Reflecting on the Pandemic (so far…)
It’s been 536 days since I landed at Changi Airport, the iconic landmark that helped put Singapore on the map as an international travel hub. On that memorable day, February 16th, 2020, I knew that I was landing in an uncertain environment — this relatively unknown virus that had affected 183,000 people across a handful of countries, had counted Singapore as one of the first places affected.
It’s only fitting that on the eve of my first trip since that day, sitting at Changi again, that I reflect on this unusual period, and I will do so across three lenses— macro, professional and personal.
It’s stating the obvious to say that the pandemic has really catalysed or accelerated change around the world across a number of fronts. Globalisation is dying, voices of tribalism have grown much louder, and all the excitement now is about the “metaverse”. The nature of work and education has changed permanently, and millions of us had a rare pause to consider what is important in life.
I’ve seen the difference that the quality of government makes in managing the pandemic (regardless of the size, wealth and system of government), and the range of responses therein have been incredibly diverse — from ‘let’s go for zero COVID’ to ‘let’s pretend COVID doesn’t exist’. The outcomes have been similarly diverse, from just a handful of deaths to outright humanitarian disasters, and they don’t necessarily correlate with the wealth and resources of the nations in question either.
I also saw that the weakest links in the chain can neutralise the best of efforts, especially now with the Delta variant, which is as contagious as chickenpox, according to the CDC, managing to bypass the control measures of the even the best managed of nations.
Beyond the virus itself, there is the huge mental, physical, and emotional toll, and these effects will undoubtedly live for generations beyond the end of the pandemic. Loved ones departed, marriages dissolved, businesses bankrupted, and millions of jobs lost at its peak. Even if the countless COVID babies, new relationships, and other sectors prosper, this radical amount of change in such short time will definitely leave its battle scars. I wonder what the history books will say about this period of time, what they…