Since the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in December 2019, the coronavirus has gone on to infect 2 million people globally and spread across the world resulting in the death of more than 135,000 people. Not since the Spanish flu over a century ago has a pandemic wreaked such damage upon the global population in such a short space of time.
In response to this ongoing crisis, nations across the world have adopted various approaches to try and slow the spread of the virus including national lockdowns and ramped up testing to ascertain who has the disease. The EU has barred anyone from outside the bloc from entering for at least 30 days, and recent media reports have suggested that Europe’s Schengen zone may have to keep its borders closed until September. Multiple nations have announced unprecedented economic packages to shore up national economies, protect jobs, and support businesses. The United States has responded, albeit late, by announcing a $2.2tn stimulus package to help shore up the world’s largest economy; critical for the prospects of global trade and general prosperity. In addition to the above measures, schools have shut en-masse, depriving children of the vital education that they need to shape their future lives. The general economic downturn that approaches will pose stark challenges to billions across the world.
However, despite the distressing and challenging times that we all are now witnessing, there are still reasons to be hopeful.
Slowing down of infections and the lifting of restrictions
Restrictions in Wuhan, the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected, have been lifted after nearly three months of lockdown. In Spain, one of the epicentres of the outbreak, the growth of new infections has now fallen to a new low since the outbreak began. This is encouraging news and indicates that many countries worst affected and bearing the brunt of the virus may have reached or are near the peak of new infections. The necessary self-isolation and lockdown restrictions that are having such an enormous impact of global economies and our everyday lives will not be here forever. We must all unite and persevere and spare of thought for healthcare workers on the frontline who are literally risking their lives to save ours. They bring new meaning to the term heroes.
A kinder world
Despite the panic and fear that the virus has caused, it has also encouraged kindness and allowed us to witness the better side of humanity. Examples of selflessness can be seen in the creation of an “elderly hour” in Australia, and a “silver hour” in the UK in supermarkets to shield the elderly and allow more vulnerable members of the population to buy groceries in a safer setting. In Italy, entire communities have been seen singing from their balconies to boost the morale of their fellow citizens, causing copycat movements across the world. In the UK, rainbows painted by children in support of the National Health Service (NHS) have adorned the windows of homes, while the entire country stops at 8pm every Thursday to stop and clap NHS workers risking their lives.
Much of the world has come together to contribute monetarily and in-kind by volunteering to help the most vulnerable. I am proud to say that in light of the threat posed by the Coronavirus, Gilan Holding group is playing a small part in trying to halt the spread of the disease. Based on our commitments to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and wider Azerbaijani society, we have transformed our hotel spaces so they can be used as quarantine sites to aid national healthcare measures as well as donated 1 million Manat to the national fund to fight against Covid-19. Additionally, Gilan Textile Park has shifted its production processes to make 30,000 protective overalls per week and over 1 million surgical masks. Although these may be small gestures, I hope that these actions will help to slow the spread of the virus in my native country.
Increased family time
Due to government-imposed measures and the prospect of what the disease means, families across the world are now spending much more time with each other and coming together. Parents who have busy professional lives are now mostly working from home and can enjoy quality time, with frequent interruptions to their conference calls, by their children who are at home due to the school closures. One unintended consequence of this horrible disease is that we are forced to stop and be thankful for our families and loved ones in light of the terrible situation we face.
Following the defeat of COVID-19 – and we will defeat it – our lives will never be the same again, with hopefully a renewed sense of community and the importance of spending quality time with our loved ones. The debate around equality and fair pay for frontline workers is over. They are the best of us. If that happens, something positive will emerge from this tragedy. The indiscriminate nature of this virus underlines our common humanity and the indefatigable truth that we are in this together. We must remain united, work together, and emerge stronger on the other side.
**Mr. Tale Heydarov is the Chairman of Gilan Holding, 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.