These COVID-19 measures changed how we live, and how we eat in public. "
In 2018, Identity Strategist foreshadowed a coming pandemic and stressed the need for preparedness ahead of a crisis. I never thought that 2020 would be the year. Has the world underestimated the coronavirus?
The health disaster
A once-in-a-generation pandemic has tragically taken the lives of hundreds of thousands. In cities worldwide hit hard by COVID-19, bodies were interred in mass graves from Iran, to Brazil, Bolivia and London.
The Chinese sealed citizens inside their homes and apartment complexes. Officers posted signs on their doors notifying others of the infection. Countries everywhere similarly implemented quarantine. From Canada to New Zealand, social distancing practices were imposed to protect against an invisible enemy. The pandemic has precipitated a sudden collapse in economic activity that has left no aspect of our lives unaffected.
The domestic effects
I predicted, as many others had, that ‘the next black death or virus could catch us all unaware. A major pandemic the likes that we have not seen nor experienced could cripple nations, shuttering major facilities, closing cities, and causing anarchy.’
I wrote that ‘Businesses, schools and shops will be restricted or whole cities even closed.’ Overnight, Wuhan was locked down. Over in Europe at the height of COVID-19 the whole of Italy went into lockdown, as did New Zealand. Queuing for supermarkets to ensure social distancing became commonplace in Ireland and in Australia.
These COVID-19 measures changed how we live, and how we eat in public.
In Apple stores worldwide, Apple announced new measures to manage COVID-19 I saw this first hand: staff wore face masks and gave customers disposable ones. Customers were reminded of the cap on the number of customers in store. As a condition of entry, customers were asked whether they had any symptoms and screened for fevers.
This is the new normal for everyone - from retail to restaurants. At one Toronto restaurant I went to, the signs of the coronavirus were everywhere. We were screened for fevers prior to entry. Our gloved waiters ushered us to our table situated between two large glass panels - seemingly to separate diners. A single-use menu sat beside a sign saying the table had been sanitised. Cutlery provided in a paper holder included salt and pepper sachets instead of regular shakers. Some other restaurants registered in-dining customers using scannable QR codes ensuring that guests exposed to COVID-19 can be contacted.
The year of the great panic buy
In 2018 I said, ‘A panicked populace will clean out stockpiles of canned goods, bottled water and cleaning products.’ We know that as the fear of coronavirus ramped up, hand sanitiser was in short supply. Worldwide, from Hong Kong to Sydney, panic buying of toilet paper was the norm.
‘Supermarkets and pharmacies will be sold out of stockpiles of vaccines and probiotics.’ People were stockpiling medicines in response to the coronavirus outbreak. That led to a national shortage of asthma inhalers in the UK. There’s also been chaos at UK pharmacies. Customers there have threatened pharmacy staff prompting some of them to employ security guards. The 2011 film Contagion eerily predicted scenes of customers looting pharmacies for rumoured cures.
When that second passport became necessary
At the peak of lockdown in Wuhan, Nicholas Schneider, a German-American student and dual citizen evacuated Wuhan through the German embassy rather than the US embassy. It shows that having a second option counts in a crisis. Nicholas was lucky to have dual citizenship and two current passports ready to use.
Broadly the options for U.S. passport holders to travel anywhere have greatly narrowed. Noting the continuing case load in the United States some countries have restricted U.S. citizens from entry. Europe and Mexico closed their borders to U.S. passport holders. Since March 2020, U.S. passport holders restricted entry to Canada for non-essential travel.
We have always lived in a world whose progress and stability is subject to disruption and shock. The message is the same. Whether it's preparing for calamity, or being ready with a second passport, in times like this, we are reminded of the need to remain alert and prepared.