Wednesday, August 4

Things fall apart – life after Covid-19


Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 

… The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

WILLIAM Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and was one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. He wrote these famous words in his poem written in 1919 called ‘The Second Coming’. One hundred years later, it seems most prophetic in these days of Covid-19, when the world is being besieged by an airborne virus.

One day in the not too far off future, we will all look back on the date March 18, 2020 as the turning point, when the world as we knew it had changed forever; and society and our human behaviour and daily routines changed for good. Things have indeed fallen apart!

In the scheme of things, we have only just passed 100 days under MCO, then CMCO, and lastly RMCO, which will only end on Aug 31, another 65 days left to go.

By the time we finish with these controlled movements, we would have spent almost 40 per cent of this year of 366 days under restricted movement and controlled living via social distancing, using face masks and hand sanitiser, as well as washing our hands regularly like clockwork.

Many of us would have entirely changed our living habits and our daily routines to a large extent; even for those of us who are workers employed or working in the essential services – we would have modified our way of life to adapt to the new normal.

There would be a group of between 3 and 7 per cent of us who fall within the age group of below 12 years or above 70 years; as well as those with pre-existing medical issues pertaining to diabetes, heart problems, and other medical vulnerabilities, who have to take extra care in ensuring health and safety – preferably staying home to stay safe from infection.

I commiserate with the majority of us who, prior to March 18th, have been living normally active lives; going to offices, factories, and workplaces to make a living; taking our children to playschools, preschools, and other educational institutions.  Those housewives and others who would go about their daily chores of either going to the markets, shopping, exercise in the gyms, or for morning coffees and other social activities. Those who are self-employed with their own daily schedules and plans to accomplish and projects to look after, oversee, or supervise.

For them the arrival of Covid-19 must have seemed like a sudden declaration of a state of emergency very much like a state of war – except there are no weapons of mass destruction nor visible enemies to face with no resources of any kind to counter the attack. The authorities could only advise us to self-isolate, to stay home and away from crowds, and to ensure to practise personal hygiene of frequently washing our hands, wearing facemasks, and practising social distancing wherever we go.

We also have to obey certain strict standard operating procedures (SOP) wherever we go like taking our temperature, wearing masks, leaving our names and contact numbers in case of a possible infection at the location we’ve visited, which could only be determined at a much later date.

So what has changed in a normal day versus what we have been used to?

It was only in recent days that there has been a gradual relaxation of movement controls; starting with a change from working from home to going back to the office, plant, or business premises; but still strict SOP have to be followed with regards to social distancing, wearing of facemasks, and the number of people allowed within a certain space. Some have modified work hours and days and follow a rotation or schedule, some have had to rationalise staffing needs, while many small vendors, especially those in the food and entertainment business, would have had to call it a day.

Eateries and restaurants, pubs and bistros, and entertainment outlets have restricted the number of patrons due to a reduction in the number of tables and seating rearrangements they’ve had to undertake. Functions such as weddings and parties will only be allowed from July 1 with very limited numbers and again under strict controls. It would take some time before eating or drinking out as we knew it would be the same again.

In the field of recreation, sports, and personal wellness, things are slowly returning to normal. Outdoor activities like sports cycling, jogging, brisk walking, and golf are allowed. Swimming is still not allowed. National parks and the recreational parks and centres are slowly coming back to life. Social and family clubs too are reopening with caution.

Schools are selectively opening for Form 5 and 6 classes too.

However, it is still an extremely cautious approach as we slowly restart many of our normal daily activities. Many more events and functions, especially some much anticipated annual festivals, have been shelved for this year. This includes the Kuching Festival and the ever popular Kuching Food Festival, usually culminating on Aug 1 – Kuching City Day. The much acclaimed Rainforest World Music Festival at Damai too has been cancelled. Last year’s successful What About Kuching? (WAK) Festival too has been postponed to 2021. Indeed, all the events and festivals planned for March till December this year have all been cancelled. According to the Ministry of Tourism, the targeted figure of five million visitors has been revised downwards to two million.

On a more personal basis, what have I missed? I miss most the family life I had, some socialising, breakfasts, and dinners with families and friends; the ease with which one could get into one’s car, drive to a favourite kopitiam and sit down with friends to have a bowl of laksa or kolo mee and kopi o, and then go to the supermarket. In the evenings, the hours shared with friends over some deep-fried crispy ikan gonjeng and a couple of single malts, just shooting the breeze. But most of all I miss the frequent visits to grandson Shane, to play with him and watch him grow (he celebrated his sixth birthday under the MCO), as well as dinners with my dad and the rest of the family.

I guess that life as we knew it, the pre-Covid-19 days, will have to be delayed till there is a proven vaccine, but even with that and thereafter, those days of yore may become just memories for us to recall as being the good old days, as we reflect wistfully in a distant future.

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