Experts weigh in on what returning to ‘normal’ will look like as vaccines help control COVID-19

The pandemic has forced much of the world to adopt new routines and behaviours as for more than a year, countries have been focused on how to get the virus under control.

Vaccines have been the key to helping society return to patterns that look and feel more normal. But when it comes to going back to how things were before COVID-19, some people will need time to adjust.

Many restrictions have been lifted in other countries, and some provinces in Canada will soon follow suit. As the provincial health officer of British Columbia recently said, “COVID-19 safety plans, once we get to Step 3, will no longer be required.”

But the question is, will people be ready? For some, the thought of shaking hands, offering a fist bump, giving a high five or even being in a large crowd is hard to imagine.

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“I completely understand why people are fearful or have concerns,” said Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious diseases physician in Mississauga, Ont. But he said as vaccines continue to be deployed across the country, we continue to get closer all the time to not needing certain restrictions in place.

“We have now de-fanged the virus,” said Chakrabarti. “This is a virus that when it does end up manifesting in the community, we can deal with that in a targeted fashion, without having to lock down the community like we’ve had to in the past year.”

But dusting off old routines will take some effort. Behavioural scientist Laura Desveaux said people will need time and space to figure out what they are comfortable with as they re-examine their old patterns.

Read more: More than half of Canadians anxious about return to ‘normal’ after COVID-19, survey finds

“When a habit loses strength or disappears we have to reform it, and all of a sudden that become reflexive,” said Desveaux. “So it’s consciously something we have to think about.”

And while everyone will move at their own pace, Desveaux said there are silver linings to this societal reset.

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“We don’t often get the opportunity to reimagine things like this, it’s such a universal fresh start.”

A process already picking up momentum as people dream about the future.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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