COVID: Let’s take stock!
In the words of the late US President, Abraham Lincoln, “a nation that does not honour its heroes will not long endure.” These words of Lincoln ring true today, even several years after his death. Heroes are rare, very rare indeed, because it takes a lot to be courageous, outstanding in your achievements, or develop the noble qualities that make you a standout performer in a given situation- a hero. So, of course, if we do not honour our heroes how would we encourage others to become heroes? So it is necessary to always say “thank you” to heroes in a special way.
In fact, for the reason that heroes deserve special commendation, I was happy to see frontline health workers and others, who played critical roles in the fight against COVID-19 when it was at its peak, given a national award on Tuesday, March 14. They played various roles, some frontline, and others behind the scene, to ensure that we controlled the spread of the virus somewhat- and also provided case-management support to those who got infected with the virus.
It was good to see them on a grand stage, indeed, because globally several humanitarian awards have been instituted to recognise the work of the gallant men and women who stood in the gap, when COVID-19 threatened, and brought back smiles to the faces of millions in the world. The recognition, in the global sense, will go a long way to motivate all of us to do more, should the next pandemic threaten.
Significantly, the COVID-19 pandemic has redefined a whole lot in this world. We see an aftermath of a new economic territory, a new approach to business processes and a new dimension in work/life balance. This one-in-a -hundred-year health and economic crisis has brought a shift in global development too. The economic territory has become less and less familiar and despite some bullish sentiments in recent times about post-COVID recovery efforts, we are still not in normal times and cannot do things the “usual” way.
One key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic is that you can’t be prepared enough when you are threatened by a virus that assumes grand pandemic proportions. The other lesson has to do with the paradigm shift that we are experiencing, the new territory in which we find ourselves, which requires a new set of thinking by all economic agents. Technology, for example, has transformed consumer behaviour in the past few years, even though the footprint dates back to more than 25 years ago, but during the peak of the pandemic, its transformational power became more evident to be ignored. Institutions that had failed to adopt technology in their operational processes got into serious mess with their operational activities.
As I indicated in the February 4, edition, my lessons from the pandemic is a lesson in globalisation. “We all saw how economic squeeze from one end of the globe could, literally, directly affect other parts of it too. Today, the effects of globalisation are no longer felt by humans alone. Birds and sea life, for example, equally suffer when the attendant problems of globalisation create a spill-over effect. Past cases associated with oil exploration and accidents remind us all of how connected the world is; you may be exploring for oil in Alaska but an accident there can be felt in almost every sea in the world. And the COVID-19 is a reminder that a safer world is for the benefit of all, and not just a few”, I wrote in that edition.
When on January 30, 2020 the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared COVID-19 public health emergency of international/global concern, and in that same year, on March 11, declared it a pandemic, many were still in denial. I remember, vividly, how some jurisdictions had even refused to adopt the containment measures that had been announced by WHO and largely supported by other scientists.
Today, the evidence on the ground does not suggest anything fake about COVID-19 at all. It is real, and still remains a global health emergency but at a “transition point”.
“Other lessons are worth mentioning also. And one that l would like to stress on is that you shouldn’t be easily moved by some of the things that you hear of or see happening around you because you may not have the capacity to fully understand the clash of energy that is releasing that kind of results. Yes, the world is full of both positive and negative energy, and the movement of all these forces create results- good or bad. Do you think volcanoes just erupt? Or that hurricane just happens?
The undercurrents, in both hurricanes and volcanoes, may not be visible to the eye, but may “push and shove” for years until the fault lines emerge and then we all become aware of the anger below. Even with these two, set out as examples, we have the capacity to manage and deal with the situation as humans. The pandemic has affected every part of our social and economic life, even causing countries that hitherto had shown economic resilience to fall into recession. Australia is a case in point, as it experienced its first recession in 30 years. But that does not mean that we should be in a state of despair”, I wrote in the December 11, 2021 edition.
Upon reflection, l have come to realise that it is difficult to always find situations that are completely different- out of this world. No, the world is too mature to give birth to virgin problems! Even natural disasters have history and patterns, warnings and expected behavioural changes that can help address the problems in the first place. You will always find similarities with situations of the past if you follow or study the trend. In fact, these are words l have used before in this column and bears repeating to drum home my point.
I am not really a fan of hero-worshiping but on this occasion let me be over the moon, with admiration, for the gallant men and women who stood firm and fought hard against the spread of the virus. We shall fully overcome this obstacle too!