by Nadeem Qadir;
Man-made or not, COVID-19 can be fatal in some cases. Most likely such a health disaster will not take charge of human lives in another 100 years or so and possibly the world will be ready with vaccines for any similar attack.
Its nature being very contagious has pushed human lives to an extreme as lockdown for weeks have become unbearable for people around the world. There has been protests in the United States of America against continued lockdowns as livelihoods have been hard-hit.
Psychological problems have creeped in with tempers running high and cases of depression are now common, according to health officials.
Despite such negatives brought upon by COVID-19, the disease has taught us many lessons and pushed us back to some old forgotten rituals.
It has made the internet the core of our daily lives. Those who had ignored the use of internet for one reason or the other, used it sparingly or resorted to seek information only are now surviving on the internet.
Thanks to the digitalisation of Bangladesh under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the spread of connectivity in the remote areas of this South Asian country has helped people as well as the state in a big way.
If we look at social distancing, we find efforts do so even at the top levels of the government to our educational system.
The prime minister has been holding important official meeting from her official Ganabhaban residence, televisions are organising talk shows and students are getting lessons by using internet-based video-conferences among others.
Usually a VVIP movement in Dhaka’s congested streets means a nightmare for commuters, but if the practice continues it will be a blessing for all concerned. It will mean less traffic chaos, less consumption of fuel, lesser number of unwelcome lobbyists and sycophants, less wastage of valuable time. Air polluted by vehicle emissions will also come down significantly.
If educational institutions limit real time classes and engage in video conferencing that will be another forward step in ensuring less movement of people and vehicles. There may be many other similar instances.
The prime minister should give it a serious thought to cope with major challenges in improving city life.
It has given time for all to be with their families, especially for working couples who hardly meet their children leading to problems like drug addiction and psychiatric problems. Staying home, helps to do more work than at office as there is no distraction.
Lesser people in office means lesser need for space, lesser cost of utility services and lesser cases of human behavioural disorders like misunderstandings that come along with day-to-day activities. The workplace becomes more pleasant. Being isolated gives us the chance to concentrate in whatever we do and also to reflect back.
Businesses have to rethink how they operate to ensure social distancing, which means more of e-commerce and shops will have to have more space instead of being crammed with all that is in stock.
Retailers in Britain who have been shut for more than five weeks are making detailed preparations to allow customers back through the door in an era of compulsory social distancing, while larger stores are expected to use security staff to marshal queues during busy periods, according to reports.
Fashion designers are busy with stylish masks and gloves as the use of these health accessories are here to stay for a long time.
American fashion designer Jillian Ann Durgin, who is the CEO and Creative Director of RITUAL Fashion, told this author recently “we have been making face masks since 2013 and in 2016. I designed fashion with it built in for festivals, riding my motorbikes or travelling.
“If anything, I hope this is a wake-up call to treat people as anything other than equals and not treating them as family and as part of us needs to end. We have invested everything into our collectives so that our tailors can afford medical, school, savings accounts, homes, bikes, cars and we made a choice not to lay anyone off but to trust we would be ok, because for me as the owner laying them off would mean I would send them to face sufferings,” she said, making a point for Bangladesh’s situation of garment workers.
Jillian added “I would rather borrow money as the CEO and owner than to cause sufferings to those who create things that allows me to make money. That choice turned out to be the correct one.”
Many stores are likely to introduce one-way systems inside their stores and allocate separate exits and entrances to help maintain two-metre distancing between customers. Surfaces such as payment terminals and handrails will be regularly wiped and disinfected, British media reports said.
The readymade garment sector will be forced to ensure their factories are healthy for the workers, who have no respect as far as recent examples of undertaking cruel journeys to save their jobs, is ensured compulsorily and monitored by concerned authorities.
The cost of regular treatment in hospitals will fall and that money can be diverted to improve our fragile health sector as has been proved during the ongoing COVID-19 attack. Hospitals from the Upazila level must be equipped in a way that those can save patients needing emergency treatment.
That will help us save lives like that of the young boy who had to be rushed to Dhaka for special treatment, but the ambulance carrying him was stuck for hours at a ferry terminal. He is no more in the newspapers or news portals, but his loved ones live in eternal pain of losing him as he had the chance of surviving had it not been the delay at the ferry terminal.
Road transports have come to a standstill due to the lockdown. Thus we have not had any news of people getting killed in road crashes meaning many valuable lives are saved. Heavy vehicles made the highways a permanent death trap due to speeding or unskilled men on the wheels.
Thus, trains and ferries with huge network must be made popular both for carrying passengers as well as agricultural products to cut down all kinds of operational costs. That will help consumers to get their requirements at a cheaper price.
The print media have too been hard-hit as broadsheet newspaper sales have fallen dramatically due to mainly the scare that it might be a carrier of coronavirus despite repeated assurances by the Newspaper Owners’ Association of Bangladesh (NOAB).
The other reasons are in gated areas, the entry of vendors has been banned, while door-to-door delivery became impossible as many vendors left for their villages soon after the COVID-19 “holidays” started.
Thus, except for a handful of areas and government offices, delivery stopped and the habit of reading newspaper with the bed-tea has become an issue of the past. If the online version, which is mostly available after 12:00am, strikes a happy bonding with clients who were used to reading hard copies of newspapers, then that will be a major change that the owners will have to focus on.
In many parts of the world, including Bangladesh, the online version has been getting popular even before the health crisis hit the world. Some charge before a reader can open its web and go through the news and others have kept it free, at least for now.
Britain’s The Guardian newspaper seeks donation and such a practice is getting more common every day.
The contents of television channels are being scrutinised because locked at home has forced many to watch TV, at least to get local updates on coronavirus.
Thus, until TV stations churn out programmes and news which has to have new dimensions as well as out of the box, rating will fall genuinely, not the ratings made available to advertisers.
Weeklies or fortnightlies too have to change their contents and go online like the Dhaka Courier and Energy & Power magazines.
The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” appeal also has many dimensions which if one looks closely the revamping of nature. The hugely trampled Cox’s Bazar beach is seeing a development of new greenery with reported return of dolphins who were scared away by humans.
The lakes and rivers are having greater breeding of fish because the factories are not pumping wastes for over one-month, while the air breathes much fresher that has helped plants to grow faster than usual during the spring season.
Yes, staying stuck up at home gives a feeling of being in prison, but humans are known to be able to adjust to surroundings even if difficult at the initial stage. But the doors are open when one wants to venture out and thus cannot be very bad.
We must learn the lessons COVID-19 is teaching us or are we going to plunge back into our old habits that has harmed us more than doing good.
On a personal level, we cannot even hug our loved ones. Indeed, it is momentary, but on a positive note it is increasing the yearning to hug. It is multiplying our feelings for our loved ones and when the day comes to hug, one can be sure those will not only be a long one but one of life’s most memorable one.
Love takes the world around and is the balm for our pain and sorrow. Moments of joy are also hugging each other. But now COVID-19 is saying either no to love or that we took love granted.
“My dreams these days are about my husband falling out of love with me … “I love you, I say. Do you still love me? I understand that this is my mind resting on the only real thing it knows outside of itself: love. Without it, life is just ‘doing time,’” writes Ottesha Moshfehg, the author of “My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018).”
COVID-19 has brought back most importantly the value of love. Giving love and being loved as families are hurdled up in their homes. Let us try to hold onto that love, if nothing else when the virus becomes a past — hopefully sooner than later.