Sat, 04 Jul 2020

Coronavirus weekly: recovery efforts happening in fits and starts

The Conversation
01 Jun 2020, 22:39 GMT+10

The world is moving slowly and carefully to reopen businesses, get people back to work and jump-start moribund economies amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some initial attempts have been characterized by stops and starts as new clusters of the disease emerge. In Toronto, Canada, young people recently gathered en masse in a city park, fuelling outrage and sparking fears of more sudden and unexpected spikes in COVID-19 cases.

In this week's roundup of coronavirus stories from scholars across the globe, we explore how our post-pandemic lives will be different, the latest medical developments and how to keep spirits up as lockdowns endure.

This is our weekly roundup of expert info about the coronavirus.

The Conversation, a not-for-profit group, works with a wide range of academics across its global network. Together we produce evidence-based analysis and insights. The articles are free to read - there is no paywall - and to republish. Keep up to date with the latest research by reading our free newsletter.

What the new 'normal' looks like

As businesses reopen and employees begin to return to work, nothing is truly going back to "normal". In fact, the post-pandemic world will require a vastly new normal until there's a COVID-19 vaccine. And that means rethinking and reimagining how we've always done things.

Getting out and about. We're all experiencing a bit of cabin fever, and some people are having trouble respecting social distancing rules when they are venturing out into the world. William Petri, a professor of medicine at the University of Virginia who specializes in immunology, outlines the seven factors he'll assess to determine when it's safe enough to spend time away from home. He writes: "I am going to wear a mask to help prevent my giving the infection to others, avoid touching surfaces such as handrails, try not to touch my eyes or nose or mouth with my hands and wash my hands frequently."

Public transit. Hopping on a bus or subway during rush hour to get to work is a longtime urban ritual. But COVID-19 has likely changed how we do it so we're no longer squeezed in like sardines. But Hussein Dia of Australia's Swinburne University of Technology says that public transit is here to stay; not everyone can walk or ride bikes to their destination, and so public transit will remain at the heart of urban mobility. Dia advocates rethinking public transit design to enable physical distancing, even though it reduces capacity.

Air travel. The same goes for air travel, write Kacey Ernst and Paloma Beamer, epidemiologist and exposure scientist, respectively. They have some tips for air travel - and masks are, once again, a central recommendation, along with hand sanitizer.

Doing business differently. For businesses opening their doors to customers once again, it's a brave new world - one that will require them to take into account the fears and anxieties their employees and customers are feeling right now. According to M. Tina Dacin and Laura Reese, organizational behaviour experts at Queen's University in Canada, businesses will have to win the hearts and minds of their customers and employees like never before.

African trade. African countries may benefit from this new normal. Faizel Ismail, director of the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance at the University of Cape Town, writes that pandemic could be an opportunity to advance free trade via the African Continental Free Trade Area in a more developmental, inclusive and mutually beneficial way for African countries.

Tourism. Could a four-day work week help the struggling tourism industry post-pandemic? Jarrod Haar of Auckland University of Technology makes the case after New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern floated the idea of shortening the traditional work week following COVID-19. "Healthier, happier and more productive workers helping other businesses stay viable? That sounds like a win-win for all," he writes.

What about the animals? Kendra Coulter, an animal ethics expert at Canada's Brock University, makes a passionate case to promote the well-being of animals post-pandemic, arguing that COVID-19 has illuminated how terribly we treat them. She points to a coronavirus outbreak among low-income workers at a Canadian meat-packing plant, writing "that contemporary slaughterhouses have proven to be dangerous for workers in addition to being fatal horror shows for animals".

Looking into treatments, cures and symptoms

And speaking of animals, llamas - yes, llamas - are among the bright spots in efforts to find a cure for COVID-19.

Llamas to the rescue? What are known as nanobodies produced by the llama immune system can neutralize the virus that causes COVID-19, writes Gary Stephens, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Reading in the UK. He adds that the llamas don't have to be infected to help scientists learn more, and their nanobodies might also be used to develop much-needed, efficient and rapid diagnostic tests.

What's the latest with tests? Shayan Sharif and Byram W. Bridle of the University of Guelph in Canada, meanwhile, explain the pitfalls and promises when it comes to antibody tests. According to the immunology experts: "Can we conceivably use antibody testing as a measure of immunity? The answer is maybe!"

A US state is getting it right. Since South Carolina's first COVID-19 case surfaced, trained case investigators have traced the contacts of every person who tested positive. Jenny Meredith, a pathology professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, outlines what else the state got right, noting that contact tracing is critical to reopening the economy without triggering a spike in coronavirus cases and overwhelming health-care systems.

Keeping spirits up

We're all fed up, anxious and occasionally depressed by the COVID-19 shutdowns as we take tentative, cautious steps towards the new normal. Thankfully our global network has offered up some advice on how to tackle the impact on our mental health and well-being.

Therapy. Nicholas Joyce, a psychologist at the University of South Florida, points out that online therapy is having its moment in the sun and helping those struggling with mental health issues during the pandemic. He argues that COVID-19 has made clear that telehealth is the way of the future.

Robust mental health. Simon Rosenbaum and Jill Newby of Australia's UNSW outline the characteristics of strong mental health, and offer up some tips to keep the COVID-19 blues at bay.

Social enterprise. Anyone who's ever been lucky enough to spend time in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador knows the place itself can serve as a balm to frayed nerves. Natalie Slawinski of Memorial University and Wendy K. Smith of the University of Delaware explain how a social enterprise saved the remote fishing outpost of Fogo Island following the collapse of the cod industry - and they can help local communities around the world recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Author: Lee-Anne Goodman - Politics, Business + Economics Editor, The Conversation Canada The Conversation

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