NAVIGATING THROUGH A PANDEMIC
How do you know when something has affected every single person’s life on earth profoundly?
It is when almost every conversation you have with anyone about anything, whether it’s about their family, career, or life in general, tends to center around that one thing.
Welcome to the new world with COVID-19. Here everyone’s faces are draped with face masks, handshakes and hugs are now a thing of the past, and hand sanitizers are the hottest item in town, all to protect us from this highly contagious virus that seemingly came out of nowhere in the blink of an eye. As we emerge out from the long months of quarantine onto a new normal on campus, it can be easy to forget how much our lives have changed. We have had to tune our habits to cater to a new normal alongside this pesky disease.
Exhibit A: as you go for your classes, you notice that only the day scholars in your class are physically in the room with you, with the desks spaced out more than usual to maintain social distancing. The hostelites are taking the same class simultaneously on an online call as if they’re in some sort of dystopian future. The next day, you swap places with the ‘hostelite awaam’, and now you’re taking a full lecture on your laptop in the comfort of your home, in possibly your pajamas, and having the urge to just mute the class until the teacher calls your name out for attendance. Binging Netflix during your Ethics class just got a whole lot more interesting.
Going anywhere to eat or unwind also has its perks. Firstly, you can forget about including your hostelite friends since they can’t leave campus AT ALL. (Yeesh, that sounded way less harsh in my head.) Even when you’re out and about, you need to make sure you’re following the SOPs given by the government and health authorities to keep yourself safe, like making sure you have a mask on and that you’re practicing social distancing as much as you can. And of course, when you get home, you need to wash or sanitize your hands thoroughly before you do anything. Oh, and if you’re coming back to campus instead, please do get something for your hostelite friends. It is the sweetest thing you can do for them in these times.
But it’s okay if you chuckled at some of those sentences for a second because you and me both know the bitter truth: most people are acting as if this pandemic is a thing of the past in Pakistan.They are forgoing these SOPs altogether by not wearing a mask in public and hugging it out as if the vaccine just came to save us all. As the random announcer who starts talking when you’re dialing someone’s number on the phone will tell you very pertinently, this fight is far from over, and take it from me, you can play your part in it. Over the past few months, I have developed simple yet effective habits. I always have a bottle of hand sanitizer and a face mask on me whenever I am out. I resort to the ‘elbow bump’ instead of a regular handshake. I do not bring my hands close to my face when I am outside, and I always wash them for at least twenty seconds every time I come home.
I do all this because I’m not a medical expert myself. It’s not my place to decide whether COVID-19 is just another version of the flu, or a hoax altogether through some misguided conspiracy theory. Instead, it is important to realize that there are doctors, healthcare workers, and officials out there and in our vicinity putting their lives on the line to protect our public health, that are pleading us to do things as simple as wearing a mask, maintaining a distance from other people and comply with the SOPs as they navigate through this crisis. All the information that is publicly available to us shows that this disease is three to four times more contagious than the flu and potentially deadly, not just for the elderly but even people of our demographic who have complications and high-risk health conditions. So, by just following these guidelines, you could save someone else’s life, the health of a loved one or family member, or even yourself. And, you are paying respect to the commendable efforts of our doctors and frontline workers.
My advice to everyone reading this article right now is this: times are tough, but we can be even stronger together. Take the necessary precautions as stringently as you can, and don’t neglect your mental health in any way in these tense situations. Have sympathy with the people who have lost their loved ones in this pandemic, keep praying to Allah for the safety and well-being of your own and keep educating yourself with reliable sources for health on the Internet, like the NIH (https://www.nih.org.pk/) or the WHO (https://www.who.int/).
Insha’Allah, we will all get through this together!