By Mike Canavan
Welcome to Part 3 of our series “What will our world be like after the Coronavirus Pandemic”? I hope you are finding them thought provoking and stimulating. Grave things have eventuated courtesy of this pandemic. I fear however that graver things are yet to come.
Could the images of people dying on stretchers be blinding us to the greater harm being perpetrated around the world, across society by draconian lockdown measures.
How long should the lockdowns last? The obvious and easiest answer, to paraphrase one Commonwealth Prime Minister “until we’ve beaten COVID-19”. But when exactly will that be? Until not a single person on Earth has it? This may never happen. Until we have a vaccine, or an effective treatment? That could easily be a year away, perhaps much longer. Do we want to keep people locked down, our societies shuttered — restaurants, parks, schools and offices closed — for that long?
“We cannot let the cure be worse than the disease:” says Donald Trump. I rarely agree with much of what Mr Trump has to say, however he does have a point. Lockdowns have health benefits: fewer will die of COVID-19, as well as other transmissible diseases. But they have real social and economic costs: social isolation, unemployment and widespread bankruptcies, to name three. These ills are not yet fully apparent, but I fear they soon will be.
So, with our hospital system geared up to deal with the pandemic and with testing and tracing much better organised, the challenge is to reopen the economy — start to wind back all the additional government spending as future generations in years to come will have to pay for the decisions that are been made now, today.
Living with the virus likely means a gradual reopening of schools, universities, cafes, restaurants, gyms, pubs, clubs and retailers.
International travel will most likely be subject to strict quarantine with the possible exception of visitors from substantially “corona-free” countries.
There will no doubt be a big hit to the economy, there’ll likely be long-lasting change, with some sectors taking years to recover. I am specifically thinking of the hotel and resort industries.
In this new world where goods can continue to move around, but people much less so, the political task will be to not inflict any more economic harm than is needed to keep people reasonably safe.
Inevitably, there will be those who will be inclined to maintain spending, and the economy chloroformed for longer. Big government is their natural inclination. They will justify this on the grounds that we’re better safe than sorry.
Whilst others, keen to restart the economy, will be accused of putting wealth before health — even though, in Australia, about 3000 take their own lives each year, there are 250,000 hospitalisations form mental illness and perhaps 300,000 episodes of domestic violence — all of which might considerably worsen the longer we remain locked down.
What is most troubling are the headlines in this weekend press that screamed — “What our World would be like post Covid-19”.
In a brief summary the Sunday Telegraph provided us with the following scare mongering:
Chequerboard seating with theatres and a maximum of 50% capacity.
Online or mobile payments only.
Temperature checks of staff upon start of each shift.
Free accessibility to hand sanitiser.
No crowding, (really)? How might this be possible?
Death to the pub buzzer, telling you when to collect your food.
No commercial cutlery trays.
Removal of water taps or jugs. Once upon a time, not long ago, it was a mandate to maintain your liquor licence you had to provided water to patrons as opposed to just selling them booze. All dressed up around the responsible service of alcohol. Perhaps responsible service in this new world is no longer very important?
Plastic menus are to be replaced with chalkboard or Uber-Eats style arrangements where customers order on phones.
No standing at live music events.
Only every second poker machine to be operational. All machines to be moved apart.
Punters given sanitise wipes to clean machines before and after use.
Dining rooms and Bistro’s filled for maximum of 50% capacity.
All staff to wear masks. I just wonder how long that will last?
The report further went on to say: A spokesman for the hotel association said: “Live music is a real difficult one. Possibly seated. A lot of hotels are giving real consideration to everything. They all accept social distancing is here to stay for a while.” I suppose Carols by Candlelight is now a thing of the past. So are outdoor concerts, going to the races, birthday parties, and all other family gatherings.
Removal of all couches.
Extreme social distancing policies with strict patron limits.
Temperature checks at entry points, any patrons with elevated temperatures would be denied entry.
Mandatory sign in / sign out for patrons to allow contact tracking.
Buses and Trains:
Attempts to abolish peak hour with workplaces encouraged to stagger start and finish times. Good luck with this.
