The world changed in mid-March.
Governments around the world imposed restrictions to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Almost immediately, life as we had known it was altered and forever changed.
Physical distancing directives have become a fact of life.
Many businesses have laid off staff or reduced hours. Others had their staff working from home.
Some, particularly in the hospitality and tourism sector, closed their doors entirely and are only now beginning the process of reopening. Church services, concerts, festivals and other gatherings were halted.
Hand washing has become much more frequent, and many are now wearing face masks in public spaces as a way to help slow the spread of the pandemic.
Each day, new pandemic statistics are released.
At the same time, many have been asking when life will return to normal once again. This question saddens me.
After some of the changes I’ve been seeing over the past few months, I don’t ever want life to go back to the way it was earlier.
The world we used to know involved many of us working at frenetic paces, trying our best to juggle hectic schedules.
For many, pace of life has slowed down.
Some are talking about how they have time to spend in their gardens, or how they have more time for exercise, reading or other personal interests.
Some are learning to bake bread or are spending more time preparing wonderful home-cooked meals.
Some are appreciating spending more time with their partners and their children.
Friends who used to answer the question, “How are you?” with answers like “Busy” or “Tired” are much more calm and relaxed now.
These are some of the good things coming out of this pandemic.
But this slower pace of life is also taking a toll on the economy.
A friend of mine, whose work hours have been cut for the past few months, tells me he is now saving more money than ever before.
He didn’t have extravagant spending habits before, but now his costs are lower since he does not drive as much or go out as often.
Others have shared similar stories.
If people are earning less and spending less, they are also putting less money into the economy. This will affect local businesses.
There are some voices calling for an immediate and complete lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions to minimize the financial effects of this pandemic.
They are asking how many families must be forced into bankruptcy and how many business owners must lose everything before the restrictions are finally lifted.
Their concerns are valid.
The economic impact of COVID-19 has been especially hard for businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector. And since these businesses have been prominent in much of British Columbia, the entire province will experience long-lasting changes.
But I don’t see a return to pre-pandemic conditions as a good solution.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some economists had been sounding alarms about spending patterns in Canada.
The household debt service ratio had been increasing every year.
This measures the proportion of principal and interest payments on debt as a proportion to total household income. A year ago, the average Canadian owed $1.79 for every dollar they earned towards disposable household income.
This is not sustainable. Something has needed to change.
Now a change is coming.
This is a painful transition for some and a time of adjustment for all.
But perhaps in the end we will emerge with something better than the fast-paced, high-stress patterns of busyness and increasing debt we knew before the pandemic forced us to slow down.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.
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