Sat | Mar 28, 2020

Garth A. Rattray | Life after COVID-19

Published:Monday | March 23, 2020 | 12:13 AM

Whenever I’m going through extremely difficult physical and/or emotional times, I focus on the ‘afterwards’. I put my thoughts on what happens after the pain and suffering. Given our current situation, I find myself thinking about life after COVID-19 because, eventually, there’ll be a vaccine and herd immunity to protect many people and the suffering and deaths will become bad memories.

There are several facets to ‘life after COVID-19’. Perhaps, first and foremost is the scary fact that other coronaviruses will pop up and invade humankind. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, will certainly not be the last of its kind. It is not the deadliest of the coronaviruses. Other recent diseases like SARS and MERS were deadlier, but this novel virus is the most infectious, so far. Since we know how these trans-species viruses begin, the international community, the World Health Organization in particular, must insist that countries across the globe put into place monitoring mechanisms to search out and stop the practices that allow those deadly viruses to jump from one specie to another.

And we must also insist that tests be developed to check captured wild animals for the presence of coronaviruses so that they may be liberated back into their natural habitator, and, if needs be, destroyed. The nearby human population should also be tested to see if they have already contracted diseases from those animals. To date, in spite of all our knowledge, we have not been proactive enough in stopping the coronaviruses at their source.

This pandemic has made us realise that we are far closer than we might believe. To have a virus spread like wildfire from a single source in a faraway land is simply amazing. Although not many of us will ever go to the city of Wuhan in China, the city of Wuhan has come to us. Viruses do not need passports or visas to travel across the globe; all they need are human hosts. Globalisation and cultural interdependence are admirable things, but they come at a price. We sometimes share much more than we bargained for, with potentially deadly consequences.

COVID-19 has taught us that we are often very complacent about our personal hygiene habits. I’ve had to go out in the public for several essentials and every single time, without fail, some idiot near to me has coughed or sneezed (without covering up)! Old (bad) habits die hard and new (good) habits are very difficult to cultivate. However, as they say, practice makes perfect. We must practise good hygiene habits everywhere and all the time, until they become a permanent part of us. They will protect us and others from malevolent germs.

I remember when home computers made their debut. We were promised that they would make life a lot easier for us. But they lied to us. On the contrary, home computers allowed our work to follow us everywhere, even into the sanctuary of our homes and bedrooms. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us realise that everyone does not have to commute to work, school or to have meetings. Pandemic or not, home computers should be used to telecommute within countries, and even between countries. This practice will save many man-hours, fuel, wear and tear on vehicles, and reduce exhaust pollution significantly. It’s healthier to use the time to do some form of exercise than to be (literally) sitting in traffic for hours.

As corny as it may seem to some, this pandemic has forced us to think about the welfare of others because their health impacts our health. It has forced us to see how dependent we are on one another. I hope that we will go forward smarter and more sensitive to the welfare of others.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com.