COVID-19 could restore community

On my run this morning, I was jogging (some might say shuffling but whatever!) past the local primary/elementary school. It got me thinking about the nature of schools. If a vaccine for COVID-19 is not found, then will schools have to change how they work to enforce greater physical distancing. If the do, will we need to think about shifting to more schools with fewer students? And what of local libraries and community centres? The more I think about it, the more I think we could see a return to a more village-like sense of community.

As the world adapts to COVID-19 becoming part of the so-called ‘new normal’, local communities will become increasingly important. Knowing and trusting your neighbours, having trusted sources for essential items and living in a world with restricted travel means we all need to adapt.

Closing of local borders

In my home state, restrictions have been imposed on moving between certain suburbs. That means people are limited from being able to travel more than a few kilometres from their homes. That means local connections are more important than ever.

Even when those restrictions are relaxed, there will be many people who will be reticent to travel any further from home than necessary. That will mean local suppliers and services will see increased custom from their neighbours.

Reduction in international travel

I’m hearing lots of stories of items being shipped and posted from overseas being held up as customs services quarantine items to ensure they are not carrying the SARS-CoV-2 virus is not transmitted to postal staff or recipients.

Businesses are adjusting to life without international travel and heavily restricted domestic travel.

The world is returning to village life

That means the way people do business in all sorts of ways is changing. Suddenly, sourcing goods and services locally is becoming much more important.

We see this in co-working and communal workplaces. Co-working spaces aren’t new but they are evolving. Some offer living spaces with communal kitchens and laundries and even schools. People can live and work in a community, sharing resources and supporting each other.

One of the things lost as the world moved to large cities and increased urbanisation is that sense of community. How many of us know all of our neighbours? How many of us use the local library or community centres? Suddenly, these options have become more appealing as we are limited in how far we can travel.

My local park is now a hive of activity. I take my dogs to the park each day. Today, there were a dozen dogs and owners around the park. There were lots of people chatting with each other. Community was being formed around a local common interest.

In the coming weeks, the local library will open. This will be another place for local people to commune.

I’m seeing local venues get busier as physical distancing restrictions ease. And while people keep working from home, local services and facilities will become increasingly important. Many will be shared.

One thing that occurred to me as I trotted past the school this morning was the nature of schools. Will we need more, smaller schools so students can physically distance with a reduced need to travel? Will school days need to be reorganised?

We are seeing changes to workplaces with many realising they really don’t need large, fancy and expensive offices.

The more we work from home, the more important local connections will become. One of the things that’s been lost in our urbanised world has been community. More and more if us live closer together but we are increasingly isolated. But as local communities need to work together more, we may see community spirit and cooperation grow.

I can only hope.