As the COVID-19 crisis has seen one third of the human population under some form of lockdown in April 2020, the world is now looking to tomorrow and considering anti-lockdown measures.
Whether you are reading this blog post as an individual, a business leader or a world-wide country official, the five steps described below are my perspective on how to succeed your post-lockdown process.
1. Phase out the re-opening
The trend in anti-lockdown procedures suggests that whether it be for businesses or for countries as a whole, re-opening will not immediately be 100% and that the lift will be phased progressively. Our technological tools have supported teleworking for the majority of the workforce and home-schooling. As an individual, try to phase your own re-opening to society, by teleworking as regularly as possible, minimising travel and big social gatherings. Businesses are recommended to put in place alternating 15-days schedules whereby half of the workforce works from home every fifteen days and the other half works from the workplace. Alternatively, if teleworking is not possible, they should consider reducing the amount of staff during one time period and extending the overall hours of business. Further, offices, open spaces and large meeting rooms as well as cafeterias and lounges should be adapted and reinvented to take into account this “new normal” life with COVID-19. Where and when possible this should be recommended country-wide together with the adaptation of public transportation and a regional (neighbourhoods , counties etc) re-opening.
2. Testing should be widespread
Knowing whether you, your workforce or your constituents have contracted the virus or not is important in order to map the evolution of the virus as society re-opens and to minimise a rapid re-surge of the illness. As an individual get tested as soon as you can. If you tested positive, then you might be safe to return to work and go about your daily life; if you tested negative, you are at risk of contracting the virus and should be particularly careful in this re-opening phase until a vaccine is found. As a business or a government, you should invest in symptom checking apps, and tests to screen your workforce and the population. Only once we have a clear idea of who is vulnerable and who isn’t can we effectively start stopping the spread of the virus.
3. Prevent and Protect
Most governments are now imposing to wear masks. As an individual, whatever you put on your mouth and nose that acts as a barrier to respiratory droplets entering one of your orifices will help reduce the risk of you contracting the virus. Now of course, whilst a surgical mask can, depending on its type, be used for several hours, it is recommended that you do not use your home made mask for more than one outing and a maximum of one hour. When possible also wear gloves. Of course the best way to stay safe is to wash your hands as often as possible, before and after wearing your mask and gloves and to minimise your outings as much as is realistically possible. As a business and government, clear and applicable procedures and guidelines are needed for your workers and citizens. Provide masks to protect your workforce and population. Secure your workplace with easy access to hydroalcoholic gels, soap and water, limiting the use of door handles and being innovative with commonly touched surfaces (lift buttons, coffee machines etc). This will help minimise profit loss and maximise workforce retention.
4. Promote physical and mental health
Physical and mental health are top priorities and can no longer be ignored. The lengthy lockdown will have impacted the Mental Health and Physical Health of all of us one way or another. As an individual, seek psychological help to discuss any anxieties or other mental-health related symptoms you may be exhibiting. As a business, support your employees and their return to the workspace as this will be very different to that of a return following a traditional long term sick leave. Commuting to work, concentrating in a noisy environment, being close to people again will take time especially when the world we will re-enter will be very different to the one we left when going into lockdown. Be sensitive to the long term consequences that the lockdown, grief and generally fear of the virus can cause.
5. Be prepared for the next wave
The soon-to-be lifting of the lockdown does not mean that the coronavirus has been eradicated. At the turn of the 20th century, the Spanish flu was not only the greatest deadly pandemic until now, it hit in three consecutive waves (Spring, Summer and Autumn 1918). If the COVID-19 crisis follows this pattern, the current lockdown could be one of several, staggered with lockdown lifts from time to time. So whether a new or a recurrent one, pandemics will be part of our future. As an individual, stay vigilant as the “new normal” may last for the next 18 months. Stay informed, be prepared, stay physically and mentally fit. If in doubt call your doctor to make sure you are care for as quickly and as efficiently as possible. As a business, protect your workforce, plan early and implement a strategy. Measures and fast monitoring will be key. As governments, monitor and openly publish outcomes of the procedures, upgrade your healthcare system and policies, invest massively in training and prevention.
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