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COVID-19: Not all-gloomy picture

SINCE the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan in 2019, there are so many ways in which society and economies have had to pay.
Some of the social costs that society has had to pay include the disruptions in social activities such as closure of schools, churches, universities and a suspension of many social activities that we hold so dear as a people.
From the economic point of view, we have seen companies close, job losses, loss of human capital (deaths) and a general reduction in economic activities whose cost we cannot easily estimate.
In as much as COVID-19 has cost Zambia and the world at large so dearly, should we just focus on the gloomy picture? The answer is a big NO because there are so many positives that we can draw at individual, community, national, continental and global levels.
For decades, money has been spent to drive an improvement in people’s personal hygiene habits but with little success as evidenced by perennial diseases such as cholera.
During the COVID-19 fight, we have witnessed a massive change in terms of people’s personal hygiene habits as well as improved community hygiene levels. The hygiene levels we are witnessing in markets, supermarkets and bus stations have never been witnessed before.  Yes, due to COVID-19, at individual and community levels, we now have a cadre of health and hygiene-conscious citizens that will outlive the pandemic.
Psychologists say that if you do anything consistently for a period of 30 days or more, it becomes a habit. Sanitising and frequent washing of hands will therefore become habitual for most Zambians
They say “necessity is the mother of innovation” and we have seen a rise in all manner of innovations that are meant to help save lives and for the human race to move forward.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have seen innovations by companies in the medical, pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical industries. These innovations include products ranging from face masks, hand sanitisers, test kits and those focused on how to drive production costs down.
Apart from innovations to do with medicines and health supplies, we have seen innovations meant to keep the social activities and the human race moving in areas such as communication, education and entertainment. During this period, we have seen a rise in the adoption of video-conferencing facilities.
We have further seen a rise in adoption of technology platforms to deliver live entertainment and education platforms electronically.
These innovations will surely outlive the pandemic and serve humanity for many years to come.
Another big positive that has been brought by the COVID-19 is that it has helped us assess our levels of preparedness and response strategies with regard to handling a pandemic or a global crisis.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, certain institutions in Government, companies or in the community were seen to be irrelevant. For example, a safety, health, environment and quality (SHEQ) officer may be seen to be irrelevant until disaster strikes.
Scientists and researchers working in the Centre for Disease Control or climate change issues may be seen to be irrelevant until there is a disaster. Investments in certain sectors such as prevention and research centres may not be a priority and you can only see their importance when disaster strikes, as is the case now.
Investing in refresher courses for different professionals is not given any priority and it becomes too late when disaster strikes.
COVID-19 has taught us investment in preventive measures, and research is key for adequate preparation and response to any crisis. These lessons will outlive the pandemic and make us better prepared for any future crisis.
One of the biggest positives coming out of the COVID-19 is that in today’s world, coopetition rather competition is still attainable.
When competitors are supposed to be rivals, we have witnessed them cooperate during this pandemic by donating for the same cause. We have shown as a people that it is possible for subordination of individual interests to the interests of the general population.
The COVID-19 pandemic has helped us discard the selfish nature of a human being encapsulated in the slogan “each one for himself and God for us all” and replace it with the three musketeers’ mantra of “All for one and one for all”.
The same coopetition that we have seen in the COVID-19 fight is what is needed to fight some of society’s pressing problems like climate change and global warming.
Challenges make us grow either at individual level or organisational level. The COVID-19 pandemic has helped us grow both at individual, community and organisational levels.
During this time, both at individual and organisation levels, companies have learnt to be resilient and innovative in order for them to stay afloat.
A review of history gives examples of so many global crises that we have faced and have managed to overcome.
The first example that comes to mind is the Spanish flu of 1918 which infected an estimated 500 million (one third of the planets population) and killed between 20 million and 50 million.
The Spanish flu is considered the deadliest flu outbreak and it was overcome through cooperation and sacrifices such as those that we are making today. The sacrifices included masking up, closure of public places, avoiding handshakes, and staying at home, to name but a few.
A second example of a global crisis that a majority of us can all relate to is the global financial crisis which took place between 2007 and 2008.
This crisis was considered the most serious financial crisis since the great depression of the 1930s. This too was overcome through togetherness and cooperation and the world emerged better and stronger.
The battle against COVID-19 continues and we can’t predict when it will end, but we can predict that we will come out of this battle stronger and better than we were before the outbreak.
It is not an all-gloomy picture because we will be better in terms of the levels of preparedness and more resilient for the next global crisis awaiting us.


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