HEALTH AND WELLBEING
THE COVID DECADE ’ S
‘ BLANK CANVAS ’ CHALLENGE
The coronavirus has sent much of the world back to the drawing board , rewiring how we work , learn , communicate , grieve and cope with change . Many see the chance to chart new directions .
REPORT BY BRAD COLLIS
A s pubs , clubs , theatres , offices , stadiums , schools and universities reopen after months of lockdowns and restrictions due to COVID-19 , the first reaction is relief . The pandemic is over . But as you stand at the entrance to these once-familiar life structures there is uncertainty . Can you hold or shake hands , kiss , hug , laugh or chat without a mask ? Do you even know what to say to people ?
Such simple social conventions are everyday reminders that returning to , or even defining , ‘ normality ’ is not straightforward . There is a realisation that even in a vaccinated world there is no going back to a pre-COVID time . While the virus and its variants are expected to be largely manageable medically , the impacts of the past year-and-a-half cast a long social , cultural , economic and psychological shadow .
We are at the beginning of what is being termed the ‘ COVID decade ’. It heralds challenges and it heralds opportunity . It will ring changes to how we work , play , travel , communicate and educate . There is no room for complacency , but a lot of room for science and innovation , for new ways of working
and learning , for re-examining community , business and education infrastructure and , perhaps most crucially , human impacts on the natural world . There have been six pandemics already in the 21st century : SARS-CoV , H1N1 virus ( swine flu ), MERS- CoV , Ebola , Zika virus and COVID-19 , the latter being the first to affect everybody , everywhere , at the same time . The origins of these viruses have yet to be determined with any certainty , but suspicion lingers on the collapse of natural ecosystems and the spread of human habitation into previously more separated animal realms .
In looking to the future , the British Academy for the humanities and social sciences recently brought together scholars from around the world to analyse the impacts of COVID-19 and to come up with a framework for policy responses by governments .
The Academy ’ s report , The COVID Decade : understanding the long-term societal impacts of COVID-19 , articulates several key impacts : increased importance of local communities ; eroded trust ( in government and the media ); widening social , economic and health inequality ; increased prevalence and awareness of mental health issues ; economic downturn
with attendant unemployment ; changing labour markets ; and changing education and skills requirements .
All of these represent the challenges and opportunities that are core tenets of the University of Portsmouth ’ s established research themes – Future and Emerging Technologies , Sustainability and the Environment , Health and Wellbeing , Security and Risk , and Democratic Citizenship .
Specialists from these broad research fields have played , and will continue to play , essential roles locally , nationally and globally in helping communities and businesses to not only adjust to the pandemic ’ s disruptions , but to keep growing . As a university advancing a global research agenda while being culturally rooted in the rich history of the city of Portsmouth , the University , like others around Britain and the world , has been able to apply leading-edge technologies and insights to community responses – psychological , clinical and epidemiological . The same Nielsen survey that reported declining trust in news organisations and the government with respect to COVID-19 information , had scientists and health organisations as the most trusted information sources .
ISSUE 03 / 2021