The international community's perception of Covid-19 is currently at a crossroads. Some consider the virus still resides and continues to mutate by giving rise to dangerous new variants. Others think the Covid-19 pandemic is over. As a result of these two views, paradoxes arise everywhere. In Denmark, for example, the government lifted all social restrictions regarding the Corona virus since February 2022. In fact, at the same time, the country of 5.8 million people is experiencing between 40,000 and 50,000 new Covid-19 infections per day. The Danish government believes a massive vaccination effort will make it possible to tackle new variants of the virus.
Denmark's decision was followed by France which also lifted restrictions on the Corona virus, including the requirement to wear masks outdoors. Audience capacity limits for concert halls, sport activities and other events were also removed. This policy is also considered paradoxical because at the same time this country has just reported a new record of Covid-19 infections. The paradox reached its peak when a health minister in one of the EU countries stated that: "This virus is not over, but the restrictions are over."
The euphoria of the end of Covid-19 also occurred in many other countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Australia and, of course, Indonesia. They no longer focus on implementing various social restrictions but instead increasing vaccinations and doing relaxation. Saudi Arabia, for example, has relaxed by no longer requiring migrants to undergo quarantine upon arrival. Passengers also no longer need to show the results of the PCR test upon their arrival. The rules for social distancing in all mosques were also ended, but worshipers still have to wear masks.
In Indonesia, the Covid-19 variant is also still spreading, but social restrictions have been relaxed. Students have returned to face-to-face learning at school, after two years they were confined at home and had to study online or LFH (learn from home). Offices have reopened. The workers have worked 100% WFO (work from office), after two years of WFH (work from home).
Indonesia is one of the most successful countries in dealing with the spread of Covid-19. Indonesian President Joko Widodo implemented a dynamic policy in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic according to the latest situation by implementing a "gas and brake policy" to maintain a balance between health and economic interests. No less than the United Nation (UN) considers that Indonesia is a very important UN partner country because it has taught the world about disaster risk reduction efforts.
Some Indonesians feel that they are at the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, and are entering the post-pandemic era. This situation was greeted with joy and expression of freedom seen in entertainment venues, tourist sites, shopping centers, to cafes that were re-opened. The culmination is a festival known as Citayam Fashion Week (CFW). This is a suburban youth fashion show in the elite Sudirman area, Jakarta. They waddled on the zebra cross like the models who were in action on the catwalk.
The teenagers are actually young people who are worried about their uncertain future. They come from poor families. They drop out of school. Roy, one of the stars of CFW, was once offered a scholarship by the Indonesian Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy, but he turned it down because he thought the school would only delay him looking for money for his family. Instead of studying at school, Roy prefers to create content that makes money.
Social media content such as Youtube or Tiktok is something that was not imagined as a commercial work by generations before Roy. And there are million others of "Roy" out there who are victims of Covid-19. The office where their parents worked went bankrupt. They had to quit school. Their future only depends on "content", as a product of digital technology.
The world has indeed changed, and the two most important changes today are Covid-19 and digital technology. Had there been no digital technology we could not have imagined how Covid-19 would have impacted our lives. Thanks to digital technology, activities during the Covid-19 lockdown period can still be carried out through online work and online learning policies.
Covid-19 has forced us to do activities based on digital technology. Most activities can still be carried out. At the same time waste in electricity and internet usage in offices can be reduced. Traffic jams can also be reduced to a minimum. Online seminars and conferences have shown amazing progress because they can be “attended” by participants across city and state borders.
Many ongoing trends in the global environment are accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which gave birth to digital behaviors such as WFH, LFH, telemedicine, teleshopping, delivery services, etc. If such a lifestyle can be maintained and continued, then this is the so-called post-pandemic society. On a global scale, this will accelerate the realization of a post-pandemic world as a new awareness in viewing the earth and life on it.
No more traffic jams in the world's major cities; no more wasted fuel oil, no more pollution that endangers health, no more wasted time and energy on the roads that make us tired, even stressed. Our earth is becoming cleaner. Our life becomes healthier.
In addition, digital technology provides an opportunity for anyone to earn money and become famous. In the past, the glittering stage of entertainment was only owned by celebrities, but now everyone can become a celebrity. So, the dreams of marginalized people like Roy and friends that we described above are actually not wrong. They are children of the digital age. Their future depends on mastering digital technology.
The pros and cons of Covid-19 are still ongoing, but some people have already celebrated its passing. Unfortunately, the activities and lifestyles that emerged after Covid-19 actually returned to the pre-covid-19 era. The so-called post-pandemic society has not actually been formed. While the international community began to rejoice, a Russian-Ukrainian conflict emerged. And now monkeypox has also appeared in the United States and other countries.
Regardless, we acknowledge that Covid-19 has managed to change the world. Our lives are not the same anymore. We want to break the past, and prepare for the future with optimism. As a great nation, Indonesia must remain active in world forums to share experiences with the world on handling Covid-19 and call for peace, as President Jokowi continues to do. Now is the time for the government, private sector, academics and stake holders to sit down together and formulate a post-pandemic society policy direction, so that the lessons learned by Covid-19 have a positive impact on our lives.