The Rise of Civil Society in the Time of Coronavirus

Disclaimer: This is just my personal opinion.

Every crisis we have faced as mankind at the end brought us opportunities and change our lives. This invisible enemy, this pandemic, will change the way we travel, shop, and work for years to come. I hope it will bring more good than bad in the long run.

But in this moment, it give us the opportunity to slow down and think for a moment what we want from our lives, if we are still happy at work and in our relationships, or if we should stop postponing our dreams and start following them after this, or whether we are going to add new things to our bucket list or start crossing them off. For some of us this will be the fresh start we were looking for and for many of us this pandemic will affect how we work in years to come.

Working from home has stopped being a swear word and instead has become a reality; the new flexibility for employees will raise productivity in some companies, but it is going to be a new norm that when people feel a little bit sick they will stay and work from home. And even companies outside the IT world have found these days ways that their people could start working from home, even though in the past there were lots of restrictions. I know, in some professions, it’s unfeasible, but in most, it can work.

It could help with overall hygiene and improve healthcare in many countries. And as we are going to learn to wear face masks during any flu season in the near future this could, in the end, help us to save the lives of others. And maybe all that we are going through will make us more compassionate towards those less fortunate who are running from visible threats in their countries if we are scared of something invisible that is causing some of us to buy all the toilet paper we can find.

And in every crisis, we can see there are many people who are trying to take advantage of others for a few lousy dollars, leaders that care more about their ego or are telling us that our loved ones will die because they don’t know what to do, or telling people about ‘herd immunity’ when they have no clue about it.

But luckily there are more people like Soňa Peková who understand that this invisible danger is not choosing by ethnicity, nation or belief but is affecting all of us and that’s why those people are sharing their research for free with others.

Those people like Soňa Peková and many others like her remind us that we all in this together, regardless of who we are and where we are, no matter our ethnicity, nationality or belief. As Baha’u’llah once said, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.” And this virus doesn’t recognize any borders and no country will avoid it. Only if we work together can we beat it.

In many countries, we can see how big tech corporations are starting to perform the role you might expect from the government. Technology and those smart people in those companies are able to do in most cases more than governments where many politicians don’t know how to react and they are telling people it’s just flu, etc. Because of their incompetency and ability to react, people are helping each other and supporting others in these challenging times.

One example we can see, for example in my country, is how the government is unable to provide enough face masks, and their empty promises only encourage the civil society to be creative; some people are providing fabric, others are making face masks and delivering them to others for free just to help. It is great to see our civil society working together and becoming stronger and raising.

Why You Must Act Now

I am not a doctor, and I am not trying to pretend that I know more about this more than others. But there are few articles and thoughts that I want to share with you.

“Speed always plays a major role”, as Dr. Michael J Ryan, the Executive Director of WHO, said. The director spoke at a recent briefing and explained what he has learned from the Ebola outbreaks of the past, based on how he successfully contained them. “Be fast, have no regrets. You must be the first mover. The virus will always get you if you don’t move quickly,” Dr. Ryan said. “If you need to be right before you move, you will never win. The problem in society we have at the moment is that everyone is afraid of making a mistake. Everyone is afraid of the consequence of error. But the greatest error is not to move. The greatest error is to be paralyzed by the fear of failure.” (source: Speed trumps perfection)

Another interesting article I recommend is “Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now,” which is full of data and explains why we need to act quickly. At the bottom of the article, there are 26 translations so far, so you can read it in your language.

What We Should Learn from Taiwan

During the five weeks from January 20 to February 24, the CECC rapidly produced and implemented a list of at least 124 action items (eTable in the Supplement) including border control from the air and sea, case identification (using new data and technology), quarantine of suspicious cases, proactive case finding, resource allocation (assessing and managing capacity), reassurance and education of the public while fighting misinformation, negotiation with other countries and regions, formulation of policies toward schools and childcare, and relief for businesses. (source: Response to COVID-19 in Taiwan)

Taiwan learned from the SARS situation and instead of telling society that is just flu, they took immediate action and acted quickly. People are accustomed to wearing masks in Taiwan, but that is something new for the rest of the world because if you wear a mask in Europe, you are perceived as a person who is already sick.

I hope this mentality will change soon because not only are you protecting yourself but you are protecting others because you don’t know if you are already sick and spreading it without a proper test. And I hope people will wear masks during any flu season in the future to limit the impact on the population.

What We Should Learn from South Korea

Testing works and is really important! South Korea has conducted almost 250,000 tests as of Friday (3/13/2020) according to the KCDC; Eun-young wrote that aggressive testing is also why the country’s mortality rate of 0.77% is so far below the 3.4% global average—and to encourage testing, the roughly $134 fee is waived for anyone who is already a suspected patient or who tests positive. (Source: Forbes)

And all those measures are in place for a reason. One interesting article that explained it was published in The Washington Post and I recommend that you read it: Why outbreaks like Coronavirus spread exponentially and how to “flatten the curve”.

And it shows why we should all do the right thing and stay and work from home if possible. Not only will this help slow the spread of the virus but it will also protect the elderly and people with a weak immune system.

What We Should Learn from China and India

That censorship and denying the freedom of speech is not working, will never work and only costs the life of your citizens. Those who publicly share that there is a problem are punished and persecuted. And those who should act (local politicians) care only about their position, and they fear their superiors (CCP), and that’s why they’re not acting quickly. And their fear of being punished only makes them inactive and costs human lives.

Here are two examples of how the virus outbreak could be handled. One is how China was handling it at the beginning, “How Chinese social media platforms control information on COVID-19“, and the second one is how India in 2018 handled the Kerala Nipah virus outbreak.

Last Thoughts

As mankind, we will survive just as we’ve survived many crises before, but we should not attach this disease to any nationality or ethnicity and we must be empathetic to all those who are affected by this.

I am an optimist in life, and even though bad things have happened I see people and nations cooperating together as one team. And that fills me with the hope that when this invisible enemy is beaten, at least part of that cooperation between nations will still continue and we will not start closing our borders and building new walls, and that we will realize that all the things that are happening on planet Earth should be a concern to all of us; it’s not a just a local thing.

And even though my entire country is on a coronavirus lockdown, like many other countries, I’m proud of my fellow citizens supporting each other in these challenging times. And huge respect goes to all those frontline heroes wherever they are in my country and anywhere else. While our “leaders” are trying to find the solution and get some political points and political parties are pointing their fingers at each other, doctors and nurses together are doing an incredible job.

Despite working for many hours without proper rest, they are trying to save lives even though they could be affected. They are real heroes in these challenging times! THANK YOU for what you do for all of us!

I hope that after we beat this enemy and this crisis ends, many nations will realize that there is another virus that needs to be cured, a virus that cannot be beaten by any vaccination, but it can be cured via elections. And people will seize their chance, and this will be the real revolution we need because we don’t need those politicians that reveal themselves in times of crisis to be useless and only cost the lives of our fellow citizens.

Thanks for reading, wear a face mask, and now go wash your hands.

Stay safe!