Schools are re-opening. Restaurants, bars, and offices are re-opening. People look forward to life returning to normal.
It won’t. The COVID-19 virus will not go away. Now that it is here, it is going to stay.
Something new has been introduced into this planet’s life. From here on, we have to accept viruses as a permanent feature of life.
That’s true of every new development. The discoveries of DNA, electricity, nuclear energy and quantum physics have all changed things forever; no amount of wishful thinking will make them go away either.
There isn’t going to be a normal. As long as there are living creatures on this earth, the coronavirus or something like it is going to be around.
We could get rid of the coronavirus. If we could isolate every living being on earth for two weeks, the coronavirus would be extinct.
Mind you, many of those living creatures would die of starvation during that two weeks— just as undesirable an outcome as perpetuating the virus.
During the early months of the current pandemic, I was utterly alone for over two weeks. No one visited me. I visited no one. There was no chance that any remnants of the coronavirus remained in my personal bubble.
But as soon as I allowed anyone else into my bubble, the coronavirus could also enter.
My own bubble was secure. Could I have the same confidence about anyone else’s bubble?
In fact, I could, because I knew those few people, and trusted them. But there are practical limits to maintaining a bubble. Interior Health currently has no new COVID-19 cases, no cases in ICU, no cases in hospital in over two weeks. No other region can make that claim.
If they could build a bubble around their region, they would have no fear of further infections.
But that would require a wall more impenetrable than Donald Trump’s Mexican wall.
As long as people insist on being mobile, as long as people interact with each other and with animals, viruses like COVID-19 will spread.
A vaccine will not solve this problem. A certain number of people will refuse to accept a vaccine. I may consider their reasons fallacious, but that’s their choice.
And as long as those potential hosts for the virus refuse to wear masks, or to maintain a safe distance between themselves and everyone else, they will transmit diseases — if not this one, some other.
When I put the situation that way, it seems clear to me that what’s needed is not more medical knowledge, not stiffer rules and regulations, but common courtesy. Which is, at root, a religious theme.
That may sound like a strange thing to say. But it’s a central tenet of all religious faiths. The Christian religion identifies Jesus as having said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
Maybe even more than yourself.
Even if you don’t care if you get infected, it’s not just about you. It’s about protecting others.
Loving your neighbours, in the coronavirus context, means ensuring that nothing you do you will transmit illness to them, whoever they are.
Most of the objections to wearing masks and maintaining social distancing are about me. About my comfort, my convenience, my rights.
But there’s more than me involved.
Not far from my home are two intersections. One of them has traffic lights governing every aspect of traffic flow. I estimate that, using sensors buried in the pavement, those lights control eight different combinations of left turns and straight through. Those traffic lights impose rigid rules. You must obey. Even if there’s no other traffic going through.
Nearby is a roundabout. No traffic lights. Only one rule — the vehicle already on the roundabout has the right of way. And somehow, it works. Most of the time. People slow down, allow others to proceed. There are very few accidents. Because people show courtesy to each other.
(Admittedly, a few drivers are so obsessed with their own importance that — like anti-vaxxers and non-maskers — they do it their way regardless.)
This pandemic is not about rules and enforcement; it’s about common courtesy.
Common courtesy, it seems to me, requires that we do nothing which will cause pain, suffering, illness, or hurt to someone else.
In other words, religions got it right. We have to “love our neighbour” as much as we love ourselves. If we don’t want it to happen to us, we can’t let it happen to anyone else.
Technology alone cannot defeat the coronavirus. Making common courtesy more common would help.
Jim Taylor is an Okanagan Centre author and freelance journalist.