In a way, I am rather overwhelmed by the fact that COVID-19 has overtaken every corner of life. When I see newspapers and my social media full of it, I do feel fatigue and anxiety. But on the other hand, reading about fashion and films does not appeal at all in these times either. The situation we are in is surreal, and permeates everything. No one knows what will happen, or how long it will last. We are in some scary limbo.
Sweden has about 130 cases per 1 million people (UK is 39 and US is 29), which is quite high. And the real number is probably much higher because very few countries test everyone with symptoms. So more measures are being taken every day:
- some shops have shortened working hours due to the loss of custom
- closure of small businesses due to loss of custom
- all upper secondary and tertiary education is carried out remotely
- everyone is being asked to work from home if possible
- money is being released to help small businesses
- it is being made easier to register as unemployed
- allowances are given for people who have to self-isolate
- theatres, cinemas, sports events are cancelled or postponed
- large gatherings are banned
- field hospitals are being built to cope with the large influx of patients
- several fitness chains have closed until further notice
- we are encouraged not to use public transport and there are barriers on buses to protect the drivers. You don’t need to pass them to show your ticket.
- The Swedish Parliament has pared down from 349 members to 55 for voting, to protect the democracy. That means that there will always be healthy MPs ready to step in and make decisions. This has never happened before.
Quite a few of my courses were postponed yesterday. Until after Easter, perhaps. No one knows. My work is such a huge part of who I am that it is always difficult when something outside my control affects me being able to work. And it is not about the money, although of course that is a huge factor. My income will drop. Thousands of small businesses will go bankrupt. People will lose their jobs completely, or be made temporarily redundant. There will probably be a recession.
But maybe there is good in this crisis. Being unable to work as much as normal means the pace of life has slowed. The awareness of the fragility of life means we appreciate family, love, life, health, and relationships even more. We have to walk more as we are discouraged from using public transport. So we are out in the fresh air seeing the life outside our bubble. We will probably realise that consumption (the latest phone, the latest fashion) is less important than we thought. Hopefully we make more contact with our neighbours, try and help the vulnerable by checking up on the, doing their shopping. Maybe we phone family and friends more, tell them we love them, and appreciate even more that we have them in our lives. Perhaps we try to buy from small local businesses that need a hand. We learn anew the importance of hand-washing and good hygiene. And having supplies at home to keep us going for a couple of days just in case.
And the environment will be able to take a small breather and heal as industrial production and tourism slows down. Fewer big cruise ships, flights, holidays in faraway destinations, conferences in exotic places. Fewer people are driving to work. Pollution has dropped dramatically in countries where there are lockdowns.
A week or so after the complete Italian lockdown there are now swans and dolphins in Venice’s canals!
Another consequence could be reverse globalisation. Maybe there will be a move to using local supply chains and buying produce locally. I think the market domination of China was made really clear during their lockdown so many some countries will uncouple from China and start producing locally. In terms of jobs and the local economy, it could be a really good thing.
One thing I am not so keen on myself is that this shutdown could cause a huge transfer to remote working, telecommuting and online education. It’s good for the environment, sure. But it could lead to social isolation and the loss of social dynamics that make for a good learning and working atmosphere. We do need colleagues and classmates.
And I wish people would stop stockpiling and leave enough to go around for everything.
To all my readers – stay well and let me know in the comments how you are feeling!