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How will the fight against COVID-19 shape the way we live?

Pathogens shape the way we live, our economies, cultures, and daily behaviors. Many food taboos tie to infectious diseases; prohibitions on sharing cooking utensils between meat and dairy, animal blood, and shrimp/pork in some religions. The Black Death helped end feudalism, a worker shortage driving a power shift to scarce labor. Women’s WWII factory recruitment […]

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Lifestyle
How will Coronavirus Change our lifestyles?

Pathogens shape the way we live, our economies, cultures, and daily behaviors.

Many food taboos tie to infectious diseases; prohibitions on sharing cooking utensils between meat and dairy, animal blood, and shrimp/pork in some religions.

The Black Death helped end feudalism, a worker shortage driving a power shift to scarce labor.

Women’s WWII factory recruitment permanently changed the workforce composition.

9/11 reshaped transportation and security. Citizens accepted higher screening and surveillance.

The SARS outbreak shifted Asian shopping online, starting the rise of Alibaba.

Behaviors

The elderly and those with preexisting conditions may remain in lockdown longer.  Office workers will continue to remote-work until a vaccine arrives or we reach herd immunity. 

Modern tech allows us to work from home, stay entertained and stay in touch, making lockdown significantly more bearable than any time in the past.

Human Contact

Groceries, pharmacy products and online shopping have increased. Travel, live entertainment and apparel sales have declined. Air travel reduced after 9/11 yet rebounded to trend in a little over a year.

We may permanently recoil from shaking hands, touching our faces, and repeated wash our hands. Reduced time in crowds and greater emphasis on hygiene, health and family security.

Bars & restaurants, gyms, airlines and cruise ship operators may continue to struggle.  Greater social distancing at restaurants, means a 50% reduction in seats, but only a 25% decline in labor costs.  People may hesitate to return to gyms and shared equipment.  Adapting to new consumer preferences with severely damaged balance sheets will be a struggle.

Expect touchless/voice-controlled devices, and contactless credit cards to become universal. 

Telemedicine, for minor complaints, will continue and grow.  Remote voting is likely for elections.

Online shopping convenience will persist. Ocado, the British grocer, was so overloaded after the lockdown announcement, they thought they had been hacked, with three weeks of delivery slots filled in an hour. 

The elderly are becoming more tech savvy, using video chat apps like WhatsApp and Skype, ordering groceries and playing card games online with friends.

City dwellers rely on public spaces (parks, cafes, libraries) for a large part of their “living space”. Small refrigerators, public transportation reliance, and work/community interactions in public spaces makes us reevaluate the attractiveness of highly priced major cities.

The Environment

Greta Thunberg’s two-week sailing trip to the UN reminded us that in-person meetings have impact. 

Business travelers and holidaymakers will reduce unnecessary travel, but when a meeting is important, people still make the trip. 

Major cities spent decades driving residents into public transportation, now a germ-filled, highly undesirable way to travel. Grocery stores disallowed “bags for life” which carry germs back and forth from houses and stores.

Expect increased food packaging, and fewer bins of loose bread rolls. 

Remote-working drives people away from crowded cities into larger suburban homes, with 24-hour heating and air conditioning and associated energy/infrastructure costs. 

The sharing economy suffers, including Uber, cycle & scooter share schemes, Airbnb.

Yet, working from home will reduce miles driven by commuters.

The Business World

Wars introduced nuclear power, airplanes, radar, and penicillin, the COVID may bring huge innovation, rather than demand shifts between existing products.

Large cap US tech companies including Amazon and Netflix have thrived, while Zoom, the videoconferencing software, became a household name.

Expect huge medical innovation and cures and vaccines for other viruses.

Expect spyware and productivity tracking for remote-workers. As well as tools/controls for social media distractions.

Firms will weigh efficiency costs/benefits of a globalized supply chain against robustness of a domestic supply chain. 

Greater automation in factories allows robots to continue manufacturing during pandemics. 

Power will shift from employees to employers in high unemployment.

Governments will impose conditions to bailouts, including controls over dividends, buyback policies, and executive compensation.

Companies that thrive in the crisis may face Anti-Trust breakups in future.

Business to consumer sales will grow. London meat wholesalers are doing home deliveries. Cape Cod fishermen are selling their catch fresh off the boat.

Politics

Politicians must demonstrate crisis preparedness, systems resilience, social solidarity, and access to health care. The virus is now our common enemy.

The FDA will speed up testing and treatments with less bureaucracy.

Westerners will debate privacy losses against controlling the virus. Apple and Google are working on  contact tracing via mobiles to contain the pandemic.

How Our Personal Lives Might Change

Carers are moving elderly family home, avoiding hospices, to say goodbye to loved ones, a reversion to when multi-generations of families shared one roof.

Homeschooling will increase for parents who settle into suitable curriculums, and value their new flexibility.

Students may avoid crowded dorms, choose universities near home, and reduce the student debt problem.

Thanking military for their service may morph into appreciation of essential workers — medical, delivery, sanitary, and grocery workers.  

The rules are being questioned and may no longer apply. 

Part three discusses how we could Flatten More Curves and smooth demand of many services.

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