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January 07 2021

New Year, New Normal: Here’s What to Expect in 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over the world, with an estimated 250 million people infected and 1.75 million dead from the virus. Countries have responded with their own public health and safety measures, to various levels of success.
On a local level, the Philippines sees a decrease in the number of daily reported cases. Abroad, countries like the United States and the United Kingdom see a resurgence of infections following the lifting of the lockdowns.
With the vaccines still in their development stages, the “new normal” is set to change the course of health and living for the years to come. Below are key health trends to expect in 2021:
  • Major Focus on Building Immunity

COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus spread through contact with an infected person’s droplets. Currently, lockdowns and other public health and safety measures are in place to minimize in-person interactions and keep public spaces sanitized. However, these may only be short-term solutions.
Experts believe that focusing on building immunity can help curb its spread. While vaccines are in clinical trials, some concerns have arisen.
Firstly, an estimated 55 to 80% of a population needs to be immune to the virus to effectively stop it from spreading. Secondly, similar to other viral illnesses, the upcoming vaccines may only provide short-term immunity. With short-term immunity, recurring outbreaks are more likely to occur and lead to the virus becoming endemic.
More research is needed for medical experts to decide on the best course of action to build immunity to eventually eradicate the virus.
  • Rise of Alternative Medicine Preventive Measures

As experts race against the clock to create a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19 and treatments for the infected, people are taking matters into their own hands. The lack of solutions in traditional medicine has given rise to alternative medical practices to boost one’s immunity and prevent infection.
In the new normal, two alternative medicine approaches stand out--homeopathy and Ayurveda. Homeopathy is an alternative medical approach that uses natural substances to bolster the body’s natural healing abilities. Meanwhile, Ayurveda is a holistic healing system that promotes good health by balancing the elements that represent functions in the body.
Both approaches offer practical ways for people to boost their immune system. Homeopathic medication focuses on building basic cellular immunity, making it an ideal prophylactic against COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Ayurvedic practices emphasize regular routines for self-care with three key points: drinking warm water throughout the day, daily meditation for 30 minutes, and the use of turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garlic in cooking.
  • Serious Concerns Over Mental Health

The pandemic has gone beyond affecting physical health alone— mental health has also become part of the crisis. These concerns amidst the outbreak include fear, stress, and anxiety over one’s health and the health of loved ones, the uncertainty of the future given current circumstances, and even loneliness and isolation due to lockdowns and other restrictive public health measures.
In light of this, the new normal will see a rise in demand for mental health care, especially ones that are available through a virtual consultation. Analysts at Forrester estimate that there will be a total of 138 million mental health visits in 2021, amounting to around 31% of all virtual care visits in the year.
  • Migration of Fitness Activities to Digital Platforms

The demand for fitness activities remains high, especially now in the face of the virus. Despite the easing of lockdowns and other constraints on public establishments, it may take a while before people’s confidence in public hygiene returns. Instead, the internet has become a new space for fitness and well-being.
Digital platforms have enabled gyms, workout coaches, and other fitness professionals to bridge the gap while physical spaces remain a health risk. Live online classes are held via Zoom or livestream, while tutorials and guides for self-learning can be uploaded on YouTube or the gym’s website.
In line with these platforms, DIY fitness activities that can be done from the safety of one’s home are set to rise in popularity.
  • Possibility of Mandatory Health Passes

As non-essential travel bans are relaxed, traveling in the new normal is made safe through varying requirements to guarantee that travelers are COVID-free. However, the lack of uniform requirements and possibilities of human error and fraud make it difficult to keep travel safe.
Digital health passes have become a viable solution to this problem. A digital health pass is used to document a traveler’s COVID-19 status electronically for both airlines and border officials to properly screen travelers. These health passes are overseen by legitimate organizations that operate under stringent measures to ensure the legitimacy of the information.
In October, United Airlines began its trial for CommonPass—a digital health pass backed by nonprofit organization CommonTrust Network. Following the success of this trial, JetBlue, Lufthansa, Swiss International Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic plan to roll out their own CommonPass.
Other versions of digital health documentation—like AOKpass and the IATA Travel Pass—are currently in development for use in the upcoming year. It can be expected that future air travel will incorporate these health passes into mandatory travel requirements.
Meanwhile, certain cities and provinces in the Philippines require travel passes that include a medical certificate and a negative test result for its citizens and tourists to be allowed entry.
  • More Health-Conscious and Safe Work Environments

Businesses across industries worldwide were greatly interrupted by the pandemic and the health and safety measures enacted to prevent its spread. This prompted companies to rapidly shift to a remote work model to remain operational at the height of the outbreak.
As the health and safety measures are relaxed, the question remains, how can companies bring back employees safely? Workplaces will need to elevate their health consciousness to ensure the safety of onsite operations for employees in the new normal.
This includes transforming the physical space to ensure proper social distancing, more rigorous cleaning and disinfection of shared and high-traffic areas, and stringent symptom screening and contact tracing. Additional measures to reduce contact with customers and third parties will also be necessary.
In addition to these measures, employee benefits like health and support programs should undergo major overhauls. These changes are necessary to accommodate the current health risks, provide solutions for new and emerging ones (such as mental health), and account for the shift to full-time or part-time remote work.
  • Schools Will Focus on Remote or Blended Learning

Schools will offer blended or purely online courses, which is in line with the government’s mandate to protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education across all levels, and to take the appropriate actions to make it accessible to all while ensuring the health and safety of students and teachers. To achieve this, schools can adopt one or a combination of delivery modalities, depending on the local community’s health condition, the availability of resources, and the specific context of students in the learning institution.
Face-to-face, distance learning, blended learning, and homeschooling are the trends expected to address the challenges posed by the current status quo. The learning environment may be entirely different, but with the right mindset we can respond to this new normal with optimism and relatively positive results.
  • Reframed Perspective of Healthcare Workers

Even before the pandemic, healthcare workers have played a vital role in providing medical care and treatments to the public. Now more than ever, health professionals have become critical in protecting and saving countless lives from the threat of COVID-19. Aside from frontline work, doctors continue to be in high demand for teleconsultation and other forms of virtual care.
In the new normal, both the public and private health sectors need to reexamine every aspect of healthcare work. Operating with a skeletal workforce, acquisition of personal protective equipment (PPE), and procedures for efficiently and safely screening and treating patients with infectious diseases need to be put into new perspectives to further improve the system and prevent the obstacles caused by the pandemic.
There may also be a shift in the public’s perspective of healthcare work and health professionals. The level of risk that frontliners faced at the height of the pandemic, as well as those who succumbed to the virus, may create an impression of danger that the profession may previously not have.

Stay Ahead of Your Health

As the world moves towards a post-COVID-19 future, it is clear that many aspects of daily living and health care are forever changed. Life in the new normal greatly impacted how people view health care and health professionals and how they maintain their own physical and mental health.
Take the first steps towards a healthier future by reaching out to Makati Medical Center for any health issues regarding COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.