Why do I feel apprehensive as the pandemic lockdown lifts?

I should be thrilled at the lifting of the pandemic. Instead, I feel a little uneasy.

image: InfoWorld

I’m not the only one. In a recent survey of Canadians by the polling firm Leger, 52 per cent said they fell somewhat anxious about returning to what life was like before the novel coronavirus.

Young people felt even more apprehensive. Those aged 18 to 24 showed the highest levels of unease at 68 per cent.

We’ve lived with it so long with it that this way of life now feels familiar.

It took a little getting used to but I’m comfortable wearing a mask. In the cold weather of winter, it actually provided some warmth.

At the grocery store, the shopping carts have all been sanitized. Added staff have been hired to wipe down freezer handles and any other surfaces that people touch. Security staff ensure that everyone is wearing a mask. “Have a nice day,” they cheerfully tell me as I exit.

We now know that all that wiping down isn’t necessary given that the virus is spread by expelled droplets and aerosols and not contact. Still, it’s reassuring and helps make us feel safe.

But it’s probably just theatre.

Every Loblaw store, including the ones in Kamloops that go by a different names, are doing increased sanitization including frequent deep cleaning of all areas of the store.

“In fact, we go above and beyond what was required,” said Loblaw director of corporate affairs, Mark Boudreau, adding that some of the grocery chain’s COVID-19 cleaning protocols might become permanent.

But experts say that it’s time to move past “hygiene theatre” that give people a sense of security and protection but are actually unlikely to reduce the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.

Then there is the environmental impact of all those disposable wipes, the cost of disinfecting supplies, and the burden on restaurant and retail employees to maintain strict COVID-19 cleaning measures, are further reasons to start being pragmatic – and stop wiping down groceries and mail.

Sure, it may be “hygiene theatre” but I worry that the lack of concern for hygiene after the pandemic could lead to more transmission of viruses. After all, this year’s flu season practically disappeared.

And what will talk around the dinner table be like in our post-pandemic future?

Leger polled Canadians and asked what they discuss at the dinner table. One out of five talked about COVID-19; five times as much as they talked about Canada’s perennial topic –the weather.

For those over the age of 65, one out of three talked about COVID-19 at the dinner table. Understandable, when you consider the higher risk for older Canadians.

What will we talk about around the dinner table once the pandemic is over? Maybe we’ll be at a loss for words.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” said LP Hartley in his novel.

The future is a foreign country. It will unlike any future since the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. We will do things differently there, but in what way?

Unlike the past, the future is yet to be inhabited. When the post-pandemic order arrives, we will stumble into it, blinking in the brightness of a new world.