Monday, May 23, 2022

Looking back at the pandemic

While it may feel like the pandemic will continue forever, there will come a day when it ends.

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What will we remember when we look back on this pandemic? How will we tell our children and our grandchildren about the experience of living through a disaster that hit nearly every aspect of life on a global scale?

Will we remember the early days, reading the news about a mysterious virus that had surfaced somewhere in China and thinking perhaps we should postpone our trip to Beijing for a few more months?

Will we remember the growing concern as the virus spread in leaps and bounds, moving from country to country until it finally reached the shores of Malaysia as well?

Will we remember the days of single-digit cases and the first death reported in the country? Will we remember the day the government announced that no one would be allowed to leave their homes except in emergencies and to access essential services?

Will we remember the silence on the streets and the absence of Malaysia’s famous rush-hour traffic as police put up roadblocks and soldiers stood by with their guns?

Will we remember the stifling feeling of breathing through a mask, or sanitising our hands every 10 minutes and checking our temperatures 20 times throughout the day?

Will we remember spending day after day at home, afraid to leave the perceived safety of the four walls around us, wiping down everything that we brought in with disinfectant and scrubbing ourselves down in hot water and anti-bacterial soap after returning from our forays into the outside world?

We might remember the growing frustration with having to work from home, or the fear that the longer the pandemic continued, the closer we would come to losing our jobs. We might remember the numbers in our bank accounts shrinking as the number of infections grew.

Perhaps we’ll remember the worry of learning that someone we knew had tested positive for the virus. Perhaps we’ll remember the pain of losing a loved one, or the joy of hearing that someone had made a safe recovery.

Perhaps we’ll remember what it was like to fall sick ourselves, and our road back to health whether painful or smooth.

We might recall the relief of finally being able to venture out again, and of seeing the faces of people who for months we had seen only online. (On the other hand, we might recall the sigh we heaved at the thought of having to be polite again to poky relatives whom we would really prefer to continue seeing in a purely digital capacity.)

Maybe we’ll remember the day we heard that somewhere out there, a vaccine had been created. Maybe we’ll remember the agonising wait for it to be cleared by safety regulators, and for supplies of it to finally land on the hot tarmac at KLIA.

We might remember how it felt to stand in line with thousands of others, all of us waiting for our turn to receive a dose of vaccine in one of the biggest concerted efforts our country has ever seen.

We might remember the freedom of being able to move about again, of being able to cross state lines and greet family and friends on special occasions.

We might remember the way we felt when we heard that there were more variants on the rise, and that we would probably be learning far more of the Greek alphabet than we ever thought we would.

Will we remember the people we lost, the businesses that folded, the lives that changed forever? Will we remember the good-byes and the hellos, and how every moment was more important because we never knew what would happen next?

We might look back on the pandemic with all of this or none of it, or a combination of everything in between. How we remember it will depend on our personal experiences and the way that this ongoing event has shaped the immediate world around us.

But even as cases continue to climb and the virus hits closer and closer to home, amid the chaos and uncertainty that continues despite the best efforts of all and a vaccination rate of close to 100%, we can be sure of this: that we will look back on it.

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