In recent weeks, countries around the world, especially in Europe, have begun to ease what were some of the most stringent lockdown measures imposed in response to COVID-19. The collective efforts of many citizens, not only in these countries, has at last begun to bear fruit. Although there is a long way to go, it is incredible to see how individuals and companies have taken collective responsibility to support those in need at a time of genuine crisis. The question remains, is this a temporary shift by societies towards collective good because it is in our interests to do so, or a wholesale realignment as to what defines our social purpose.
Reasons to be hopeful
Throughout the crisis, we have witnessed various inspiring acts of humanity. Healthcare workers across the world have put their lives at risk to save ours. In the UK, a country in which I have spent a lot of time and studied, over 750,000 people voluntarily signed up to help the National Health Service to support the clinically vulnerable. Though vaccine development is an intense process, there are now reportedly around 80 groups around the world working to find a vaccine, with some efforts already entering clinical trials.
The pandemic has also ignited a debate about work-life balance, the necessity of travel, whether we need to be in an office, and what is genuinely important to us. It has never been more important to stay connected with friends, family, and our local communities. COVID-19 is indiscriminate in who it affects and therefore should highlight to all the importance of abiding by social distancing guidelines, not just for our benefit, but to save lives.
Additionally, while the world has been locked down the planet has begun to heal from the onset of climate change. Emissions at a national level are down 26% on average. Could a global health pandemic actually turn out to be the catalyst for real climate emergency change – an issue that doesn’t affect millions, but billions. Despite the challenges we face, there are reasons to be hopeful.
The importance of individual responsibility
Because of the necessity for us all to do our part, there is an increased focus on individual actions and how they impact society collectively. The easing of lockdown restrictions has only been possible due to the discipline of the vast majority of the general public. Yet if individuals decide to ignore scientific and government guidance, then the gains that have been hard-fought will be quickly lost – and more people will die. Instead of perceiving guidelines as restrictive, we should change our perspective and understand that adherence to lockdown measures are an essential part of being a responsible and caring citizen. The more we adhere to the rules, the quicker that life will return to normality. Accordingly, wear a mask, give way to others, maintain social distance, be aware of one’s hygiene, wash your hands – even queue. As pointed out in a recent article in The Lancet, the response of individuals to advice on mitigating COVID-19 will be as important, if not more so than government action.
As restrictions ease globally, we must not forget our civic responsibility and patriotic duty to protect and save lives. How successful we are will depend on the simplest of deeds as outlined above. If that also means refraining from seeing our elderly relatives, despite how much we may want to see them, , so be it. We may remain physically distant, but emotionally we should endeavour to be more connected than ever before.
Coming together after COVID-19
One of the key takeaways from COVID-19 is the realisation that globally we are more connected than we realized. An event that occurs in a far-off distant location has the potential to impact us all. Recently, countries have demonstrated a desire to withdraw from the global world order to suit their own nationalist agendas. And yet the irony of COVID-19 is that each one of our actions has the potential to impact another. We are more reliant on each other then we may have believed. Countries have joined forces to tackle the global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment, the pooling of resources to find a vaccine, or simply coordinated repatriation efforts to return citizens home. In this spirit, I am glad Gilan Holding has continued to play a small part in this collective effort by recently opening a new facility in Sumgayit in Azerbaijan that will create over 250 jobs, and produce 300,000 protective masks and 6,000 overalls per day.
The best way to defeat this virus is to adhere to scientific advice and public health guidelines, and by educating our children on why it is our collective and civic duty to help those in need. We must work as partners with not only people from across our societies but globally. Only through collaboration will we defeat COVID-19. Although we are temporarily apart, COVID-19 has the potential to bring humanity closer together and to help engender a new spirit of global cooperation and collaboration.
*Mr. Tale Heydarov is the founder of the European Azerbaijan School, Azerbaijan Teachers Development Centre, Libraff bookstores network, TEAS Publishing House, and until recently served as the President of Gabala FC football club (Azerbaijan Premier League) and Gabala Sports Club.