At present there are 40.
At 04:00am on the 23rd of April there will be 41.
UK ‘Red List’ countries – nations worldwide viewed as a risk of COVID-19 importation due to surges and/or strains, making passengers arriving into the UK a domestic threat. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/transport-measures-to-protect-the-uk-from-variant-strains-of-covid-19
Sadly it is our enduring global reality. Over 400 days into COVID-19 still we are seeing cases increasing and new strains mutating all while vaccines are being injected.
It’s not the same everywhere – some places are finding solutions to stopping the spread, flattening the curve, controlling contact. The over-reactions are understandable. Economic and social paralysis cannot continue indefinitely.
Hence the Red List.
And the need official hotel quarantine for people arriving into the country from a Red List country, a regulation imposed in the UK mid-February 2021, already active in other nations across the world.
To be a traveller forced to face hotel quarantine is quite something – and something personally experienced earlier this month when travelling back to the UK from South Africa despite:
- PCR test: negative
- Test for Antibodies: positive (as had COVID-19 end of 2020)
- Household: single person
Travelling during COVID-times is challenging enough: lack of fresh air and smiles due to masks, excessive layers of protective packaging on items, eats and other usually tactile aspects of the airline and airport experience. Readying for a 10-day, government enforced, hotel quarantine introduces a further layer of desensitisation to an industry that has always been highly emotive, highly immersive.
The technicalities are straightforward enough, that is of course only once you land and establish to which hotel you are assigned and how the days ahead will unfold. Up until then the feeling entering into it all is a concerning one as there is little advance detail, especially around exactly where you will be spending your 240 hours on the inside.
The cost of quarantine is significant, and unavoidable:
- 10 full days (starting from the first sleep), and
- GB £1750,
- a room on one’s own (if a solo traveller),
- three meals a day, and
- a small degree of laundry servicing.
On landing at the airport (LHR in this case), one is immediately ushered into Immigration lines that set your pace and feeling of welcome, effectively those free to move as arriving from Green List countries (no quarantine or self-isolation required) or Yellow List countries (self-isolation required) redirected according to usual entry permit classifications (UK, EU, etc.) separated from those feared as arriving from Red List countries requiring hotel quarantine, regardless of entry permit classification.
Red List? Follow the red line.
The red line leads you from one escort to another – yellow vests – straight from passport control through baggage, into waiting areas, into a holding area, onto a coach across several hotels depending on where you’ve been allocated to quarantine. At the hotel entry is through a side entrance, into a briefing room, into a process of completion of forms: consent to stay, menu choices for the next 10 days, indication of timings of PCR tests (days 2 and 8), and then escorted to your room for the next 10 days.
Just keep following the yellow vests. Wait until they make contact.
The hotel experience is stripped away. The opportunity to make a guest feel welcome and enjoy the hotel is all stripped away. Rapidly, easily, it can feel like a human experiment. Pavlov’s dog suddenly makes sense. Three times a day you hear a knock on the door. Meal time. When the door is opened an elevated tray awaits along with, across the hallway, a warden in PPE…and yellow vest. On the tray is a brown paper bag within which are two to three little brown boxes. The little boxes containing the meal you have requested during on the menu sheets on arrival. Meal by meal, knock after knock, day after day, they arrive. Delivered by a yellow vest.
There’s no other human contact.
The hotel room itself is a bedroom. It is a bedroom in a branded hotel. The branding, however, is stripped away. There is no leaving the room unless escorted, and brief: 15 minutes maximum, whether it’s to walk around the parking lot of the hotel to get some exercise or for those who are smokers, to get a nicotine fix. Leaving the room is with a warden. A yellow vest. In the hallways stand monitors, in yellow vests.
The feeling? Especially in the first two days when the yellow vest system of quarantine controls become the routine? Punitive. Yet you have done nothing wrong. You are just there, behind the door, because you have to be, because you flew in from a Red List country.
It is easy for one to look at it and think that it is unnecessarily harsh. It is a psychological adjustment feeling as if people are looking at you as if you are contaminated. As if you are a combustible. As if you are dangerous.
But it’s not personal. It’s a pandemic, and this pandemic needs to be respected. Governments are doing all they can to contain the pandemic, to contain the spread. The loss of lives, the loss of livelihoods and the pressure on medical systems. One cannot fault extreme caution.
