A few months in, reflecting on the pandemic we can see that many have described it as a global war. And it may continue to feel that way as we hide not from invading armies but a virus.
But COVID-19 isn’t a war. Yes, it’s a health emergency and many will experience uncertainty and hardship. But our cities and homes are safe from destruction. There is plentiful food in the shops. And we don’t need to go into battle – for most of us, we just need to stay at home. However many months this takes, we will get through this.
Front-line health workers put their own health at risk and family needs second for the greater good. Across the world, we’ve seen acts of kindness with friends and neighbours offering help to those more vulnerable.
Above all, many of us who live in countries where businesses had to shut down, are doing our bit to help keep everyone safe as they reopen under strict social distancing rules. We might be unhappy at not being able to take our international holiday this year or attend a major event but we’re (mostly) complying with directives to “stay home as much as possible” and “remain physically distanced” or “wear a mask”.
We’re prepared to make these small sacrifices (and others) because we know it’s for the common good. And just as in a time of war, we’re improvising, taking more control over our lives and returning to familiar rituals.
Regaining a link to the past
It’s also worth remembering that many Western countries have experienced decades of peace and prosperity. Older people, however, will remember World War Two and its aftereffects.
Baby Boomers, too, might recall food shortages and hardship in the immediate post-war years, and heard stories from parents who lived through it.
And many immigrants originate from wartorn countries and places with pressured healthcare systems and limited opportunity.
Perhaps, then, what many of us will take from this experience is newfound resilience and appreciation for everyday life – things that those who have experienced true hardship already know.
Looking for the positives in COVID-19
Everyone is worried about what the future will look like.
COVID-19 may be a terrible virus, but our response to it doesn’t need to be. Humans are incredibly adaptable, and while this pandemic is scary, it’s also an opportunity to take stock in a way that we can’t when we are rushing between appointments, work and the shops.
Pressing the pause button
With our previous routines still in upheaval, people have rediscovered slower pleasures. Gardening, even on a window ledge. Quiet walks, early nights, baking bread, reading books, listening to music.
We finally have time to get in touch with old friends, family and colleagues. We also have the opportunity to learn new technology as we set up WhatsApp groups and Zoom parties, and work from home.
Another thing that social distancing has done is emphasise that we are social creatures. People have come together using the internet, TikTok, funny memes and even online fitness classes to laugh, support each other and remind us that this strange time will pass.
As one meme said, it’s as if we’ve been sent to our rooms to ‘think’ after decades of too much frenzied-activity. While there was a sense of intense shared grief at thousands of lives were lost around the globe, there’s also a newfound appreciation of the health of our family and friends.
There’s was also a renewed appreciation for those who were separating themselves from their families and putting their own lives at risk in order to save their patients. As we heard the tragic news coming out of hard-hit places such as northern Italy and New York, many of us were thinking about the health care workers and other key people who keep our towns and cities functioning. It’s a blessing that our region of the world is Oceana as we’ve been fortunate enough to keep our COVID-19 numbers low.
Focusing on the future
It’s important to look ahead and remain hopeful. Scientists are working around the clock to find a vaccine. Philanthropist Bill Gates is donating billions to build manufacturing capacity for seven possible vaccines. Even though two at the most will be developed, creating capacity for seven will save precious time and lives. The generosity and vision of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an inspiration to all of us to look for solutions and give generously when we can.
Drivers of change
Remember that while this health crisis unfolds, there is much to smile about. Historically, pandemics and wars both drive change. After World War Two, for example, women realised they wanted to join the workforce permanently, not just to fill jobs left by men going to war, transforming their own lives and those of the women who came after them. Life was different but in many ways better for many.
No one knows what the world will look like in a year from now. All we can do is stay healthy, connected and focused, so we can re-establish our ‘new normal’ and help others do the same.