One bus commuter for every second seat. Surely this will mean doubling the amount of buses on each route. Although global warming has fallen somewhat off the agenda given our current position, surely when we get back to normal, this will be one of the hottest topics in town.
No standing passengers.
An App to allow consumers to see how many people might be on a train.
Sterilisation of touch points.
Employers to embrace work from home policy to limit workers number in office.
Office places to become smaller with fewer staff on site.
Shops to maintain a no cash policy.
Hotel and Resort Accommodation:
Buffets to be banned.
Popular Seafood Buffet could remain, but staff are to serve. Now where’s the fun in this?
Hotel staff to undertake COVID-19 course training. One wonders what this might be like?
Hotel rooms cleaned thoroughly with virus destroying chemical agents.
Ongoing cleaning of all touch points. I really don’t understand what a touch point is.
Sanitiser’s outside every lift.
Tourism Accommodation Australia chief executive officer Michael Johnson said the virus looked to have killed the buffet, with guests also more likely to choose in-room dining once hotels reopened.
The industry has been devastated by the pandemic, with the loss of both international visitors and cruise line passengers although the domestic market could make up some of the losses as Australians took to travelling locally once isolation rules were eased.
Items such as rice will disappear from the shelves by the end of the year. This really has nothing to do with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is more to do with weather and water supply issues. Certainly consumer hoarding is an issue, but supply is the main factor.
I kid you not, these absurdities were reported by Linda Silmalis, The Chief reporter, in today’s newspaper the The Sunday Telegraph. This was presented as a programme to be put to the State Government as considered recommendations. One has to ask, what idiot, or collection of idiots put together these absurd recommendations? One has to ask if they are hellbent on destroying the nation completely. What is most troubling is that a responsible editor could ever have allowed this panicked claptrap to have been put into print.
Chuck Hagel once said: “Desperate men do desperate things when you take hope away”. Perhaps they are the desperate things business people will do to try to get things up and rolling.
If endorsed, they won’t have to worry about starting up the economy. The very country will fold if these idiotic proposals take root. How on earth do businesses reopen, employ staff, and service patrons by halving their revenue capacities with these idiotic bureaucratic, dictatorial mandates.
It should be noted at this stage, that none of the clowns proposing this imbecility have had to take pay cuts or make sacrifices for the greater good of the community. They go to their offices each day, secure in the knowledge that at the end of each month they will be paid, and their superannuation payments will be met.
According to Australian Government Health figures the death toll from the Flu virus last year was 294. The worst on record. Unlike Covid-19 where the deaths toll is currently at 80, the fatalities from the flu spread across all age groups indiscriminately. As we have reported in past articles — as of the 25th of April, according to The Australian Government Health Site the median age of deaths from Covid-19 is 82 years.
But there is more.
Cash Is Now A Dirty Word.
Putting cash in an old biscuit tin or under the mattress could soon become a thing of the past.
Many consumers are being forced to pay by card during the coronavirus pandemic, which could rapidly push Australia towards a cashless economy.
The serious concerns around the spread of germs when using notes and coins has resulted in many businesses – including supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths – encourage customers to pay by card and not cash.
This week the new “tap and go” payment threshold was raised from $100 to $200 for the next three months in a staggered rollout to limit the use of cash.
But new research compiled by software accounting firm MYOB who surveyed 1000 people in the middle of last month; before the height of the COVID-19 outbreak, found the following:
- 69% of people have cash on them.
- 63% say it’s easier to keep track of spending using a card instead of cash.
- 62% don’t like cash-only stores.
MYOB’s chief economist Jon Manning said the rapid shift to card payments could see Australia “rapidly migrate to a cashless economy”.
“We could get to the point where we have none of it, so that causes issues such as do we need ATMs,” he said.
Mr Manning said many older Australians would have to make a “huge adjustment” switching from cash to card payments. “They are people who are still probably carrying around a physical wallet with physical notes in it.”
This will no doubt cause a good deal of stress and concern to this group. Consideration must be given to them as they represent 27.6% of the total population according to idCOMMUNITY demographic recourses, and we are told this sector is growing yearly due to improved health recourses.
Working From Home.
Without any question Covid-19 has brought about a need for employers to insist that staff work from home. But really how successful is this? I can see many ‘pros and cons’ for both side of the argument.