And then slowly, slowly, through the 10 days, you find these little glimmers of light,:
- morning light that breaks through as the sun rises, stretching across the room to create a golden glow,
- the light that comes from a cheerful yellow vested warden delivering a brown bag of breakfast with a smile and wish for a good day,
- the lightness of heart that is felt when care packages of fresh flowers, fresh fruit, freshly baked gingerbread biscuits and other fresh thoughts arrive from loved ones hoping to lighten the mood,
- the lightening of workloads and to-do lists as wifi lines and long days make for a period of high productivity,
- the light touch of hotel staff calling to simply check in every 48 hours, making sure you’re okay, letting you know that they are there for those guests struggling being alone, inside, ongoing.
Interestingly, having spoken to the hotel staff the check-in calls are not part of the government protocols and their requirements to be a COVID-19 quarantine hotel in the proximity of an airport. It is just the hotel being humane, simply reaching out to make sure that you’re fine. During Passover they make sure that the menus have no bread. As Ramadan nears they check with the guests to make sure that the meals are being provided at the time of breaking the fast. Little sparks of humanity, of identity, through what initially felt like quite a dehumanising, identity-neutralising process.
COVID-19 has challenged the lives and lifestyles of everyone, everywhere, in different ways. This is just another of those ways. Importantly, no one is happy about the situation – not the government, not the hotel company, not the staff following protocols strictly, not the ‘guest’
It is not ideal. But it is also not hardship. It is just inconvenient. A test of patience. A whisper of humility. First World Problems.
The perspective? Vividly clear, especially in these time of immense loss. For millions upon millions around the developing and developed world, the circumstances equate to luxury: one is falling asleep in a clean bed, in a warm room with hot and cold running water, full plumbing, receiving three meals a day served with care. For 10 days.
The COVID-19 quarantine hotel experience is a unique one because, in addition to having everything stripped away, one is suddenly aware very quickly of all that they actually have. And importantly, the blessing of having a place to go home to once you have left the hotel.
All of this is about being able to work together to ensure that COVID-19 does not bring us all down. None of these regulations, none of these restrictions, none of these requirements and enforcements are what we wish for.
What we all wish for is safety.
What we all wish for is health.
What we all wish for is to be able to hug loved ones, to see the smiles of stranger.
In the short term, as we endure these discomforts and these inconveniences, these are small prices we need to pay for the long-term investment of making sure that once again, we can come together safely, securely, confidently. Whatever challenges we continue to face, whatever each day may bring, we are getting one day closer to all being released from this time.
And if there is one wish one can make that makes all the difference in our COVID-19 world: wish for a window that faces the sunrise.
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2021
Tomorrow will be December.
A new month – the final month of what was to be a new year: 2020, unlocking all of the hope and possibility, confidence and certainty of a new decade. Little did we know what 2020 would bring, how locked in we would all be, not just physically…and how grateful we would be for it to end.
As we look to close 2020, understandably wishing to forget so much that has happened – the horror, the heartache, the losses, the longings – moving too quickly into 2021 would be missing the point. It feels it would be such a waste to have it as a chapter in the history books with the pages left blank. As hard as it is to find the words to describe 2020, or as risky as it would be to put the words in writing for fear of their heat burning through the pages, they must be written.
Why? Because to leave the pages blank would be to leave 2020 unfinished in its messages, its meaning and its memories worth remembering.
Think about it……..
What if “2020” had not happened?
What if 2020 was simply the year that followed 2019.
Where would we be?
What would we be doing?
Who would we be seeing….and not?
What would we be valuing?
Just when we thought we had it all, all under control all by ourselves, Mother Nature made it very clear who is really in charge. And what she felt was needing to be truly valued.
As soon as 2020 began the dominoes started to fall, first indications coming in January that there was trouble with this thing called the Coronavirus, now what we know as COVID-19. As it started to creep across the world from East to West borders started to shut, airline started to ground. We knew something was wrong, something was seriously wrong.
For years and years, as one blessed to be travelling over 200 days/annum with an aerial view of the world, 2020 has been a year lived, viewed, through a zoom lens. My last travels before the world shut down were mid-March – Miami for Board meetings, a full moon trying to calm stormy skies as flights were being cancelled. It was time to get home, quickly. Looking through photographs of this year a feeling of awe emerges seeing just how many images there were watching the world close up – the world of other little creatures, whether it be squirrels, swans, geese, bees, bugs, whatever it might be. And for the first time really appreciating the magic of being in one place.
It’s been a challenging year, no doubt. Milestones missed, marriages missed, memorials missed, loved ones now lost are so missed, life’s work for many is no more. Never should these moments be moved on from without pause for prayer.
