From day to day, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way people live around the globe. Even when lockdown restrictions are lifted, many say that the world will never be the same. What might the world after the pandemic look like? How will the novel coronavirus change our daily lives, our countries and our cities?
The Institute for Politics and Society (CZE) together with Prague office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom organized a competition “World through my eyes” to encourage young high school and university students from the Czech Republic to think about how the world might change after the global pandemic. The students were asked to introduce their thoughts, ideas and visions in a short policy brief. The winning policy briefs will be presented to the members of the Czech Chamber of Deputies and the winner will also get the opportunity to organize a public event on the topic.
We are bringing you an interview with the three winners of the competition: Marie Ptáčková, 21-year-old student of biochemistry, who was best placed in the competition, Štěpán Hartl, 18-year-old student of secondary school of pedagogy, who placed second, and Magdaléna Kráľová, 24-year-old law student, who finished in third place. What are their perspectives of the world after the pandemic and how has Covid-19 changed their perception of life?
In your contributions, you dealt with the question of what the world might look like after the global coronavirus pandemic. So how do you think the world will be different after the end of the pandemic?
Marie: I believe that the biggest difference between the world before and after pandemic will be related to the state of the world economy. While the world economy prospered before the epidemic outbreak, after it there will be an economic crisis in many countries caused mainly by the restrictive measures introduced by their governments. In my opinion, the crisis will also change the approach of people to life and its security. Due to reduced incomes, many people will realize the importance of financial reserves, and will therefore value their earnings more than before.
Moreover, many people had to spend these unusual times at home and had thus more free time than they were used to. Most of them learned new skills or dusted off old ones. We also spent more time with our families, and perhaps, as a result, we will be able to slow down the pace of today’s hectic world.
Štěpán: I don’t think the world as such will change, but rather people’s view of the world might change. People will start realizing and doing more things, which they really enjoy, and hopefully, they will stop complaining about life itself.
Magdaléna: I think that people will appreciate work of doctors, teachers, but also salespersons much more than before. Society as a whole will become more interested in the functioning of education and healthcare system. I believe that these areas are awaiting further development and quality improvement.
In your opinion, what are the biggest problems we will face in the post-pandemic period?
Marie: It will certainly be the impending economic crisis and the higher unemployment related to it. Although I hope that people will be more interested in the state of the environment after the pandemic, I am afraid that this will not happen immediately. A big problem is and will be the waste generated by the use of disposable facemasks and gloves, but also food packaging, which had been reduced in recent years and has now had to be returned. In addition, large factories will want to make up for lost profits and some countries’ air improvements are likely to be short-lived. Climate change will therefore continue to be a big challenge.
Štěpán: It could prove challenging to comply with all the governmental measures which might be changed and adjusted very often.
Magdaléna: Everything will depend on development of the economic situation in the world. Job loss, insecurity and stress are closely linked to mental health. For this reason, I think that the number of people suffering from mental illnesses might increase, resulting in a shortage of doctors and psychotherapists. Society will have to cope with the deepening social inequality to which the crisis has contributed.
It is said that every crisis is also an opportunity. Do you think this also applies in the context of the coronavirus pandemic? If so, what do you see as the greatest opportunity of the current situation?
Marie: I agree with this statement. I have already heard the opinion that this time is a good opportunity to reconsider some of our priorities. However, I think we should make use of the situation in other areas as well, such as in our approach to the environment. When people had to spend several weeks locked at home, they used every opportunity to go for a walk, most often in the woods. I firmly hope that most of them have realized how important it is to protect the nature.
Secondly, during the first weeks of the state of emergency, there was a great shortage of disinfectants, facemasks and other medical supplies in our country. In my opinion, it has become clear how important it is not to depend only on imports, but to be self-sufficient, at least when it comes to essential equipment. It is important to support the production of more medical supplies and food in our country.
Štěpán: This “crisis” was and is a huge opportunity. I know many companies, which arose from this situation, and they are flourishing. Moreover, for many people including me, it was an opportunity to start learning new things and gain new skills in the fields for which I normally do not have much time. I improved my knowledge in marketing, movies and business for which I am grateful.
Magdaléna: Due to the pandemic, many people got the opportunity to think about the direction in which they want their lives to go in the future and what they want to pursue. More time at home gave them space to rethink their current way of life and relationships.
What else should we learn from the pandemic?
Marie: We should definitely learn from how we underestimated the coronavirus at the beginning. I think it was mainly because none of the current generations has ever experienced such a pandemic. That is also why most of us were unpleasantly surprised by the speed with which the virus spread, resulting in the introduction of various governmental restrictions. The closure of universities was like a bolt from the blue for me, and I believe that the following restrictive measures were perceived similarly by many people. However, thanks to these measures, the spread of the virus has been significantly slowed down in our country, which is why I consider them to be successful. I think that in the coming years we will be much more cautious about information regarding newly discovered viruses.
Štěpán: I think we should be grateful for everything that life has to offer and more attentive to little things. We should not pursue the illusion, but perceive the beauties and possibilities, which we have in front of our eyes every day.
Magdaléna: During the crisis, there was a huge wave of solidarity that arose in the society. People were sewing facemasks, cheering medical staff, and helping elderlies with shopping. I hope that this will continue and that we will become more considerate and solidary to each other.
The competition was called “The world through my eyes”. Has the pandemic changed your personal view of the world?
Marie: Of course. I will definitely pay more attention to disinformation and check the sources. Like many other people, I believed the information about alleged dolphins in Venice´s canals, which I am ashamed of.
Moreover, during the competition, I wrote to many of my friends asking for a vote, and I was pleasantly surprised by their interest in this topic and also by the fact that most of them really read my article and provided me with their own views on this issue. I am no expert and I wrote the policy brief from a point of view of a young nonprofessional. However, I was glad that a lot of my friends debated with me on the topics I mentioned in my article and I had the opportunity to gain new knowledge and learn a lot for which I am very grateful.
Finally, as a college student, I am not used to spending so much time at home with my family. Therefore, I am thankful for those two months at home since it might not happen so soon again.
Štěpán: Definitely. It deepened my awareness of gratitude, life, nature, the Planet, and spirituality. I pay much more attention to the little things. In my opinion, not even Covid-19 is that strong. However, the psyche and fear of people play a big role here.
Magdaléna: Certainly. I realized what a privilege it is to be able to work from home, study and travel freely.