I decided that moping around the house is pointless. Every situation has more than one side. So, let’s try and be upbeat and look at the positive side to this coronavirus shutdown.
For starters, the lockdown has made some of us more health conscious. Suddenly we are talking about what is good to strengthen the immune system, promising to exercise regularly and to eat properly. I was taken completely by surprise when I realized how many birds I have in my garden. It’s been fun trying to identify the different birds and noticing which ones are frequent visitors and who are the occasional passersby. In lockdown, I appreciate how quiet it all becomes at dusk. And when it’s not raining, the Joburg evening sky is a palette to delight the latent poet in you.
I think the environmental argument has been won. We can see the evidence of what the results are if we just, for a few weeks, cut down on the carbon emissions from fossil fuels. I enjoy the photographs that people are posting on social media showing the clear skies as they once more see the horizon. I like how we are all pulling together on this one. Covid-19 has encouraged us to reach out to family and friends. It is the realization that we are all in this together that enhances the sense of social cohesion, which before now, was just one of those airy-fairy terms bandied about by politicians. Now it has meaning.
In the internet of things everything is connected, from your computer to your smartphone and everything in between. Communications and connectivity is everything.
What the coronavirus pandemic has reminded us, with great emphasis, is how all humans are organically inter-connected. A few years ago, to illustrate this point, we used to say that the little turbulence created by a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon jungle results in a storm by the time that turbulence gathers momentum and reaches Japan. Well, now we accept that someone’s dietary choices in a city in China may just have resulted in one of the worse pandemics the world has known.
Similarly, we now believe that someone (and it could have been anyone) returning from a holiday in Europe carried the germ into the country that has the potential not only to cause havoc in our health management services but to destroy what’s left of our already fragile economy. And in order to contain the impact or the devastation, we are all asked to play our part. This means adhering to the lockdown protocols as well as washing our hands that has become part of our daily routine.
No doubt, as the lockdown period is extended, so too do our frustrations build up. Some people have questioned why their social rights are so restricted that even walking the dog, or jogging in the park, is not allowed. The abolition and restriction of alcohol and cigarettes is viewed as equally draconian by some. Barred from interacting with friends, social media chat platforms have become suitable substitutes for conversation. But we must consciously refrain from spreading unsubstantiated rumors. This just increases anxiety when we require people to be calm. Sadly, frustration can often lead to irrational behavior and expectation.
It is clear now why a viable health care system is an imperative. Why we all need to ensure that there is a proper budget allocation for health and to hold government to account for it. I now understand how my health is strongly interlinked with that of my family, and with that of the people I work with and to the same degree to the health of the people who I randomly come in touch with as we navigate through our everyday lives. The pandemic has emphasized how our lives are all intertwined. When all of this is over, and we go to the shops, will we remember that we referred to the shop assistants as “essential workers” while we were ensconced in our homes and that they ran the risk of contracting the virus everyday as the made their way to work and while they were at work.
I am having these thoughts so that I don’t overthink my worst fears which were sparked off when we heard about the “food riots” in Cape Town. Simply put, some neighborhood stores were looted by a mob of hungry people. Naturally the police had the responsibility to calm the situation down. And it seems that our police force has not changed much over the last 25 years, so many people were injured in the process. What we also know, is that no amount of repression is going to discourage a mob. It’s the neighborhood store today and maybe it’s the supermarket tomorrow. How do we intervene? Remember that the virus has already taught us that we are all in this together.
I’ve observed how some of my friends lament the fact that so many people in the poorer communities are ignoring the social distancing requirements and are saying that unless something is done, and done soon, the virus will spread like wildfire in the poorer communities and then we are all stuffed. Maybe now is the time to step back a bit and maybe for the first time really think about the situation that the vast majority of our people find themselves in. It is not possible to self-isolate in an overcrowded house or in a shack. There is no WiFi or internet to entertain and alleviate the boredom. The only place, in those conditions, to remain sane, is on the street outside. And now, after three weeks of not being allowed to go to work, those who had jobs no longer have money to buy food and they join those who never had food in the first place. What are people meant to do? What can I do to show my solidarity? How can I concretise the notion that we are all in this together.
Be aware that people who can barely afford not to go to work have been forced into the lockdown so that all of us collectively can be safe. Now is the time to empathize with those less fortunate. Let’s remember how the germ was imported into the country in the first place. Try to find out if there are any NGO’s or community based organisations in your area that need assistance. Contributing food hampers will go a long way to relieve the stress. And if you can put together a food hamper, remember to put in some articles for hygiene, like bars of soap or/ and sanitizers.
I was horrified to receive an invitation to a post lockdown braai. We need to educate our families and friends that the lockdown was an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus. The lockdown is not the cure. Remind each other and ourselves that the virus is spread from person to person. We need to inculcate everything that we have learnt over the past few months. We need to understand and accept that our world will never be the same again. Social distancing will be the norm. We will learn how to socialize in a safe way. We will find different ways to do our work
As the experts are reminding us, the bad days of Covid-19 are still ahead of us. If we are going to stand any chance of surviving the scourge then we must all play our part in whichever small way that we can. We need to stick to the basics. If, and when, we are allowed to move around freely in public again, let’s maintain social distancing, keep on washing our hands and exercise tolerance and understanding.
Remember, we are all in this together. Together we will emerge on the other side.
By Nick Jacobs