Day 61: New normal and public policy


Day 61

 As cases continue to rise Indian states are preparing to lift the lockdown. Right now, it is a soup of rules and movement restrictions. Karnataka has imposed a quarantine rule on those arriving in the state. They will have to undergo seven days of institutional and seven days of home quarantine. Over 90% of yesterday’s spike in detected infections in the state were from people arriving from Maharashtra. In Maharashtra though, there is no institutional quarantine requirement for arriving people. 

The Ministry of Civil Aviation has permitted the airlines to resume flights from 25th May. While some airlines have opened up bookings, some are in wait and watch mode. The fares will also be regulated with a minimum and maximum price. Believing in the thorough screening of airports, the Minister for Civil Aviation has suggested that there air passengers will not need to be quarantined upon arriving at the destination. I bought myself a ticket too. By the time I travel, the airlines should have been in operation for three days. 

These days the frequency of using the phrase ‘new normal’ has increased. Every aspect of daily life is getting a sticker of new normal. Our psychological, emotional, financial normals will continue to be heavily defined by our personal contexts. They do, in some ways, align to the global and macro situations –  the structural forces so to speak. But even within it the difference between one’s personal contexts and the macro can be substantial. If anything, every process and aspect of life right now continues to change. These changes will continue to happen until they are brought down to what people are comfortable with. Often, that comfort space will align with what was their pre-covid normal. So, in a way there is likely to be no new normal. Just a temporary change and then many would like to roll back.

Given the situation with the spread of virus, infection rate and state of vaccine development, living with the virus, just as we live with many other infectious diseases amongst us, is a reality. Locking down the country and suffering economic stagnation is on its way out. New normals from Milan to Paris and down to Bengaluru seem to be about resuming life with dialing up of health precautions. 

Future growth of countries and their path to adaptation with the pandemic will be dependent on how well their public policies frame the problem to begin with. At their core, most of the current responses are about absorbing the cost of healthcare related non-negotiables and precautions  and then the economic impact of the virus. The months ahead should be for iterations of the policy improvements and bring back systems and processes to a level of safety, functioning and productivity as before. 

We see the iterative responses in Indian states already. Uttar Pradesh government has now become a manpower management agency. Until now, we have never seen any state stepping into labour management at the origin or homestate of workers. This is unforeseen. The pandemic has led to emergence of the state as a manpower management agency. 

The possibilities are immense. But I see none of these as new normals. Normal in an otherwise dynamic country as India has been apathy. That is likely to continue. 

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