Covid-19: Sunset of opportunities or sunrise for many?

Friday June 11 2021
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Author,Mr Augustine Bahemuka. PHOTOT/FILE.

By AUGUSTINE BAHEMUKA

There is probably no sole situation in our living memory that forced the world into a state of paralysis and quagmire with the gravity that the coronavirus did in 2020. In terms of impact on modus operandi of the world, Covid-19 isarguably comparable to World War II, and Cold War, which spanned for over four decades.

Nearly all aspects of human activity and sectors of society have been affected by the pandemic ranging from our economies, livelihoods and communities to agriculture and environment. Scientifically proven guidelines designed to mitigate disease spread became global jargons: physical distance, washing hands and using alcohol-based hand sanitisers, etc. Even as we are more than one year into the pandemic, its net-effect and outlook of the post-Covid-19 world are still unpredictable. I present here some of the ways in which Covid-19 shut doors to a myriad of opportunities while opening doors to a range of others.

Business and technology: For many businesses, Covid-19 served as the biggest test of their resilience and flexibility. With dropped sales and lack of capital to keep afloat, a host of businesses were gravely affected and millions of folks rendered jobless globally. Flexibility and digitalisation of services and products seemed inescapable as virtual offices replaced the traditional physical office spaces; and business adopted online solutions for making orders, sales and deliveries.

Remote work has since become more preferable to many people for various reasons, top of which is that it saves time since there is no commuting involved, hence creating room for running other ‘hustles’. In fact, a survey of 1,000 employees carried out last month in the US revealed that 39 per cent of participants would quit their jobs “if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work”. Even as digital transformation and remote work have increased productivity in many firms, some [human] attributes such as, organisational culture, interpersonal relationships and learning from colleagues stand to be compromised.

Education and healthcare: Covid-19 also tested the countries thatpride in their healthcare systems as many were overwhelmed by the burgeoning numbers of patients. In Africa, cases of Covid-19 and related deaths in no way reflected the grim predictions made by “scientists and experts”. 
However, as a continent whose healthcare systems are inadequate and over stretched, Covid-19 could only worsen an already dire situation.

The biggest opportunity posed by the pandemic would logically be for African governments to invest in healthcare in order to enhance health and safety of their citizenry. However, given that past epidemics such as Cholera and Ebola and rising cases of cancer have not driven the point home, I remain hesitant that Covid-19 will! 
In Uganda, the second wave of Covid-19 seems to have slipped through the door as the political temperatures cooled and elected political leaders dined and took their oaths of office. 

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Consequently, a partial lockdown became inevitable. Of great concern is the impact continually made on learners, whose education schedules have been greatly interrupted. 
Unfortunately, this might as well bring down the curtains of education for a significant number of learners!
Faith and belief: For some believers, public worship is very essential as it gives them an opportunity to experience the divine presence as a community. For others still, including our good President, God is omnipresent and so can be worshipped from anywhere. Covid-19 has certainly driven the latter’s position home as places of public worship are closed during lockdown.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65), another landmark event in the Catholic Church, overly emphasised the notion of public participation for believers. 
However, the Church was forced to adopt virtual worship as the new normal though only for the meantime. Akin to the experience of the Babylonian exile where Israelites had to unlearn that the Temple was the only place for true worship, John 4:23 comes alive for believers today that “true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”.


Augustine Bahemuka is a peace practitioner based in Nairobi.  abahemuka@outlook.com 

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