COVID 19 behavioural changes in society

Learning online from home is still going to be here for a few more months. During the time from March until now, almost December 2020, I have seen numerous behavioural changes in my own family, and generally in the organisations where I have a role.

Many individuals and families have experienced COVID, with severe symptoms, and recovered. While there are a few who are cautious because they have experienced COVID, some would like to believe that they now have lifelong immunity from COVID without even checking their antibodies frequently enough. Do we know if the immunity is lifelong for those who recovered? Science does not know yet!

Some individuals, like @trump, who would like to believe that this is just another minor flu and it will just go away – are throwing caution to the wind: no masks, no social distancing. And as most people agree, the government and the media have been cautioning the public about their callousness that can impact the individuals, their near & dear ones, and the community they live in. Contact tracing has stopped being viable many months ago, and the virus is truly in the community transmission mode. Sadly you can see a lot of people who disrespect the protocols and are pushing us ‘fast forward’ to a possible second wave here in India.

While the testing facilities and capabilities have increased manifold, it is ironic that the number of tests have decreased substantially, as also the number of active COVID cases. I am not a doctor or a pharmacist or anything close to it. I am a common man, trying to run businesses, educational institutions, and most important of all, a family: a family consisting of two 85 year olds — my father and my father-in-law. One of them was infected by the virus, but recovered after a long month of hospitalisation and quarantine. My son-in-law and daughter were both infected, and at a time when my daughter was pregnant. So my second grandchild was delivered one month premature. All is well now, but looking back, the risks were very high. And everyone had to go through the treatment protocol, quarantine, and isolation protocols.

Ironically, the pulmonologist who treated my father when he was in hospital was very strict about quarantine and isolation, and rightly so. Eight to ten days in isolation in a small ward can break you mentally — delirium, disorientation, incoherence etc. For an 85 year old, my father was mentally strong and had the will to live and zest for life. He got back home fine, and also back to work. Unfortunately, the same pulmonologist contracted COVID, and incidentally was quarantined in the same ward where my father was. After he got discharged, he called and asked me, “I wonder how your father could manage?! I thought I was going mad”!

I now see, particularly in young people, 20-30 year olds (there are many exceptions), a sense of self-denial that the virus could even touch them. That is scary. Certain sections of the society do not want to get tested, and I don’t know why.

If you have never contracted the Virus, and have had no symptoms at all, you may not need to undergo an RT-PCR test – because it only tells you if you were negative or positive at the time the swab was collected. If you turned out to be positive, you see a doctor. If you are negative, you carry on with your life with all the mandated precautions. If you were positive and then healed, you still check your antibodies every week for 2-3 weeks to ensure there is a good build up of them. For the rest of us, be as cautious as you can and wait for the vaccine!

For children who have almost lost an entire academic year, how much of online teaching and activities at home would be sufficient? Lack of social contact brings about behavioural changes like becoming stubborn, not knowing how to share, what it means to lose, etc. They are ever engaged in TVs, video games and mobile phones. They have learnt to throw tantrums so that you switch on the TV, and even as you say “too much TV watching is bad for your eyes”! You run out of ideas, run out of plans, to keep the children at home engaged. And after all, you also have to perform your duties and roles in the family and at work.

Finally, there is no socialisation, no weddings to go to, no places of worship you can go to, and no professional events, since all of them have gone virtual. If you are working from home it is a chain of conference calls. I work from home, and so do all my colleagues across all locations.

If there was an issue resolution, a conflict, an escalation, a quickly convened meeting at the office would resolve it in pre-COVID times. Today, similar issues sometimes take three calls over 2-3 days to resolve? Sometimes you leave it to be resolved when we get back to the office. And when will that be? We don’t know.

Well there are some positives too. I have got used to driving by myself, as I feel safer that way. Collecting my car keys, the office bag, wallet and mobile phone, mask and a small bottle sanitiser has become a habit. Sitting at a distance in office meetings has almost become sub-conscious. Washing hands frequently with soap water happens every time somebody in the room mentions Corona.

Videoconferences have begun to feel more convenient: particularly if you imagine the travails of travel. Being able to do the meetings across countries and time zones is not a hassle anymore.

You don’t have to plan vacations that will be uncertain until the last minute and that you many times end up canceling only to invite the wrath of the family. Work always took higher priority, at times. However, today, work is the default and family’s well-being is a high priority. Everything else has faded into the background.

About the author

D Sudhanva is the founder and CEO at Excelsoft Technologies, a globally renowned eLearning Solutions Company. With a focus on transforming education across the world, Sudhanva has steered Excelsoft to be a thought leader in Education Technology with robust products delivering innovative solutions.