In the post-Covid world, health and safety looks a little different than it did before, and incorporates more measures.
Basic hygiene is the first and most important safety measure to take, but it is only the beginning of what is needed to prevent future pandemics. Further measures like the use of personal protective equipment and extensive testing are well understood already. However, more extensive and specialized measures will be needed depending on the exact circumstances, like the sneeze guards that protect grocery store workers and the bio-safety cabinet testing that’s needed to make sure that clean rooms stay clean.
A fundamental shift in thinking to prioritize health is essential for preventing further pandemics. The best way to stop community spread is to track and isolate those who have been infected. The potentially infected can’t stay home if they fear losing their jobs or know their dependents will suffer. Overhauling our system of healthcare and sick leave must be a priority if we want to prevent future pandemics.
However, the most important thing to do going forward is to recognize that the only constant is change. The basic safety measures are good across a broad range of illnesses, but the specific circumstances of how a disease spreads, incubates and recurs will change from year to year and strain to strain. Models will need to be adaptable in order to be effective.
It is tempting to look at the gap between this pandemic and the last one, in 1918, and say that this isn’t likely to happen again for another hundred years. That is a dangerous assumption to make. Increased global travel alone increases the likelihood of future pandemics, never mind the rise of drug-resistant bacteria. We roll the dice every year when the new flu strain hits, and precautions like these weight the dice in our favor.