Protect your own personal space, wash your hands properly, spend more time in fresh air, and stay home if unwell…..
By Interchange Australia Human Resources Manager Alastair Orr
For someone of my age, I’ve been lucky to have had a number of professional appointments and experiences across the globe.
These experiences are why I have developed a fascination of people, specifically how we interact as individuals and groups. Something so simple as how someone crosses the road or boards a train, varies enormously between countries, regions and peoples.
When COVID-19 came along, a lot of the subsequent fall out and restrictions did not surprise me. I never understood for example why people in Europe bunch so close together when crossing the road or boarding a train. It’s totally unnecessary. Personal space in countries like Australia or America is far more valued.
Spending a lot of time in the Middle East, made me wonder why the approach to hand hygiene was so drastically different. By different I mean worse. And whilst I understand the need for air conditioning in such blistering temperatures, those ventilation systems are ideal breeding grounds for colds and flus. I was often ill in Dubai, and from what I can tell one of the few people in the city who slept with the window open.
So when COVID-19 appeared in late December 2019, it could not have found a more ideal world waiting for it, with our six highly populated and inconsistent continents. Suddenly in March 2020, we were talking about social distancing, hand hygiene, and proper ventilation – these are not new ideas, but they are rarely propelled to the forefront of people’s minds. But people still struggle with these concepts even after 18 months of this pandemic. So the question I have now, is will we learn our lessons? It seems that we won’t.
Let’s briefly look at the United Kingdom as a case study. After a brutal 16 months of restrictions, around 130,000 deaths, and monumental disruption to people’s lives – things today look very similar to the pre-pandemic times. Stadiums, bars, cafes, shops, buses, trains and lines at airports are crammed and bustling. Few if anyone wears a mask. It’s really great that life has returned to “normal”, but shouldn’t we have made at least some improvements?
The UK is not alone, in fact it is very much the norm, and is leading the scramble to return to normal and defy the odds. And therein lies the problem. We are so determined to return to “normal”, that we are prepared to forgo the lessons that we have learned in the process. As a consequence, we give the virus an increased and unlimited opportunity to mutate and strengthen.
Don’t get me wrong. We must move on. Fear and purgatory is not living. But forging a path ahead that allows us to return to normal, whilst learning about ourselves as people and peoples, whilst initially much harder – will be much easier in the long run.
So please consider these basics as a member of society, and someone who cares for others. Protect your own personal space, wash your hands properly, spend more time in fresh air, and stay home if unwell. These are old lessons that we need to carry forward.