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Six stages of a pandemic

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PHOTO: SAUL LOEB / AFP

It feels surreal that our way of life changed so drastically in so many ways in just 12 months. As Tuesday marked the Day of Reflection in the UK, I couldn’t help but reflect on the stages we individually and collectively went through from the moment coronavirus appeared on our radar till now.

Denial
“Surely, it’s just like the flu!” I must admit, three weeks into January 2020 I did utter these words, or similar, while mocking a colleague who admitted to feeling stressed out about the situation in China. At the time, we, the “sensible” ones all thought people were panicking over nothing. No wonder they say ignorance is bliss.

Shock
As opposed to stages of grief, shock was what we felt soon after denial. As we were told to pack up and go home to work from home for the foreseeable future and guidelines were being introduced on how we can interact with friends and loved ones, we were baffled by the great exodus home from offices and city centre. There was still a layer of denial, as wrongly, most of us assumed, things would all go back to normal in three weeks’ time and there was really no point in packing that extra monitor or the office plant in the boot of the car. That was incidentally around the time the rumours started spreading about ‘a friend’s daughter who works at the BBC who was told not to expect to return to work till the end of June.’ Perhaps they meant June 2021 all along!

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Anger
It all kicked off, of all places, in the toilet roll aisle of the local supermarket as the reality of the situation began dawning on us. And it never truly went away either. In the last year, we all dipped in and out of anger coming to terms with being locked indoors, losing loved ones or livelihoods, not being able to hug family and friends like we used to. Little did we know the loo roll wars of March 2020 was just a sign of things to come as lockdown after lockdown chipped away at nerves and the community spirit of the earlier days soon gave way to an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude.

Bargaining
Perhaps self-betterment is a form of bargaining. In the sense that one feels if they are on their best behaviour, life might just give them a break. Many thought they could use the time freed up by redundancy or lack of social entertainment as an opportunity for self-development.

Midway into the first lockdown most were comparing their lockdown accomplishments: picking up crochet, learning sign language, baking bread, taking up early morning jogs. By the time the second lockdown came around, we were still all too exhausted from the endeavours of the first that all we could do was hunker down.

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Depression
Doubtless, the final stretch has been the longest for many. What at first was a novelty soon lost its lustre. Even for those of us who cherished the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of working from home and flexible working which has become the norm rather than a privilege, the working week has become a chain of Groundhog’s Day, any many remote workers have reportedly said they can’t wait to go back to the office.

For others who were out of jobs, unemployment compounded with uncertainly has led to poor mental health.

Acceptance
We may have arrived at this stage quite recently, and perhaps thanks to the fact that, with vaccination efforts in full force, there is finally some hope that we can emerge into a new form of normality. Whatever it may be, no one’s quite sure yet. With insights from the WHO and epidemiology experts, we have even come to accept that we may have to live with Covid-19 for some time to come.

It is surreal to think that a lot has changed over the last year, and we have moved through the stages of lockdown in a very similar manner to one would through the stages of grief. And perhaps, not much has changed.

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