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A look at what the future holds for us all post-Covid

Derry News business columnist John McGowan examines what life will be like in one year's time

PEACE BRIDGE DERRY

It's a hard station to find something positive to write about.

At this moment in time, Derry is the epicentre of Covid-19 and businesses are feeling the brunt of the lockdown measures that have been implemented to slow down the spread.

If I wear my business owner hat, it's just awful.

It was just so hard to try and get going again and when you thought it was starting to pick up things deteriorated quickly and your back at square one without the furlough safety net.

It's a bit like the famous movie Jaws when they thought they killed the shark and everyone got back into the water.

Everyone was shouting "get out of the water" at the screen in the Rialto in Derry.

I have that same sort of feeling at this moment in time.

Hopefully, the UK Chancellor will do something on the furlough scheme for local lockdowns. At least the last time there was some support to help pay staff.

If I wear the Enterprise Manager hat then it's fair to say most of our effort is now spent supporting and helping local SMEs ride this crisis out.

With most businesses under pressure many are turning to banks for support and every bank wants some sort of plan for the next 12 months.

It's a brave consultant who would plot a cashflow for a business within the hospitality sector and put his shirt on the financial projections. It's easier to nail jelly to a wall.

This week, however, I will attempt to cheer us all up and to do that I will fire up the De Lorean and go forward 12 months to October 2021.

In true Marty McFly style from Back to the Future I will try to project how I see society and the economy in exactly 12 months.

I heard someone say the other day that maybe this is the new norm and we need to get used to it. I agree that in the short term we have to change our behaviour but normality as we knew will return.

So, what do I base my theory on?

Well the last huge pandemic was the Spanish flu if 1918.

It actually started in the US and many believe Patient Zero was treated at Camp Funston in Fort Riley Kansas on March 11th 1918.

It then swept throughout the world killing between 17- 50m people and infecting another 500m.

It actually affected younger people more than older people which is quite different from Covid-19. Roughly half of all those who died were men and women in their 20s and 30s.

The measures employed 100 years ago to slow the spread bear a striking resemblance to what we are doing now.

Shops and businesses shut down and people were forced to wear masks or pay a hefty fine. I suppose they didn’t have Stephen Nolan running about shouting at people for not wearing a mask

By the summer of 1919 the Spanish flu pandemic had mostly came to an end.

Although it continued to be a threat into 1920, evidence shows fewer people were dying.

The reasons for this vary. Some believe a certain level of immunity was built up by the sheer numbers of people who got infected. Others believe it became less lethal with each wave.

It's worth mentioning that the strand of flu from 1918 didn't disappear and is found in many other flu viruses we fight today.

The Spanish Flu outbreak lasted approximately 16 months so by October 2021 Covid-19 will have been around 22 months if you consider the first outbreak was in December 2019 in Wuhan.

Some believe Covid-19 was around much sooner than that.

I'm no virologist but I really don't see the huge disruption we now have to our daily lives existing 12 calendar months from now. I believe we are now going through a second wave with much greater numbers being infected.

So far, the loss of life has been less than the first wave which may be due to the fact that many more younger people are primarily catching Covid-19 this time around.

I also believe we are nearing a vaccination for Covid-19 or a least some cocktail of drugs which will reduce the severity of the infection.

So, based on previous pandemics the next six months are likely to be crucial in beating Covid-19.

I am pretty sure by October 2021 we will be standing somewhere watching a gig or our favourite football team.

Social distancing will be relaxed and it will be safe to fly again and take that weekend break.

Universities will return to normal teaching and confidence will quickly return to the High Street.

You will be safely sitting in the Bowling Alley with the kids enjoying a day out or taking in a movie.

Halloween planning will be in full swing for the best Halloween ever celebrated in Derry.

Lots of people laid off during 2020 will find many job opportunities will open up and I can see a surge in people looking to start their own business.

House sales will surge as confidence returns and people don't see a bleak future.

This will encourage house building and employment in construction.

I really think the second half of 2021 will be great, leading to a really big 2022 in economic terms.

Even factoring in a bad Brexit much of the growth will be fuelled by the service sector.

With a good Brexit the bounce would be even greater.

After the Spanish flu pandemic ended in 1919/20 people actually partied across Europe as a celebration to the end of the war but also to reconnect to the freedoms the pandemic robbed them of.

I really believe post Covid-19 the desire to reconnect with the things we often took for granted will drive economic activity and the bounce will be huge.

Some sectors which have reconfigured during Covid-19 and changed up their working models may not return to their old way of working and large employers may continue to offer remote or home working if it suits both the employer and the employee.

So, businesses who are out there suffering really have to hang in there.

We might have a third or even a fourth lockdown but it's clear on past pandemics that this will pass.

I honestly believe we are in the last bad six months of it with a three month slow climb out to normality.

I am trying to be both positive and realistic in this assessment but I suppose I'm an optimist by nature.

So, business folk let's try and stay in the game and stay positive.

Don't let the naysayers bring you down.

Post Covid-19 let's hope austerity isn't redeployed and that Covid-19 debt forgiveness might come on the agenda for forward-thinking governments.

In the meantime, wear a mask, wash your hands and practice social distancing.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email editor@derrynews.net or editor@derrypost.com at any time.


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