The lockdown has given us all an opportunity to be more reflective of our lives.

It’s July 2020 already.

While we still don’t quite understand Covid-19, one thing we do know for sure is that it is not just a bad flu on steroids. The storm, which we have been anticipating since February 2020, is now upon us.

Health workers, using various social media platforms, have taken it upon themselves to inform us that hospitals are filling up. I’ve read some pretty gory descriptions about what you will be subjected to if you’re unfortunate enough to end up in an ICU facility requiring the whole nine yards of treatment. Suffice to say, it’s not funny.

Even worse is having to face up to the fact that my very expensive medical aid subscription will not guarantee me a place in a private medical facility! I can’t help thinking back to the Italian experience when the Covid-19 beast had that country by the throat.

At the height of the surge in Italy, those in the wrong demographic were simply denied access to hospital facilities. I’m talking here of the decision to exclude persons over a certain age. Thank goodness we have not reached that level yet. Although, a friend posted recently that three weeks ago, he did not know of anyone afflicted by the disease, now there’s hardly anyone he knows that does not know of someone who has tested positive or has died.

Every day is a challenge when you are socially isolated. And every day has a dreary sameness. There is a limit to the variations that you can add to your routine. In my case, I explore different routes to the local supermarket when I need to replenish. I try to mix up my exercise times and to find different running terrains. It is easy to feel that you are not doing anything constructive with your time when it is difficult to measure what you have done for the day. And yet in a flash, the months have passed by and we are in the second half of 2020.

Cast your mind back to January 2020 when we all became aware of this mysterious flu sickness that was sweeping through the Chinese city of Wuhan. When the Chinese authorities shut down the whole city, not allowing anyone to leave or enter, we shook our heads at what seemed like typical totalitarian behaviour. Little did we imagine that in just a few weeks the notion of cities shutting down would become a global reality! And with the lockdown of cities came the closing of economies.

Think about it, in April 2020, there were practically no cars on the streets of Paris, New York, Tokyo, Johannesburg or Cairo. If anyone had suggested such a phenomenon to us in December of 2019, we would have openly laughed at that person. Now we are witnessing the biggest social experiment in the history of mankind. The entire world population is being instructed to follow the same regulations. In 2019, the notion of physical distancing was not even in our vocabulary. Imagine telling adults that they should wash their hands frequently and in fact, how they ought to do it.

The shutdown has given us all an opportunity to be more reflective of our lives. For some, the opportunity to give and to share has been spiritually uplifting. Now is the time to empty your wardrobes of all the stuff you no longer use. There are many people who are less fortunate who would appreciate the clothes you no longer wear.

During the early days, we were all enthusiastically preparing for, what, nobody knew. We went out, and in line with people in Australia and the US, we bought up as much toilet paper as we could find. Stores quickly ran out of hand sanitisers as shoppers stockpiled.

With gyms closed, I thought I’d get some weights and a bench so that I can at least do some resistance training. Imagine my surprise when I could find neither at the many sports shops that I visited. Who would have thought that we actually import most of our gym hardware from China? I was told that because the ports were closed, the next shipments were only expected in July/August 2020.

I was very amused by the rural Italian mayors who were chastising the women in the villages who bemoaned the closure of the beauty salons until I couldn’t wait, three months later, to have a haircut.

In February 2020, we all agreed that the world would never be the same again, now we hanker after the old days and complain that our rights are being infringed upon by all the regulations. The ban on the sale of cigarettes has angered many of us even when we know that smoking is unhealthy. We debate the need to wear face masks even when most of us agree that wearing a face mask is the right thing to do. We miss the freedom of going to a pub or meeting our friends. Social isolation goes against our nature and so it’s another burden imposed upon us by the pandemic. What is clear is that the pandemic is going to be with us for a while yet. We have to step up and confront the situation in front of us. This is not a time to be passive.

The shutdown has given us all an opportunity to be more reflective of our lives. For some, the opportunity to give and to share has been spiritually uplifting. Now is the time to empty your wardrobes of all the stuff you no longer use. There are many people who are less fortunate who would appreciate the clothes you no longer wear.

Cooking extra food and distributing it to those in need can be emotionally very fulfilling. I think it is because of this social awareness that we have seen the awakening of the anti-racist movement sweeping the globe. People across generations and cultures are coming together to imagine a new world.

It is also important to take special care of yourself. We know that if you are reasonably healthy, you can beat the virus. Physical exercise and getting out in the sun is good for you.

So, if you are going to socialise, try to do it outdoors. Adopting a sensible diet and building up your immune system will stand you in good stead. Try to avoid crowds and wear a face mask whenever you leave your home.

Six months later, the new normal is wash your hands, physical distancing and wear a mask. Stay at home as far as you can. We are still in this together and if we behave sensibly, we will all get through this together. DM

also published at: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-07-07-the-covid-19-storm-is-upon-us/