In December 2019, a unique virus, known as coronavirus, appeared in the China’s city Wuhan, spreading around the world, leaving hardly any country unaffected. The first case of coronavirus in Pakistan was diagnosed in the month of February and as of early May, the epidemic had infected more than 23 thousand people, with 500 more deaths. Though, this pandemic shocked the world in one way or the other, the situation in struggling economies like Pakistan became much more precarious. All those like President Trump, who speculated that this virus would be confined to China, are now forced to accept it as a global reality. Thus, it is realistic to accept that without discriminating between developing or underdeveloped societies, coronavirus will have a profound and lasting effect on the entire world. This epidemic would not only effect socio-cultural dynamics of every society but also their systems of governance. It will also have a profound effect on societal behaviours and public health systems.
Unlike the past, when life mainly revolved around money and power, this pandemic will hopefully have an impact on people to care for one another and to be considerate. It is expected that spiritually, people will feel more connected with their creator. The global restriction on visiting holy places for worship would send a strong message that, no religion merely revolves around rituals, as the real spirit of religions lies in forgiveness and mercy. Thus, worship without these attributes is soulless. Second, people will begin to consider spending time with their families, as their social capital. Perhaps, they will understand the value of time and productive activities at home, which might transform their way of living in the future. Third, people might also learn the art of achieving inner peace by spending time with their own selves by engaging in various hobbies, which because of the fast-paced lifestyle and other preferences in life, they either abandoned or neglected. In present days, because of restriction on outside mobility, the value of indoor gardens has increased. Nevertheless, over the years, the practice of living in apartments or flats without natural air and small gardens in densely populated cities, significantly increased. In the post-COVID-19 era, indoor gardens or designing a home with significant exposure to fresh air and light would be a consideration for city dwellers. Fourth, the way social distancing has been deemed necessary to avoid this virus, its effect will be felt in every society for a long time to come, or it might even become a norm. It will be especially positive for those societies, where privacy is considered a negative attribute and everyone who believes in it, is categorically condemned. Even in conservative societies like Pakistan, to be an introvert is considered a negative attribute.
The virus is a test not only for nations but also for rulers around the globe. Earlier, the strength and power of countries was measured by their sophisticated nuclear weapons, state-of-the-art combat facilities and skilled troops. But in the post-pandemic world, these parameters could change. The way China, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have surpassed many developed countries, such as the United States and European countries like Spain and Germany in effectively managing the spread of coronavirus; it will eventually set new standards to measure a country’s strength. In the aftermath, the strength of countries will be largely determined by their ability to provide adequate health facilities and education to their citizens and steadfastness in helping other countries to do the same. Domestically, countries will strengthen other human development institutions as well. It has been observed that in emergency situations, people commonly expect public institutions to provide relief. If these institutions are not equipped enough to address their needs, their sufferings multiply.
There is no doubt that due to this epidemic, every country is heading towards an era of economic recession, which will be intensified further. Nevertheless, this economic crisis will be more burdensome for countries, with already fragile economies because of a heavy debt burden, with no social security system for citizens. This situation would result in increased inflation and poverty ratio in societies like Pakistan where, according to the Economic Survey for the year 2017-18, 24.3 percent of the population is already living below the poverty line. Even developed countries with strong infrastructures such as America are reporting an increase in unemployment – around20 million people unemployed for the US since this virus spread. For already weak economies like Pakistan, this pandemic will open a new chapter of economic instability. To come out of this crisis, it is expected that the state would require sound policies and adequate strategies.
Undoubtedly, the coronavirus has revived the need for technological advancement with more focus on research and development primarily in two fields; healthcare and digitisation. It is expected that in future years, countries will explore their own resources and develop these two necessities to a level where they do not rely on other countries.
Similarly, a need to develop technological skills with digital networking has emerged, and the future seems to be an era of development and advancement. Since the outbreak of this pandemic, nearly all offices and academic institutions (schools, colleges and universities) switched to “working from home” and start using different social media networking forums to be operational as an employee. Such a massive use of internet facilities has not been witnessed in the past. This new era enabled academic institutions, mainly the private sector schools, colleges and universities to be connected with each other and with students by using online social networking sites. This pattern of using internet and digital technologies for academic and official purposes will certainly seek more advancement in future days, to eventually improve its quality, mainly in terms of speed and accessibility. There is a good possibility that online technical skills become an imperative part of job qualification in the post-pandemic world. The way people’s reliance on online connectivity has increased, there is a good chance that new courses are introduced in the future to develop digital skills of students as well as employees. Countries like Pakistan, where till now, the use of internet facilities in public sector offices and departments was a remote idea, will now learn these required skills. It has been observed that being alien to these digital techniques of internet connectivity has a devastating effect, especially on students of public schools as they are not involved with any academic activity. Thus, there is a strong possibility that the quality of education will not only fall, but the gulf between existing public and private school students will further widen.
Based on experiences learnt during the pandemic days, only wiser nations would attempt to reorganise their economic, social and political structures. However, chronic dictators and absolute monarchs would certainly concentrate on their personal security and wellbeing, rather than caring for their people.
It is too early to speculate how countries like Pakistan, which is already suffering from a myriad of political and economic problems, will adjust itself in the post-pandemic world, both domestically and internationally.