It will probably take many years for the world to recover fully post COVID-19’s impact on life as we currently experience it. Like all pandemics, quite apart from sickness and death, negative ripples touch every part of society – disrupting social cohesion and the economy, thwarting the ability to generate income, initiating mental illnesses, etc. Interestingly, however, pandemics are also instrumental in generating positive side-effects, the same of which, if realised fully, can have long-lasting implications for civilisation as a whole.
Some of the major areas of life that have been impacted positively are the following:
- The environment – as a result of the inevitable lockdowns instituted by many countries to flatten the pandemic curve, many of our cities have had empty streets, a lack of people movement and less pollution. During this time, the earth seems to have embarked in a process to heal itself. Many photographs have been shared from every corner of the globe of the lifting of smog, wild animals reappearing and water pollution subsiding.
- Creativity – the need to generate an income, particularly in the light of so many losing their jobs during the pandemic, has kick-started the creative side of many people who have been really quite imaginative in finding or creating ways to earn a living. The pandemic has resulted in many new entrepreneurs coming to the fore.
- Investment in healthcare systems – trillions of dollars have been invested in upgrading health systems across the globe during the past few months. For many countries, their health systems were ailing and investment has been needed for a long time – the improvements are now welcome.
- The growth of medical knowledge and global cooperation – many governments have taken extraordinary measures to protect their citizens and support their economies. This offers the chance for any subsequent recovery to be significantly stronger than it could otherwise have been.
- New technology habits – the limitations of lockdown and the risk of catching the virus has resulted in a profound shift in consumer behaviour. People, even those who previously were challenged by some aspects of the digital world, seem to have settled into a deeper relationship with a variety of devices and applications to enable and facilitate relationships, transactions, shopping, meetings and work in general. Even school children have been accelerating their knowledge online. For adults, engaging with the economy remotely is the new normal.
- A levelling of the playing field – the virus has had an impact on reducing inequality in some areas, particularly for those who have cover for salary protection schemes. In certain circumstances, those earning low incomes have seen their pay cheques relatively more insulated than those on higher incomes.
Pandemics are instrumental in generating some positive outcomes, but these gains only become sustainable if selfishness and greed are eliminated. As we have seen with exorbitant pricing on essential items, sharks that attempt to capitalise on the pain of others, etc., much needs to change in our world if we are to learn and grow from the lessons of the pandemic.