One of Britain’s leading scientists prompted yelps of joy and sighs of relief earlier this week when he said the Covid vaccine developed by Pfizer would mean life returning to normal by the spring.
The usually-restrained BBC host Sarah Montague responded with delight when Professor Sir John Bell said he was “confident” normalcy was on the way – throwing her hands up in the air and breaking into a huge smile.
Many people are already preparing their summer 2021 blow-out parties, sharing celebration memes and plans for gigs, festivals and global travel on social media.
So are we all getting a bit too carried away? Can we get back to normal after such an overwhelming amount of change? And if the old normal isn’t possible, what might a new normal look like when restrictions are lifted?
Eleanor Riley, a professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, thinks that we may not even need to immunise people under the age of 50 for “something not far off normality” by the summer of 2021.
What about the return to the office? There will be a big push to revive the urban economy and repopulate some of our ghostly-quiet city centres. Yet many companies have discovered just how efficient – and potentially cheaper – home-working can be.
“There’s a chance to do things differently, and in some ways to do things better,” says Dr Cole. “Many people have found they prefer working at home. And nobody wants to go back to getting packed in like sardines on public transport. So there is a real possibility of readjusting society in a way that’s more flexible.”
Philosopher Nigel Warburton, co-host of the Philosophy Bites podcast, thinks many of us have developed a new appreciation for the great outdoors, as well as the nooks and crannies of our own neighbourhoods – an interest not likely to disappear even if we have to start commuting more often.
“A lot of people have really connected again with nature, with the parks and green spaces around them,” he says. “Now that we’ve had more fresh air, with the drop-off in traffic and air travel, I think many people will be much more acutely aware of the environment.”
The pandemic has taught us to look at almost everything differently: our politicians, our priorities and our daily routines. However painful this year has been, however strong the impulse to press the reset button, the recovery is an ideal chance to ask if there are better ways to live.
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