I've been meaning to write this post for a while now but was kind of beaten to the punch by @cvdavis when he wrote this post. I say "kind of" because my idea is a little different, which is why I'm starting a different conversation rather than hijacking his post and taking it off topic. Still, both conversations will complement each other well I think. While his post focuses on how the pandemic has positively affected people on a personal level despite all the hardships it has wrought, the idea I had was to discuss all the silver linings behind the pandemic which affects all of us as a society.
Improved personal and public hygiene
In trying to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, everyone is practising better personal hygiene. People are washing their hands more frequently and public spaces like shopping malls, restaurants, petrol stations etc are all sanitising their premises more frequently as well. I don't think people have taken personal hygiene so seriously before.
Adoption of cashless transactions
I've written about this in a couple of other posts recently. I don't think there have been any reported incidents of COVID-19 transmission via the exchange of cash, but many people are taking a "better safe than sorry" approach anyway and cashless transactions have skyrocketed amidst the pandemic while the use of cash has plummeted (here at least). Even if COVID-19 doesn't spread via the exchange of cash, this is still a great thing to see. Cash is dirty anyway. Nobody ever cleans coins or bank notes.
Working from home has become more acceptable
As many industries closed down completely, some were allowed to continue to operate as long as employees worked from home rather than the office. Working from home has always been an option as freelancers could pretty much work anywhere they wanted to, but for office/corporate work, it was something new. Pretty soon everybody realised that some jobs actually can be done from home, and so companies like Twitter, Square, and Google decided to continue allowing their employees to work from home even after the pandemic. Even in Malaysia, both employers and employees have warmed up to the idea of working from home as a permanent option.
Online learning gets a push
Sometimes things don't change unless they have to, and with education this is exactly what happened. Even though schools, colleges, and universities were forced to close, education can't stop, so classes were forced to be moved online and everyone, including teachers, students, and parents all had to adapt. This shift to online learning can be reflected by Google Classroom, which recently surpassed 100 million downloads. I think it's still important for kids and teenagers to go to school, and even for young adults to go to college and university for social interactions, but hopefully some components of education could be moved online permanently and a more digital approach to education wouldn't seem too foreign in the classroom.
More impetus for better internet coverage
As a result of everything (especially education) being moved online, the importance and significance of the internet in our lives hasn't been more evident. For people living in well connected urban areas, internet connectivity may not be a problem, but for those living in less connected rural areas, the shift to online dependence wasn't so smooth. Hopefully this will push governments and relevant authorities to improve internet connectivity in less developed parts of their countries sooner rather than later.
Improvements to video calling
Video calling like online learning, was around for a while now but got a sudden surge of importance once people were forced to stay home. And just like how online learning saw a huge spike in adoption due to the pandemic, so too did video calling. With a sudden realisation of the importance video calling now carries, tech companies rushed to make improvements to their respective video calling services to cater to this sudden demand. Telegram, a service which will only add video calling later this year, said it best - "Video calls in 2020 are much like messaging in 2013."
Appreciation for unsung heroes
While everybody was locked away at home a group of unsung heroes came to our rescue - food delivery riders. With restricted access to grocery shopping and prohibitions against dining in restaurants, food delivery riders kept us well fed. In Malaysia, their hard work was recognised with a huge sum of tips as Malaysians showed their appreciation. But this appreciation doesn't end with food delivery riders. As kids were kept away from school, parents finally realised just how difficult teachers' jobs are, with homeschooling suddenly becoming the new norm. And of course, how can we forget our healthcare workers. These heroes deserve the most praise, working around the clock, treating patients, taking samples, putting themselves on the line to keep this pandemic at bay. Once this is all over, I think healthcare workers won't ever be looked at the same way again.
There's no such thing as a "good" pandemic, but that doesn't mean we can't appreciate the good that comes as a result of a one. Though the pandemic has lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths, left many people unemployed, and countless others struggling with their health, focusing on the positives will allow humanity to come out stronger when this is all over. What's the saying? The toughest steel is forged in the hottest fire? This pandemic is definitely one heck of a fire, and hopefully we will all come out of it tougher.