One of my favourite things to have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic are the memes. Dark, bitter and unforgivingly accurate. One that haunts me is this one, “Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being called to sit on your couch. You can do this.”
Easier said than done, one would think, when pictures show a city that was supposedly under lockdown, have hordes throng the beach just this Sunday before the authorities needed to turn up and shoo them off. Hoarding and panic buying is leading to fights in supermarkets, hoarders are depriving those who at the frontline of masks, sanitisers and more, and not responding quickly enough to the seriousness of the pandemic in countries like Italy, has created a humanitarian crisis with doctors being compelled to prioritise who gets treated due to an immense shortage of medical resources, ventilators and hospital beds.
Across the world, humans are isolating themselves into silos, stepping out only when needed. In Venice, the canals have become clear again and dolphin are now swimming within. In cities, people are reporting the skies noticeably clearer, the horizon visible sharper, and the air crisper now that traffic has discernibly reduced. Nature, they say, has hit the reset button although it would be a gargantuan task even for Mother Nature to reset from the damage we have caused her over the centuries. Another positive that seems to have come out of the pandemic is that people are thinking as communities again and not individuals. Housing societies are rallying together to put in place measures to contain the spread of the virus through potential community transmission. Companies and organisations are encouraging work from home. There are lessons and lessons we need to learn, and put into practice once we emerge from the blinkered isolation we must all put ourselves into through this pandemic if we are to survive this with minimal casualties. And these are lessons that would always stand us in good stead.
Here’s a list:
1> Stay focused on good hygiene. You can never go wrong with that one. Wash your hands, sanitise, keep surfaces clean. Keep your homes and surroundings clean. Use a mask when you have a cold or cough. Sneeze into a tissue and dispose of it. Teach your kids to do the same. Cleanliness, as the axiom, goes is next to godliness for a reason.
2> Stock up enough provisions to see you through at least a month of a lock down on supplies, so you don’t have to go into a panic buying spree if such a pandemic strikes again. But ensure that you are stocking as much as you need and not hoarding so that others who need it will be deprived. Remember, you aren't alone, others need provisions too. The operative word is 'enough.' Stock enough. Not excess. You can survive almost anything if you have enough rations, pulses and grains stocked. Ensure you have enough medication available for basic medical emergencies if by chance your local chemist runs out of it. Medicines to deal with fever, coughs, colds, bandages, disinfectant, anti-emetics, masks and of course, if you have a chronic condition that needs daily medication like insulin for diabetics, you must stock up for a month or two.
The operative word is 'enough.' Stock enough. Not excess. You can survive almost anything if you have enough rations, pulses and grains stocked.
3> Remote working is workable and desirable, and can help us avoid most unnecessary commuting that contributes to the pollution in our cities. Organisations need to build a trust based relationship with their employees, rather than a relationship based on assumptions of slacking off. Technology exists now and can be leveraged to maximise team interaction even if remotely spread out, this should be taken advantage of by organisations. And as we all know, 99 percent of all physical meetings are a complete waste of time and can be managed via email interactions.
4> Think as a community. We are no longer thinking as little isolated islands, but as what affects the entire community. Self-isolation on exposure even if asymptomatic is one of the ways in which people are doing their mite to avoid being transmitters of the virus. This is the attitude we need to continue and have more of. We could all do with a little more collective common sense when it comes to surviving as a community that takes its weakest and oldest with it.
5> Regularly disinfect and sanitise our surroundings. It took us a pandemic to get here, but housing complexes, public transport like airplanes and trains, public spaces are getting cleaned, disinfected and sanitised which is something we should keep up. Taking pride in our surroundings shouldn’t just extend to our homes and our front porches but our entire suburbs, cities, neighbourhood. The sense of ownership and pride that makes us keep our homes clean and tidy seems
6> Rediscover kindness. Help the elderly living in your neighbourhood with the tasks they find difficult to do—grocery shopping, bank visits, etc. Or even just visiting them to sit and chat for a while-help with them sorting their medication, and organising their meals for a week. Remember, we will all get old someday.
7> Make sustainability a lifestyle and not just a catchword. Cutting down on consumption, being conscious consumers, buying only what we need and learning to recycle and upcycle should become a way of life. We have, over the centuries, morphed into a species that has pillaged the earth to cater to our unsustainable lifestyles and we are paying the price for this hubris. High time we went back to the basics and pared down our lifestyles to keep the earth and its wellbeing at the focus. Remember, this is the only planet we have right now, there is no Plan B.
Taking pride in our surroundings shouldn’t just extend to our homes and our front porches but our entire suburbs, cities, neighbourhood.
8> As with remote working, remote learning too is doable and preferable, given how much time we spend commuting to and fro from places of study. Schools, colleges and universities could seriously explore how they can shift part of their curriculum to online modules and free up time for students to study from home at their convenience.
9> Focus on mental health. It is easy to slip into anxiety and depression in these times of panic and social isolation. Find ways and means to stay socially connected if physically isolated. We have enough technology to allow face to face interaction over various mediums, take full advantage of that. Recognise when you are heading towards depression and seek help. Let the ones around you know that you need help.
10> And last, but most important, stay informed, educate yourself on the epidemic. Have a family lockdown protocol in place in advance. Know what to do and what not to do in case of an outbreak. Keep calm and follow what the authorities are saying in case they’re recommending social isolation, self-quarantine in the event of exposure, public hygiene practices and more. Also push for accountability and information from authorities if it isn’t coming through. Speak up about what needs to be done, where you see the lacunae if you have first-hand information, and how you can help if you have the expertise. Call out fake news and misinformation, and ensure that within your circles, there is calm and no sensationalism in what is being shared. We’re all in this together, and we must all do our bit, no matter how minuscule it may seem.
Scary as the COVID-19 pandemic is, given the fatalities across the world, and its rapid spread, it is a wake-up call if anything, and what we must do, as people of this Earth, is not hit snooze.
Kiran Manral is the Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author’s own.