The hard work begins when we are back to normal


As we enter a new year with the all too familiar presence of the coronavirus of one variation or another, governments and associated medical agencies and experts are beginning to give us reason for optimism.

Whereas in the past months with the virus running rampant, the options for dealing with the pandemic were down to one – vaccines. Now discussions are also turning to the use of therapeutic treatments like antivirals as another front of battle against the virus. So a lot will be said about treatments like dexamethasone, remdesivir, monoclonal antibodies, convalescent plasma, paxlovid, molnupiravir and others as we proceed. And that is all to the good because the recognition of therapies indicate that the time is coming to learn to live with the virus.

This opening comes at a time when there is cautious optimism that the new Omicron variety of the virus, while being quite contagious is not as virulent as the other varieties that this variant seems to be supplanting. South Africa, which was the epicenter of Omicron in its early manifestation, now shows a drastic drop in the number of cases while there has been little or no effect on their medical system because the virus is not causing a severity of sickness that require hospitalization.  That bodes well for the new year.

When this is over, we will resume normal life, albeit in fits and starts. Sooner or later the economic damage to the people and the country will be fixed, in a manner of speaking. We will return to our jobs, our children to school, and we will have plans for the future.

That, unfortunately, will be the easy part. The hard part is repairing the social damage caused by nearly two years of isolation of various levels of severity. The bonds that keep a society together across class, race and religion, which allows us to live and work together in harmony, have been stretched and damaged. The bonds that keep friends and families together and strong in the face of challenges of all sorts, have been put under stress and in many cases broken.

These social bonds will not be as easy to fix as it will be to fix the economy. A return to normality will take a total societal effort requiring patience, empathy, mutual respect, the constant reaching out towards each other with humility and generosity (both emotionally and otherwise), all those human attributes that went missing in the face of nearly two years of isolation.

We must begin this as soon as the weakened virus takes its exit as bellwether South Africa promises, and start reaching out when we feel we have the confidence to do so.

It is our only hope of reasserting our humanity. Let’s do it!