Koon Yew Yin 2 Apr 2021
Due to Covid 19 pandemic, I could not attend Mr P S Maniam’s funeral today. He is my old friend. He is 3 years older than I. He passed away at the age of 91 years old. He was a student, a teacher and retired as the Head Master of ACS, Ipoh.
2020 will be remembered in history as the year of the coronavirus pandemic. It has easily been one of the worst pandemic humanity faced in nearly 100 years, causing irreparable damage and mental scars that might never fade.
While I am writing this article, 130 million people have contacted the coronavirus and 2.83 million people have died in the world. Covid-19 virus continues to spread in different parts of the world. Every day about 13,000 people die, that means about 10 people die of Coronavirus every minute of the day.
It goes without saying tha the coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives, perhaps forever. The little virus has had an adverse effect on almost all parts of our life – from work and recreation to even simple day-to-day activities like grocery shopping and walking freely in the park. Today, we will look at the many different ways the Covid-19 pandemic transformed our lives.
1. Adapting to a new normal
It almost seems like a lifetime ago when we would travel freely, visit restaurants, go to the movies, attend sports or music events, and hug our loved ones without any fear. The coronavirus pandemic changed all that within a few weeks. So much so, that even going to the nearby grocery store felt unnerving. Soon enough, the world began adjusting to this new way of life. It was the “new normal” and it’s likely to be the way forward for some time to come even though the vaccines against the virus have arrived.
Dining has mostly shifted to outdoors only, waiting rooms have almost become non-existent, large gatherings and events are still banned, traveling for leisure have taken a backseat, and even going to the gym requires a reservation. Moreover, the way we work and the spaces we work in have changed since the coronavirus pandemic. How long will this new normal remain a part of our life is anybody’s guess. But we are all adapting to it and finding new ways to find happiness in our own little ways. Hopefully, we would have all learned something valuable from this experience.
2. Dealing with anxiety and depression
The coronavirus pandemic has taken a severe mental toll on people across the world. As most of us were forced to stay indoors for a large part of last year, cases of anxiety and depression peaked. In fact, according to a report from Good Rx (an American healthcare company), prescription fills for depression and anxiety drugs reached an all-time high in 2020. “Living through a stressful situation, such as financial insecurity, family upheaval, trauma, loss, or of course, the current COVID-19 pandemic can certainly be a trigger for worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety. For folks already managing their anxiety and/or depression, life stressors can tip the balance from healthy functioning to poor mental health,” says Sasha Guttentag, Ph.D., a research scientist at Good Rx. Indeed, all of these factors combined have caused an immense mental strain on people. Social isolation, particularly, has had a terrible impact on seniors. School and university closures have made students constantly worried about their future. Then there’s the fear of the disease itself as well. Everyone has their own way of dealing with anxiety, stress, and depression but given that this pandemic is expected to last for a while, it’s important that we start taking steps towards that as we head forward. Start by seeking social support and talking openly about your grievances with your loved ones.
3. Rumours and myths
Rumour-mongers have had a field day throughout the coronavirus pandemic. From hoax coronavirus cures like killing the virus with a blow dryer or by drinking bleach to spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine (like how it can alter your DNA), the flurry of rumours just refuses to stop. What doesn’t help is that we are living in an age of Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp, where false information travels like wildfire. Unfortunately, such rumours can have serious consequences as well. A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene revealed that the pandemic has caused more than 2,000 rumours, conspiracy theories, and reports of discrimination. The researchers of the study also found that Covid-19 related rumours were connected with hundreds of deaths and an even greater number of hospitalizations. As different countries of the world are gearing up for mass vaccination drives, expect plenty more erroneous information to be floated around related to the vaccine and its supposed side effects throughout this year and maybe more. It’s important hence to be mature about this and trust only verified sources before believing any information of sensitive nature.
