Friday, 22 January, 2021
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OPINION

Being Social In Asocial Times



Nishtha Shrestha

Nepal is close to completing a week-long lockdown enforced on March 24 to rein in the possible outbreak of novel coronavirus that is better known as COVID-19. The government has taken an array of measures to contain the spread of deadly virus. Still the people have many concerns regarding the danger of contagion as well as their own safety. The media is filled with news about the virus outbreak and the precautions that are needed to be taken. Social media is filled with virus-related memes that may amuse some but angers others due to the sensitivity of the situation. The response to the virus and the attitude towards the various precaution measures have been found to be highly varied in this densely populated South Asian nation.
Social distancing
With the imposition of lockdown for the entire population, the government has aimed to apply social distancing across the country. The world has proved this test as an effective solution. The World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments from around the world are encouraging people to follow social distancing seriously. Social distancing can play an important role not only in containing the spread of the infection but also in mobilising resources effectively to cope with the virus. However, the government may find it difficult to encourage citizens to follow social distancing as it can bring about significant changes in their lifestyle. It may be easy to list out the solutions theoretically. But assessing the impact of social distancing is the need of the hour.
After months of monitoring the disease transmission and living with the unpredictable stress of the virus, the first case of COVID-19 was officially confirmed in Nepal a couple of weeks back. Four more new cases have been detected recently. Hopefully, this news has made the citizens alert about the seriousness of this pandemic. The burden of social distancing is likely to affect lower class people such as daily wage workers and vegetable sellers more than others. The lower class people lack adequate savings and stock of commodities that they need in the time of crisis.
Does this mean that we have to be prepared for the next problem as soon as COVID-19 is controlled? The answer is yes and the best way we can reduce the intensity of the impending problem is by adopting pro-active methods when we follow social distancing properly. The young people may find this as a different kind of 'holiday.' When streets remain empty, young soccer lovers may be interested in playing there. Staying indoors can be an effective way for them to be free from any fear, sadness, anxiety or worry that might have developed in them due to the unfamiliar environment.
Adolescents are the next group who may or may not be following media to get updated on the issue. They may find it enjoyable to stay at home in the initial days. But they might miss their friends at a time when they are forced to live together with their family throughout the day. Parents are required to tell their children about the long-term benefits of the short-term difficulty. This may help the parents to overcome frustrations and restlessness of their children.
Adult persons play multiple roles as the breadwinner, the homemaker and everyone in between. They must work on creating a model family. Whether they may be tense and stressful because of uncertainty, they must prioritise their family's safety. While we wait for the government to consider the plight of the marginalised in this dire situation, we can offer our help to those whose suffering comes to our notice. The pressure of sustaining the household is immense at this time. Asking for support is a good way of preparing oneself for the upcoming days of struggle and challenge.

Emotional bond
The aforementioned points regarding social distancing may not be applicable to every family. But the common theme is to stay calm and rely on the support we have received from our family and virtual friends. It is true that social distancing may not be easy for the people who have the culture of celebrating festivals and family gatherings all the time. Anyhow, like in the past, we can adapt to the situation. At this moment we should preserve our connections without our physical proximity and ensure that they remain active even after the pandemic is eliminated.
Regarding the significance of applying social distancing and emotional closeness in such a situation, American psychiatrist Bruce D. Perry says, "The most powerful buffer in times of stress and distress is our social connectedness; so let's all remember to stay physically distant but emotionally close."

(A psychologist, Shrestha works in the field of mental health for children.) 

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