Thankfully, those I love have been safe – near, far, wherever they may have been grounded. I am very blessed that my business has been safe – work more intense and purposeful than I have ever known in my two decades of operation. Every day has been as humbling as it has been exhausting, AM&A’s singular focus being ensuring no one feels alone in facing the trauma of 2020. My AM&A girls have been absolutely incredible – we have been nonstop, operating as a compass and an anxiety sponge for our Clients as the global Travel & Tourism was brought to its knees like never in its history, and it has a long, long way to go before momentum comes close to 2019 levels of travel (latest estimate is only 2024). 98% of our work that we’re doing has been from within in the eye of the storm, moving through layers of crisis: the pandemic, its resulting economic crisis, the unlocking of mental health crisis – helping clients, helping partners, helping people through, trying to make sense of what in the world is going on. Our role, our impact, our sense blessing, has been vividly clear every single day. For this reason, month after month we have given back, as much as we can, because we can.
As with all, the year has been lived in the main on-line. While geo-forced apart, like everyone worldwide, 2020 has meant hundreds and hundreds of hours on-air, our world through a small screen.Thank goodness for those spinning satellites in the sky keeping us all connected.
Ans so, as we look at the end of 2020, there’s not much more I can say other than simply this: I am thankful. I am thankful for what we have. I am thankful for those who have been spared. I am thankful for what’s been created from this time. As I have said hundreds of times this year: “There is NO going back to normal – there is no ‘back’ and there certainly is no ‘normal'” The value and values of every day have shifted. 2020 has taken much, and yet it has also given.
May 2021 bring a new hope:
- a stronger awareness of how we need each other more profoundly than we ever imagined,
- a stronger appreciation for the world around us,
- a stronger commitment to actively support its wellness – naturally, socially, culturally, spiritually and economically,
- and a stronger sense of blessings for simply being ‘safe”,
And may we carry into the year(s) ahead of us that it really is so important to stop and smell the roses….and see the swan-babies grow, feed the squirrels, and rescue the ladybugs….before boarding a next flight. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020
We live in a world without smiles. At least in 2020.
Why? Because we live in a COVID-19 world of masks. Masks, protecting one another, in a year of a pandemic that is defining our generation, even though we’re still trying to define what exactly it is and how exactly it is going to impact us.
It has not been easy getting used to living in a world without smiles, especially considering how dearly we have needed smiles this year – smiles to provide comfort, smiles to provide calm, smiles to show compassion, smiles to show we care. But in our quest to care by covering up, we lose our smiles.
To remove smiles from daily life is to remove sunshine. Always there, even is cracking through heavy clouds overhead, the comfort of the sun’s presence sets a mood. There is always reason to look up.
In the first days and weeks of 2020 as COVID-19 spread across the globe, masks began to appear. Rapidly. Regulations, whether by choice or by mandate, differing though they may be country to country, became a growing presence. Some plain, some patterned, some creative expressions of personality, all were symbols of growing fears around an invisible, life and lifestyle changing phenomena. For most, the thought of a pandemic was a concept beyond all comprehension. The ability to protect oneself was beyond anything familiar. We all needed to take cover. Including covering up.
And so masks began to appear as clouds overhead only grew heavier and heavier, skies rapidly filling with trepidation, storms brewing with uncertainty around the disasters ahead. Doors, borders, skies all closed, human connection was blocked.
As time has passed, the block has become the norm. What we thought, hoped, was just a few passing months of management of this new challenge to our shared world has become a crisis defining our year. Possibly even longer. More and more masks surround us, more and more smiles have disappeared.
With this natural, omnipresent form of emotional connection covered, with our expressions of care, love, joy, excitement, gratitude, compassion, consideration and concern covered, how are we to communicate? How are we to remain hopeful?
A new language has emerged, a new channel for communication: our eyes.
It’s all about the eyes.
Especially in these still fragile times. Like smiles, eyes have become a universal form of expression, a way of sharing, immediately, one’s mindset, a doorway into one’s thoughts.
The eyes reveal far more. When we were able to see smiles, we may never have appreciated the power of the eyes. In these COVID19 times when awareness of others is so important, eyes reveal fear, they reveal friendliness. With fatigue and frustration increasingly becoming a part of daily restrictions to life as we once knew it, choosing to ease off of caution rather than keep a mask on or keep a safe distance, eyes can reveal flippancy, and they can reveal forgetfulness.
