By Shakir Reshamwala
The coronavirus pandemic has upended life as we know it. Scores have been sickened and many have lost their lives. Even those who didn’t contract the virus have been affected by the outbreak. Many lost their jobs or had to take pay cuts. Others were forced to leave the country. Worse, thousands were stranded abroad and families were divided after borders were closed. Things have returned somewhat to “normal”, but travel curbs remain.
The social and cultural landscape has changed too. Scroll through your phone’s gallery, and you will find stark differences between images from the pre-COVID era and most of 2020. Gone are the crowds, extended gatherings of friends and family, school functions and the like. You realize you have crossed the COVID Rubicon when masks begin appearing in the photos, getting more and more ubiquitous as you flick your finger across the screen.
Our language has evolved too, with medieval words like quarantine and pandemic returning to everyday use. Words associated with warzones are commonplace too – think lockdown and curfew. Other phrases are also in vogue, like social distancing and work from home. One frequently reads about superspreading events and the hunt for patient zero. Acronyms are everywhere – PCR tests, WHO, CDC, FDA and of course COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2.
Going about our daily life has also seen changes. Masks have to be worn everywhere, from shops to places of worship to ministries. Though not as stringently enforced as before, gloves have to be donned at supermarkets, which is in fact a good idea, as shopping carts have more pathogens than toilet seats or flush handles. In mosques, worshippers are spaced out, have to wear masks and bring their own prayer rugs, although many mosques have disposable plastic prayer mats for those who forget to bring their own.
One good thing that has emerged is that official government paperwork has mostly gone online, hastened by the pandemic. Renewing your license or residence or that of your dependents is now a breeze. The new appointment system at most ministries and clinics is mostly efficient. Gone are the days of being sent back over a missing document, stamp machines being out of order and that dreaded “come back tomorrow” refrain by indifferent employees!
As the year draws to a close, the country’s borders are closed yet again due to a mutation of the virus. But vaccinations have begun and daily infections and deaths have greatly reduced. Lockdowns and curfews are things of the past, while most businesses are operating as they were before. Kuwait seems to have weathered the storm, but utmost vigilance is needed. This is not the time to let our guard down.