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What changes might we see after after coronavirus?

PUBLISHED: 05:30 30 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:19 30 March 2020

A man in Ipswich wears a face mask to ward off coronavirus - how might life be different once the pandemic is over? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A man in Ipswich wears a face mask to ward off coronavirus - how might life be different once the pandemic is over? Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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What might lie in store for us after the coronavirus crisis is over? One expert gives his view.

David James, associate professor in sociology at the University of Suffolk. Picture: DAVID JAMESDavid James, associate professor in sociology at the University of Suffolk. Picture: DAVID JAMES

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed unprecedented upheaval on British society - but what might the lasting effects be once it is all over?

David James is associate professor of sociology at the University of Suffolk and, while keen to stress he is NOT making predictions, does think there are areas where things could change as a result of the crisis.

It could be good news for the National Health Service.

People have been praising the efforts of the NHS in fighting the virus, with a mass round of applause held up and down the country last week.

The Hardship Fund was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to support those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: VICTORIA JONES/PAThe Hardship Fund was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to support those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Picture: VICTORIA JONES/PA

Yet before the crisis there were - and still are - fears parts of it could be privatised post-Brexit, particularly as Britain looks to broker a trade deal with Donald Trump.

But Prof James said: “There seems to have be an even greater shoring up of public support for the NHS than before.

“There is now an absolute loyalty that is almost replacing the Church of England in terms of a national religion in terms of our adherence to it and its core values.

“Any government will always have to do things using the NHS and not use other forms of providing healthcare. I think to try and privatise any area of the NHS will be a very difficult path.”

One future side effect of people being shut in their homes under the coronavirus lockdown could be a baby boom. Picture: GETTY/ISTOCKPHOTOOne future side effect of people being shut in their homes under the coronavirus lockdown could be a baby boom. Picture: GETTY/ISTOCKPHOTO

In terms of the economy, the government announced massive financial packages of support for business and workers as the crisis unfurled, something Prof James warned society may find it difficult to let go of.

“There now seems to be quite considerable support for massive state intervention in everyday life and particularly in the economy,” he said.

“There seem to be no voices saying ‘the government shouldn’t do this’. Instead there is now this idea that the government should have a big role.

“It could well be that if this crisis goes on for a while, the massive intervention and state subsidy of employment, might actually be something that is difficult to roll back.

Could going on holiday be more complicated once the crisis is over? Picture: RUI VIEIRA/PACould going on holiday be more complicated once the crisis is over? Picture: RUI VIEIRA/PA

“For example, the 80% of previous salary being paid to people - that is something that would have been outlandish for any politician of a major party to have proposed at the general election last December, yet it seems to have widespread support now.

MORE: Is there light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel?

“I think it might be difficult to row back if quite a lot of people have benefitted from it. Not just the very poorest, but the people who are middle income and have always normally had a job.

“There may be a lot of support for those measures, particularly if we’re in up and down economic territory afterwards. That could be something that might stay.”

Prof James said the crisis had been a knock to the nation’s sense of security and self-confidence.

“We’ve had relative security in this country and Europe over the last 70 or so years,” he said.

“We have enjoyed material security, plus the freedom of movement that goes with it. However we now feel a little bit more fragile.

“National governments have taken full control and absolutely locked down their borders against all people from outside without the right citizenship and nationality.

“Whether people will really want more open borders so that they can go on holiday once again after this is over, or whether they will be more accepting of this more closed and insular world, is a fork in the road the country is going to have to face.”

However it’s not all doom and gloom - there could be a baby boom on the way.

Prof James said: “When people are cooped up in a house for quite long periods of time it’s almost inevitable!

“The birth rate has been declining for almost the past 20 years, so we could certainly see that as a positive.”

There could also be a resurgence in faith, he said, particularly if the death rate continues to climb.

“It was something that was very much seen after the First World War,” he said.

“People were looking to contact the dead. Believing in spirits and looking for different sorts of religion and ideas is a way to explain the inexplicable, even in our secular society today.

“When things get tough, in our darkest hour, people reach out.”

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