Home-working, hug-free zones and banishing homelessness: Can we keep some of the new normal?

Toby Neal calls for some of our new-found routine to be kept for the post-pandemic era.

Coronavirus has propelled home working from the future to the present
Coronavirus has propelled home working from the future to the present

But what if we don't want to go back to normal?

As the infection rates tumble, and that distant light at the end of the tunnel starts to burn with increased luminosity, the talk is of how we can start to transition from the "new normal" to something more like the "old normal."

Well hurrah to that. Back to the days when we didn't live under the shadow of a deadly pandemic which in under 12 months has carried off over 100,000 lives, and caused untold heartbreak and misery.

The sooner we see the back of coronavirus, the better.

And yet the past year has brought some changes to our lives which I fancy many people would rather like to see endure in post-Covid times. Here are a few that occur to me:

1. Working from home. This used to be talked about in vague terms as something that might take a real hold in the future. Coronavirus has propelled it from the future to the present, and it has proven to be viable, depending of course on the job and the role. Working from home is environmentally and economically friendly as it means you don't have to spend money to get to work, whether in fuel or fares. For somebody whose work base is in London, being able to work remotely means they don't need to be within travelling distance of the capital, which in turn means they don't have to spend zillions of pounds buying a home in the city or the Home Counties.

2. Banishing homelessness. Who would have believed a year ago that homeless people would be taken off the streets and put up in luxury hotels? You see, it can be done, if you want it to be done.

3. No hugging. Some people are born huggers, some have hugging thrust upon them.

4. Interventionist government. Here is a question for Boris Johnson – are you now, or have you ever been, a Communist? The way the state has interfered with our lives since last March has been extraordinary, even to the extent of paying 80 per cent of wages and chipping in to pay part of our bills at restaurants with taxpayers' money. Rishi Sunak has been splashing out so much that Anneliese Dodds, Labour's shadow chancellor, has accused the government of being cavalier with public money. It is like a surrealist dream.

5. Distraction from Brexit. The impact of Brexit has been low down the news agenda, overshadowed by life and death matters, although I get the impression that many Britons are moving on anyway.

6. Saving the planet. You would have thought green campaigners would be dancing in the streets. All those polluting airliners have been driven from the skies, and air quality has improved to levels last seen in...er... I'll have to look that up, but a long time ago. It may be they are not dancing in the streets because they are being tactful, given that this improvement has come at the cost of tens of thousands of people losing their jobs in the airlines industry and at airports.

7. Wearing face masks. I've got used to it, even though, so far as I am aware, there is still no credible, definitive, research on their effectiveness. A habit which may persist.

8. Zoom calls. Here to stay now.

9. Holidays in Britain. Viva Blackpool. Viva Skegness. Viva Morecambe. Viva Redcar.(And yes, I have sampled them all). Let's see our seaside resorts enjoy a 21st century revival. All they want is to be loved. And visited.

10. Community spirit. The way neighbours and communities have pulled together during the hard times will be spoken of in future histories. People still talk about the Blitz spirit in the war. When the Covid war is over, may the Covid war spirit remain.

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