Immediately after the pandemic
People were asked to work from home, only travel if absolutely necessary, wear a mask when travelling on public transport and follow one-way routes in stations. In Europe, many borders were closed to restrict free travel between countries, which is an iconic characteristic of the continent. Many countries have restricted inbound travel to reduce infection rates within their countries. Some have also introduced compulsory quarantine for all incoming travellers before they are allowed to move freely within the country.
Toward a post-COVID-19 society
As lockdown measures ease, office workers are again allowed to travel to work. Companies and office buildings require official requests and approval from managers as proof that it is absolutely necessary that they access a building or office. In the UK, the government does not provide rules for working from home but leaves it to companies to decide whether employees are required in the office. In Germany, there are calls for the right to work from home.
Offices also have to have new rules and policies in place to ensure that social distancing and high levels of hygiene and air quality are maintained. Most international business travel is banned or restricted by companies out of fear for employee safety.
Support and household bubbles allow groups of people to interact safely with each other.
Trusting each other
Mask wearing has shifted from a sign of fear to a sign of trust. People trust being around those who wear a mask over those who do not.
Most of the rules put in place are not strictly enforced and it is largely left to individuals to trust each other and obey the rules. Some people become more relaxed about following the rules, because they are seen as flexible. The vulnerable will feel most at risk and fear trusting others.
New outbreaks will occur, which will lead to additional scrutiny of these flexible rules. Governments will be forced to define and enforce them more clearly. Some will see this as a threat to their liberty and protest against it.
As testing for infection and immunity becomes more accurate and accessible, and a successful vaccine is produced, many will be tested or vaccinated. This will give them a clear understanding of their risk and remove all fear of moving freely. It will also become important for interacting with others, offering a way to remove any doubts and to restore trust with others. Presenting and verifying your status will become a requirement for freedom but will increase tension with liberal-minded people.
Governments will try and contain the spread by use of data. Contact-tracing apps and records captured by companies and businesses will be used to track citizens’ movements. For some, this will be seen as a necessary way to keep society safe and continue freedom of movement. They will trust the government to use this data for the sole purpose of containing the spread of the virus and are willing to give up some privacy to achieve this.
Those who value their privacy will choose not to take part in contact-tracing records, avoid businesses that ask for personal information or provide false information.
Countries will vary in their levels of infection risk due to the local status of the pandemic and the laws enforced for the safety of their citizens. This risk level can be taken into account when deciding on where to direct new incoming travellers. Governments will need to work together on a global solution to monitor interactions and contact across borders. This will lead to additional scrutiny around personal privacy due to various laws regarding privacy worldwide. It will also increase conflict around invasions of privacy while travelling.