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Ringing In The New Year: Fine-Tuning The New Norms

By Aidalina Binti Mahili

It is understandable that in the era of pandemic, health consciousness is steadily on the rise. It has become a primary concern for every households where health protection is key.  We have become so obsessed with keeping up with the virus, that beyond our knowledge, we subconsciously breed other fears simply because we have options not to address them. Our news feed is bursting with fancy infographics of new cases, new clusters which subsequently followed by imposition of CMCO and MCO. Then came the public service announcement of roadblocks, travel bans, test and fly, mass screening, limited business operations. What we used to look forward to months ago have somewhat turned into predictable reporting, apparently people starting not to care.

Businesses need to run, bills need to be paid, mouths need to be fed, and naturally we the social beings need to move and borders need to be reopened. We have seen the perils and upshots from social deprivation, where for some it was a dark place to be. We have reduced our idée fixeto the number of positive cases every day, turning a blind eye on what these numbers actually represent.

Now what do we do with information such as 99.9% survival rates of COVID19 infection among people who are under 70 with non-comorbid illness? Does that mean we are getting better at diagnosing and medicating the infected? Absolutely and we should be ready riding the upcoming wave by fine-tuning our measures, not establishing a stricter one; reads – quarantine. That is just taking a backward step, if not many, many steps.  

Our fascination with this chasing game with the virus will only backfire. They will haunt us back in the form of irreparable damage of poverty and unemployment. Fear but not paranoid. Concern but not consumed to locking the number to zero. We can never be ahead of the virus. At this point of time, its invisibility is still in dominance.

What concerns us most is we are living in denial, holding on to positive thinking when in reality, things are barrelling downhill. It’s been about 10 months since the pandemic took away our normalcy. We, whether we acknowledge it or not, are exhausted body, mind and soul. The urge for resilience and patience could be toxic. What started off as a joke in the beginning of this pandemic, about human being caged and animals flee freely, reclaiming the mother nature to its pristine being, now is on us. The effect begins showing, poverty, psychological side effect, domestic abuse and other illness due to inactivity. While aiming to eradicate the disease, we often overlooked, while flattening this curve, other graphs are inversely proportional. We cannot be more oblivious  to the fact that this is no land of milk and honey, thus we should stop measures that may drown us the people, hence the recovery stage of MCO. We adapt and keep on educating; we should prioritise keeping the green zones safe.

We do not make it safer by continuously locking people up and expect no retaliation, instead we train ourselves to live with the virus, hence practicing the new norms, establishing mask wearing and clean hands as our first defence. These might be baby steps but at least we are moving forward. Since the beginning of time human by nature are social creatures. The moment we need to rephrase social to physical distancing was the moment it is easier said than done. Social / Physical distancing is difficult simply because its contrary to human nature. We connect, interact, talk and touch in order to function. Our emotional and psychological dependence on each other makes being isolated, even for the sake of public health benefit of “flattening the curve,” feel miserable. At the end, is zeroing the case (in the midst of screening) possible?

Excessive movement controls or uncalled-for impositions will only disproportionately harm the underprivileged. They benefit nothing yet suffer more in this arena of fighting COVID19 in the long run. How far can a person endure being isolated, forced to comply with unjustifiable SOPs and at the end of the day being punished when there is a spike of case? Exactly for how long do we need to repeat this destructive cycle, because its cruelly unfair to attain to only single goal (of flattening the curve) while neglecting others in the name of public health.

At this point after almost a year of managing the pandemic, we should already be equipped with enough data to come up with alternate mechanism and emulate the best practices from other countries on how to manage the pandemic at optimum level.

When it has become more unbearable, there should be a way to quell the anxiety that sucks on every realm of our lives. Another aspect to keep our sanity intact, is to watch over our media (social and mainstream) intake. Government do what they should do, to keep the citizen informed. The art of communication strategic should take place whether it is to remind us, to scare us or to keep us calm. As the media exposure increases so does the people’s distress. Thus, it boils down to our wisdom to find a fine line between being informed, sensationalized and overwhelmed by the bottomless pit of information.

How much longer we can sustain until we break while waiting for the vaccines to take over? How many phases of MCO do we need to go through to really hit ZERO? And how many episodes of revivals business need to keep up in order to sustain the loss? We have lost so much, beyond comprehend. Building up requires a lot of work.

Finally, we have arrived to the least harmless decision, to put economic revival and public health on the same page. Striking a balance between life and livelihood doesn’t mean channelling the same amount of effort to both aspects but to tune to a fine frequency between these two. It means, toggling between these three aspects:  the uncertain surrounding of how long the recession will be and how quickly the economy can bounce back, stimulus packages by the government and how strong is the community empowerment and resilience towards adapting to the new norms. Alas, finding a fine tune among these three shall be our ongoing tasks until it is taken over by the vaccines. Eradicating the disease is only possible with vaccination.

** The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of M-Update