New normal: How far is safe enough?

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Reuters

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 1 Jul 2020

Credit: Samuel Granados

Project description:

As the pandemic has reshaped our lives, an enduring effect is how we use and move through public spaces. Parks, restaurants, theatres all pose hazards for virus transmission, and governments are setting out new restrictions to make these places safer.

How big a change that is from our normal routine, though, can vary, even within the same country as personal space can differ depending on age or culture.

Reuters took a deep look into the science, research and data that experts were considering when designing the policies that will determine the new normal.

Impact reached:

More than half a year later and we are still wrestling with how the “new normal” will unfold.  Though many countries eased some restrictions we are still constantly negotiating what is and isn’t safe in each interaction, and each move through a public space. 


The data, research and information in “The new normal” is just as important in negotiating each of these daily interactions now as it was in the first days emerging from lockdown. The piece remains an excellent primer on how the disease spreads, what conditions may elevate risk and ways in which societal interactions may need to be rethought.

Techniques/technologies used:

Adobe Illustrator along with light JavaScript for scroll interactions and HTML and CSS for page building. 

What was the hardest part of this project?

The COVID-19 pandemic is in some ways a very local story that happened to occur in every locality across the globe simultaneously. In the early days of lockdowns first lifting there was a rash of advice and guidelines at local levels that could be confusing, contradictory and difficult for the average person to get their head around. 


Synthesizing that advice with the science of what we knew about transmission and what was more or less dangerous at the time into a digestible and engaging piece was the biggest challenge.

What can others learn from this project?

Sometimes data doesn’t look like spreadsheets, but more like paragraphs, bulletins, laws and guidelines. As data-journalists these amorphous sets of facts can be harder to wrangle than straightforward columns of numbers. 


Organizing that data into a cogent story can be hard, but the success of this piece is in using real world situations as the narrative frame.  As you scroll through the “city” the reader is presented with situations that they will encounter in their lives, which presents the opportunity to reveal the data around each moment.

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