Worldwide, the covid-19 pandemic is escalating. Remaining positive is important and whilst some areas are firmly in the eye of the storm, there are signs that others are just beginning to turn a corner – or at least reach a peak of new daily infections. It will all come to an end - exactly when we just don’t know.
When the current threat does pass, we will be left with a slightly different world. Systems evolve in response to stressors; covid-19 is a massive and wide-reaching stressor. Healthcare systems may subsequently be better funded, better organised, and more collaborative. The upswing in acknowledgement and gratitude for those professions on the front line is tangible. Who would bet against a big rise in applications for nursing, social care, or medicine in the coming years?
The counterpoint is that we may leave this crisis re-evaluating the value and commitment of some other industries. With bailed-out banks needing political pressure to do their bit and previously highly profitable airline groups pining for government help, there is growing public intolerance of greed. Many industries are at huge risk of collapse. Perhaps some of them ought to. Those that have true value will, with appropriate help, hopefully, bounce back.
A by-product of the current lock-down and slowing of global consumption is a reduction in emissions and pollution. If nothing else, it shows that it is possible to make impactful changes. It is patently clear that we can act when a threat is tangible. When a similarly (likely more) destructive threat is not as tangible and apparently not so urgent, we drift into procrastination and introspection - and drag our feet. Maybe this crisis will change that.
On a more local and personal level, roles and activities that in a pre-covid world were deemed unsuitable for distance-working have now been forced to find a way. Working from home, to some degree at least, is likely to become a more normal part of many jobs. Digital house parties, online education, telemedicine – there will be a swathe of innovation to come.
In the meanwhile, it’s a time for endurance. Wash your hands. Stay at home!
Skull base fellow, Leeds General Infirmary