It’s been a rocky start to 2020. From bushfire smoke, economic headwinds and a looming pandemic, it’s no surprise that many people feel frightened, unsettled and unsure. In times like this, there are different paths for us to take as individuals and as a community.
When reflecting on the advice provided by scientists and medical experts around a potential coronavirus pandemic, I think that consideration, care and love will put us in the best position to get through this challenging time for our community, our country and the globe.
Consideration is thinking about how our own actions will impact on others and we can start with our interactions at a very basic level.
So far, this has been the advice about managing a potential COVID-19 outbreak, starting with very basic health advice that’s no different from what we are always told: wash your hands and cough into your elbow (rather than your hands).
It may also be smart to stop shaking hands or touching each other. This has already sparked creativity, as people begin to explore new ways to greet each other (such as the interesting foot shakes emerging on social media). We will need to continue to use creativity and humour to respond to this advice.
Some of the advice we’ve received speaks to consideration, like self-isolating if we meet particular risk criteria or become ill. This will be easier for some than others, such as people with sick leave, jobs that provide flexibility or don’t include lots of interaction with others. But if you’re a casual worker or make ends meet through the gig economy, self quarantining is harder (if not impossible).
This means that consideration will need to go beyond individual action to community-wide responses.
It is clear that there will be a need for action from employers to provide additional provisions to staff who need it. It will also need community-wide tolerance in the event that things don’t quite happen as we are used to.
There is no doubt a role for government. Consideration and care mean government will need to ensure that there is adequate access to the social safety net for those who need it.
Care will likely mean additional investment to support economic recovery. This may present some opportunities to build new social infrastructure and with it, stronger community cohesion. Already there are ideas like stimulus to dramatically increase climate-appropriate and low carbon public housing that will provide investment in areas where it is sorely needed.
The reality is that some members of our community are at greater risk than others. To support them, we need to come from a place of compassion and empathy, and think beyond how this crisis may impact on ourselves, to how this will impact others, especially the most vulnerable.
We need to need to show care and love at an individual and community level. People are already talking about what they can do in their own neighbourhood such as checking on neighbours who may not have the same community support, sharing their provisions when stock runs low and planning with others about how to manage potential restrictions.
Again, we need to identify community-wide acts of care if we face situations where the health system and human services system are put under stress. We need to think about how we care for the people who will care for us when we are sick, and how to support people most impacted.
It’s not surprising that people are frightened. I think it’s time that we promote a different response – to look out for each other and support a strong community response. What are the ways you think we can support our community through this potential crisis?