Sabrina Almeida

To say the pandemic has changed the world will be an understatement by the time we are done with it. Or more likely, it is done with us!

Several people believe that nature is forcing a correction of sorts, even exacting revenge for how we have desecrated the environment.

So, despite efforts to preserve life as we know it, no one can predict what normal will look like when we finally emerge from this health crisis. It’s just not in our hands!!!

The lockdown has had an unprecedented impact on every aspect of our lives, but the general consensus is that the economic and psychological toll will be most exacting. 

A psychology professor wrote that the global lockdown was the largest psychological experiment (by nature?) ever and it would result in a stress epidemic.

How the tables have turned! The mental fatigue of having nowhere to go to appears to be  worse than the physical and mental exhaustion that comes from running around till we drop.

Before COVID-19, we were being urged to tune off and avoid a burnout, but the coronavirus-imposed slow down had the opposite effect. We’re stressed because of it and yearning for the hectic lifestyle which we associate with normalcy. 

But the hope that we will be shopping, dining, and enjoying entertainment outside our homes some time soon, may be misplaced. Why? Because the longer the virus keeps us in our homes, the more likely the places we want to run to may no longer exist.  The prediction that we will return to life’s simple pleasures might come true but simply because we will have few options.

With retail shops, restaurants and entertainment places being forced out of business, one wonders where we will amuse ourselves once restrictions are lifted.

Playdium (Mississauga), Laser Quest and Buster’s Entertainment (in the US) were childhood staples. My sons celebrated and attended scores of birthday parties here over the years. Unfortunately, the economic impact of the lockdowns forced them to shut down forever. Many other kid’s entertainment places may follow and soon the joy of hosting a laser tag party or going bowling with friends may become a thing of the past. And online video games, a parent’s pet peeve, might become the new way to party!

The wave of retail store closures is also likely to make malls redundant. Le Château, Pier 1, David’s Tea, Banana Republic, Bench, Ann Taylor, Children’s Place are part of a long list of closings, with several others like Aldo, Garage and Dynamite filing for creditor’s protection. It is a matter of time before more stores shut their doors. Meaning, soon the only way to shop may be online. 

Online shopping (and Amazon in particular) received a major boost during the pandemic lockdown. Now the new normal not a trend, ecommerce will likely cause the closure of many more brick and mortar stores. As a result, malls may be replaced with housing developments or warehouses for ecommerce sites.

With grocery stores, the only ones to benefit from the pandemic, also  introducing home delivery services and promoting online shopping given the second wave, one can’t help but wonder about the long-term implications for their retail establishments.

The restaurant landscape too may change, say industry experts. While some businesses may not survive the downturn, recovery for others (irrespective of size) will be a huge challenge. One school of thought is that restaurants may need to shift to a drive-through model, like fast food places, as customers will move towards takeout and delivery. Some  feel that cash-strapped consumers will be looking for value and avoid dining in restaurants. Others believe that businesses looking to continue with indoor dining service will have to invest in structural changes for health and safety reasons. They won’t be able to pack in customers like they used to. 

The only certainty here is that with a large number of closures, there will be plenty of skilled labour for restaurant owners to choose from.

Places of worship may also see changes with believers getting extremely comfortable with online services for close to a year. Will we need to go out to them then?

With companies looking to trim their expenses, especially rent, many are likely to ask staff to work remotely. The impact on commercial real estate, local transit and coffee shops and eateries aside, it means people will have less reason to leave home.

Given this scenario, will we have places to go to other parks and conservation areas once the pandemic restrictions are lifted? The answer will make many of us uncomfortable!


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