The new normal, not the old one

Last Updated on Thursday, 7 May, 2020 at 2:54 pm by Andre Camilleri

The sight of people wearing facemasks or visors as from Monday and of shops reopening is our new normal, along with other countries we relate to.

People here seem to think this is a reprise of the old normal, carrying on what stopped some weeks back. They’re wrong.

The continued pressure to reopen, to remove the insistence on social distancing, to allow the elderly out, to reopen the airport etc is not just not on but can  also make us lose what we have gained in these weeks of intense stress.

We are now in the new normal. Those who seem to think we only need to reopen and things will fall in place could not be more wrong. Also those who think we can regain the economic growth we have experienced these past years just like that, simply by reopening, could not be more wrong. The time of the old normal is gone, dead and buried.

People, from those who organised and took part in the madcap carcade celebrating the football league of a year back, to those flocking to the beach, etc still do not seem to have a real idea of the perniciousness of the virus.

This is what sets us apart from the peoples of Italy, Spain and the UK – because they know and we don’t. They have seen the coffins on their streets and we haven’t. They have lost loved ones and friends. This is what made them accept the hardest of lockdowns and intrusion on their lives.

We have simply no idea. Enforcement here is a joke – even the migrants recently arrived make fun of it.  So we get people going round to houses of relatives and friends, people gathering in houses and on roofs and the police refusing to intervene – because that is private property, they tell you.

People feel safe and protected because Nanny State says we will be OK and has even come up with State funds to top up any loss of earnings. There are others who fall in the cracks – the already unemployed, the people below the poverty line but nobody mentions them except as recipients of charity handouts from time to time.

It’s a new normal for them too, especially the unregistered, the migrants. Having to survive with no visible income, to have to live with another family or two, so as to share the rent.

There is however another new normal which exists or should exist in business, commerce and enterprises. We are still at the dawn of this new normal. We saw, in recent weeks entrepreneurial spirit emerging in those who turned their food outlets into food distribution chains. And many people and enterprises switched to remote working. By now, some weeks later, people have got used to it. And even love it.

That is just one aspect of the new normal. Of course, there will be gains but also losses. The biggest losses may be in tourism, a mainstay of the country’s economy. Other countries are fast gearing up to reopen the skies and the airports. Sicily, to give an example, has just announced a package to promote tourism. Italy has already reopened two airports. As we report in today’s issue, Wizz Air is already busy flying in from Abu Dhabi to eastern Europe.

But to reopen the airport and flights carries huge risks to an island nation. Finding the correct balance between the opposing attractions is one key challenge in this new normal.

On the other hand, we have found again the beauty of this small island (what remains of it, that is) the clean seawater, the pollution-less air. And we have also rediscovered the enchantment of our towns and villages especially at night. Of course, this ill fits with Paceville as we know it. And to tell the truth, we are not missing it at all. That is the new normal we are discovering which we must fight to protect even while searching for alternatives for those who stand to lose their jobs.

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