4. Learning new words and phrases
One of the few good things that happened during the coronavirus pandemic is that many new words and phrases entered our vocabulary. “Social distancing” is perhaps the most important word we learned in 2020. It made us aware that maintaining at least 6 feet of space between yourself and the next person is so very important.
Then there was “flatten the curve”, which is described as “a visual display of the onset of illness among cases associated with an outbreak” by the CDC.
Before the pandemic began, most of us were also not aware of words and terms such as: Asymptomatic: “presenting no symptoms of disease. ”Aerosols: “a suspension of fine solid or liquid particles in gas.” Community spread: “when someone gets the virus without any known contact with a sick person”. Incubation period: “the period between the infection of an individual by a pathogen and the manifestation of the illness or disease it causes.” PPE: “personal protective equipment worn to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses.”
5. Living with masks
By now, we are all well aware of the importance of wearing masks to protect ourselves from the coronavirus. In the initial days of the outbreak, medical or surgical masks were in short supply and people resorted to wearing homemade masks. In the days to follow, as we were made aware of the benefits of wearing even cloth masks, several companies came out with a variety of face masks and they have now become a crucial part of our wardrobe and our day-to-day living. Today, you can’t leave your house without putting on a mask and that is going to be the case for some time come; at least until this pandemic is completely under control. Experts have already suggested that even after getting vaccinated against Covid-19, we will have to continue following all the safety norms, including wearing our face masks.
6. Greater insistence on hygiene
The coronavirus pandemic has, in many ways, made us realize the importance of practicing good personal hygiene and disinfecting our homes regularly. Today, cleaning our hands (with soap or sanitizer) regularly to prevent the spread of the virus has become a known mantra throughout the world. Disinfecting high-traffic surfaces and keeping your home sanitized is also equally important. We have also become used to practicing coughing or sneezing etiquettes (into the crook of your arm or a disposable tissue) because of the pandemic.
While it took most of us some time to get used to these hygiene practices, they have now become an essential component of our lifestyle. And even if and when Covid-19 is eliminated, following good hygiene habits like washing your hands and disinfecting surfaces are likely to be followed as they can help prevent the spread of any illness.
7. The advent of virtual learning
One of the lesser-discussed ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic is the cloud it has cast on the future of many school children. So many schools across the world were forced shut once the pandemic began and a majority of them are yet to open for obvious reasons. Children can still act as spreaders of the disease and to control such large numbers of kids in an indoor setting will be quite a challenge. So, we still don’t know how will schools adapt in the future to this situation whenever they do open.
Virtual learning became the order of the day as children were forced to take their classes from the confines of their homes. It continued throughout last year and is likely to be followed for some time to come as there is still no certainty when schools will reopen fully. Questions also remain on how will the schools safely reopen and how many parents will allow their children to go back to schools until the situation hasn’t normalized.
For now, it looks as if virtual learning is here to stay, and is up to the schools and the parents to ensure that children don’t fall behind in learning because of it.
8. The coming of a new vaccine
As the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc everywhere last year, people desperately prayed for an effective vaccine to come to their rescue. However, back then, Covid-19 and the virus that causes it, SARS-CoV-2, were largely unknown to science. Developing a new vaccine can take years. Thankfully, however, the scientific community has done an incredible job of producing vaccines against the disease in record time.
In the next few weeks, millions of people are all set to be getting the first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine in different parts of the world. The United Kingdom has already begun its rollout for the Pfizer vaccine candidate, which has also been granted emergency use authorization from the FDA in the US. Countries like Canada, Israel, and India, among others, have also started, or are all set to begin, mass vaccination drives.
All the major vaccines currently in production have proven to be highly effective in their phase III clinical trials. More importantly, a successful vaccine against the coronavirus is absolutely critical to help control the ongoing pandemic and bring the transmission rates down.
However, scientists have made it clear that coronavirus may never be eliminated and we will all need booster vaccines for it every year, just like we take flu shots. Thus, the new Covid-19 vaccine, too, in all likelihoods, will eventually become a part of our life from now on.