With the lifting of the lockdown in France on May 11, the new normal became more obvious. Although this term had been commonly mentioned for weeks since the lockdown started, emerging from the safety of one’s home made it tangible. Some “abnormal” events happened in many countries in the world, giving analysts materials to ponder, making critics complain, and causing vexation to certain groups of people. As to the word “paranormal,” I am not saying that I acquired extra-sensory powers because of the long period of self-quarantine and isolation (although I did see a duende and a ghost when I was a kid). But there were occurrences around the world that seemed out of the usual or expected, which made me wonder if they were also part of the new normal. Or is it because COVID-19 altered our common perception of some events? Also, since these are not ordinary times, do we perhaps need measures that are out of the normal or usual to solve these problems?
On May 11, we resumed work at the Embassy. Having not been there for almost two months since the implementation of work-from-home arrangements from March 17, the start of the day felt exciting, strange, and scary all at the same time. Walking to the office felt akin to going to school for the first day of classes as a child. Some things were different than before–the need to wear a mask everyday, the care to maintain physical distance from one another at the workplace, the need to wash your hands and change your clothes quickly upon getting home, even the momentary awkwardness of meeting another person walking from the opposite direction of a narrow sidewalk. Also, going to a grocery store or a pharmacy required lining up and waiting for one’s turn. These were some facets, the more visible aspect of the new normal.
The heavy rains the weekend before the resumption of work caused a bit of damage to the office, so it wasn’t a clean and bright place that greeted us that morning. In fact, aside from doing necessary office work, we had to spend the first day cleaning, documenting the damage, and making the place somehow fit for work again. This scenario made the difference of pre and post-lockdown palpable.
But life has to go on; we had announced on our official website and Facebook page that consular services will resume on the 11th, albeit in a limited capacity to ensure that physical distancing is strictly implemented. Online appointment ensured that there’s only one (1) or at most two (2) applicants in the consular section at any given time. A new work schedule was implemented to ensure that physical distancing is implemented and that offices don’t get crowded. Several consular services are only provided by mail. In general, things have been proceeding smoothly.
But there were some glitches like those who still insist to be given a schedule or be allowed entry to the Embassy without an appointment, reasoning out that they have not seen the announcements, despite these being posted a month ago. There were those who thought that getting an appointment means deliberately making things more inconvenient for them. With the many mails coming in, some required precious minutes tracking documents since they only sent an envelope or stamps, with no note for the consular service availed of. Some sent documents in haste without checking that the contents are complete requiring a follow-up email and several days again of waiting for the next mail and reevaluation of the documents.
But these are little things compared to certain issues that occurred in the world while it was battling the deadly COVID-19. In the Philippines, the government declared that the private sector should shoulder the cost of COVID-19 testing of their employees; this, after two months of lockdown. Also, some secret hospitals that were allegedly treating foreign nationals with coronavirus symptoms were discovered in the country. Also, some Filipinos were arrested without warrant for posting threats against President Duterte on social media prompting netizens to question if it is the job of the police to protect the President from criticisms by citizens. As many Filipino medical personnel died not only in the country but also in the UK, US, Canada and in other parts of the world, so many other issues were reported, which veered away from supposed priority concerns. Meanwhile, the country’s COVID-19 cases continued to increase, numbering more than 17,000 as of May 30.
In other parts of the world, some events did not evade attention. In Hong Kong, protests erupted as China approved the proposal to implement the national security law in Hong Kong. In the US, Mr. George Floyd died after a police officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest. His death led to the officer being charged and to protests in the twin cities of Minneapolis-Saint Paul. In the US, protests against wearing masks and staying at home were held by people who believed it’s against their rights, despite the huge number of COVID-19 cases in the country. US President Trump also threatened to permanently withdraw US membership from the World Health Organization (WHO) and cut its funding permanently, for WHO’s inadequate response to the pandemic; this led the European Union to urge President Trump to rethink the matter. In Brazil, the President reportedly dismissed the virus as a “little flu” even as the country’s coronavirus cases are rising. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, a plane crash killing 97 occurred on May 23, a week after the country resumed its limited domestic flight operations. 😦
But the media didn’t just capture bad things that happened. There were also events which lifted the gloom and were reasons to celebrate. On May 30, NASA and SpaceX launched astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to the International Space Station. In the Philippines, the name of the first homegrown gravitational physicist, Reginald Christian Bernardo was announced after the successful defense of his dissertation with the title “Compact Objects, Cosmologies, and Gravitational Perturbations in Scalar-Tensor Theories of Gravity.” Also in the Philippines, there are some measures done to address the concerns of doctors dealing with burnout and fear. The number of COVID-19 cases in France continue to decline. Also, the five-day international online conference, titled “CAC (Cities Against COVID-19) Global Summit 2020 that aims to prepare the world for the post-COVID scenario, will be held from June 1 to 5, 2020. In addition to these news, we should not forget all people globally who cooperated with their respective government’s policies to prevent the spread of the pandemic and who until now, are trying their best to live, survive and help others during these trying times.
As the countries move towards the new normal, as they try to achieve a balance between reducing the health risk to the citizens and keeping the economy afloat, as “abnormal” things occur, the world does not need “paranormal” forces. What the world needs is continuous global cooperation. What it needs is competent and capable leaders with the welfare of the people and the country as their utmost goal. ❤
As what the great scientist Albert Einstein said, in a “new normal” we have to think and act “outside the box”. Our solutions of the past will not be practical to the present problems after COVID-19 pandemic. Like Elon Musk, we must expand our horizon and world view to find new avant-garde solutions awhile rebuilding the Earth. Our atmosphere has benefitted from the lull in human activity during the COVID-19 crisis. We also have uncovered the “brokenness” in the system. Many families have had the time to be together because of the situation. Globally, some shifts are happening such as Pax Americana pulling out support for the WHO and criticizing China for its expansionism and human rights abuses. Countries’ tourism and economy sector have taken a beating necessitating revenue management to keep afloat. Authoritarian leadership showed that it needs more than power and bravado to be able to address a health crisis. Instead, a call for a more realistic cooperation for pro-democracy and a more humane, compassionate society must be heeded.