Let’s nurture the ideas, values, lessons from Covid-19 period

A family wearing face masks as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus walk outside the Forbidden City (back) during the national day marking the 71st anniversary of the People's Republic of China and the country's national "Golden Week" holiday in Beijing on October 1, 2020.  

Photo credit: Nicolas Asfouri | AFP

What you need to know:

  • From mid-March this year, the Health ministry advised families to live within a cluster.
  • For many, parenting is becoming a theatre of experimentation and joy.

  • Regrettably, though, we have witnessed escalating domestic and gender-based violence.

Last month I was graciously invited by the Rotary Club, Muthaiga North to give a talk during their fellowship. My virtual presentation was on ‘Life in the time of coronavirus’.

I must admit I was echoing the famous writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who authored Love in the Time of Cholera. In the novel, Florentino Ariza sees Fermina Daza through a window and falls in love at first sight.

I picked Marquez’s imagery because a young buddy of mine recently confided in me: “Nowadays it is impossible to fall in love at first sight because of this new mask thing.”

Covid-19 has transformed the family institution.

From mid-March this year, the Health ministry advised families to live within a cluster.

Fear of infection, especially where some family members were senior citizens or living with diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and so on, necessitated segregation from the outside world.

My mother, at the infancy of Covid-19, told me I could just call her if I was unable to visit.

Reportedly, many menfolk have found it stressful to stay put at home day in, day out.

Family values

We think the home is primarily an abode for our spouses and children.

However, the novel coronavirus has provided a golden opportunity for families to re-learn family values.

On a personal note, the coronavirus period introduced me to baking.

Our nine-year-old grandson challenged me to bake a cake with him. I tried to wriggle out of it. I had never baked.

He told me if I had managed to become a governor, then I could bake a cake. I had to rise to the occasion.

Parents and their children are re-discovering one another.

For many, parenting is becoming a theatre of experimentation and joy.

Regrettably, though, we have witnessed escalating domestic and gender-based violence.

Hopelessness as a result of unemployment, loss of opportunities and income, boredom, despair and disorientation have made some spouses to vent their anger on their mates and children.

Once unable to support families, people wallow in depression and other forms of mental disease. Suicides and homicides within the family are high.

We have to accept that mental disease is a disease like any other. We must seek counselling and even psychiatric treatment.

Due to the quiet time occasioned by the coronavirus, many individuals are learning to befriend themselves, to practise self-love.  Some friends have told me: “You don’t love yourself much or enough.”

They say service to others must accommodate “me” time. Covid-19 has reminded us to love God and our neighbours, we must first learn to love ourselves.

Unimaginable fear

Covid-19 has sown unimaginable fear in our lives.

Every day we have been reminded the airborne virus is invisible, potent and highly contagious. Its devastating impact is evident worldwide.

Confronting the fear of infection, isolation, impoverishment, ostracism, bereavement and other calamities changes the rhythm of our lives radically.

To protect ourselves from coronavirus infection, we are advised to observe social distance and avoid unnecessary social gatherings.

In the first Covid-19 months, communal worship in churches, mosques and temples was prohibited.

Families began to resort to physical home or online worship and small faith communities’ fellowship.

This communion will potentially deepen the spirituality of adherents.

After an initial period of staying at home, the country’s public and private labour force re-routed to working online.

Existing and new ICT applications to facilitate virtual work were massively adopted, thereby increasing efficiency. We can now do virtual and physical office shifts.

Perhaps the most negative impact of the coronavirus is the economic havoc it has caused.

The virus has battered the economy. Unemployment among both lower and middle classes is rampant.

Businesses have shut down with no prospect of early recovery.

Since Covid-19 is a new disease, health personnel learn as they treat us.

The various protocols that were popularised as effective in dealing with the pandemic were premised on public health principles.

Interestingly, there are those who question the existence of Covid-19.

Such people carelessly disregard the protocols.  Yet nobody can guarantee that the worst is over for Africa.

We imagine Kenya’s curve has flattened, but we are not certain.  It is, therefore, judicious to continue following the Mutahi Kagwe protocols.

After the pandemic, we may choose to continue subscribing to some of these protocols such as masking, hand washing, non-handshake greeting and so on as part of the new normal.

Some respiratory and abdominal diseases are on the decline, perhaps due to compliance with the coronavirus protocols.

At the onset of the coronavirus crisis, those who became infected were subjected to extreme stigma.

A friend revealed to me the nature of this stigma. He told me that when one was declared positive, the first thing to come to mind was testing positive for HIV.

 But even after it was explained the malady was coronavirus, the sick would still be stigmatised. Covid-19 has redefined death.

A friend or relative can get infected and within a short time they die. Once infected, relatives and others are kept away from the patient. Initially, when death occurred, public health officials conducted the burials.  Few people were allowed to attend.

On the positive side, extended funeral meetings, protracted time before burial, huge funeral expenses were beginning to become history.

Caring culture

What lessons can we learn from coronavirus funeral culture?

During Covid-19, the Rotary Club and others have, through philanthropy, helped a large population rendered helpless by the pandemic.

Adversity seems to bring out the best in many Kenyans. We reach out to touch others.

This giving and caring culture should be nurtured unto the future.

Although young people, industry and others have begun to innovate in response to the demands of the pandemic, perhaps the most critical take-home from Covid-19 will concern how we mobilise for social innovation.

How do we entrench the lessons and practices employed to ease our lives during the coronavirus crisis?

 I have shared above part of what constitutes the re-imagining or re-inventing of our society post-Covid-19 to achieve the new normal. The ball is in our court.