I work for a Chinese company. I see my Chinese colleagues deeply affected by worries about the virus. They take the stairs over the lift, eat at different times, take the food out of the canteen to avoid sitting with each other, and practically gargle in disinfectant. My boss and colleagues all urge me to drive in, rather than taking the public transport. The thing is that the public transport is practically empty anyway, and everyone is keeping away from each other. We all avoid sitting too close, and stiffen if anyone in the vicinity coughs.
In Switzerland all events with over 1000 people are cancelled, and those with over 150 people need approval from the authorities. All events, regardless of size have to register everyone who attends with contact details, and anyone who has recently returned from any affected area is not allowed in.
People have stopped flying, they don’t really socialise, they don’t do anything except get home as quickly as possible, and ideally stay there and work from home from now on.
Setting aside if this is over-reaction, we have to accept it is a reaction that could have long term effects. Once this is all over, it will be only a matter of time before another virus appears to threaten us all. There is an inevitability about it, just like once it got into Italy, it was inevitable it would reach us in Switzerland pretty quickly. The next virus might be even more deadly than this Covid-19, or even more quick spreading.
How will this affect us in the future? I can see that we will not plan trips in advance, just in case we need to cancel and the insurance will not pay out. If we do plan trips, maybe they will be closer to home, so we do not get into a lock in situation in a different country, or, God forbid, on a cruise ship. Flying was already becoming shameful, now it could become something you only do when you really only need to, and then wear a mask the whole way.
A plus of this is that a lot of air pollution in China has cleared because nobody is going out, the planes are not flying, the cruise ships are not sailing. This is a definite plus for the environment. We might find that working from home is something that makes sense more often and we will continue to do after this is over. Hygiene will be more important to people. I cannot believe we are all going to stop washing our hands so much now we know that germs are hiding on every lift button and train seat.
Companies will make better contingency plans for key staff and key resources and their supply chain. Plus they will think about how to work more efficiently with less people, so they are not so reliant on humans when the next virus strikes. The use of drones and robots will increase.
We are entering a new era, where the viruses are getting stronger, and we need to get ahead of them. I suspect we have not been fully informed about the effects of Covid-19. My Chinese colleagues know things I don’t, they hear it from China. The young ones are worried, they say it is not just like flu. I guess it would explain why the governments of the world are reacting like they are to this. Probably best not to be complacent.
Stay healthy 🙂