The New Normal

SHARE   |   Monday, 25 May 2020   |   By Ignatious Njobvu
Public transport operator sanitizing passenger before entering mini bus Public transport operator sanitizing passenger before entering mini bus PRESS PHOTO

In response to COVID~19, Botswana has adopted several measures to avoid a wide spread of this pandemic. Some of the measures effected include restriction of movements, social distancing of at least a metre, avoiding crowded places and practicing thorough hygiene especially hand washing. These steps have some influence on our daily lives. The impact of which will define our new values and norms. The extent to which COVID~19 will affect our culture will depend on the duration that we shall coexist with the virus. A lot of our cultural practices are bound to change if the pandemic persist for a longer period. My fear is that this reality looks more probable. It is possible that the world medical fraternity may just strike gold and find a vaccine by the end of the year, but the chances of that happening are less likely, if we are to go by the processes involved in coming up with these vaccines. Not to mention the challenges of large scale production of such a vaccine supposing it is found and the distribution thereof.

‘Heart of the matter’ this week is about the possibility of us coexisting with coronavirus. So far, we have done extremely well in so far as avoiding a large scale outbreak of the disease. The general health infrastructure available and the psychological readiness would have not handled the seemingly less known coronavirus if the disease was treated just like any other known disease. Therefore, it is very much in order to appreciate the COVID~19 protocols put in place so far. What we now know about the disease has left us with no choice but start to embracing the possibility of a coexistence with the virus. It is a fact that we cannot lockdown for ever. Lives ought to go back to normalcy. The economy needs to open up. As social beings, we ought to start fulfilling that human need. The question then becomes ‘how do we balance the need for opening up economic activities as against the need to protect human lives from COVID~19?’. The answer lies in what we know so far about the way the disease is transmitted. So far we know that respiratory droplets are the main transporters of the coronavirus, between an infected person to a none infected or surfaces with infected respiratory droplets to none infected person. Can we do something about it as a people? Yes, and we are already doing it well.

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The way we are heedfully avoiding a wide-spread of the virus in terms of our behaviour should determine the new normal. We have literally stopped greeting each other by way of shaking hands. We have learnt to constantly wash our hands with soap. We frequently use alcohol-based sanitizers to cleanse our hands and surfaces. Wearing a mask in public has become such a norm. We even do not engage in anything that will require some kind of touching with strangers, we keep a distance of at least a metre. Good respiratory practices such as covering our mouths and nose when sneezing and coughing is something that we have since adopted. These are some of the daily practices that we have adopted in order to obviate the spreading of the disease. I must admit that these practices are what will constitute our new norm. Most importantly, COVID~19 has sparked some conversation over some of our cultural practices like funerals and weddings. Remember, our funerals and weddings are defined by huge crowds and by extension they come at a very huge cost. COVID~19 protocols have since curtailed these arrangements and rather posit that numbers attending either funerals or weddings should be limited to a very small number. Shouldn’t we adopt this arrangement as our new culture?

Weddings and funerals came at a very huge cost to the affected family. Of course we all know the logic behind the crowding of people during these events. It is mainly to help console the bereaved or celebrate with those that are getting married. But the affected persons of these events incur very huge costs in feeding the big crowds during the events. Imagine feeding the crowds for almost five days in the case of a funeral. It is highly likely that the family affected will have two reasons for feeling awful, one being the loss of their relative and the other being the costs attached to feeding the crowds. Culture is fluid and not static. It is determined by the values and experiences of the living people. The ‘dynamic aspect of culture’ therefore comes in as people try to adapt to various circumstances affecting the community at large. Coronavirus has emphasised the need for good hygiene through frequent cleansing of hands and surfaces, and social distancing. I submit therefore that we stick to these practices as our new ways of doing our cultural business. Keep on social distancing, coronavirus is real.

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