by Amanda Ventura Molina, Global Resilience Institute
As the prospect of re-opening is on the forefront of our minds, a few big questions hang heavy in the air. How can we return to normal? Can we even return to normal at all? What does the new normal look like? How can we prevent this from ever happening again?
For the countries that are cautiously reopening, such as Denmark, and those that already have reopened, such as South Korea, these are questions that require the utmost care in answering. Thus, we see these countries begin to implement new safety measures to keep their countries resilient against the possibility of another big COVID-19 outbreak.
Certain that schools should be the first to open to restart the economy, children in Germany and other countries have been allowed back into school. However, the normal school day has been drastically altered. German children are required to administer coronavirus tests to themselves every four days, with the results coming in every night. In Australia, some school districts are experimenting with a staggered opening, sending students to class once a week. In China, students must be temperature checked before entering the school and cafeterias have been outfitted with plastic dividers.
The phased and cautious openings aren’t restricted to schools. In Denmark, restaurants, shopping malls, and professional sports have opened or will be opening in early to mid-May, and the country’s leaders have been considering lifting the limit on public gatherings from 10 to 50. Though exciting, these measures should be taken with a grain of salt. Soon after introducing a new phase of eased restrictions in South Korea, including that of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, some were shut down again after a COVID-positive man visited three nightclubs and infected nearly thirty people he interacted with. Additionally, 40 more infections have been linked to nightclubs.
Some countries are even considering opening up for tourism. On May 7th, Australia announced a plan to reopen their economy with a focus on boosting tourism. Amid worries of international flights, the country has also been included in a “travel bubble” with New Zealand, allowing travel only within the two nations. Despite the travel bubble, however, the country aims to mostly promote internal tourism to reinvigorate the economy. Singapore, on the other hand, holds out hope for international tourism, creating an “SG Clean” certification for bars, hotels and other tourist or service-dependent establishments to implement new cleaning standards for reopening, as well as systems that track all employees and visitors that enter a building. These new efforts among others may represent our new reality in a world plagued by COVID-19, but they may also represent a new and more resilient society prepared for disaster.