The coronavirus is a horrible crisis for humankind, causing an unprecedented impact on the global economy and taking lives around the world. For a number of people, the impact of COVID-19 will be felt for many years.
But in spite of the despair, it has been a catalyst for improvement in several areas. Here are 8 things that have changed for the better.
For those of us who have the privilege to retain our jobs, coronavirus has succeeded in expanding the realm of what’s possible with remote work where countless initiatives have failed. Companies have had to swiftly embrace a remote work environment for their employees. Those that had traditionally rejected the idea are finding out that it is not only possible but often beneficial for both sides. No commute, schedule flexibility and efficient video calls all make the home office a great alternative to the regular office environment.
A country such as Germany, often known for its economic leadership, has for years been lagging behind its neighbours in providing digital infrastructure. After just one month of the coronavirus, Germany had made more progress towards e-governance than at any other time in the past. All of a sudden, it is possible to send in applications via email (the days of the carrier pigeon are waning). Applications are being processed in record time and without any of the traditional bureaucracy. Universities have implemented remote teaching via video conferencing; therapists offer digital therapy sessions to their patients; paying by card has become the rule, not the exception. If coronavirus has taught us anything, it is that digital innovation is a matter of will, not skill.
The last few weeks have shown us the importance of thoughtful decision-making in politics. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is not known for her rousing speeches, however it is this sense of calm that is much needed in times of crisis. Other politicians, such as Jacinda Ardern, Tsai Ing-wen, Moon Jae-in, Sanna Marin and Lee Hsien Loong, have handled the crisis with equal skill. The results of their actions speak for themselves.
Social distancing, super spreader, asymptomatic, serology and viral load — a couple months ago, these terms were unlikely to ring a bell with most people. Media coverage of every aspect of the pandemic has resulted in increased medical and epidemiological knowledge in the general population. People have learned to properly wash their hands while singing along to make sure they hit the 20-second mark. We now sneeze into our elbows, not our palms. We have stopped shaking hands, embracing alternative ways, like the elbow bump, to greet each other. And almost everybody now understands the need to practise social distancing.
Coronavirus has put the global economy in a situation unknown to almost anyone alive today. With the introduction of lockdowns, many parts of our economy have ceased to exist overnight. While businesses are suffering and the long-term ramifications are not yet clear, we have also witnessed how people have come together. Professionals share tips on how to work from home; free workshops are held to enable companies to cope with new challenges; hackathons bring together a diverse set of individuals working towards a common goal; business partners show leniency in helping each other stay afloat. Companies give away their products for free, donate face masks to medical personnel, or shift their focus to help with the production of much-needed goods. Indubitably, the economy has moved closer together.
Many words have been written, said, and screamed over the last few years about how our societies are becoming increasingly divided. What coronavirus has showed us is that we still share common values, despite any political and cultural differences. People have moved closer together, paradoxically, while adhering to the rules of social distancing. Neighbours are helping each other, young people go grocery shopping for the elderly, and there seems to be less bickering and general recalcitrance. Life has slowed down. People are in less of a rush, more polite, and respectfully keep their distance. The majority of people are abiding by the rules and staying at home because they understand that this is a crisis only a societal effort can solve.
For those social distancing or under lockdown, the long hours spent at home are not just about isolation. We are also re-discovering an appreciation for the things we take for granted, such as spending time with our loved ones, travelling, or going out to a restaurant. Much has been written about rising levels of depression in Western Europe and North America as a result of no longer having to face any real problems in life. The past has shown that a crisis, especially a deadly virus, can lead to an increased appreciation for life among the survivors. Such a crisis shows us that there are far more pressing challenges than, for example, the local Starbucks running out of soy milk.
The time we used to spend outside the house can now be dedicated to self-improvement. People are taking up new crafts, like sewing, painting or dancing. They are learning to code, design or write. People are reading books they never had time for. Millions have taken up online workout sessions to stay in shape. We have understood that there is more to life than just being bored at home. And when this crisis is over, we will emerge better than we were going in.