This week has been different. As we moved pass the pivotal first month of lockdown, it becomes more and more clear, this might be the ‘new normal’. It’s been hard for many reasons. One of the main reasons being, we entered the month of Ramadan. I don’t think there has ever been a time in history, when the Muslim world faced the most holy and auspicious month of their calendar, this isolated and alone. When the true essence and purpose of this revered month, is meant to embody and epitomise the feeling of community, kindness and togetherness. As the days go on, I plan to write more about what it all means celebrating and observing Ramadan in such a surreal and sad time.
The effect of lockdown is having its toll on the globe, and every day the growing toll is evident. Some people in the US have taken to the streets and started protesting against lockdown measures. Beyond their harsh placards and banner of protest, if you look deeper, their reasoning is not completely unfair or unjust. But then there many who oppose it too. It seems the world population is being polarised, between anti-lockdowners and lockdowners. Two sides venomously opposed to one another and it will only get worse, if it stays this way.
Donald Trump suggested some outlandish solutions this week, somewhere along the line of injecting disinfectant and using ultra violet lights inside a human body. Even by his standard, that sits on the border line of crazy. It makes you wonder, if the mental effect of lockdown has got the better of the little bit of sane that occupied his mind.
Here in the UK, we passed the sad milestone of 20’000 deaths, the stark figure, we were told would be a good outcome, if we managed stay below of, by the time this pandemic was over. I must admit, when I first heard the figure a month ago, I never thought we would reach it. I took it as usual overestimation and exaggeration floated around by the media and government PR. But the fact that we have reached this number, with no signs of it slowing and numbers from care homes to be yet taken into account, all of which within a period of 30 days- is ofcourse a hard pill to swallow.
Boris Johnson is meant to make his triumphant return to the stage after his recovery from Covid-19 on Monday. But his ministers have already foretold, that lockdown is not easing any time soon and we have to get used to this being the ‘new normal’ when they do decide to ease the restrictions. Their words, leaves us with more questions than answers. There are no exit strategies against this invisible killer, until and unless a legitimate vaccine is found, for which there is no actual time or dates given- just assumptions. So how do we go about his ‘new normal’ and what exactly is this ‘new normal’ and how do we rebuild a world for which there is no clear mandate?
I might be fasting, but I am still doing my daily jogs at a slower pace, to keep some level of normality and routine in my life. As the rest seem to have been broken and tattered. My dental hygiene routine is gone and so has my sleep pattern. So what did I notice in my recent runs? London- especially the part where I run to and forth, Tower Bridge, London Bridge etc… There are no signs of social isolation. Maybe it’s the blazing sun (it has been over 20 degrees for the best part of the week), maybe it’s the effect of the lockdown or maybe it’s both. But people are out more than usual from when the lockdown intially began. Sitting in parks, walking, cycling, jogging or with their kids. It’s hard to point fingers or be upset and we can’t always blame selfishness on their part for being outside. How long can we mentally ask people to stay coupe inside London houses, with its reputation of being cramped spaces, house shares and lack of open space within their vicinity?
A few more coffees shops have opened, serving coffee and ice drinks through the shutters of their windows. I’ve even seen Police Officers cue up to get their daily caffeine boost. Maybe this is the new normal Dominic Raab was talking about. As the weeks go on, the government need to come up with a plan quick. People need normality or an idea of what this new normality is. As business start opening up and more cars and people hit the road. Maybe the strategy should now be, how we behave outside rather than how to keep us trapped inside of our homes.
Personally, I am already prepared, to live a life, where waiting outside of supermarkets, banks and other shops is going to be the new normal. Not being able to congregate in more than two, working from home, not meeting up or going to visit cousins or friends houses and saying goodbye to sitting inside a restaurant to have a meal. And I think that is how it’s going to be for a long time, even after they find a vaccine and manage to immunise the whole country, we might me be too institutionalised to go back to the status quo of Feb 2020.
But other things haunt me. What if gyms are closed indefinitely? Because they are not considered essential and it creates a perfect breeding ground for Covid- 19 transfer. What if festivals, theatres, sports events and cinemas are all closed or restricted as part of the new normal? How are we supposed to get by? These things which are by no means an absolute essential, but good for our creativity and mental health and also holds huge economic benefits for the country and the workers who work in those industries.
As more and more people end up being furloughed or losing their jobs and salary, where do they go in this ‘new normal’? Already there are talks of drafting in furloughed workers to do fruit picking in the summer period to make up for the absence of the migrant workers, on who we relied every year. Although it makes economic and practical sense, that we spread the work force to fill in the labour gaps. There are many ethical and deeper questions to be asked about this. Are we entering an era, where fruit pickers or other similar work force, are no longer migrants, but a wide range of people from educated and well established background? Sitting in the sun, picking fruits and sharing stories of what they did and were back before lockdown. Like soldiers drafted into war, or economic migrants, migrating from one country to another. This certainly seems like the setting of a novel, if the current global state, wasn’t one at the moment.
And as parents, what about schools? How will they manage social distancing in a school environment, how do you get 30 children in a class to keep their distances? Do we build bigger schools, do we make a rota for children to attend school? How do we do all this without effecting an entire generation’s education, mental well being and growth?
Day 34, and there are more still more questions than answers. Binging Netflix, taking up a virtual hobby, rekindling lost connections, or even doing housework are getting over tiring. But there is always hope. Twice this week, I saw Venus with my naked eyes, when I looked up into the skies at night. The sky was so clear, that I was able to see more stars and the crescent moon shining ominously. Proving as always, to keep hope alive, the world within maybe changing but the cosmos is still flowing as one.
Stay Safe, Stay Home.