What will be the next new normal?

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The old and the new normal — how can we define them?

Through a long stretch of a casual pandemic kicking us where the sun doesn’t shine, Covid›19 remains five letters, a hyphen and two numbers that create a ripple of anxiety every time they’re mentioned. Recently, the Government relaxed restrictions slightly, due to official assessments that the virus had peaked and may be on the decline.

Vaccine passes are no longer mandated, outdoor gathering limits have been removed, and mask›wearing has been loosened. Businesses have begun taking their scan›in signs off their doors and are no longer asking people to pull their phones out to show they’ve had their vaccine. It feels like life could be returning back to normal — right?

The process of keeping a spare mask on the gear stick of my Corolla has become such routine.

Being without a mask in public areas doesn’t feel normal to me anymore, nor does it feel real that there is the possibility to walk around maskless in the future. Reflecting on an entire two› plus years of physical distancing, face coverings and the absence of old›school normalities, it feels like forever ago that I really felt like a human that wasn’t walking on eggshells with an omnipresent disease that has affected so many.

I think of the days back in high school where we, as students, crammed ourselves together while waiting at the canteen line to buy our lunches. It feels weird that I was that physically close to people back then. I completed my last year of high school in 2020 and have just adapted to what I thought would be a one›off, one›year kind of thing.

Now we’re all here, some of us twiddling our thumbs during our isolation periods and trying to remain calm, and some of us doing our damnedest to dodge the virus.

Freedom, although still a way away, feels surreal. It’s hard to define a new normal when I’m unsure what normal is supposed to feel like nowadays. In retrospect, life may go back to ‘‘the way it was’’, but it will be far from what things were like before Covid wrapped around our necks and held us mid›air, all the while kicking and screaming. Things won’t ever be the same as they once were.

I’m not certain what the new normal entails. From the position we are right now in, Covid is running through the South Island.

It’s questionable when we’ll have a significant decline in cases, but for now it’s just a matter of working together to adapt to whatever that elusive ‘‘new normal’’ may be.