What lessons has the pandemic taught us?

Canadian experts speak about the lessons learned from the six-month pandemic and the future challenges for the country .

Woman wearing a mask while traveling by train.

The pandemic has faced us with new challenges and has exposed different shortcomings and difficulties in the world. / Photo: Pexels

The Woman Post | Maria Lourdes Zimmermann

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Leer en español: ¿Qué lecciones nos ha dejado la pandemia?

Chris Sasaki, a writer from the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of Toronto in Canada, recently wrote an article published in U of T News, in which he exposes the ideas of six professionals and lessons that the pandemic has taught to the country of the maple. 

According to the writer, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. However, he adds, “it has been with us long enough to clearly expose the failures, inequalities and deficiencies in virtually every sector of society . As a result, many have concluded that a “new normalcy ”rather than reverting to the status quo is needed.

Sasaki began by asking experts several questions, including four women out of the six interviewees. The conclusions can be summarized in a single idea that is related to the need to rebuild society to make it more, equitable, just and sustainable.

The writer asked the experts: What should that new normal look like? What lessons have we learned, or should we have learned, from the pandemic? And this is what they answered.

Sylvia Bashevkin, Professor in the Political Science Department of the College of Arts and Sciences

In mid-March, I wrote an op-ed for the Toronto Star on the challenges facing social cohesion in Canada. Four months later, our circumstances look promising and, at the same time, threatening, Bashevkin says.

People have come together in extraordinary ways to help each other. Some public officials have demonstrated insightful and principled leadership. However, inequalities of gender, race, indigeneity and social class continue to separate citizens, making us mistrust the central institutions that need to operate effectively in times of crisis. We see protesters rally to deny the concept of the public good. They oppose the mandatory rules of masks and defend the supposedly inalienable rights to haircuts and purchases, concludes the Professor.

Sunit Das, Associate Professor of the Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Faculty Associate of the Center for Ethics

This moment, of the COVID-19 pandemic, of the #MeToo movement, of Black Lives Matter, has required that we all consider what we understand as a society for justice and equity, to consider the possibility that our society is fundamentally based on a foundation that capriciously compromises both for many of its components.

In medicine, justice and equity are included in the principle of justice. Unique among the four pillars of medical ethics, along with beneficence, good conduct and autonomy, justice looks beyond the individual patient before us and requires that we view our duty as physicians as a duty to society explains the specialist.

The disproportionate cost of COVID-19 for Black, Latino, Indian, elderly, and disabled patients is a matter of justice. It is our duty as physicians to address the forces that allowed and continue to foster the injustice and inequity manifested by the pandemic in society and medicine, says Sunit Das

As physicians, we have often proven to be honest stewards of charity, non-misconduct, and autonomy. We must remember that we are also subject to our duty as administrators of justice, Das concludes.

Miriam Diamond, professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Returning to pre-pandemic conditions, without learning from it, will condemn ourselves and future generations to conditions beyond what we now face due to climate change, including uncertain and precarious health, social inequities and insecurity according to Diamond.

Like the pandemic, climate change is estimated to cause death, disease and displacement, accompanied by a very high economic toll for both Canadians and 99% of the world's citizens.

The good news is that we, as a society, can adapt our behavior and practices according to the advice given by experts, as we have done during the pandemic. To do this, we must recognize the dire threat posed by climate change and direct government and private sector funds to decarbonized technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase our global competitive advantage, says the professor.

We need to harness the lessons learned from COVID-19 to create a sustainable and equitable new normal for all Canadians and to be a beacon for the international community reflects Miriam Diamond.

It may interest you: Who are the female world leaders who have managed to control COVID19?

Ito Peng, Professor, Department of Sociology, College of Arts and Sciences, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy

The most important lessons we have learned from the pandemic are the importance of having a good long-term care (LTC) system, the value of care and the consequences of the precarious situation of care workers according to Ito PengIto Peng.

Canada's LTC households have done a spectacularly bad job of caring for our senior citizens. And he explains that: “We top the table in deaths related to COVID in LTC households, of more than 80% of total deaths compared to the country's average according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which is 42% ”.

Years of neglect have resulted in inadequate and low-quality services for residents and terrible working conditions for care workers. The shift to a private, for-profit LTC market has been spurred by bad policies and weak regulations and has created poor, low-wage working conditions for care workers. Analyzed the Professor.

After COVID-19, we must build a better regulated universal public LTC system that provides better quality care and better training and payment to care workers, he concludes.

Irene Poetranto, Senior Researcher at Citizen Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy

Although the coronavirus does not discriminate, its consequences do. Marginalized groups who are vulnerable to prejudice have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19.

Singapore and Thailand saw an increase in COVID-19 cases among low-wage migrant workers. Online attacks and offline harassment against LGBTQ2S + people increased following coronavirus infections in the Itaewon district of Seoul, a popular place for LGBTQ2S + people in South Korea. Remote mining sites in Indonesia and the Philippines have become transmission vectors for COVID-19, putting local communities and indigenous peoples at risk.

In responding to COVID-19, governments have relied on the military and police to enforce physical distancing and have used surveillance mechanisms and widespread data collection to trace contacts, all of which increase the risk of human rights violations explains the expert.

As the pandemic continues to turn public health into a security concern, we must ensure that the new post-COVID-19 normal is not one where human rights and rule of law crisis is normalized.

These elements reflect deep tensions that threaten the foundations of liberal democracy in Canada. We must remember that collective thought and action are crucial to protect human health and the concept of the public good concludes the researcher.

Matti Siemiatycki, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Acting Director of the School of Cities.

The pandemic has disproportionately affected low-income, racialized and overcrowded communities, for example, in the inner suburbs in the northern part of the GTA. It has more clearly revealed our affordable housing crisis, as well as the damaging impacts of precarious employment. We have seen transit routes in the inner suburbs that are overcrowded even though the number of transit commuters dropped dramatically during the pandemic.

The pandemic has revealed, and in some cases accelerated, the shortcomings and cracks in society in terms of inequality of opportunities, public services and infrastructure that existed before, Siemiatycki reveals .

So we really need to respond to those challenges and change the way we are doing things. The new normal has to be different. We need to rebuild better, do things differently, respond to the health challenges that have arisen in the wake of the pandemic. The housing crisis needs to be addressed and conditions improved for low-wage workers. And we have to do things like improve bus service in the inner suburbs, invest in dedicated bike lanes and make the city more walkable and less dominated by cars, says the Professor.

In short, we need to rebuild a society that is more equitable, sustainable and just, concludes Matti Siemiatycki.




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