Post Covid-19, it’ll be life but not as we know it
Parties, hugs, food and culture were all gone in a matter of hours after March 23.
For many, seeing crowds, bars and parties on a TV show might already spur a sense of nostalgia – what will normal look like in a post-coronavirus world?
The economic and cultural interruption of the coronavirus will change lives forever, University of Otago department of psychological medicine senior lecturer Dr Christopher Gale says.
“The old way of living will not return.”
People will be spending less while the economy returns to normal, Gale said.
“We will not be able to afford some of the things we could do before … coffee with friends, or Friday drinks.”
The second reason was a lack of culture.
“We have been forced into a pause in our usual activities, and this has caused many of us to change what we do to cope.”
For most of us, the lockdown had led to new skills, hobbies and abilities.
“Sadly, for some, it has led to crippling anxiety and despair, or use of self-damaging behaviours such as alcohol abuse, interpersonal violence, gambling addiction.”
People could feel uncomfortable grappling with how to meet with others.
The rules wouldn’t be relaxed overnight, and people may seek more space around themselves for a while.
“Some people may feel uncomfortable with shaking hands for some time.”
Post-lockdown, it could take weeks to form new ways of social interaction, Gale said.
“That may look different to those we had going into Covid-19.”
Gale warned some might rebel against long-term social distancing rules if they were made mandatory for businesses.
“New Zealand businesses and the general population have a certain disregard for micro-regulation and petty rules,” he said.
“You can see this every weekend when people do not slow for (empty) road construction sites.”
The Government was walking a fine line on what society would accept, Gale said.
But he turned down the idea that the lockdown would spawn a “Generation C”.
However, if the coronavirus created prolonged changes, as seen in the Depression and Rogernomics, then society would follow. “If it is prolonged, the society will change.”
“If the rules for society change, as they did in those times, then the next generation will grow up with different experience from the Gen X and the Zoomers.”
Gale said working from home had had a “tremendous impact” on families.
Some households, including his own, had become multigenerational during the lockdown period and family members had adapted to co-existing in tight confinement.
Victoria University of Wellington School of Psychology clinical practice manager Dougal Sutherland said due to the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, there were few historical events on which future predictions could be based on.
However, he didn’t predict a long-lasting impact on social lives.
“I think we fled to our homes to avoid the virus, and now we’re likely to flee from our homes to escape loneliness and boredom.”
Sutherland said when people emerged from their homes they would remember how to socialise, and Wellington’s social life would come back to life.
“Once lockdown ends people will want to meet up with each other in their old haunts. Remember that old habits die hard.”
However, the long-term mental health impact of lockdown was a concern, he said.
“Potentially the biggest impact will be due to the social and economic consequences of the crisis … unemployment [and] loss of income.”
Unfortunately, those most at risk have a history of anxiety and depression, including marginalised groups like Maori and Pacific communities, he said.
Sutherland said he’d played a role in mental health coping and resilience workshops for a number of organisations.
“More recently there’s been lots of reports from managers saying that even the most introverted of their team have been keen to get out and socialise.”
Many said video calls allowed an insight into others’ homes and lives, forming a better connection with teams, he said.
An Inner-City Wellington spokeswoman said it’s likely the Wellington CBD will look very different as businesses close their doors for good.
However, it would also be affected by pre-existing alignments: The closure of the Central Library, the Saturday Markets, and the Civic Square, which is “a wasteland”, she said.
Retail, restaurants, hairdressers and anywhere with face-to face interaction would be squandered by social distancing rules.
She hoped peoples’ confidence would increase if the new cases continue to fall.
“Once restrictions are removed there may be an upsurge of activity, but long-term it is possible there will be less people coming into the city.”