There’s no precise way of knowing where we are in this COVID-19 cycle, and that’s largely because no one knows. Whilst we can watch what other countries are doing and what is happening, knowing where we are is still unclear. But what we are all hearing now, is that the discussion has moved towards how we will unwind ourselves, how we will un-lock lockdown. At the risk of stepping outside of the media’s view of this, I thought I would share with you what I think will happen. Not so much in the timing of everything, but perhaps, in the way that we as individuals, will deal with having regained our long lost freedom. And I’m using the analogy of giving up drinking and holidays to make the point.
The thing is that we are hard wired to behave in certain ways. Giving up drinking is a really good example. Initially, not drinking isn’t fun. We are so used to that glass of wine when we have finished work. Not many, just one will do. And it tastes so good. We relax and the world takes on a different hue. It all looks slightly different, slightly better. But when we stop drinking, it takes on a harsh light. Things aren’t quite the same. But then, after a while, we start to spot some welcome changes. Maybe we sleep better, maybe we have more energy, maybe even shed a few unexpected pounds. Nice. We then begin to think, this is good, in fact so good, I’m giving up – forever. That’s it. I don’t need booze anymore – I’ve been re-born.
Then the allotted time for no-drinking is up. That’s fine, I can do this. Then one night, your peers hand you a pint and you reluctantly drink, not really wanting it. And another. And another… Of course, we have all been here before. If everyone that ever gave up drinking in January never drank again, alcohol sales in the UK would be half what they are today. It’s just that’s what we do and what we’ve always done. It doesn’t have to be about drinking, it can be diets, or exercise, or shopping. But as a general rule it doesn’t take long to return to our old ways.
Holidays are another good example of an in-built hard wiring that helps us cope with ‘stuff’. Imagine a time when you went on holiday, but it didn’t quite work out the way you thought it would. The hotel hadn’t filled the pool up, you managed to get food poisoning, and it rained half the time you were there. You come back from the holiday and about 3 months later someone says, ‘Hey, didn’t you go to Greece for your holidays? How did that go?’ You answer, It was awesome, we had the most amazing time. Somehow, we are wired to block out or forget experiences we didn’t enjoy, and just remember the ones that we did.
Where is all this going? Well, I’m reasonably confident that the ‘bounce’ from all being locked up at home for the last few weeks will be significant. I think we will change some things, but not a lot. Very soon we will be back to the ways we were. We will begin to forget some of the fears we had and, having been cooped up for so long, many will want to get on.
Interestingly, a survey run by the Money Saving Expert – Martin Lewis found that, of 70,000 responses to the question ‘Will you be worse off, better off or no change during ‘lockdown?’, one third thought they would be worse off. That’s not good news. But on the other hand, two thirds thought they would be better off or no worse off. It’s a fairly basic survey and and I’m sure there are a million ways to interpret the results, but what I take from that is that there is a proportion of the country that will emerge from lock-down with money in their pockets and it won’t be long before they are looking for places to spend it.
I also see the health industry being perceived in a different light. It’s highly likely that the cross infection rules and regs will be ramped up. That will cost the industry and if they are to ’stand still’ they will have no choice but to increase prices to reflect that. But imagine this. You enter a Dentist’s surgery and you are given 2 choices. You can sit in one waiting room with last months magazines, plastic chairs and a water cooler. This room is available to those patients where cost is the primary concern and therefore the dentist has spent as little as possible on all fixtures and fittings. Furthermore, in order to save costs, this room leads to a part of the dental surgery where no measures are in place against the spread of COVID 19 (or similar) and the dentists wear no protective clothing.
Or they can use the other waiting room with comfortable chairs, a coffee maker and up to date magazines. This waiting room leads to a part of the surgery that has invested in all the appropriate cross infection equipment and protective clothing etc. Ok, treatments cost a little more, because of the additional costs, but how many people will object to that? Frankly, I can’t see anyone choosing exposure too ‘COVID19’ in order to save money. They will understand the need for dentists to meet the increased requirements and the need for dentists to increase their prices. There will be a new respect for professionals and the challenges they face. And all of it in a positive way.
There will be changes, there always are. It’s the only constant after all. But, in my opinion, we will be drawn back to our old ways, perhaps with a new twist on things. As far as the economy is concerned, I can’t see any reason why we will all suddenly stop spending and remain in doors despite the lifting of lockdown. So, let’s get ready for that.
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