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Coronavirus Ireland: 10 ways our lives will change forever

Hefty State powers enacted by TDs remind us how much coronavirus has changed things. But this virus will pass, leaving even more fundamental changes, which will remain. John Downing lists 10 big changes - from working at home to the use of cash - that will outlast this crisis

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Hefty State powers enacted by TDs remind us how much coronavirus has changed things. But this virus will pass, leaving even more fundamental changes, which will remain (Victoria Jones/PA)

Hefty State powers enacted by TDs remind us how much coronavirus has changed things. But this virus will pass, leaving even more fundamental changes, which will remain (Victoria Jones/PA)

COVETED: A man passes graffiti on a Berlin wall showing ‘Lord of the Rings’ character Gollum with a toilet roll and a speech bubble reading “My Precious”. Photo: Reuters

COVETED: A man passes graffiti on a Berlin wall showing ‘Lord of the Rings’ character Gollum with a toilet roll and a speech bubble reading “My Precious”. Photo: Reuters

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Hefty State powers enacted by TDs remind us how much coronavirus has changed things. But this virus will pass, leaving even more fundamental changes, which will remain (Victoria Jones/PA)

1. People are central - In times of economic boom and later bust, the mirror was held up to the Irish nation and many of the images were ugly. Early selfish behaviour in this crisis, shown in panic stockpiling, has happily abated.

The many growing manifestations of human decency don't have to vanish after the crisis. It's up to us. And that principle applies to the durability of all potential changes.

2. Family and friends

By extension, people have rallied to one another via family, friends and neighbours. The scramble to get loved ones home from overseas was an eloquent reminder of what really counts. We can demand that societal structures reflect and reinforce this. If enough of us want it strongly enough, we cannot be denied.

3. Health and housing reforms

Before coronavirus the realisation of major changes in these two sectors were widely accepted. Those homeless or poorly housed are now very vulnerable. Our health workers are on the brink. This crisis is teaching longer-term lessons. We must take them on board.

4. Working from home will expand

Again, this trend was happening anyway. The need to reduce contact via work gave the trend towards working from home a major fillip. These changes will require new legislation giving more protections for both employers and workers. It must not become an excuse for increased casualisation of work.

5. Universal minimum income provision

This was talked about by "dangerous radicals" for some 20 years. The need to support workers left instantly without income because of the crisis brought the issue centre stage. The value of a safety net for all must be weighed against the risk of diminishing the incentive to work.

6. Need for Government and international action

These ideas were deeply unfashionable in the era of Trump and the rhetoric, as opposed to the practice, of Boris Johnson. This crisis reminded us we need strong co-ordinated action. "Big government" is no longer a dirty word - and we need more European Union co-operation.

7. False Information

Irresponsible and often anonymous people gain access to international communication facilities. They can then spread utterly false material which can seriously damage many of us. This crisis eloquently tells us about our need for responsible news providers. We urgently need to reassert news standards upholding truth.

8. Our fragile civilisation

Prolonged snow storms and flooding have given us glimpses of how flimsy our way of life really is. This crisis is a larger-scale and longer-term lesson on the fragility of our civilisation. We are reminded that - despite the boors - we need education, knowledge and expertise. We also need teachers at every level.

9. Cash and pubs

The move from cash to card will be boosted. Despite government support and public goodwill, many established businesses may not survive. The Irish pub trade - a unique phenomenon for better and worse - was in trouble before this. For many publicans this could be the last straw.

10. Environmental issues

Last but never least is the environmental crisis, which has been put on hold by coronavirus. Pollution levels and carbon emissions will seriously reduce. After the crisis, things could well slope back to previous destructive levels. But it does not have to happen.

Irish Independent