks. Article in HuffPost, “We’ll Be Wearing Face Masks Far Into 2021, Even With A COVID-19 Vaccine” explains that masks are a powerful public health tool, with proven effectiveness and will be just as reliable – if not more – as vaccine comes along. Mask wearing is also likely to be important since we will not have enough doses at first, it will take several months to vaccinate enough people and they will be vaccinated in two doses about three to four weeks apart, and vaccines will show varying level of immunity protection in adults. A lot of countries like Japan already have long had a mask wearing culture and this has been effective in control of pandemic. Such a culture, if adopted by all countries, can go a long way in controlling spread of large number of infectious diseases, apart from COVID-19.
Social distancing is also likely to continue for sometime for reasons discussed above. Moreover many people and communities and even workplaces have now embraced the new normal. Employers and employees have realized that work from home has several advantages like loss of long commute, ability to live in bigger and better places, closer to family and friends away from ‘physical office’ and sometimes even better productivity and over all sense of well being. Moreover a lot of people have embraced a slower pace of life, cooking at home and consuming entertainment from OTT streaming platforms. Smaller intimate weddings are also back in vogue and may continue well into the future.
Online dating, online communications, online learning, zoom calls, text messaging, online shopping etc. had already been on rise even before the pandemic and saw an exponential rise during 2020. This trend is likely to continue, due to sheer convenience, low costs and increasing use of Internet even in remoter parts with accompanying digital literacy.
What is expected to change? Travel may likely pick up again given how much of 2020 has been spent on distress over holidays not taken. Travel is also likely to become safer with regards to hygiene and social distancing measures. Hotels, Airbnbs etc. have adopted new cleaning and sanitizing protocols in place and this may positively impact the future of tourism industry.
The coming years are also likely to see better pandemic response preparedness, surveillance systems, tracking, quarantine measures and public health data management. Given the recent importance of public health it is expected that states will increase funding for health, with better pay for health workers and better health infrastructure like hospitals and quarantine facilities. This is especially important for a country like India that has a large population, one of the lowest spending by government on health and highest private out of pocket expenses, especially by the poor.
Globally it can only be hoped that more funds will be given to research and development especially for newer drugs and vaccines. 2020 has demonstrated how a single virus can disrupt entire life, cause tremendous loss of lives, upset economy and how easily viruses can spread in a global interconnected world. 2021 will likely bring an increasing awareness about effects of climate change, loss of habitats and disruptive human activities on public health and spread of new diseases.