From greeting by the foot to feeling bad about kissing, things are not the same as before.
After President Mokgweetsi Masisi partially lifted the nationwide lockdown that was imposed nearly two months earlier to control the spread of the Coronavirus on Thursday last week, early signs are that people are not emerging into a world that is the same as before the lockdown.
Already the country’s health care has been overstretched as it prepared for the worst as people adjusted to the new normal of working from home. To begin to envision the legacy of the Coronavirus, this publication has made observations of how the pandemic has changed the way people live.
Ever since the Botswana Government announced that face masks are mandatory, this essential accessory has become a wardrobe staple. The immediacy of the pandemic has forced people and some businesses to reconsider old stigmas associated with the face masks (as in balaclavas) for the sake of public health. Masks are now part of everyday life and it is now normal to see everyone inside banking halls or a grocery store wearing masks as a precaution against the spread of the deadly virus that is highly infectious and contagious.
Perhaps the silver lining is that the masks as the masks spin off the spindle, it is income for local fashion businesses at a time when the economy has slowed down tremendously. With schools scheduled to re-open soon, designers and seamstresses will gain a new clientèle that will further boost their businesses.
The pandemic has early on compelled people to rethink basic norms such as shaking hands, hugging and kissing. As people strive to protect themselves and those around them, the pandemic has created new taboos around personal hygiene and human behaviour that was normal pre-COVID-19 while terms such as personal protective equipment (PPE) have entered common parlance. Behaviour such as never coughing or sneezing in the open air, especially in crowded spaces, and avoiding touching one’s face, particularly the eyes, nose and mouth, have emerged as critical to preventing infection with the virus. People are also washing their hands constantly while ways of greeting as novel as the virus have become normal, although the elbow bump is admittedly less imbued with human warmth.
But it is the elbow bump or simple hand wave and the elbow bump that even the high and mighty have adopted, for they too are just as fearful of the invisible but deadly virus as ordinary mortals. And although now attributed to the Chinese as the “Wuhan Shake,” the foot-to-foot greeting has made a comeback in many places around the world. The popularity of the greeting was propelled by a video posted on Twitter in which a group of face-masked men greeted each other by quickly tapping their feet together as another safer way of greeting without risking virus transmission. The pandemic has also made intimacy feel treacherous because the virus can move through talking, kissing and even singing.
Retailers trading in selling essential goods during the lockdown and post-lockdown continue to take precautionary measures like restricted entry and marked lines to maintain social distancing. This was not the case pre-COVID-19 as shoppers walked in and out of premises without robust health check-ups. The new reality as the economy slowly opens to business is the forced requirement to wear a mask, get a temperature check, sanitize, register bio details and queue up before entering in limited numbers.
Several retail stores have even marked spots on lines on the floor to help customers maintain social distancing and the stores are regularly sprayed with disinfectant, especially baskets, trolleys and counter surfaces.
These are some of the legacies of the Coronavirus. For some the despondency of quarantine is now giving way to post-isolation plans of spending more time with their loved ones, taking the plunge to make new career choices and ticking a few things off their bucket list.