A silver lining?

Azza Radwan Sedky
Tuesday 31 Mar 2020

Could there be a positive side to the Covid-19 pandemic, asks Azza Radwan Sedky

As billions of people worldwide remain under lockdown, and as the media render horror stories the norm with staggering numbers of human beings testing positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus, we have to, for the sake of our mental health and emotional well-being, search for a positive cushioning to all this. 

Every dark and ominous cloud has a silver lining, does it not? So, will any good come out of this drastic pandemic of the Covid-19 coronavirus?

As we weather the impact of Covid-19, we will see some fundamental changes occur in the world around us. Undeniably, many negative outcomes will follow, but some good will occur after Covid-19 subsides. Black Swan events, being unpredictable events with monumental ramifications such as World War II, the arrival of the computer, or the rise of the World Wide Web and the Internet, have expansive trajectories. 

According to an article in the magazine The Entrepreneur, Covid-19 will fuel innovation and change as previous crises did. After the world financial crisis of 2008, the companies “Airbnb and Uber shot up in popularity… as the subprime crises meant lower savings and income for the masses, forcing people to share assets in the form of spare rooms and car rides in order to cover for the deficit.” Covid-19 may inadvertently contribute to atypical changes, too. 

First, some changes are already occurring as we speak. We have become more appreciative of those whom we perhaps never appreciated before. Grocery store workers, delivery guys, cashiers, cleaners and truck drivers are now more valuable than athletes and film stars. Of course, the most appreciated are the healthcare workers that have proven to be the second victims of the virus after the elderly. It is time to value those whom we have taken for granted for too long. 

Covid-19 has also hit the cream of society in actors and actresses, royal family members, professional athletes and politicians. This is making us realise that neither affluence nor fame can safeguard anyone against testing positive for the virus and that maybe appreciating the good, simple things of life is by far more valuable than what money can buy. 

As malls and entertainment outlets close worldwide, we are learning to live together in small spaces and enjoy one another’s company. In Egypt, too, as much of the country shutters down after 7 pm every evening, it is to be hoped that we will adapt to an earlier-to-bed and earlier-to-rise rhythm, something that many in the past have fought against tooth and nail.  

As the pandemic hits all corners of the globe and desperation reigns, every lab and scientific institution in the world is mobilising its efforts and working around the clock to find a vaccine or treatment for the virus. To avoid the same scenario occurring in the future, we must do better: we must be prepared ahead of time by facilitating research and providing more financial resources to science. 

Professor Richard B Kennedy, a consultant at the Department of Internal Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in the US, told Al-Ahram Weekly that “we learned a lot about immune responses to coronaviruses during the SARS and MERS outbreaks in 2003 and 2012, respectively.” We should learn even more from the current new coronavirus pandemic.

As we stay inside, we become more appreciative of the available technology, a godsend totally unheard of even a few decades ago. This provides us with access to one another via various apps, to information that is relayed immediately, and, last but not least, to amusement like never before. 

Virtual Broadway shows are free of charge, and the musician Omar Khayrat gave Egyptians and Arabs alike a performance like no other as part of the “Stay at Home” initiative. Publishers are offering free eBooks. Tours of museums, galleries and major festivals are going online. Master chefs are offering cooking lessons online, even if they are not for free. And to keep fit, many fitness gurus are providing online workouts. 

As medical clinics remain closed, doctors and physiotherapists are making virtual visits. Via Telehealth, a remote healthcare technology, virtual clinics and video conferencing, patients can carry on with treatment plans, talk to doctors and get prescriptions filled. I had a virtual visit with my family doctor today, for example. I made an appointment, and she called at the set time. We chatted about several medical issues, I got my prescription filled, and we said goodbye. She will send the prescription to the pharmacy.

Delivery has always been a great feature of Egypt, even if less common in other parts of the world. Today, many pharmacies around the world are delivering prescriptions, and many closed-down restaurants are delivering, too. Grocery stores and food-delivery companies can deliver goods to one’s doorstep. In the long run, we will all want to be out and about; but delivery, especially for the elderly, will remain a good thing.  

We have come to realise that physical presence is not as vital as we once thought. Working from home is acceptable, encouraged and less demanding on traffic and air quality. 

The most rewarding matter about Covid-19 is that the Earth is now at a level of cleanliness it hasn’t seen in decades. As we stay put and hold off plane flights and daily commutes in congested buses and trains that emit greenhouse gases, the Earth is breathing a sigh of relief.  

According to the BBC, “as industries, transport networks and businesses have closed down, it has brought a sudden drop in carbon emissions.” China saw a major decline in carbon emissions and improved air quality during the pandemic. Emissions will rebound after Covid-19, but it is still a wake-up call like no other and one that we must take into future consideration. 

As a footnote to all this, some fear the end of the world as we know it, or even our becoming an endangered species. However, we aren’t dinosaurs, which grew to be many metres long but still had brains the size of limes. The human brain, on the other hand, is one of nature’s most intricate creations, and we have utilised it in splendid ways that will protect us in the long run. 

We will get through this, and this too shall pass. 

The writer is the author of Cairo Rewind on the First Two Years of Egypt’s Revolution, 2011-2013.


*A version of this article appears in print in the  2 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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