Britain Faces Up To The “New Normal”:

Everything has changed”. That’s how the BBC’s Health Editor, Hugh Pym views the impact of the pandemic both on Britain and the international community. Life will be very different from now on, for the high street, businesses, our work routine and and the way we meet friends, he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on July 19th.

The Guardian commentator, Oliver Burkeman, on 19th June, by contrast, took a more philosophical stance, highlighting what he portrayed as “our tendency to swiftly adapt emotionally to positive or negative fluctuations in our circumstances”. After the attacks of 9/11/01, he argued, we were told nothing would be the same again, and it wasn’t, “yet throughout history, each time civilization has been disrupted by a huge event, people have simply got used to it”. He did nevertheless acknowledge that a world with less human contact, or more joblessness, is “objectively worse” if it becomes normality.

Most available data, news reports and public opinion polls suggest, however, that Hugh Pym’s assessment correlates rather more with the prevailing mood around the UK. The latest Office For National Statistics (ONS) survey, for example, indicates that 67% of adults in Britain are anxious about the effect that the coronavirus could have on their future.

Similarly, a diarist for the “Britain Thinks” Insight & Strategy organisation lamented all the signs that the situation isn’t really getting any better and that this is very different from how they felt back in March when they thought that “this episode would have a beginning, middle and an end”.

Any lingering hopes that the virus could soon just “disappear” (as President Trump has frequently contended) were abruptly banished by the Oxford University immunologist and geneticist, Professor Sir John Bell, when he told Parliament’s Health & Social Care Committee on 21st July that “Covid-19 is here forever and may never be eradicated”.

The vast majority of “Britain Thinks” diarists also confirmed that they are not considering going abroad during the remainder of 2020, due as much to their unease about the journey (particularly air travel) as about the possibility of contracting the virus in another country.

World Economic Forum (WEC) research into when (if ever) we’ll get back to the previous “status quo”, disclosed on 23rd June by its “visual capitalist”, Iman Ghosh, has revealed that it could be 3-12 months before 56% of those questioned will be prepared to eat at a dine-in restaurant, 54% to work in a shared office, 46% to attend even a small dinner party and 44% to travel by plane.

Moreover, 6% of the 500 US and Canadian epidemiologists who contributed to the WEC investigation “do not expect to ever hug or shake hands again at post-pandemic meetings and over 50% believe masks will be necessary for at least the next year”.

Indeed, the Spectator Magazine’s blog on 22nd July cited the recommendation by a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that, in Britain, handshakes should be abandoned and replaced by Japanese-style greetings to prevent future pandemics.

The Spectator also noted that the number of job vacancies in the UK dropped by 63% in the 2nd quarter of 2020 compared to last year while the application-to-job ratio rose by 84%. This is clearly of understandable concern to all those employees worried about whether they’ll be made redundant after the furlough scheme, whereby the Government is paying 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month, ends on 31st October.

The Guardian’s economics columnist, Richard Partington, forewarned on 16th July that nearly a third of firms in Britain plan to cut jobs in the next three months. The Sunday Times journalist, Sabah Meddings, subsequently observed on 19th July, that this has resulted in a stampede for whatever work is available.The Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, for instance, has received 484 applications for a £9-an-hour bar job and a restaurant in Manchester was “inundated with 963 CVs” after advertising for a receptionist.

Amid all the gloom, there has been a glimmer of positive developments, for some at least. The Economist’s edition of July 18th pointed out that many companies are now considering a “hybrid model” whereby their staff can work partly from home and on other days go into the office, which means they will “spend a lot less time in traffic jams or on crowded buses and trains”.

Used car dealers are suddenly much busier with an influx of customers exploring alternatives to public transport and plastic-makers are having to cater for a major upturn in demand for protective perspex face shields and screens.

Similarly, according to the Sunday Times Health Editor, Andrew Gregory, on 19th July, cosmetic surgery clinics are experiencing a surge in the number of patients wanting treatment for (among others) face lifts, lip fillers, botox and nose jobs to improve their appearance on video conference apps such as Zoom.

Meanwhile, as the Guardian’s Wealth correspondent, Rupert Neate, reported on 22nd July, the fortune of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, rose in a single day by $10 billion to $189 billion.

Filed under: Healthcare, Media | Posted on July 27th, 2020 by Colin D Gordon

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