Notes from the Quarantine | Reflecting on a new way of living

COVID-19 has imposed a new way of living on many of us. With necessary restrictions on movement at a national and international level, normality is on temporarily hold and our pace of life reduced to a crawl.

While unlike other disasters that have pushed communities into their homes and brought economies to an abrupt halt, it is not all too different in that it has already shown how much humanity can achieve when it comes together, and in the same hand, what happens when it doesn’t.

As to be expected, we are seeing a lot of content come out around the virus. The statistics are terrifying enough by themselves, let alone how some media outlets sensationalise and speculate on them and now that most of us have the time to obsess, we are.

In trying times, giving purpose to your circumstance can help deal with the inevitable negative thoughts that creep in, ‘idle hands’ and all that. But I am looking at this great slowdown as a time to recoup, take stock and plan.

For me, the biggest change to my daily lifestyle, is my work life. Working from home has turned into a huge positive and I am grateful it is there as an option. Even though my days are hectic, I feel an innate sense of calm that comes from my patience not been frayed during commutes and I feel I am taking that time back and using it for family, for reading and for resting.

Having no social commitments will be strange to some, but I have found it as a peculiar benefit to the slowdown. To not be in a rush is a forgotten privilege that most of us haven’t enjoyed since our age was reflected in single digits. But time to be bored, and think, instead of the usual humdrum of life is refreshing.

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As someone who enjoys their own company and would seek downtime in my normal week, it is true that no man is an island, and nor should he be. Family and friends are important, maybe now more than ever, and although we can’t sit together over a coffee or a beer, knowing they are but a text away should bring great comfort to us all.

But while our phones are now the only connection to what is happening in the world, we must understand how algorithms and certain apps will push us inside our own content bubbles and cause harm to our well-being.

Aside from the pressure social media is placing on us to use this time to learn a new language, practice your downward dog and read two books a day, there are real concerns around some habits.

Online gambling is feared to see a spike as an offset of the effects social distancing will have on people. In late March, 888 Holdings reported a rise in customer activity across its casino and poker services. They are aware of this and will communicate with players about their safe gambling tools. But only time will tell if this will slow down along with the economy or continue to increase.

On a national level, we have experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. Thankfully, the response from our government coupled with the bravery of our frontline workers have set us up well, and we have graduated from the toilet paper snatching, food hoarding, public space flocking shown in the early days.

And we should be proud, except for those who are spitting on Gardaí, for we are doing well so far. The same can’t be said for many other countries. A quick Google search of USA and COVID-19 will show you what I mean. From shortages of PPE for healthcare workers, requesting 3M to cease exporting respirators (manufactured in the United States) to the Canadian and Latin American markets to using the virus as a vessel for racism and xenophobia, we can hold our heads high.

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While governments are all acting differently, or at all for that matter – Sweden, we’re looking at you – one of the only reactions to happen in a cohesively manner across the world was the economy tanking leaving veteran investors who have survived the great financial crash of 2008 looking at each other in shock.

With stock markets experiencing unprecedented levels of volatility. The S&P 500 (a stock market index that tracks stocks of 500 large-cap U.S. companies. It represents their market’s performance) triggered level 1 market wide circuit breakers during the opening hour on March 9, 12 and 16 based on drops of 7% from the previous close, and tripped later in the day on the 18th to try and stop the panic selling of stocks.

Unsurprisingly, some sectors are seeing growth amid this pandemic. On April 3rd, the S&P 500 showed Twitter jumping 4.3%, Zoom Video Communications increased 0.8%, and Alpha Pro Tech, the Canada-based supplier of protective apparel, increased 9%. All of this showed the expected increase of emphasis on communication and personal protection equipment companies.

Closer to home it is reported more than 850,000 people in receipt of unemployment related benefits. That was made up of 533,000 receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, 42,000 on the Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme and the rest were already receiving welfare. It was indicated that the potential loss of taxation this year could be higher than €8bn.

There is no doubt this will be a long recovery, but we have come back from worse. Our efforts to date with social distancing have saved countless lives and suffering, and if we continue to practice the same level of disciple we will pull through, and save doctors from having to make impossible decisions.

Overall I would like to think this has had a grounding effect on us. It has shown that heroes are health care workers, truck drivers, cleaners and those who ensure shelves are stocked full of food. During this slowdown we should mourn our losses, be thankful, be responsible and not lose sight of why we need to stay positive and stay apart.

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