I never thought I would be drawn to social media, but in the current climate we are like bees to a honeypot. Whilst connecting to my sister over the weekend, she asked “Do you think things will ever go back to being normal again?” If they do, it will be some time down the line.
To stop coronavirus, we will need to radically change almost everything we do and quickly: how we work, exercise, socialise, shop, manage our health, educate our children, take care of family members and worship our God. We all want things to go back to normal quickly. But what most of us now realise, is that things won’t go back to normal after a few weeks, or even a few months. Some things never will.
Over the weekend it was reported that most experts agree that every country needs to ‘flatten the curve’: impose social distancing to slow the spread of the virus so that the number of people sick at once doesn’t cause the health care system to collapse. Now I am not a medic, but it’s obvious that this means the pandemic needs to last, at a low level, until either enough people have had Covid-19 to leave most immune, or there’s a vaccine or effective hospital treatment. How long would that take, and how draconian social restrictions need to be, is not yet known. But it won’t end there, we know from other diseases, for which we have effective treatment and vaccines, breakouts can and will keep recurring without controls to contain them. At school we have a list of notifiable diseases, which when they appear in the school population we have to report, this is part of national monitoring, just in case control measures are required.
The current situation, in the short term, will be hugely damaging to businesses that rely on people coming together in large numbers: restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs, gyms, hotels, theatres, cinemas, the list goes on. If you are employed in this sector, times are very difficult. That’s to say nothing of the stresses on parents thrust into remote learning, or people trying to care for elderly relatives without exposing them to the virus. But the disruption to many, businesses and livelihoods will be impossible to manage long term. And the shut-in lifestyle just isn’t sustainable for such long periods. So how can we live in this new world? I am a great believer of the power of human creativity and spirit. Part of the answer hopefully will be better health care systems, move quickly to identify and contain outbreaks. Health care providers will have learned much from this which will help with future pandemics.
In the near term, maybe around six months, we’ll probably find awkward compromises that allows us to retain some semblance of a social life, this was hinted at over the weekend.
When we go back to some form of ‘normality’, there are so many things that I will never take for granted again. To name but a few; getting up on Monday morning going into work, knowing I will be greeted by friendly staff and students; being able to shake hands or embrace with those I meet; a trip to a cafe with family and friends; celebrating a birthday with extended family; the freedom to go wherever I please.
On Friday 27th March, Pope Francis offered an extraordinary benediction urbi et orbi — a solemn blessing from Rome to the world — from the steps of an empty St Peter’s Square which was streamed live.
During the address, Pope Francis read from a passage in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus and his disciples were struck by a sudden storm while sailing on the Sea of Galilee. In the Gospel, Jesus implores: “Peace! Be still!” The storm subsides and the disciples are saved from death.
Pope Francis explained “We have realised that we’re on the same boat, all of us fragile and disorientated but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together. Each of us in need of comforting the other.”
It dawned on me that the things I miss the most, do not have a big financial value. I have had time to pause and reflect on the things that matter. Faith, human connection and kindness, these are the things that comfort each other.