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Everything will change forever

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COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the world taking heavy toll on human lives, disrupting everyday-life, and causing heavy damage to economy. The deadly virus is one of the rarest occurrences in the human history that will have changed everything forever. By the time it will be contained, it would have affected human thinking processes, state’s modus operandi, crime rate, etc. There is a need for the governments around the world to be well prepared even for the post-COVID-19 period in advance as part of damage control exercise. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused far-reaching impact to the planet earth as did the 9/11.
Once the coronavirus is contained and recovery begins, human behaviours will be significantly altered. For instance, as recommended by WHO and the health practitioners ‘No Handshake’, it will be practiced even in the post-COVID-19 times owing to the reason that the ravages of the pandemic cannot be easily forgotten. Its affects will remain part of our long-term memories no matter what.
Few days back, this author has inquired whether masses are practicing ‘no handshake’ in rural areas. To my utter surprise as I was not expecting this, majority in the rural areas of Sindh are avoiding handshake. One of my relative responded that when he went to buy groceries and his acquaintance tried to greet him with handshake, he apologised to shake hand requesting his acquaintance to practice no handshake as recommended by the authorities for mutual safety. It does not mean that all the masses are abiding by the government’s instructions. Certainly, it varies from area to area. Hence, avoiding handshake will also be practiced in future as well.
At the state level, traditional security was given precedence over the non-traditional aspects of security. Every state of the planet earth focused on allocating significant resources on their defence and military muscle with increase in every subsequent budget. All-important health sector was accorded insignificant priority. Situation is deplorable especially in the developing countries. Pakistan allocates less than one percent of its GDP on health. However, in the post-COVID-19 world, states will be enhancing their budgetary allocations on healthcare services. It is hoped that Pakistan would realise this blunder and dedicate at least 2% of GDP on health in the future budgets with significant increases in each subsequent fiscal year.
From crimes perspective, during the lockdown crime rate has decreased to zero. It is not because of lockdown and restricted movement but due to the fear of being infected from coronavirus as the socially deviants are equally aware of the fact that it is quite possible that the potential victim may have symptomatic or asymptomatic virus. After all, everyone loves living in this world as it is rightly said ‘even if somebody assures us of going to paradise, but we will not be willing to die’. Here readers are requested not to compare or connect the suicide bombers to this phenomenon as there are always certain exceptions in every situation.
On the contrary, once the situation normalises, crime rate will be in stark contrast to lockdown period. We will witness a steep rise in crimes for a sustained period in future for many reasons. One, those whose savings will be dried up during the lockdown period will be looking for shortcuts and thus they will resort to the criminal route of making money. Two, those who are criminals and are currently in a state of dormancy, will activate continuing their bad habits. Obviously, old bad habits die hard. Three, by virtue of economic slowdown, private enterprises will lay-off their employees resulting in massive joblessness. Patience is the rarest commodity these days and it will be least possible available amongst the jobless individuals who have to cater to their families. Therefore, jobless and hard-pressed persons will also resort to the criminal means to make money. Fourth, as the company so the colour, some will be motivated by their friends to do so. Alas, post-COVID-19 time will witness massive spike in crime as well as violence.
There is a need that the governments ought to be well-prepared for possible situation that will emerge after containment of novel virus. That will equally be full of risks. The governments should make a sound plan for tackling the economic jolts, rehabilitation of affected persons and providing jobs or stipends to the jobless youth. The government should consider providing stipends along with technical or digital skills so that they may start their own businesses or freelancing. In the digital era, online freelancing on platforms like Upwork and Fiver are in much demand. If the government equips youth with these requisite skills, the jobless youth may earn sufficient revenue from these platforms.
Presidential Initiative for Artificial Intelligence & Computing (PIAIC) is an important step in this regard. However, keeping in view the pressing situation such programmes ought to be tailored for the jobless Pakistani youth for the post-COVID-19 time. Moreover, other technical skills such as mechanic, electrician, etc. for the uneducated youth should also be preferred in this respect. The more we plan to engage our youth, the better it is in view of the hard-pressed times ahead.
Coronavirus is a cataclysmic occurrence of this century which has potential to change everything for ever entailing vastly pernicious effects. The more aggressive efforts are taken to contain it, the better it is. In addition, the more we prepare for adopting in the post-COVID-19 time, the less problematic would it be. Nonetheless, the central government need to take holistic efforts in coordination with the provincial governments for both current-and-post-COVID-19 period and not to take solo flight as witnessed during lockdown situation. It created more confusion than helped to contain the crisis.