I can certainly see that in the future companies looking to save costs and reduce expenditure will see a workforce working from home as an extremely attractive proposition. Smaller office space means lower rent and reduced overheads. Technology of course allows us to hold virtual meetings through video conference calls, and emails provide pretty much instant messaging to fellow staff members with the benefit of creating a paper trail. But will this practice continue post Covid-19?
Without doubt working from home requires a great deal more discipline than going into the more regimented situation an office provides. Many younger employees may find it difficult to avoid the distractions that are all around at home. Without question the isolation requirements of Covid-19 prove to be a challenge when the whole family is around, and no doubt especially during school holidays, when bored children demand attention and entertainment. It is hardly satisfactory to turn the living room into a makeshift office, or a bedroom into a boardroom.
There are however other significant downsides to all this, including the risk of personal and professional isolation. Sometimes digital interaction isn’t quite as effective as it is in person.
I must admit that I find video conferencing, especially when it involves large numbers of participants very challenging. It is hard to put a face to a voice, and it is particularly difficult when the conference involves a number of different countries and accents with different ranking participants all wanting to be heard. Advocates say you can easily get used to it after time, that is simply just not so. But during these challenging times using these tools are better than nothing.
I have spoken to people who say, “There is only so much that you can communicate through text,” and “this makes it difficult to gauge employee emotions, morale, and well-being.”
Having some staffers work remotely while others are in one office can create separate cultures, and some remote employees may feel left out.
Communication can get problematic ⎼ some employees feel so distant they forget to keep everyone in the loop with them.
Many say: “Information can get trapped in silos. If a team from one country gains an insight and doesn’t share it quickly, the others will never know something happened.”
Employers need to be aware that working remotely can demotivate employees.
Many comment on getting cabin fever when they work from home. Some recommend being proactive and changing your environment ⎼ go to a coffee shop (to get a takeaway) or shared workspace (at a safe distance) or even take a brief walk.
Managers need to watch for signs of worker discontentment and even depressed. The first signs may well be anger, or withdrawal which may become apparent from the tone of a staffer’s voice, email or text, or a lack of communication.
A remote employee’s morale needs to be an important consideration when an employer makes any kind of communication, especially when it is a critique.
Wording something correctly is vital. People can take offence at something very simple. You have to be very pointed in how you ask questions or give feedback.
If this is to be the new future, I worry that a great deal of being part of a team — a team that relies not just on marketing and business success, but morale and a healthy environment in which to work, grow and prosper. Compromising these vital factors I fear will jeopardise the future of any company that embarks down this path.
What Will The Government Do Next Time A New Virus Strikes?
I am old enough to have lived through both SARS, and Swine Flu. In fact I was living in Hong Kong during both of these virus outbreaks. What seems to have been forgotten, is that in 2019, 416,000 people died worldwide from Malaria. Below is a World Health Organisational timeline that shows some of the greatest viral killers in recent history. Whilst indeed Covid-19 has turned the world upside down, let us put into perspective. As of April 26, 2020, 22:43 GMT 206,822 people have died so far from the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. In Australia we have lost 83, the mean age is 82.5 years, many with pre-existing conditions.
Every death diminishes us as a community. In this new society of the 24-hour news cycle, and with social media bombarding us hourly, one has to wonder what role mass communication has played in the community’s panic and our political masters reactions. Let us never forget, a politician’s first job when he or she comes to office is to get re-elected for another term. Perhaps you may say that I’m being cynical, but as I sit here writing to you, I note with concern that there appears to be dissension in the National Cabinet Ranks. The Prime Minister says parents should send their children to school, he is sending his two daughters back to school as soon as the holiday period has finished: “schools are safe to open and they don’t want a single child’s education risked” Mr Morrison said.
Nor does he want a single job lost because a parent stays home to look after their child. Unfortunately for him, the States run the education departments, not the Federal Government.
The states — led by NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews and Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
— firmly undercut his requests.
They’ve told parents to keep their children at home if they can.
So much for a united front. Something has to give. Next week in the final part of this series, we will examine what might happen next should a united front not be agreed upon.