Circuit Breaker Extension: What does it mean for us in the Future?
On 21 April 2020, the Government announced that circuit breaker measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, which were intended to end on 4 May, would be extended by another four weeks, until 1 June 2020. At first glance, this will have a greater impact on our personal lives and businesses. And may this impact bring about a new normal for us in the long run, socially, environmentally and professionally? Let us consider the possible impacts that the extended circuit breaker may have for Singapore, in the future.
1. Telecommuting May Become A Trend
Even before circuit breaker measures were introduced, several companies in Singapore had already embarked on telecommuting arrangements to lower employees’ risk of contracting the disease while commuting to work, or in the workplace. While not all companies were so quick to jump on the bandwagon, many had already adjusted to working from home. Currently, all employees working in non-essential businesses in Singapore whose job scope allows them to telecommute have been working from home ever since the circuit breaker was implemented. As employees find new ways to become productive from home, we could possibly look forward to a future where companies implement intermittent telecommuting as a long-term work arrangement.
2. Long-Term Social Distancing
According to a group of Harvard disease experts, intermittent social distancing may need to continue until at least 2022. Yes, you heard that right – 2022. A vaccine for COVID-19 is not expected to be ready for at least a year. While a vaccine is in the making, experts are suggesting that social distancing would need to be in place in order to prevent more COVID-19 outbreaks from resurfacing and possibly overwhelming healthcare systems globally. My guess is that in Singapore, current stringent circuit breaker measures, such as a ban on gatherings of any size and closure of all non-essential businesses, may be relaxed over time as the outbreak wanes. However, it may be long before we are allowed to attend events, clubs, and exhibition fairs. Shopping malls may still continue to observe safe distancing measures, such as the 1-metre distance between diners, and temperature checks at entrances, when the circuit breaker measures have eased. We have to mentally prepare ourselves that this new normal may last for months or even longer until a vaccine has been produced.
3. Positive Environmental Impact Now, but What About Long Run
Perhaps the only silver lining to the COVID-19 pandemic is its positive impact on the environment. As the frequency of fossil-fuel emitting activities such as air travel, private transport and manufacturing has been greatly reduced, Singapore's carbon footprint will be significantly lessened this year, thus slowing down the rate of climate change. However, it is hard to say if this environmental boon will last in the long run. Firstly, as eateries here are only permitted to carry out takeaways and deliveries, plastic usage in Singapore will rise sharply. Food container suppliers in Singapore have expressed concerns over potential shortages during this circuit breaker period. When considered altogether, our collective plastic use during this extended circuit breaker may pose a strain on the environment in the future. This also runs counter to our current sustainability efforts. Secondly, after this crisis is over, some companies may hasten the pace of production to make up for the lost time and lost profits during the outbreak. This would reverse the short-term positive environmental impacts of COVID-19 on Singapore.
Life has been all but the same since the circuit breaker was announced. While the future remains uncertain for most of us, let us continue to do what we can to protect the environment and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.