5 Silver Linings of the Covid-19 Quarantine

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Illustration by Lara Rozanski

It is day 349 of the global coronavirus quarantine: skies are blue and birds are flying. At home, your mother is leading a zoom meeting with employees from Germany and France — persistently working to improve her company’s virtual shop. Your father is downstairs in the kitchen cooking pasta for your family. Next to him, stuck to the fridge, is a printed table outlining chores for all family members. Both your siblings are still having their online classes, but your’s have just finished. As you head downstairs to get some apple juice, you see that it’s your turn to vacuum the floor. You sigh, but by now you are used to doing chores. After you finish vacuuming the last room in the house, you sit down with your family to eat dinner. At that moment those recurring thoughts you had during the first month of quarantine pop up again: when will life go back to normal? When will we go back to school? Why can nobody seem to find a cure?

 

Those are the questions you are probably asking yourself as you read this article (that is, if we’re not done with this global pandemic by the time the article is published…).  This situation is a new one for every single one of us, and all the uncertainty is scary — to say the least.  

 

The list of downsides to being in quarantine and to social distancing is quite obvious: no going to parties, no hanging out with your friends, no going to school. But, another list, perhaps an even more important one, is of five positive things that this experience is bringing to the world. In times of darkness, it is important for us to find the silver linings and to hold on to them for as long as we can. After all, optimism reduces stress and anxiety, making time go by more quickly.

  1. Let’s start off with the most personal aspect of this list: quarantine may be distancing us from our friends, but it is also bringing us closer to our family. Whether you have a stellar relationship with your siblings or not, this is the perfect time to bond. If anything, bond over the fact that you are stuck together. It could be that your family hasn’t sat down for a good conversation at the dinner table for a long time. Now, you are all home, so go ahead and have that conversation. Take this opportunity to get to know different aspects of your loved ones, and to get to know yourself. This is the perfect moment to try something new; do yoga; learn to cook; re-organize your room for the millionth time. Whatever it is that you chose to do, make it a peaceful and calming ritual. If nothing comes to mind, take a nap! 
  2. The second thing quarantine has given us is, the opportunity to take advantage of technology and to push towards technological innovations. For one, virtual meetings have shown us that country boundaries are truly invisible. While the possibility of instantly talking to someone from another country has been viable since the first transatlantic phone call in 1927, today, it is as normal as talking to someone living across the street. You can’t physically see either of these people, so what’s the difference? We are finally taking advantage of the fact that we can have hundreds of meetings with people from all over the world without even stepping outside of our rooms. Thinking about this in the long run, COVID-19 could permanently change how we work; why not hire an employee from another country if all someone needs to have to go to work is a steady wifi connection? On that same note, technological advancements that would usually take years to occur were accomplished in a matter of months. For instance, many companies were slowly working towards building an e-commerce platform. Due to malls, shops, and restaurants being off-limits in this period of social isolation, these companies had to adapt; they had no other choice but to invest all of their resources into online initiatives. This represents a massive stepping stone in the development of countless companies, and could really help them grow in the future.

    NASA Earth Observatory
  3. Third, spending more time at home and less time out and about is having unbelievable effects on the environment. A month ago, all we could talk about was climate change, and maybe, this quarantine is exactly the right remedy to cure the disease that is pollution (more of a band-aid fix, to be honest). Since this pandemic has caused governments to shut down industrial activity, the production of carbon emissions has plummeted. Above is an image published by NASA comparing the air quality in China from January to February. The image shows how nitrogen dioxide density decreased profoundly in just a month of quarantine, especially in metropolitan areas like Beijing and Shanghai, and in industrial areas like Wuhan. Paul Monks, a  professor at the University of Leicester, described this episode we are facing globally in an interesting way. He said that “we are now, inadvertently, conducting the largest scale-experiment ever seen”. This means that we have a lot to learn from current events. We are seeing concrete evidence of the positive effects of a less manufacturing-based economy. At the same time, these effects cannot be sustained if we just go back to business as usual after the quarantine is over. In a very short time, we have seen huge environmental recoveries. Saving the environment is not a lost cause! 
  4. Additionally, hygiene has never been better. COVID-19 has changed the way we all think about contact with one another and contact with different objects. Passing hand sanitizer after pushing an elevator button may seem a bit excessive, but surely, this experience will leave society more pensive about clean habits and better sanitation. People will finally learn to cover their coughs and sneezes and to wash their hands more often. These simple but crucial acts of hygiene will also help communities stop the spread of an infinite range of other direct-contact and air-borne diseases. 
  5. Last but not least, the world’s greatest minds are all working together. For one of the few times in history, the most pressing issues for all the major countries in the world is this pandemic. It is currently being studied by the brilliant minds of scholars, doctors, businessmen, environmentalists, and just about everyone else. We all know that the coronavirus spreads with extreme facility, but the silver lining of this is that as the disease spreads, more and more people join forces and work towards finding a cure. 

As you start to think about how much you miss your life before this pandemic, don’t forget to consider all of the silver-linings of this unfortunate situation. Apart from the five things in this article, try to think of five more things that are making you happy in social isolation. Make lessons out of these experiences because hopefully, everything will go back to (a new) normal soon.