COVID-19: the upsides

Somebody said to me a couple of days ago: “There is nothing happening in the world except COVID-19 – that is all there is in the news.” On a certain level they were right. It is almost the sole topic of conversation, journalism etc. Not wishing to be left out, I thought that I might share some thoughts. I endeavor to be a “glass half full” kind of person, so I starting thinking about possible upsides of the pandemic …

I am not making light of the situation. I am taking it seriously and I am appalled by selfish people who seem to feel that they do not need to modify their behavior “because I feel very well”. My message to them is: “It is not all about you!” However, although COVID-19 is very bad news in many ways, there are some upsides:

  1. With the current structure of our society across the whole world, pandemics are inevitable. We are lucky that it has taken this long for one to show up. We are really lucky that it is not something far more deadly. Imagine how it would be if this was a disease with, say, a 95% mortality rate. That is very likely to occur at some point. Our good fortune at the moment is that we are being given a live drill. We have the opportunity to learn – as individuals and as a society – how we might deal with a worse pandemic when [not if] it occurs.
  2. As many people are being asked or required to work from home, new ways to work are being explored. I was due to attend a 2-day meeting with some colleagues elsewhere this week, but we used online conferencing instead. It seemed to work OK and we are planning to have more frequent, shorter online sessions for the duration. That could even become the norm. Another example is our yoga teacher. We had our last “live” class this week. He will now provide the tuition online using video conferencing and streaming videos. I could imagine that he might even expand the business in this way when the crisis is over. I have often suggested that most problems can be reinvented as opportunities …
  3. The reduction in industrial activity and travel is already having a very measurable [indeed visible from space] positive effect on the pollution levels in many parts of the world. This shows that maybe the planet could heal itself if we started to change the way we behave. Maybe it will encourage more people to support environmental campaigns.
  4. Stock markets world-wide have taken a big knock. I checked my pension pots and some stock-based savings and I was quite shocked – in a month they reduced by an amount that is about equal to a year’s pay! This sounds terrible and, if I wanted to cash them in now, it would be. However, I am continuing to add to my pensions every month and, of course, my money is buying correspondingly more stock. Assuming that, in due course, the markets recover, I will be better off than I would have been without the crisis. Now that is an upside!

There are facets of people’s behavior during this crisis that show their good or bad side. A positive observation is various people actively reaching out to friends and neighbors – particularly elderly and vulnerable – to offer help if/when it is needed. There are lots of stories of people helping small businesses, who are in trouble; an example was paying a cleaner regardless of their inability to come to the house. On the negative side, the panic buying of numerous products [toilet rolls being the most widely discussed example] is illogical, pointless and downright selfish. Also, in the UK I hear about people avoiding Chinese take-aways, which are normally very popular; I fear that this is really just a form of racism, which is despicable.

An amusing story was the reported drop in demand for the Mexican beer, Corona. This was apparently due to people being too dumb to realize that the word “corona” might have multiple meanings. It was fake news, of course.

I have a personal theory about COVID-19. There are reports that children are mostly unaffected. I think that this is because Dust is not attracted to them, which implies that COVID-19 is caused by Dust. I think that the Magisterium might be on to something! Or perhaps all this uncertainty is making my mind wander off into worlds of fantasy …

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