5 positive things that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic
Humanity is going through unprecedented times. The COVID-19 pandemic is the most crucial global health emergency of this century, severely impacting millions of people around the globe. In these troubled times while we are quarantined at home , with our anxiety levels rising along with the gradient of the coronavirus curve, it might seem unusual to talk about the positive things that came out of the pandemic. However, staying positive is essential for surviving the lockdown and coping with this crisis.
Air quality has improved
India was home to 21 of the 30 most polluted cities across the globe, but recently due to the nationwide lockdown, India’s air pollution levels have plummeted. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, the air quality in the 92 cities that are being monitored have recorded minimal air pollution with air quality ranging from ‘good’ to ‘satisfactory’. Less than 6 months ago, Delhi, the fifth most polluted city in the world, was gasping for breath. Air pollution levels were ‘off the charts’ due to which schools had been shut, flights diverted and people advised to remain indoors, with several sources advising residents to wear protective masks and avoid travelling to polluted areas. The residents of Delhi are now celebrating the city’s improved air quality and weather. Jyoti Pande Lavakare, the co-founder of Indian environmental organization Care for Air, and author of upcoming book Breathing Here is Injurious To Your Health says, “I have not seen such blue skies in Delhi for the past 10 years”. Other cities like Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Bangalore have also recorded a significant drop in air pollutant levels.
The question remains, however, after the lockdown, will this development encourage citizens to prompt further change? After all, urban indian’s and the media outrage over the deadly winter pollution usually lays forgotten about in the fog of summer heat and the monsoon rains. "We don't yet have a democratic demand for clean air. Orders to clean up the air have almost always come from the courts, responding to pleas by NGOs," says Dr. Arunabha Ghosh, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water, a leading climate think tank. Nevertheless, Dr. Ghosh hopes that the experience of blue skies and fresh air could give rise to a demand for clean air in India.
Learning is no longer confined to a classroom and online learning gets its moment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online classes give students more flexibility by encompassing educational leisure with their interests. Unsurprisingly, students can also choose a learning environment that works best for their needs – allowing them to listen attentively, be productive and also promotes critical thinking. Furthermore, since students are likely to spend a lot of time by themselves without having to be bombarded with strenuous deadlines, this is a great opportunity for them to develop self-motivation, discipline and time management skills. Traditional classroom environments can hamper a child’s ability to function in the real world where there are many more distractions and obstacles. Unlike school, students’ studying space at home or professional work spaces do have pristine conditions where all the tasks are done methodically under the supervision of a teacher. Hence, online learning often requires students planning and prioritising in order to achieve their goals and deal with the distractions effectively. However, due to the digital divide many learners from less privileged backgrounds suffer from the inaccessibility of technology, the internet and electronic devices – much of which have been transformed into today’s necessities. Thankfully, many NGOs are working towards providing them with the necessary equipment so as to not deprive them of education.
As coronavirus shrinks the world, resurgent community spirit gives hope. A crowdfunding platform called Milaap has opened a window to aid daily wage workers (labourers, domestic help, taxi drivers, restaurant waiters, beauticians/hairdressers) who have been heavily affected by COVID-19. According to Milaap’s website, "This crowdfunding initiative by Milaap is to highlight citizen initiatives carried out to mitigate the economic crisis faced by vulnerable families as well as support those who are in the frontlines with the monetary resources they deserve”.
Another NGO, Give India, has started a campaign called ‘India fights Corona’ which is raising funds to supply the underprivileged with soaps, sanitizers and masks. The vulnerable and downtrodden communities in the country have little or no access to the sanitation standards. The organisation believes that in order to contain the spread of the virus and flatten the curve, an essential step is to maintain the required hygiene standards.
Furthermore, many people (Mustafa Quarishi, a photographer in Gurugram, for example) are distributing food packets from private kitchens to those who have been most severely affected by the lockdown. MCKS Food for the Hungry, Akshaya Patra Foundation and Zomato India are among the number of organisations that are working to provide food to the needy.
The outbreak of the coronavirus is affecting all countries and EU member states are determined to fight it together. Countries are supporting each other by donating essential medical equipment like ventilators and protective gear; France has donated masks, Germany has donated intensive care equipment to Italy, Luxembourg has been taking critical patients from France, while Czech Republic has donated protective suits to Italy and Spain. The world has become more interdependent than ever and international cooperation is indispensable for countries to flatten the curve and recover from this crisis.
Future pandemics are less likely to arise
Since climate change poses an increasing likelihood that we will see more epidemics in the future, it is of utmost importance that countries and companies break the cycle of neglect to effectively manage the risks. In our increasingly globalized society, coronavirus has made us realize that fighting future pandemics isn’t the sole responsibility of one country. Implementing effective solutions will require the help of leaders as well as the general population to support healthcare professionals. This has taught us that working together is key. By looking at opportunities to create shared values between the government and civil organizations, businesses can help manage the risks and impacts of outbreaks.
Due to the hindrances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, even individuals with the most optimistic outlooks may have a hard time staying positive. Staying positive in the face of the lockdown with isolation, uncertainty, fear and constant news about the virus, requires conscious effort and mindfulness. Regardless, being calm and constructive during a crisis will help us navigate through the difficulties and aid in finding our resilient selves.