Covid-19 brought a severe health crisis that has impacted the world. In this file photo, children listen to lessons over the radio as schools remain closed in the remote village of Burog in Bamban, Tarlac province. (Photo: Getty Images/Ezra Acayan)
During this pandemic, the most vulnerable have been the hardest hit . . . We must increase our resilience. We must work together and take an integrated approach to health, hunger, climate, and equity crisis—no one is safe from Covid-19 until everyone is safe.
—Volkan Bozkır, President of the United Nations General Assembly
IF there is one thing that has happened since the severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2) was first discovered in Wuhan, China, it is the fact that our most basic everyday activities—from working to shopping and going to the office—have completely been transformed and may never be the same again.
This year, the world marks nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic since China announced the first death from Covid-19—a 61-year-old man in Wuhan—on Jan. 11, 2020/ Now we look at how our lives have been fundamentally altered by the deadly virus that has claimed millions of lives and brought down even the strongest economy to its knees.
And as the virus rampaged across the globe, governments ordered citizens to stay inside, forcing billions of people to hastily set up home offices. Remote-working and working-from-home (WFH) all quickly became staples in our new pandemic vernacular. Even as lockdowns eased, working from home at least some of the time has remained the norm for many.
According to Stamford, Connecticut-based technology research and consulting company Gartner, the percentage of people working remotely hit 32 percent in 2021. This is up from just 17 percent in 2019.
And for others from the working class, the pandemic prompted a change of jobs or demands for better conditions. In the United States, tens of thousands of workers from hospitals to Hollywood walked off the job last year in a movement dubbed ‘Striketober’ to protest long hours and poor pay. This, too, has been experienced by our medical and healthcare frontliners, who are protesting delayed salaries and unpaid benefits on top of long and taxing hours of service in hospitals and medical facilities across the archipelago.
But there is also light at the end of the tunnel with billions bunkered down at home, businesses of all kinds had to quickly pivot, and online sales for everything from groceries to meals, clothes, and furniture rapidly boomed. Online sales rose 38 percent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same period a year before, according to the Adobe Digital Economy Index.
It even brought some shoppers online for the first time who aren’t likely to leave soon, Gaelle Le Floch of consulting firm Kantar added.
Looking around, we saw new customers, more senior citizens, who became regular shoppers. Still, between border closures and travel restrictions, the tourism sector was pummeled by the pandemic.
Experts have warned that the air and rail transport industries may not return to normal before 2024. Air travel was worst affected, with worldwide traffic dropping by two-thirds in 2020.
By the end of 2021, it had only reached half of 2019 levels as travel restrictions remained in place in many countries.
Even as travel picked up following initial lockdowns, chaos remains the norm in airports as passengers line up to show vaccine passes or negative Covid tests. Cities around the world also saw a drop in public transportation such as trains over fears of the virus spreading and as more people stayed home.
Cycling grew in popularity — but so did commuting by car.
As adults stayed home to work, so too did students, with hundreds of millions of children and teens suddenly logging onto Zoom and other platforms for online classes.
UNESCO, the United Nation’s culture and the education authority, has called the pandemic the worst-ever education crisis. School systems in most countries saw at least some period of complete closure.
The worst impacts have been in low- and middle-income countries where 53 percent of children already suffered from a lack of access to schooling.
Based on World Bank analysis, that proportion could increase to 70 percent.
In some parts of the world—including Brazil, Pakistan, India, South Africa, and Mexico—a significant drop in math and reading skills has been reported.
The pandemic has led to the greatest rise in hunger worldwide in 15 years, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The number of people who do not have enough to eat increased 18 percent over the last year.
The problem extended beyond food access, as an additional 20 million people fell into extreme poverty in 2021. The pandemic also plunged health systems into chaos and slowed progress on campaigns to eradicate other diseases ravaging the world’s poorest populations, such as HIV and tuberculosis.