If there’s one thing COVID-19 has taken away from all us, it would be our sense of normalcy. Normally, most of us are in schools, studying for our exams, or offices, finishing the tasks we need to do. Some of us might have been hanging out with their friends or enjoying some quality time with their significant others. But, all of these seem to be a privilege nowadays. Now, many of us need to stay at home and prevent others from being infected by the virus.
Recent reports show that over 100 countries worldwide have instituted either a full or partial lockdown, affecting billions of people. Many others have recommended restricted movement for some or all of their citizens. Travel within cities across the world has ground to a halt as restrictions on movement and social contact have come into force. Data from travel app Citymapper reported that residents in major cities like Madrid, Paris, London, and New York City were making fewer than one-tenth as many journeys as they did normally.
Many governments have also ordered their people to only leave their homes for essential reasons — such as to buy food. When going out, they need to wear face masks and disposable gloves and always observe social distancing measures. Laura, who lives in the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, said, “We can’t go out or travel to other cities, […] we must stay at home. Only one family member may go out at once and only for valid reasons, such as doing the groceries, going to the pharmacy, or the post office for urgent matters.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming in many countries, experts said that people should start accepting the new normal: social distancing; less physical contact; fewer gatherings or public events, and more staying at home.
Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic on Our Personal Lives
The world’s economy is already suffering from the pandemic as many governments have enforced lockdowns and social distancing measures. For many people, this crisis is a major blow to their personal lives. A recent survey conducted by Pew Research Center revealed that 44% of US adults said that their life has changed in a major way, while 12% said their life has stayed about the same as it was before the outbreak. Women (47%) are more likely to admit their personal life has changed in a major way than men (41%).
Given the current situation, 91% of US adults said that they would feel uncomfortable attending a crowded party, 71% would not want to eat out at a restaurant, 66% wouldn’t feel comfortable going to a polling place to vote, 42% expressed discomfort even with going to the grocery store or visiting with a close friend or family member in their home with 38%. Even their religious behaviors are incredibly affected by the pandemic.
The survey reported that 55% of US adults said they have prayed for an end to the spread of coronavirus. Large majorities of Americans who pray daily (86%) and of US Christians (73%) have taken to prayer during the outbreak. Of those who said in an earlier survey they attend religious services at least once or twice a month, about 59% now say they have scaled back their attendance because of the virus. Impacts of the pandemic on people’s personal lives were also assessed in terms of their income and education. About 54% said this has changed their life in a major way, compared with 44% of those with middle incomes and 39% of those with lower incomes.
According to Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes, and trends shaping the world, 61% of those with postgraduate degrees and 54% of those with bachelor’s degrees said the coronavirus outbreak has changed their life in a major way. To compare, 43% of college students and 35% of those with a high school diploma or less education said they are affected.
Examining the Public’s Mood
Many people are already expressing their thoughts or sentiments about how their governments are addressing the pandemic. In Japan, for instance, citizens are starting to express worry that the government is not doing enough to contain the crisis. Chris, who recently moved to Japan from Europe, said that the government only requested that businesses and schools to close. While some have complied with the request, many restaurants and cafes remain open.
According to Medical News Today, one of the world’s leading open-access medical and life science hubs, Chris said that the lack of a stricter response from the Japanese authorities can make it difficult for them to encourage businesses and schools with the advised measures. “[Although] supermarkets are promoting social distancing measures at the tills (with spaced markers, and transparent plastic screens to protect the cashiers), within the stores themselves, with the narrow aisles, it’s impossible to keep your distance from other people,” he said.
The latest findings of the Edelmen Trust Barometer revealed that “lockdown fatigue” is rising among populations hit by the pandemic. Produced by US communications company Edelman, the study was based on fieldwork carried out in Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the UK, and the US. The company has been surveying tens of thousands of people for two decades on their trust in core institutions.
According to the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas, a significant majority of people across the globe want their governments to prioritize saving lives over moves to restart economies. “The government’s highest priority should be saving as many lives as possible even if it means the economy will recover more slowly,” the report said.
The findings revealed that 76% of Japanese respondents and 56% of Chinese respondents agreed public health should be prioritized over the economy. More than 70% of respondents in Canada, the UK, and France were in favor of prioritizing health concerns. “It’s complicated because you have two crises simultaneously - a health crisis and an economic crisis. But people are saying, ‘We’ve already had six to seven weeks of this (restriction on activity), what’s another week or two?’” Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, said.
The people’s sentiments show not only how they are deeply affected by the pandemic but also their eagerness to ask for transparency and accountability from their governments.