The positives under a global pandemic

Although we cannot change the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down, we can reorient our focus on how to possess the courage and determination to move forward. August 14, 2020
By Mathew Wong

A woman wearing a mask visits the Montmartre in Paris, France, Aug. 10, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

The horrible and devastating COVID-19 has come to our lives without any prior warning. It is undeniable that nearly all aspects of our normal lives have been turned upside down. This has been the most extraordinary year and one that continues to bring all sorts of challenges and anxiety to every one of us. Nonetheless, we do not have a crystal ball to tell us what is going to happen next.

What gets all of us through such hard and tough times is our ingenuity and adaptability in terms of responding quickly and firmly to the ever-evolving situation. There are many occasions when we feel frustrated and helpless. But it is also our strong cohesion demonstrated throughout the epidemic that allows us to find support and strength from one another.

Although we can never change the dynamic and fluctuated environment ahead of us, we can learn to embrace and live with such adversity. It is common for us to feel bitter and discouraged about it or to be inclined to complain about how bad and unfair the situation is. But we should remind ourselves that what we are facing is also the same as what other people in other places need to go through.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 is also simultaneously reminding us of the humanity and synergy that are gradually marginalizing and disappearing in this globalized era that is rife with all sorts of exclusion and division. The lesson here is that regardless of which stance we are taking, we all bear the shared vulnerability to the disease under the common humanity.

As the world enters the new-normal as reiterated by many health experts and government officials, it is time for us to reorient our focus on how to possess the courage and determination to move forward. Admittedly, it is uneasy for us not to intensify the problems and challenges we are facing. But our mind and attitude always shape the way we look at the fragile world.

First, highlight the continuous process rather than the static outcome. Recall how determined and cooperative we are. For example, we all wear face masks and avoid dining out most of the time. All these have effectively contained the spread of the disease in the last two waves. Despite the potential of sudden emergence of more worrying waves of COVID-19, we are all coming up with our own innovative strategies and supporting one another to contain the disease.

Then, celebrate our small success but not exaggerate the limitations. Although the figures are still generally high, we can begin to see a slowdown in the rise of infection statistics in recent days. For instance, daily infections fell below 100 for a few consecutive days, which is certainly a good sign of our concerted effort. We can also see more people becoming self-disciplined in maintaining personal hygiene and social distancing. Regardless of how stringent government policies are, the effectiveness of all these wide ranges of policies can never be observed if the general public is not following them strictly and carefully.

Most importantly, stay positive and optimistic all the time. No one can deny that the disease is daunting, but there must be a definite end to it. We should continue with our endeavors. It is reported that some medical experts are sent from the Chinese mainland to help assist with massive testing and set up more temporary quarantine and treatment facilities. Meanwhile, some vaccines prepared by local universities are now at the stage of clinical trials. The combined effort of everyone is crucial in such a turbulent time.

We are now situated in an angry and sorrowful community where so many of us are wounded physically and psychologically. Meanwhile, many rumors and distrust are perpetuating all of the time. Some acts of kindness seem to be missing across the community. But it is also small and random acts, such as a smile or a few lines of encouragement, that can induce a chain reaction of other kind acts and shape a better community. All these can be at any time, at any place, or even in any form that people want.

This is also another time to be thankful to all devoted frontline healthcare professionals who are risking their lives to safeguard public health, not to mention that they are also representing many families like all of us. Their selfless sacrifice deserves the highest recognition and respect from all of us. We should also be grateful to many workers who are still staying firmly in their positions and upholding their responsibilities in this challenging time to ensure our society keeps operating as much as possible.

An artist plays a grid game with a girl at the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert in Brussels, Belgium, July 15, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Due to social distancing measures, many of us have been working and staying at home most of the time. This is perhaps unbelievable at first when many people with a modern lifestyle need to slow down. But this is also a precious opportunity to think carefully about our commitments and priorities. Some time and space for deep reflection and assimilation seem to be luxurious in this era. No one will doubt that the world has entered a new normal after the COVID-19 outbreak.

These days, through shared content across various social media platforms, one can learn that some people are seizing the opportunity to try something new and unique to gear themselves up further for the future. Some people are picking up an entirely new hobby. Some people are adjusting their daily routines in accordance with the changing environment. Some are even generating new innovations to cope with the uncertainties ahead. Crisis always contains the seeds of opportunity. Without the COVID-19 epidemic, many innovations would never have emerged.

As many of us had been staying in communities of comfort and plenty before the COVID-19 outbreak, we seem to forget how precious it is to lead a normal day, such as hanging out with a large crowd of friends or chatting without wearing a face mask. There are certainly many people around the world, especially the vulnerable and underprivileged, who struggle with many adversities in their lives, not to mention further clashes brought on by the virus. As part of the larger global village, we should always try our best to contribute.

Every learning opportunity, be it big or small, presented to us throughout the COVID-19 epidemic certainly helps shape our character, strengthen our confidence and build our capacity to overcome future obstacles and struggles. These are difficult times, but they are certainly manageable. If all of us continue our devotion and hard work, the situation will definitely improve quickly. One day, when we look back on this, we will deeply appreciate the trust and support we received from one another.

Mathew Wong is an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences at the Education University of Hong Kong.

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