In other words, from now on, society has to always worry about the risk of the spread of an infectious disease. The terms a “new lifestyle” or “new normal” have already been coined, and life in the era of COVID-19 has begun with social distancing, avoidance of three Cs (Closed spaces, Crowded places, Close contact), and teleworking and telecommuting.
What is your everyday life now? I think that persons on official duty including healthcare professionals, or involved in work relating to infrastructure maintenance and distribution, , are leading a hard life, worrying about being infected. On the other hand, those who have continued to work at home may have felt that they have spent more time with their family, that their home environment is firstly not suitable for teleworking, and that it was hard to take care of their child during the no-school period. Moreover, they may also have had opinions that they worry more about nursing of their aged parents, that they have missed an opportunity for local volunteer activities or lifelong study, or that they have had more conversations through an SNS or television conference system.
In my case, from the beginning of 2020 Academic Year, the whole of Meiji University started to give classes mainly online and hold almost all meetings remotely. So, my world has been basically an area where I can go on foot and by bicycle from my home in the City of Zushi, Kanagawa. NPO activities in which I regularly went to Indonesia have been suspended. About this time the year before last, I was nursing my mother-in-law at home and became familiar with the local nursing-care service. This year, I have become familiar with restaurants offering takeouts in Zushi and Hayama and specialty stores that are quietly open in residential streets. Feeling the change of nature (a copse on a hill at the back of my house and the nearby coast) around my house has become my daily routine. In general, the COVID-19 crisis has narrowed down the area of our activity. Doesn’t it give an opportunity for people to deepen interest in and connection with living places and areas around them (local communities)? In this article, I would like to think about local communities in the era of COVID-19.
Effect of COVID-19 crisis on local communities and future after crisis
Self-restrained life was first a great blow to the local restaurant and tourism industries in economic aspects. The life of workers and owners in those industries is being threatened. Even if economic activities recover gradually in the future, it may be unlikely that the number of inbound tourists will increase immediately. It seems that new business forms will be sought, such as common takeouts and tourism promotion by short-distance travel. Unemployment cannot also be avoided owing to a recession worldwide in areas in which factories for export are located. So, we need local economies that do not depending fully on the world economy and in a form in which importance is attached to local food production and consumption.
Child raising and education
There is concern about not only delays in children’s learning but also a wider gap from differences in home environments due to no school and classes online. On the other hand, as children have stayed at home many days, the function of schools as a place for life has been realized again. Spending time with friends of their generation and other adults than their family members, not only spending time with their parents (and their brothers and sisters) at home, is also an important opportunity for children to grow up. However, it has become obvious that we can not depend only on the schools for education and other functions. It is expected that the third place for life of children will be set up eagerly in communities.
It becomes overwhelmingly clear amid the COVID-19 crisis that having direct contact with each other is the basis for any welfare activities. Nursing at day care centers and home nursing have been largely restricted by social distancing. Nursing and assistance by means of AI, robots, or online methods will be sought for in the future from the viewpoint of not only labor shortages but infection prevention. Nevertheless, having contact with persons is a source of human dignity for everyone including elderly or disabled people. So, we ought to avoid a situation where those people are shut up in the closed frame of a family. Answers will continue to be sought for how we can make it possible to give face-to-face assistance as we take into account infection prevention. As clusters have occurred in large-scale nursing homes, it is expected that smaller-scale homes (e.g., group homes) or nursing and assistance at home and day care centers will further move into the mainstream from the viewpoint of infection prevention.
Activities by neighborhood associations and various volunteer organizations have been greatly affected by voluntary restraint in order to avoid nonessential and nonurgent action. I heard that even circular notices have been suspended from fear of infection in some areas. However, in a society in the era of COVID-19, where movement may decrease, it is certain that mutual help and the ability to solve problems in communities will be a major determinant of affluence in our life. What systems and considerations are needed for people to gather, have a talk, and do something together in communities as they avoid three Cs? The search for them has already begun in each community. It also applies not only to solving problems but to staging various events leading to a stronger sense of unity in a community and to a stronger connection among persons.
Diversity and inclusion
What has come into question amid the COVID-19 crisis is the mind to react sensitively to and to exclude something of a different nature. It is shown as discriminatory and excluding words and deeds to foreigners who (seem to) carry the virus in from the outside and people in downtown at night who do not (seem not to) exercise self-restraint. The existence of SNS (e.g., Twitter) to which people can post their comments freely spurs that trend. There is a possibility that divisions between vaccinated persons and non-vaccinated persons or between persons weak against infectious diseases and persons not weak against them will deepen in the future. Of course, it is important to protect yourself from infectious diseases, but you are not necessarily safe if you justattack or exclude other people different from you. It may be helpful in forming a more resilient society to accept various ways of thinking and living and to learn from each other.
New possibilities produced from COVID-19
I have discussed the negative effects of COVID-19 on local communities and how to cope with them. Next, to close this study, I will describe three points about the new possibilities of local communities that have become visible through the COVID-19 crisis.
Importance of a place to live
In society prior to COVID-19, it was a symbol of hope and progress that we can go where and when we like in the world. In a society with the fear of the spread of an infectious disease in the era of COVID-19, the risks involved in movement are recognized, and importance will be attached to where a person lives. Where doyou live? With whom doyou have connection? How does a person work? The consciousness of people who used to move between home and working place everyday and whose home was just a place to sleep will change. People who used to go out to seek something new or stimulative will take an interest in the place where they live and its neighboring areas. From this point, new life and work in local communities may be formed.
More emphasis on “close associates” and learning from each other through online
When long-distance movement has decreased and people follow a behavior pattern to avoid the three Cs, businesses and activities which assume that an indefinite number of people will gather may become difficult. People may have more opportunities to gather together with close associates (who seem not to be infected) in their local area, to eat and drink together (as they avoid the three Cs) and to do something together. Of course, there is a limit to doing something only with familiar associates, and meetings with different and diverse kind of people are a source of energy for society. For that purpose, online connections need to increase. It is good if a connection between people beyond communities is created online and if learning from each other is deepened.
From excessive connection with people to a moderate sense of distance
In the middle of the 17th century in Britain, where the plague was widespread, Isaac Newton discovered the law of universal gravitation while he was lost in thought alone after he went home unavoidably as Cambridge University, which he had entered, was closed. Amid this COVID-19 crisis, quite a few people may spend more time alone without going to the office or meeting friends. In the present age of the 21st century, people are to be connected with the world through the magic of the Internet no matter where they are. Even so, there may be some persons who have made a new discovery through reflecting themselves as they have had a lonely (but not isolated) time. I think that the era of COVID-19 may give us an opportunity to make a connection between persons again by reviewing the society in which people tend to connect with each other too much owing to developed technology.
Then, how can we connect and communicate with each other in a society with COVID-19? In particular, what should online and offline conditions be? I wish to think about them at the next opportunity.
*The information contained herein is current as of May 2021.
* The contents of articles on Meiji.net are based on the personal ideas and opinions of the author and do not indicate the official opinion of Meiji University.
* I work to achieve SDGs related to the educational and research themes that I am currently engaged in.
Information noted in the articles and videos, such as positions and affiliations, are current at the time of production.