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COVID-19 and its rude awakening

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On March 11, the World Health Organisation (WHO) upgraded the status of the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19 outbreak, from epidemic to pandemic. Ever since then, the world has been reeling from the catastrophic spread of this virus. To date, over 800,000 people worldwide have been infected with the virus, while more than 38,000 people have died according to data collected by John Hopkins University.

Everyday life for millions of people has changed drastically within a blink of an eye. People have been forced to work from other locations, and others have been laid off from their jobs. Millions of children are at home out of school, social distancing has been put into place, and essential items that used to be readily available are nonexistent on the grocery shelves. This pandemic has brought to light many things. There are at least five things that have served as rude awakening for us all.

• How Fragile Life Is: We all understood at some level that life is fragile, but to witness it to this current degree is at a different level of understanding. The idea that any one of us could succumb to COVID-19 within a blink of an eye, due to human and contaminated surface contact, is alarming. Many of us live our lives as if we are blessed with nine more, but that’s not the case. It is at a time like this when one realises that life is indeed fragile and must be protected and cared for at all costs.

• How Ill-Prepared Governments Are: Whether you are in a developing or developed nation, both types of countries are experiencing the damaging effects of COVID-19. Governments’’ essential job is to provide protection over their territory and to ensure that economic and human development work in tandem with one another. Unfortunately, this pandemic has shined an even brighter light on how under-equipped and under-prepared their country is. From the United States, now in the lead for the highest number of coronavirus cases, to China, Italy and Spain also showing high numbers, these countries have lagged behind in emergency preparedness and lack of personal protective equipment for their healthcare workers. Many developing countries that may still be economic power houses, Nigeria, for example, yet lag behind in human development, foreshadow an alarming reality of what will happen to citizens living in countries who have de-prioritized their healthcare sectors for other, non-essential reasons. Pandemic and times of crisis reveal a bitter truth about government expenditures and the value placed on human lives.

• How Humans Are Running A Rat Race: We live in a society that glorifies work exhaustion. We read biographies of successful individuals, only to conjure up that if you sleep only for four hours a day, that will somehow serve as an ingredient to success. COVID-19 brought everything to a stop. Work, play, meetings, meet-ups, travel and the incessant need to be “ “busy” were shut down in a day’s decision. Humans have been running a rat race for quite some time-maybe that’s the real pandemic. A rat race is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. The phrase equates humans to rats attempting to earn a reward such as cheese, in vain. It may also refer to a competitive struggle to get ahead financially or routinely.

A rat race is commonly associated with an exhausting, repetitive lifestyle that leaves no time for relaxation or enjoyment. Unfortunately for millions of people, it took a pandemic to stay at home and just do nothing. It took a horrible global experience for people to find value in doing the simple things. The wheels stop turning and every human is able to get off the ride called “Work and Exhaustion” to simply cherish the things that matter most-life and those you spend it with.

• The Need to Anchor Oneself: When tragedies happen, it is human nature to look for answers. Fortunately, pandemics such as COVID-19 provide scientific data and explanation of its origination. Science, however, still does not explain everything. Many people are searching for the meaning of why this pandemic is taking place and what it came to teach us as human beings. It is very easy to get lost in news and mediated images, but when bad things do happen we need to anchor ourselves into something much larger than what’s going on around us. For some, it is their belief in their faith or spiritual path that helps to keep them enlightened and hopeful during dire moments. Every ship needs an anchor to keep itself from drifting off when storms do come, and so do people.

• We Are All Connected: As a Professor of Global Affairs, one of my aims is to teach my students the power of globalisation and how we are interconnected. Globalisation brought about enormous changes. It helped bridge the gap of physical, cultural, economic, and political distance amongst countries and peoples. Although these technological advancements have helped us to be more connected than ever before, they have also brought about unintended consequences. Such consequences include terrorism, human trafficking, currency fluctuation, counterfeit drugs and an increasing number of epidemics and pandemics. COVID-19, Ebola, SARS and more have all taught us that no man is an island. What affects, or transpires in another part of the world, can affect you. We all might learn, and hopefully so, that it doesn’t have to happen to you, to empathise with others who are suffering from civil unrest, genocide, war and other global issues threatening their human security.This pandemic has brought to light many things; it has served as a rude awakening for the whole world that life is indeed fragile and that we are all connected in one way or another.
• Yetunde Odugbesan-Omede is a Professor of Global Affairs and Politics at Farmingdale State College (SUNY) in New York, United States


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