new normal at Shang
Roamer's Roundup

Notes on the “new normal”

The COVID-19 pandemic is something that has not been seen in human history for a very long time. With still little that is known about the virus that is causing this pandemic and a cure still not yet forthcoming, we are all still struggling to fight this unseen enemy at a great cost to our way of life, our economy, and the present systems as well.

As someone who is known as “the Urban Roamer”, admittedly this pandemic really affected me profoundly. All of the sudden, I found myself being forced to stay home and unable go out as often as I used to, save for the weekly trips to the grocery (which I had to walk back and forth for the first month due to the lack of transportation in my place) and other important errands. only within a 1 to 2 kilometer radius.

For the first time, I was disconnected from the metropolis for more than a week as public transport was virtually nonexistent, which eventually became two months. Even if my area was placed on more relaxed community quarantine by the middle of May, I could not still go to Metro Manila until after the first week of June when the situation was somewhat “better” for me to make that trip after a long time.

So when the opportunity came, I took the opportunity to go and see how the metropolis is like after the strict quarantines and the measures to adapt to what is called the “new normal”, a new way of life that can hopefully prevent the spread of the disease.

For the past 3 weeks, I took a day to go to the metropolis and visited as many places I could to see how life is in the metropolis now, and here’s what I found out…

Health checks

Firstly, expect health checks and sanitizers everywhere in this new normal. Before riding public transport or entering a mall, you have to be scanned of your temperature. Some malls have some advanced tech in place to such checks. SM for instance has a thermal scanner like those found in airports. While at least in one entrance in a Robinsons mall, shoppers are directed first to a machine that scans your temperature when you stand in front of it.

Hygiene is of utmost importance as you can see personnel cleaning the premises, availability of hand sanitizers or alcohols at every entrance, or using disinfecting tools like this one below.

Also worth noting is the disabling of devices and other tech that required touch as a preventive measure.

Transportation

Public transport is being brought back in phases. The first that came back were mass transit, then the buses deployed by the government as well as rideshare services. Eventually, other buses were brought back but it was gradual. Jeepneys were back too but priority was given to the routes with a modern jeepney fleet.

Social distancing was enforced so for someone like me who’s not fond of having someone beside him when he goes on public transport, it is a blessing. There are markings which would tell where to sit or stand. In case of some modern jeepneys that I rode, physical barriers like plastic were installed as well.

While supposedly, cashless is the way to go, in my experience, the conductor still collects the fare though the jeepney opted to go for a collection box in which you either pay the exact fare or you get your change from the box. A bit of an honesty system at play in this case.

Quick note, these buses used to have a Taytay-Quiapo route but under the guidelines set up by the authorities, their new route will now be from Taytay to Gilmore, near the Gilmore Line 2 station.

I also managed to try ridesharing as well, which strictly imposed a 2-passenger limit. Plastic is put to separate the driver’s area from the passengers, and cashless transaction is strictly enforced.

Dining

For a long time since the quarantine, dine-in operations were shut down in favor of take-out and delivery options. For someone like who prefers to eat in premises, it was for a long time a bit annoying.

Fortunately, dine-in operations were beginning to be brought back early this month, though capacities were strictly controlled. Markings (barriers in some cases) were also in place to direct you where to sit.

In some restaurants, one thing I noticed is that those that used to serve plates and “silver” utensils are serving food now on disposable containers and utensils. Which is understandable as a way to prevent the spread of the virus from plates and utensils. But I have to imagine the waste they can generate.

If anything, dine-in is an opportunity to breathe a bit more freely after wearing face masks for a long while outside. And with the smaller capacity, it is more conducive as well to unwind a bit. But given the controls in place, you shouldn’t be staying long.

Shopping habits

As expected, people are no longer going to the shopping malls as much as they used to before. And if they need anything, they might be more inclined to shop online instead. Given the pervasive mall culture the Philippines has long known before, it remains to be seen how our shopping malls will be affected in the long run. While I do not expect the malls to shut down in the near future, I wonder if this may lead to some downscaling of not only future malls that may be planned but even the present ones.

For the meantime, many stores are open in this “new normal” though their operating hours have been reduced only up to 6 or 7 pm. While some shops see fewer customers now, others are experiencing a surge, though it may seem like because they are controlling the number of people coming in and out of their stores. Tech stores are some of the shops that have gained a lot customers as of late, partly due to the fact that many are working from home these days.

People are also expected to follow a certain path when going around the mall and in a few instances, these are strictly enforced.

Flow of people

As expected, there are fewer people on the streets than usual. But still, it all feels surreal walking on a weekend in the area where the malls are at when it’s usually crowded. But at the same time, seeing the sight of crowds these days can make one go a bit nervous.

This would be a good opportunity to do a photowalk of sorts. Maybe I could do that one of these days. As soon as more public transport options are available because spending on Grab most of the time can drain one’s funds.

Casualties

While some establishments are striving to adapt in the new normal, there were also stores who were so affected by the pandemic that they shut down their operations. Some may be closed temporarily but there are other that may have shut down for good. Fun Ranch in Ortigas East was a sad example. And with no certainty yet as to how long this pandemic will go on, there might be more to follow.

Coping with the changes

With the changes happening now and in the days to come, it will be tough to get used to. But if we intend this war against this pandemic, we have to get used to a new way of life in this new normal.

Hopefully, these changes will jumpstart those dreams of a better online shopping infrastructure, fintech growth, improved public transport experience, and better internet. Or maybe I’m just kidding myself there.

In any case, I can only hope that things will somehow get better and that we do not go back to square one because of COVID-19 cases piling up again.

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