Three years ago today is the date attributed to the first Covid-19 case, on November 17, 2019. By March 13, 2020, there were almost 148,000 cases worldwide.
Ten days later, my life changed forever when I started to work from home because … I am still here!
I am also one of the few people still wearing a mask in public and I have not returned to my previously busy social life. I am content even though my behaviour seems to upset others, but my wearing a mask should not freak people out, as not long ago everyone was wearing them!
Looking back, it is incredible that the world shut down so quickly. Had we been forewarned of what was going to happen, nobody would believe it. Empty cities, people confined to and working from home, schools closed, and the crazy face masks made from water bottles, underwear and even cabbage leaves! No social gatherings, no sporting events, no concerts, or you would be fined.
There were food and basic necessity shortages (yes, the toilet rolls) and people avoided each other “like the plague”, which is what it felt like they could have! The 19th-century saying “not touch with a barge pole”, meaning someone was so unappealing that one would not go near them, actually became a reality.
We got into trouble for walking the wrong way in a shop or for not standing on a designated area the regulatory two metres apart. We washed our hands dozens of times a day while singing ‘happy birthday’ to ourselves … twice! How crazy this all sounds now.
A cold war developed between those who believed in the virus and those who thought it was a massive conspiracy to control mankind. Social media became a powerful tool as individuals from all walks of life became ‘statisticians’ and ‘experts’ on medical matters when before they would never have claimed to know about vaccines, virus variants, transmission rates or how to analyse the daily Covid statistics.
People became knowledgeable about medical terms and Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) with words such as social distancing, sanitizing, flattening the curve, contact tracing, transmissibility and the ‘R’ rate becoming part of their daily language. Absolute convictions were established as individuals became opinionated claiming to be right on a subject matter upon which they had no expertise and it led to many families and friends falling out.
For almost two years, children and teenagers were deprived of a normal school education and of the social interaction necessary for their well-being and I wonder about the impact on pandemic toddlers denied the usual physical contact from family and friends all of whom would have been masked in their presence. Reports of the elderly unable to have visits from their families were heart-breaking.
Whilst some individuals became resilient and found ways to entertain themselves during lockdown, for others the social isolation and psychological anxiety led to mental health issues. One good outcome was the increase in pet adoptions which helped mental health and animal rescue centres.
Suddenly, shop workers, teachers, transport personnel and, of course, medical and care professionals became key workers tasked with keeping the country going whilst the rest of the population was locked up. Furlough, which used to be when soldiers or civil servants are given a leave of absence, was imposed on ordinary people.
Thankfully we had Zoom! The word ‘zoom’ now has a new connotation. As a verb, it means to travel very quickly and it is what cats and dogs do when they run around insanely at great speed. Zoom was what photographers did for a close up shot, but now it is a communication platform, which provided an essential lifeline for businesses and families to stay connected.
It became a joke for people to attend conferences looking professionally dressed from the waist up whilst wearing their pyjamas below. Zoom saw a 370% profit increase in the last quarter of 2020, compared to 2019!
Everyone moved into bubbles. Previously known as beautiful floating soap suds pre-pandemic, bubbles became the small group of family and friends allowed to get together during lockdown.
Did you know that it was Dr Tristram Ingham, from the University of Otago in Wellington, who invented the bubble concept as a way to keep disabled people safe during the pandemic? It was adopted by New Zealand’s ministry of health and then by other countries too.
The entertainment industry shut down, but virtual concerts emerged as a way for musicians to stay in touch with their fans, but as my musician husband said, “without the audience response, it is difficult for a musician to gage how well the concert is going as audience participation is so important to the performance”.
Sporting events were stopped or held behind closed doors. Footballers used to being cheered on by thousands of fans had to motivate themselves to play in silent stadiums, sometimes in front of cardboard cut-out fans or, as occurred in South Korea, to play a match in front of mannequins dressed in clothing from a company that supplied the sex industry, basically meaning the match between FC Seoul and Gwangju FC was played out in front of sex dolls. The club, by the way, did get fined for their naivety!
Although Covid restrictions meant new films and TV series were on hold, Netflix was one of the companies that benefitted from the pandemic as subscriptions rocketed. Online shopping and technological companies like Microsoft profited substantially and according to a 2020 report from Swiss Bank UBS, the pandemic actually made the rich richer.
Now as people go about their ‘new normal’ lives, the pandemic has left personal, social and economic repercussions and the world is in the second largest global recession of modern times. Sectors such as the tourist industry, restaurants, entertainment and aviation are still trying to recover. Millions are now on the poverty line and with high inflation and unemployment, rising prices, the energy and food crisis and the Ukraine war, we are a long way off from a full recovery.
Some changes, however, are for the better. Many people continue to work from home cutting employer’s costs and allowing for a mass immigration of people looking for a better quality of life in countries such as Portugal. I find I am more focused and productive working from home, so it is a win-win situation.
Whatever your view is on the virus, we have lived through unprecedented times with nearly seven million global deaths attributed to Covid. We can look back at what is now known as the ‘before times’, a science fiction phrase that refers to life pre-pandemic, indicating that we have survived living through an apocalyptic time and that things are no longer the same.
That is true and I am thankful and happy to be here …even still wearing my mask!
So now you know!
Isobel Costa works full time and lives on a farm with a variety of pet animals! In her spare time, she enjoys photography, researching and writing