Home is best; one of the COVID-19 lessons

Tapiwa Gomo

THE past few weeks have been tough and the next weeks or months promise to remain so, as the world grapples to contain the novel coronavirus. Without efficient and effective suppression and precautionary measures, the pandemic may still be with us for some time. This is mainly so, after recent reports suggesting that the coronavirus has so far mutated more than 30 times scuttling chances of an immediate discovery of a vaccine.

That aside. There is no doubt that after COVID-19, the world will never be the same again. The virus has caused immense damage and reconfigured the social, political and economic ecosystem of the world from individual, family to global level. As the world starts counting the costs, there are also many lessons to draw from this harsh experience and its aftermath.

There has been curious developments so far, with some bordering on protectionism and xenophobia. Some remind us that home is best. A group of African ambassadors in China issued a statement on April 20 after reports emerged that Africans were being subjected to humiliation and harassment by the Chinese due to the COVID-19.

On April 22, United States President Donald Trump issued an executive order blocking people outside his country from obtaining US permanent residency, purportedly to protect American workers and jobs amid the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. On April 24, South Africa’s Finance minister Tito Mboweni also proposed that employers must prioritise South Africans in the post-COVID-19-era, perhaps as a condition for re-opening some business such as restaurants. Immigrants are becoming the biggest losers.

It is easy to condemn these measures on so many fronts such as racist, xenophobic, protectionist etc.

However, it is also a stark reminder that it is now much more critical to work towards developing our homes and our countries as the once-shared space out there is fast shrinking.

More of this is coming and so is the scramble for resources to revive the waning economies by rich countries.

The fragile States will be overrun, if they are not prepared to handle vulturous invasions by rich countries. Without a global mediator, the world will revert to law of the jungle and survival of the fittest.

Let’s take much closer home a tad. It has not been easy for many people to be locked up in the house for three to five weeks. Modernity taught most people that home is simply for landing – sleeping, bathing and storage of household items.

Real life was occurring outside at work, church, clubs, sports and other social facilities. For some, there was no need to buy certain household appliances as the need for them was taken care of elsewhere.

Lockdowns cut most people from their lifelines. It is not pleasant to be stuck in a place that is not hospitable even when it is what one calls home.

For the singles and single parents, it is a lonely journey. And for those who rely on maids, gardeners and helpers, mainly those who do not live-in, it is indeed a tough time as they have to do all domestic chores on their own.

Parenting, which most people had delegated to school and nursery teachers, has become a full-time job, including managing the schoolwork being dished out from virtual classes. Add these to the work-from-home modality and the demands from remote bosses.

All these remind us of how the chase for money has detached us from our home settings and chores. What is being experienced now is the real life. People are facing their real roles and responsibilities.

One of the many lessons here is to be acquainted to the requirements of one’s life and make our homes comfortable for us, family and work life. Anything outside is borrowed comfort and home is where we belong.

The next level is national leadership of countries. I mentioned earlier policies emerging in China, South Africa and the US. This simply means millions of immigrants will lose their jobs and educational opportunities. Some may be forced to return to their home countries and yet the home countries have not been investing in their development and job creation.

In addition, there are reports in Europe where black people were de-prioritised as the public health system became overwhelmed. All these together must be a wake-up call to our own leaders that developing our country is not only a political demand by the electorate but it is the right thing to do.

In these times of COVID-19, there is no government that will prioritise an African leader over its citizen, no matter how rich. And that one has billions of dollars saved in that country comes to zero. Even if they are allowed to go, the global travel restrictions make this hard.

The panic that led to the rapid refurbishment of the Wilkins Infectious Diseases Hospital and others was not necessary as it should have been done decades ago if those who run the country realised that plunder backfires. For now, these quick fixes suffice to cater for the gap, but much bigger shocks are yet to come.

Time shall come when individuals whose wealth is in offshore accounts is no longer accessible as countries prioritise their economies to recover from the looming COVID-19 global recession.

When that day comes, there shall be gnashing of teeth with some regretting why they destroyed the country and allowed the economy to die under their nose. Plunder does not pay and home is best.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.