To travel once again after so many months grounded is to see, feel, and appreciate, the power of the eyes.
As slowly our world is reopening, tourism cautiously re-starting, it is impossible to not notice the different look in the eyes of strangers, travellers, and the eyes of those being travelled to. From airports to airlines, taxi drivers to hotels, it’s all in the eyes. Whoever it is, it is the eyes that now speak.
And in those eyes, one gets a whole new understanding of the COVID-19 world in which we live, and in which we are trying to travel. Communication of the eyes has become one that we rely on to be able to trust. And as expressed by the Secretary General of the UNWTO, “Trust is the new currency”.
Trust. All of it is channelled through the eyes. There are few other ways of communicating that sense of “I will take care of me to take care of you.”
This is critical as we continue to try to make sense of so much that remains changing, rapidly. From a travel perspective, these changes have been in many places and for many people, painfully, the opening and then quickly closing of borders, hotels, restaurants, minds – lives and livelihoods changed in a moment.
How do we make sense of it all in the world of travel? At least in the next 12 months, we need to recognise that the language of the eyes is one that we need to rely onto be able to reconnect with the world, recognising that people in the world are reconnecting with their own world. The lack of a smile does not mean the lack of feeling.
For millions around us, their eyes are filled with fear – their lives and their livelihoods being taken away because of this invisible pandemic that has hit every single one of the 7.9 billion people in the world, right between the eyes, and in the heart.
In our hearts, through our eyes, we need to ensure we do not lose sight of the need to remain compassionate towards others. As hard as these times are, as hard as it can be thinking beyond the “I” to consider the “we” and the “them”, we need to appreciate that with so much around us continuing to be challenging, and changing – all of this scary – we still have a long time until this is all over.
There is a reason why we are all familiar with the expression: “The eyes are the mirror to the soul.” In these times of unparalleled crisis, because this invisible, agnostic, inescapable virus puts everyone at risk, everyone needs everyone. As confident and courageous and cocooned as we may think we are, our eyes reveal how we need the consideration and compassion of others to maintain stamina to see the end of this generation-defining time.
Ultimately the warmth and wonder of our world comes through connecting with people. 2020’s #COVID19-defined year has unlocked a new way of communicating, a new way of connecting – giving us a new reason to look up. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020
That is where today – 17.06 – is always wished to be spent each year if not able to be with loved ones. Neither are an option this year.
COVID19 has turned the days of 2020 into a long blur – days turning into weeks turning into months turning into a year beyond fiction, beyond explanation, beyond imagination. Through it all, punctuation marks have appeared: question marks, exclamation marks, characters covering up letters for words growled but not to appear in print. And then there are dates in bold text: birthdays.
And so, as this date neared – my birthday – reflection began. Heading to LHR to board a long-haul flight to call in the first moments of the day up at 35k was clearly not going to happen. 17 06 2020 was to be spent in the same place as the past 100+ days of 2020 lockdown. The usual, loved pause of reflection up in the air – anonymous, uncontactable, surrounded by silence, in a bubble of time and space (with bubbles in hand) – was to be a tradition skipped in 2020.
But that did not mean that the pause was to be passed by.
Quite the contrary.
If lockdown of COVID19 has shown us anything it is that time, this time, is vital to making sure that we do not waste the opportunity to stop, centre, see all we have around us, and whisper a word of thanks. Never again (probably, hopefully) will we be asked, demanded, to suspend our daily existence, staying apart, even if it means our livelihoods, economies, communities and future certainties falling apart. Something bigger mattered. COVID19, with its invisibility, and its terrifying ability to take life with evert droplet, mattered more than anything before.
As the world entered lockdown, geography after geography, month after month, together or apart, ready or not, the world stopped. Suddenly coping mechanisms took over – one’s wiring working to make sense of days without routine, without regular access, without a real sense of timing of ‘for how long?’. The ‘new normal’ was in fact a ‘now normal’ until the ‘next normal’ came along. Facts vs fears. Connection vs isolation. COVID19 vs the world.
100+ days on, slooooowwwwly the world is starting to open up, restrictions easing, living the ‘next normal’ getting easier as rules, regulations and routines are more familiar. Comfort in the discomfort zone.
But wait. Not so fast.
As much as we are focusing our fearful yet hopeful hearts and minds on leaving these times behind us, let’s not rush out just yet. Why? Because there will be moments in these times that, unquestionably, we will miss. Moments of stillness, of newness, of awareness, we will miss. And critically, moments for which we must always remain grateful.
