Losing contacts in the era of social distancing – The result of COVID-19

Losing contacts in the era of social distancing – The result of COVID-19

COVID-19 a Pandemic

A man walks around a local park in Weehawken, New Jersey, skyline of New York is visible in back ground. COVID-19 Lockdown. Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

“Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.”

Plague song of the great plague

The above rhyme refers to the ‘the great plague’, specifically the one of the seventeenth century that devastated London in 1665 and prompted the inhabitants of the infected area to isolate themselves from the rest of the country, to minimize the spread of the disease. A-tishoo, A-tishoo, one big sneeze and that led to the downfall of many. This shows whether it is the seventeenth-century plague or the twenty-first-century corona pandemic, the remedy is seclusion.
Pandemic – an epidemic of a disease that spreads far and wide, in lands ‘far-far away’, in every nook of the globe, one of a kind that offers no safe haven. When the hottest African deserts and the coldest icelands provide no more a hideout.

The great plague of London. Wikimedia Commons

Strategies of Governments all across the world

History has seen many calamities go by like small-pox, tuberculosis, etc. but none has halted the world as ferociously as this present-day pandemic, “the n-COVID-19”. With the advent of this insidious wave, the planet earth is temporarily shut for holistic maintenance and re-making. ‘Facts, facts, facts’, these are what we need but these are also what we lack in. So, to combat this novel situation, the governments across the globe had to give in to the policy of imposing countrywide lockdowns, restricting people to the safety of their dwellings, a teeny-weeny attempt to break the chain of transmission.

Social Distancing; Break the chain of transmission

Social Distancing being practiced in Pakistan. Getty Images

Keeping in view China’s model of self-isolation, it seems that the world may be able to keep the pandemic at bay. Thousands of infections don’t have to become millions. So, as the number of cases are surging way past our imagination, and with a population that has no immunity to the virus, and with evidence that virus can spread without symptoms, moreover, with lack of vaccines or any particular treatment, the only option that can lessen this impact is to reduce human contact. The strategy is if everyone in the population is isolated from everyone else, the virus has nowhere to go and infections die out over the course of the incubation period of fourteen days. It can then serve to delay the trajectory of spread.

“It looks like the effectiveness with which people distance themselves is going to have a huge impact.”

Caroline Colijn

With these pandemic fears looming all over, for many families it means that they can’t see or hug their loved ones. The human being is a social animal. It is his innate quality to interact and socialize. Most people are accustomed to platonic touch on a daily basis. But with lock-downs imposed, humans have been forced to remain apart from each other for the longest period ever in their lives. Physical forms of social support may be off the table for a while. An ideal distance of remaining ‘6 feet apart’ is being encouraged to be adopted by the people. Understandably, emotions are running high in this period of social-distancing and shutdowns.
Resultantly, the difference in attitudes is already causing a rift in relationships that may be far more permanent than any effects of this virus.

Effect on human nature

Besides many of the crushing impacts of social distancing on the economy, jobs, education, etc it is also posing a serious threat to social life. In these unprecedented times, when there is the fear of the ‘unknown’ and no one knows who’s positive around, we don’t have to act recklessly. It’s best to take a “better safe than sorry” approach. However, doing it from almost three months, which is in itself against the innate characteristic of humanness, it seems as if we have headed towards losing contacts. 

Small businesses were worst hit by lock-down.

Coronavirus has shut down businesses, schools, festivals, sports activities, etc Efforts are being made to keep people healthy by keeping them apart. But these are also pushing against our deep instincts for togetherness and emotional well-being during this already trying time. We are being driven apart when we need each other the most. As physical contact triggers the endorphin system of our brain and makes us feel warm and positive so the human connection is very important. It is gradually turning into a state when people are forgetting the difference between social distance and loneliness, mistaking the social distancing for loneliness. So not being able to meet the near and dear ones is giving rise to many psychological illnesses as well as anxiety, depression, headaches, etc. 

Social distancing is indispensable right now but so is social connection. Being physically distant shouldn’t have to mean that we can’t feel close. Physical isolation and emotional isolation are two things the world apart but with increased physical isolation people are feeling that they are drifting emotionally apart too. 

Effect on family members

A little girl cries as parents fight in background. Stock Photo

It has even come in between the intimate family members like distancing ourselves from the older ones of our family so that the less immune ones don’t contract the virus from the healthy ones. The front-liners especially doctors, policemen, army personnel can’t meet their families for days and when they do, they try to remain at a considerable distance from them. They can’t even hug their children who they have been dying to see, just because of the fear of this tiny being. Moreover, there is a stigma surrounding corona positive patients. Even when they have recovered people don’t want to meet those survivors let alone sit with them. An alien sort of behavior is being adopted for such warriors.

Loss of human connection

Human relationships are the highest degree of biological relationships. A loss of interpersonal relationships can have long term consequences. Twitter

Social distancing has put a big full-stop to massive gatherings whether these are marriages, Eid congregations, iftar parties, funerals, meetings or even conducting educational classes. Clouds of uncertainties and doom are hovering above us. We can not study together, we can not mourn together, we can not celebrate together, neither can we do a thing as basic as a handshake. Even as low-contact ways of greeting are adopted, it may not ease the pain of what we have lost. It is equated with grief, over not losing someone, but losing something very important – THE HUMAN CONNECTION!

The new norms

Now governments all over the world are saying that ‘risk-based’ social distancing is the key to reopening. We need caution but understanding too. A wave or a head nod or a bow is going to become the new norm. It is different and it can be hard to adjust to the new ways of being social. Everyone is not going to return to the baseline at the same rate. Everyone should understand if one wants to be a little more socially distant because after all these fears are going to haunt us for a pretty good time.

Students protesting on campus while observing social distancing. Twitter

A pity that a ‘microscopic particle’ is going to revolutionize this world but as long as the changes are for the best, these are highly welcome. This shared trauma may bring about a unique unification round the globe. We, ‘the hollow men’, will no longer have headpieces filled with straw, but with wisdom and perception. Till then, let’s take this time for resurrection, let’s hope, let’s stay home, let’s stay safe! Let’s fight together by staying apart.

“Through pain we learn to cherish tranquility and with losses we eventually learn to value gains.

Muniba Mazari

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Post By: Mishal Ihsan

Mishal Ihsan is 3rd year student at King Edward Medical University Lahore.
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