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COVID-19: Crisis is a terrible thing to waste

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covid-19:-crisis-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste

By Sulaymon Rukkoyah Abidemi

SIR: The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer observed that “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” While COVID-19 would be remembered as months of painful inconveniences, not being able to leave your home except for a necessary run to a store, pharmacy, or public market and being secluded with immediate family members for seemingly endless days, could there be a tiny sliver of the silver lining so that this event would not be wasted? I think so.

In the aftermath of World War II, for example, numerous discoveries made the world and our lives better. Computers, jet engines, nuclear energy, radar, penicillin, pressurized airplane cabins, photocopying, and superglue, to name just a few. The point is good things can come out of extremely trying circumstances.

Then comes COVID-19. A cataclysmic event, seemingly out of nowhere, that suddenly upends travel schedules. Face-to-face meetings drifted nearly into extinction. Large numbers are working from home. Now the time question is seemingly upended. “What do I do with the surplus of time on my hands?”

Yes, I’ve seen all the recently released movies. I’ve had the best of leisure in my compound. Now what?

We can agree that this is a remarkable period in our lives. Never before, and possibly never again, will we have as much discretionary time as we’re having it now. Is this not the perfect opportunity to take good care of ourselves—including eating well and getting exercise? To that, is this not the perfect moment to revisit our planned plan? If we have forgotten what we committed to do, what a perfect time to create a new one.

Due to the emergence of COVID-19, the average person now clearly realizes that personal hygiene and sanitation can play vital roles in preventing disease transmission. This is true, even for those diseases like COVID-19 that are primarily respiratory in nature, as respiratory droplets contaminate hands and environmental surfaces. And then spread through cross-contact. This transmission pathway is well known; however, this current pandemic has brought the risks into sharp focus for everyone.

When good hygiene practices become institutionalized, they become part of the culture. These beneficial behaviours are then passed along to our children and pay dividends in better health and longer life for generations to come. These practices, if they are sustained, will also help to control the next round of emerging pathogens that will surely come.

Skills are best learned by doing, not reading about them or solely watching others. There is great value in watching someone do something right, as long as you know what to observe. But it must not stop there. Without practice, and some feedback mechanisms, skills are not cemented into a person’s behaviour. Worse yet, they don’t develop the confidence to try applying the skills.

Yes, a “crisis is a terrible thing to waste”. It need not be something we merely endure until it’s over. We can make good use of it and end up with some enduring benefits. They may not be as dramatic as computers, radar, or jet engines. But that improved skill and behavior can be extraordinarily valuable to you and your future accomplishments.

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