In an absolute best case scenario, this will be the last weekend any of us ever spend at Alert Level Four. This could prove to be the last Saturday in which you wake up and you can’t go for a bracing early-morning swim. It may be the last Saturday for which you can’t order a Bacon and Egg McMuffin for breakfast.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next few days and months. So much is uncertain in our lives. There’s a lot of pain still to come. But while we’re here in Level Four, while we are all adjusted to the day-to-day realities of the most restricted life many of us will live, I want to reflect on some of the lessons from Covid-19.
The first is this: Covid-19 has been a lesson in what really matters.
Isn’t it interesting what happens to our World when we’re forced to decide overnight who qualifies as an “essential” worker? It’s not the corporate bigwigs who keep us alive. It’s not the suits. It’s the people who stock supermarket shelves for nineteen or twenty bucks an hour. The people who collect our rubbish, and pick our veggies. The people behind the counter at the petrol station. The nurses who tend our sick. A lot of those people aren’t paid much but we’d be totally stuffed without them.
And outside of the economy, outside of day-to-day subsistence, hasn’t lockdown sharpened your mind as to the people in your life who really matter? I really miss my family. I really miss my friends. And maybe it’s only through forced isolation, knowing I can’t see them, that I stop and actually consider how much I love them.
The second lesson from Covid-19 is the value of community.
That sounds super-cheesy, I know. But so much of our World today is geared towards individualism: Be your own person. Stand out from the crowd. Do it your way. Social Media is the nexus of Generation Self-Obsessed: Look, World! Here’s what’s happening with ME!
But without a massive collective effort right now, without everyone giving something, we’d be in far greater trouble. Those of us who statistically would probably be just fine with coronavirus are following all the preventative measures to protect those who wouldn’t. We all rely on each other.
The final lesson is the value of science.
Regardless of when our leaders decide to move us out of lockdown, New Zealand has clearly benefited by heeding the advice of scientific experts, here and abroad. These are people with decades of experience and expertise applying it to help to save hundreds or thousands of lives. Sure, we’ve benefited from geographic isolation. But scientists in the United States and Europe also warned of potential catastrophe weeks or months before their leaders took any meaningful action. Here in New Zealand, we watched disaster unfold and as we did, we listened to experts. The likes of Ashley Bloomfield, Siouxsie Wiles, Michael Baker and Ayesha Verrall have become some of the most-trusted and respected people in our country. At its most basic level, without science we might not be washing our hands, self-isolating, or contact-tracing... any of those things we all take for granted as sensible scientifically-informed advice which is saving lives.
But compare the way we all keenly lap up the scientific advice today... with the scepticism or disdain with which climate science has been treated. Both of these things, covid-19 and climate change, threaten millions of human lives and economic devastation. Faced with one threat, we’ve shut down our economy overnight. With the other... we’ve largely put our fingers in our ears. Think about that when we come out of all of this. By acting on science this time, we’ve saved lives. By continuing to ignore it elsewhere, we’re setting ourselves up for an almighty fall.