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Coronavirus aftermath to herald new era: Expert

Daily life, social structure, state-society relations to see major change due to outbreak, says Turkish sociologist

Fahri Aksut   | 16.04.2020
Coronavirus aftermath to herald new era: Expert

ANKARA 

The novel coronavirus outbreak has widely changed the perceptions and demands of many people, and thus, nothing can be the same, said a Turkish sociologist.

In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency, Yusuf Adiguzel, the Dean of the Communication Faculty at Sakarya University in northwestern Turkey, said the outbreak had deeply impacted the social structure.

Adiguzel said daily life, society and governments would face major changes in the post-coronavirus world.

Daily life

Stressing that social isolation and quarantine conditions had mental impacts, Adiguzel said continually sitting indoors and following news on the global pandemic could cause psychological problems such as personality disorders, anxiety and paranoia.

Even family members often avoid each other due to increasing distrust in society, he said.

"I expect that people will start to meet each other more sparingly after the outbreak and they will pay more attention to social distance than before," he said.

According to Adiguzel, after a long period of social isolation and quarantine, people will change their behavior, losing some habits and gaining others.n

"Daily routines will change, especially activities in spare time [...] People will concede that daily life can fit into the house", he said.

Adiguzel stressed that after the outbreak subsides, people will try to return to their old habits, only to find they are unable to enjoy them as much as before.

"The habit of social distancing, the decreasing desire for old activities and the desire to spend more time at home will push people to loneliness and individuality," he said.

Social structure

Adiguzel warned that the effects of the pandemic risked further revealing and deepening class differences that were already prevalent in society.

"While calls to 'stay at home' were made due to the pandemic, this call was mostly for white-collar workers able to work from home. Those who work in labor-intensive jobs had to keep working wearing masks to keep the economy running and to make distance working more comfortable for white-collar workers," he said.

Thus, such calls to stay home were not taken kindly by such workers, added Adiguzel.

He underlined that many who had to keep working did so for others who could stay at home. However, they were accused of negligence and carelessness.

"For those staying at home to go on living comfortably, e-commerce and shipping firms, as well as home delivery workers, had to keep distributing daily consumer goods seamlessly," he said.

Adiguzel argued that for all these reasons, blue-collar workers have become more conscious of class differences and their position in the eyes of their white-collar counterparts.

State-society relations

Underlining the weakness of many governments in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak, Adiguzel said the relationship between states and their respective societies would have to change and that the expectations of societies from their states would need to be reinterpreted.

"Due to the outbreak, capitalist and neo-liberal policies have been shaken, and the need for the social welfare state has been made more evident," he said.

According to Adiguzel, the coronavirus spread faster in countries with weak social safety nets and healthcare systems.

In countries with "extremely expensive" healthcare systems, many with low incomes were unable to seek medical attention, allowing the virus to spread across society "without distinguishing between rich or poor," he said.

Adiguzel said the inadequacy of the existing system pushed people to question the existing order, their lives and their desires.

"People understood that a healthy life is more important than class differences, career and wealth," he said.

He added that for all these reasons, people increasingly need a social welfare state to safeguard public health and order.

Adiguzel also noted that outbreaks could not remain local in a global world.

"If countries want to fight outbreaks, they must act together and help each other," he said.

As long as "poor countries" are unable to overcome pandemics, the threat of future outbreaks will remain.

Turkey's effort

Underscoring the ability of Turkey's social security and healthcare systems, Adiguzel said one of Turkey's greatest successes was its health sector with two decades of major government investment.

"Turkey is very lucky to have quality health services accessible for everyone," he said, adding that the country was able to uphold public order because its social security and healthcare systems protected public health and safety.

Adiguzel underlined governments' need for social scientists as much as doctors during the outbreak to overcome the social effects of the pandemic on society.

He said Turkey "took the lead in the world" by recently establishing its Coronavirus Social Sciences Board to investigate and reduce the sociological and psychological effects of the pandemic on society.

"It is crucial that we take measures to prevent potential social and psychological problems both now, as we bear the brunt of the virus, and in the post-coronavirus era," he said.

Adiguzel stressed that preventing diseases was easier than curing them and that social scientists could avert possible outbreaks and social problems by raising awareness or formulating action plans.

"A committee that includes social scientists, especially sociologists and psychologists, can facilitate public administration and help society out of this traumatic situation," he said.

Despite all these measures, nothing can be the same anymore, he added.

Global situation

After originating in Wuhan, China last December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 185 countries and regions across the world, with its epicenter shifting to Europe and the U.S., while China has largely come out of the crisis.

More than 2 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll at more than 137,000 and nearly 517,000 recoveries, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the rising number of cases, most people who get infected suffer only mild symptoms and make a recovery.

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