COVID-19 or Investigating ‘the new normal’? Effects of the pandemic on our everyday lives
As living in times of the pandemic is ‘the new normal’, researchers have increasingly turned to examining how it has affected our daily lives.
Looking closely at the repercussions of the pandemic on economically vulnerable populations, King’s College London’s Visiting Professor Louise Casey and Niamh Mohan remark that homeless people are particularly at risk of contracting the disease, because social distancing and basic hygiene is not possible for rough sleepers. Similarly, Professor Andy Sumner, from the same institution, warns that it is crucial to pay “much greater attention to the impact of Covid in developing countries and what the international community can do to help,” in order to avoid a dramatic rise of poverty worldwide.
Moreover, the influence of the COVID-19 on our emotional well-being and social relations requires further investigation. The University of Glasgow has recruited a representative panel of volunteers to study the effects of social distancing on mental health, such as anxiety, depression, or loneliness. This work is complemented by psychologist Sabine Buchebner-Ferstl from the University of Vienna, who is studying how families deal with physical and emotional closeness in their confined home. Complementing this work on humans, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Ghent University is conducting a survey on the impact of the confinement pets and animals.
The consequences of the pandemic can be painfully visible through the illness or loss of a relative. With the social distancing measures, visiting family members at the hospital or the organisation of funerals are disrupted. For the affected families, it can thus become a challenge to go through the grieving process, with the risk to be trapped in a “derealisation” process, explains Professor Jos de Keijser from the University of Groningen.
Furthermore, COVID-19 affects what we feel and how we believe. In an article on African Pentecostals, Tinashe Chimbidzikai, a PhD candidate at the University of Göttingen, depicts how believers in South Africa make sense of the epidemics, concluding that we must consider the meaning assigned to the virus by social actors, in order to better tackle the crisis.
But researchers also examine the legal repercussions of the crisis, as one of its most consequential effects. Assistant Professor Oskar J. Gstrein and Professor Andrej J. Zwitter at the University of Groningen observe that the pandemic also has an effect on privacy and data protection. Governments across the globe are now tempted to take extraordinary measures, surpassing existing legal frameworks. The researchers advise: “we must keep in mind that the use of location data and other personally or demographically identifiable data in such scale results in the production of a ‘data exhaust’ that invariably has consequences for data protection and privacy.”