Think the year 2020 is cancelled and there’s nothing positive about it because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Looking beyond the obvious, there have been pockets of hope, kindness and human resilience shining through. Here are some positive things to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A shift in what matters and burgeoning community spirit
During times of hardship many people begin re-evaluating what matters in life and focus on the necessities. During our lockdown, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs was on full display and relevancy- we had to make sure we had the basics covered: shelter, food, water, personal security, health. This was often a result of reduced hours at work or unemployment. By focusing on the basics, we cut the superfluous, resulting in the decrease of discretionary spending.
We’ve seen community groups offer free food and shelter for the homeless and businesses dedicate specific shopping hours for those most at risk. Hopefully, this is not a short-term solution but here to stay.
Businesses have pivoted and are offering services that they never had to survive. This included online orders, home delivery, and takeaway for restaurants and cafes. Many will continue to offer this long after the pandemic subsides. They have also used the time to re-imagine their business model and change or grow their market. Even the federal government boosted Telehealth services with a $1.1 billion funding injection in the hopes that the service would be utilised during the pandemic. Many health professionals and Australians with difficulty accessing traditional consults hope that bulk-billed Telehealth will be here to stay.
Positive social impact
During the pandemic we’ve seen a 310% increase in downloads of the government myquit smoking app, increase in foster adoption and pet adoption. We’ve also seen that there’s been an increase in calls to Lifeline and Beyond Blue. Although on the surface the latter may seem alarming, there is hope that the pandemic highlights critical social services that need ongoing significant investment. It also shows that people know where to turn to discuss their mental health concerns.
Re-examining our strengths and weaknesses
During a national crisis, our services are under the microscope and those with robust systems and processes fare much better. According to Singapore’s foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, an effective response to the pandemic must stand on a tripod of national characteristics: quality of healthcare, standard of governance and social capital. ‘If any one of those tripod legs is weak, it will be exposed and exposed quite unmercifully by this epidemic’, he says. This is an opportunity to see what we do well and what we don’t do well and to invest in areas that need extra resources. After the SARS outbreak, Taiwan established the National Health Command Center with a branch that specifically focuses on large outbreak responses and acts as a central command post for direct, transparent communications. Will Australia do the same and learn from these lessons, so we can face any future crisis?
We’ve also been forced to examine whether our welfare system is up to scratch and if we have adequate manufacturing capabilities should another national crisis hit us.
Beginnings of behavioural change
To mask or not to mask? Despite the mixed messaging and general reluctance of our federal government to put forward a united message regarding mask wearing, we are seeing more and more people adhere to mask wearing and social distancing. The Victorian Government has made mask wearing compulsory as they are currently going through their second wave and we’ll just have to wait and see if other state governments will follow suit. Public health messaging regarding hand washing, social distancing and other hygiene etiquette will become a mainstay. This will no doubt have an overflow impact on other viral diseases like the flu that pop up seasonally.