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Pandemic challenges of the new year


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El Diario Montañés and Diario de Navarra

Gerardo Castillo Ceballos

Professor at the School of Education and Psychology at the University of Navarra.

The pandemic has had a profound effect on individuals and communities, so there can be no return to the way of life of the past. Nothing will ever be the same. Covid-19 has had a strong impact on the physical and mental health of those who have suffered directly or indirectly, especially because of the isolation to which they have been subjected, resulting in a loss of psychological and social well-being. The next step is to look to the future and address the potential new pandemic challenges of 2022.

Everything indicates that the pandemic of the coronavirus and its new strains will continue, so the main challenge will be to know how to face new situations of instability, stress and uncertainty, both staff and social and occupational. "Fear of infection and basic survival instincts can significantly alter the perception we have of the other, who can be seen as an agent that generates distrust in terms of potential infection and possible spread of the virus. Images of people covered with protective masks account for the current state of apprehension" (R. Luque, advisor of the Ministry of Health).

Experience says that health measures are not enough. "Science has to be at the heart of decision making, but it cannot tell you, on its own, what decision to make. This has to be done on the basis of ethics" (Dominic Wilkinson, Professor of Medical Ethics, University of Oxford). This implies that decisions are based on ethical values: responsibility, solidarity, reciprocity, justice, compassion, respect and honesty, among others.

On the other hand, in existential crises, people tend to make a virtue out of necessity. This is the case of fortitude. This human virtue makes us overcome obstacles and be fearless, but its essence is not to overcome difficulties, but to do good whatever the cost. The main reason for the need for fortitude is the vulnerability of the human being, as is proven in pandemic situations.

Some experts in bioethics agree that in the past, medicine and science have skirted the usual ethical standards, often due to having to take hasty measures.

At status pandemic it will be increasingly necessary to use assertiveness strategies to improve communication between people. Masks and safety distances are isolating us. Once the danger has passed, we will somehow be forced to reinvent social relations. In assertive communication, problems are expressed without aggressiveness, for example, when we have to correct a subordinate at work . One of the most efficient assertiveness techniques is to "disarm" the other person first by acknowledging his or her effort, and then to express what is expected. In addition to the aforementioned future challenge of knowing how to live in instability and uncertainty, others will be added: dealing with the increase in unemployment resulting from the divide between those who can work from home and the many who cannot; remedying the educational disruption caused by the pandemic. The latter meant that some 1.6 billion students in 180 countries were unable to go to school; combating political corruption (in 2021, vaccines and covid-19 treatments were not distributed equally in some countries).

The prestigious British magazine 'The Economist' published a article graduate 'Towards a new normal 2021-2030', which makes an interesting analysis of what it considers to be the main future changes caused by the prolongation of the pandemic crisis. The likely changes that the pandemic will bring about in our way of life will be as follows: we will continue to work online from home, with more and more digital possibilities at our fingertips. This will lead to the closure of many offices, especially banks, as unnecessary; companies that do not invest in new technologies will disappear. A new technological business will be able to replace another that has been doing the same thing for many years; Education will never be the same again: it will return to the face-to-face aspect, but it will be adapted technologically, it will be hybrid. Finally, mental health will be a recurring topic .