How Covid-19 upended life as we knew it in a matter of weeks

Published December 3, 2020
Doctor Katharina Franz and paramedic Andreas Hankel, of the rescue helicopter "Christoph Giessen", reanimate a patient during preparations for his transport in the special isolation chamber "IsoArk", for highly infectious coronavirus patients, from a clinic, during Covid-19 outbreak in Hanau, Germany on April 16, 2020. — Reuters
Doctor Katharina Franz and paramedic Andreas Hankel, of the rescue helicopter "Christoph Giessen", reanimate a patient during preparations for his transport in the special isolation chamber "IsoArk", for highly infectious coronavirus patients, from a clinic, during Covid-19 outbreak in Hanau, Germany on April 16, 2020. — Reuters

On January 1, 2020, as the world welcomed a new decade, Chinese authorities in Wuhan shut down a seafood market in the central city of 11 million, suspecting that an outbreak of a new “viral pneumonia” affecting 27 people might be linked to the site.

Early lab tests in China pointed to a new coronavirus. By January 20 it had spread to three countries.

For most people, it was a minor health scare unfolding half a world away.

Nearly a year later it has changed lives fundamentally. Almost everyone has been affected, be it through illness, losing loved ones or jobs, being confined at home and having to get used to a whole new way of working, relaxing and interacting.

Almost 1.5m people have died globally from the Covid-19 disease related to the coronavirus, and some 63m people have been infected.

After the initial “wave” of the pandemic was brought under some semblance of control in many countries, nations are now fighting second and third waves even greater than the first, forcing new restrictions on everyday life.

Among the most haunting images to emerge from the pandemic in 2020 are those of medics on the frontlines of the battle against the virus.

Medical workers in protective suits attend to Covid-19 patients at ICU of a designated hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on February 6, 2020. — Reuters
Medical workers in protective suits attend to Covid-19 patients at ICU of a designated hospital in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on February 6, 2020. — Reuters

In Milan’s San Raffaele hospital, seven intensive care unit staff attended to an 18-year-old patient suffering from Covid-19, pushing the bed into the ward and holding medical equipment and monitors.

Doctors, and nurses like them, swathed in protective gear — gowns, gloves, masks, and visors, some with their names or initials written on their uniforms — have become a familiar sight.

So, too, have images of medics collapsing from exhaustion or grief at losing one of their own to the disease.

By March and April, many countries began to impose lockdowns and social distancing to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.

Lily Hendrickx, 83, a resident at Belgian nursing home “Le Jardin de Picardie” enjoys hugs and cuddles with Marie-Christine Desoer, the director of the residence, through a wall made with plastic sheets to protect against potential coronavirus infection, in Peruwelz, Belgium on July 1, 2020. — Reuters
Lily Hendrickx, 83, a resident at Belgian nursing home “Le Jardin de Picardie” enjoys hugs and cuddles with Marie-Christine Desoer, the director of the residence, through a wall made with plastic sheets to protect against potential coronavirus infection, in Peruwelz, Belgium on July 1, 2020. — Reuters

Structures to separate and protect people sprang up — from transparent screens at supermarket checkouts to the plastic sheet which allowed 83-year-old Lily Hendrickx, a resident at a Belgian nursing home, to hug Marie-Christine Desoer, the home’s director.

The effects on the natural world of the shutdown were sometimes astonishing. Birdsong could be heard like never before in towns and wild animals ventured into newly empty cities.

At the usually crowded Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point across from San Francisco, a coyote stood by the roadside.

Even the streets of Manhattan were eerily empty.

Ballet dancer Ashlee Montague donned a gas mask and danced in the middle of Times Square, New York.

Ballet dancer and performer Ashlee Montague of New York wears a gas mask while she dances in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, US in March 18, 2020. — Reuters
Ballet dancer and performer Ashlee Montague of New York wears a gas mask while she dances in Times Square in Manhattan, New York City, US in March 18, 2020. — Reuters

In Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, Catholic priest Jonathan Costa prayed alone at the Santuario Dom Bosco church, among photographs of the faithful, attached to the pews.

Wearing masks to combat the spread of the virus became commonplace the world over.

At Tokyo’s Shinagawa train station, crowds of commuters wore face masks, as did prisoners crowded into a cell in El Salvador’s Quezaltepeque jail.

In private homes, families learned to live together 24 hours a day and how to entertain and teach their children.

In San Fiorano in northern Italy, school teacher Marzio Toniolo, 35, took a picture of his two-year-old daughter Bianca painting his toenails bright red.

Health workers wearing protective face masks react during a tribute for their co-worker Esteban, a male nurse that died of complications related to Covid-19 outside the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganes, Spain on April 13, 2020. — Reuters
Health workers wearing protective face masks react during a tribute for their co-worker Esteban, a male nurse that died of complications related to Covid-19 outside the Severo Ochoa Hospital in Leganes, Spain on April 13, 2020. — Reuters

The pandemic hit some of the world’s poorest people the hardest — exposing the inequalities in access to medical treatment and in government funds to compensate people who lost their livelihoods.

In South Africa in May, at the Itireleng informal settlement near Laudium suburb in Pretoria, people waited in a queue that stretched as far as the eye could see to receive food aid.

As 2020 heads to its close, vaccines are on the horizon. There is hope that some aspects of life as we knew it will return.

Opinion

Digital finance
17 Jan 2021

Digital finance

Raast offers opportunities for inclusion, but is not without risk.
Broadsheetgate
Updated 17 Jan 2021

Broadsheetgate

The competence that has underlined NAB and its actions has cost us dearly now and even in 2008.
Debate on ordinances
17 Jan 2021

Debate on ordinances

The government’s line of thinking indicates a belief in the principle of brute majority.
America in decline?
Updated 16 Jan 2021

America in decline?

In spite of the ‘gates’ that rocked the US, democracy stood firm.

Editorial

Updated 17 Jan 2021

Foreign funding case

THE Election Commission of Pakistan has summoned both the PML-N and PPP on Monday in connection with the foreign...
17 Jan 2021

Vaccine procurement

ALL eyes are on the government as it pledges to roll out the Covid-19 vaccination programme to about 80m citizens by...
17 Jan 2021

Makli ‘renovation’

THERE are fears that the recently conducted ‘renovation’ work carried out at the Makli necropolis may rob the...
16 Jan 2021

Gas liberalisation

AFTER drawing much criticism from both consumers and the opposition over its mismanagement of the energy sector that...
16 Jan 2021

Osama Satti inquiry

THE findings of the judicial inquiry into the Jan 2 killing of 21-year-old Osama Satti in Islamabad merely confirms...
Updated 16 Jan 2021

British MP on IHK

DESPITE sustained efforts by New Delhi’s rulers to remove India-held Kashmir from the global discourse, people of...