For this reason, not wanting to let this birthday pass in a blur, a pause took place to think: from these 100+ COVID19 days, what are my 19 moments/memories/milestones of pure, unedited, undeniable appreciation.
What will I forever remember this time by?
These, without hesitation and filter, are my 19 COVID19 birthday candles:
- Heroes, first and foremost, standing on the front line taking care of what is most important: our health, our safety, our stability
- Health….mine still strong, still safe…and that of family, both family by blood and family by choice
- Satellites, keeping us connected, every second, every day, every conversation, every virtual hug
- AM2AM, every a.m. to p.m.
- My gorgeous AM&A Girls – Jessica & Grace
- My Clients, acronyms so adored across the world, across the alphabet, across an array of challenges and emotions we never thought we would share
- Springtime – its rhythm, its hope, its softness & freshness
- Foxes spotted running through central London, because they can
- Swans, squirrels and other feathery and fluffy sweeties
- Fresh milk and fresh flowers, throughout
- Ideation inspired through crisis, now absolute labours of love: RISE – http://www.rise-weekly.com / & HospitalityTomorrow – https://www.hospitalitytomorrow.com
- Hearing a new calling, working non-stop with no desire to stop
- Her Majesty
- Bubbles! Groups, girlfriends, shared clinks, quiet solo toasts
- Alice in Wonderland
- Amazon / Nike / M&S / F&M – lockdown essentials just one click away
- In-home studio lights / mics / virtual magic!
- SW1W 0AJ
- These 100 days
And a bonus #20: British VOGUE, no question about it. https://www.vogue.co.uk/
For these 19 (+1) am I thankful, deeply, deeply thankful.
Before any more time passes, please take the time to pause. Capture the 19 signatures of this time that a year, 5 years, 10 years from now, you will look back on with a quiet smile.
Do it now, while memories are fresh, hearts are open, before the world reopens….
Good will come from this time. It must.
May we never feel 2020’s purpose was wasted. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020
What a start to 2020 it has been. When I wrote January’s post on SDG 3: Good-Health and Well Being, a mere 100 days ago, my latest article in AM&A‘s series on LIVING THE SDGs, I never would have imagined that just three months later we’d all be dealing with the largest global crisis since World War II. COVID19 is 2020.
For AM&A, the world’s shared pandemic has magnified just why we do what we do – working with leaders around the world to help them ensure they are having a positive, meaningful impact….especially in times of crisis .
As a consultancy firm working in tourism & development, many of our clients, friends and colleagues are facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties at the moment. Over and above the very real health crisis there is the economic crisis. Together these are unleashing fears of a mental health crisis – people frightened as they face unemployment, bankruptcy, illness, shouldering responsibilities too heavy to bear. Day in, day out, a sometimes overwhelming emotional stimulus of bad news and heartbreak. This is where AM&A has, without hesitation, stepped up to be a sponge for the anxieties of others, and a ‘behind the velvet curtain’ partner to help others find the eye of the storm, feel safe, and focus forward.
I take immense pride in the work we do at AM&A, but also in the people with whom I’m able to work. the AM&A team is compassionate, hopeful, forgiving – qualities that can be difficult to come by, particularly in times like these. The AM&A mentality keeps me grounded, focused, thankful, and prepared for whatever we need to tackle in the day ahead. It can be hard, it hurts, but we are in if the for long run. It is a duty we embrace.
For myself, life since COVID-19 has become more… complicated. My kids are out of school, my husband is working at home, and I still have a full-time job to fit in around the new daily chaos. To be honest, I feel stretched in multiple directions, all day long. Guilt and feelings of inadequacy seem to be trending words for parents at the moment, so I at least know I’m not alone. But it’s hard. I’m doing my best, but also not doing enough, and that just has to be okay right now. So many people have it much harder at the moment, and despite the growing greys on my head, I know we’ll get through this.
This post was originally planned to focus on SDG 5: Gender Equality. I had done my preliminary research and was writing the piece. But then COVID-19 hit, and really began to take a toll on the world.
While updating the team on my progress on the original article, Anita challenged me as to why I was still doing the piece. She was meaning to provoke: “With COVID19 as a global priority, do the Sustainable Development Goals still matter?”
So many people were questioning if COVID19 allowed space, logic, for the SDGs to be a priority. Every time I got a little further in my response, the crisis seemed to escalate two-fold, the impact more devastating. But in this, the answer became more and more clear.
Anita (Anita Mendiratta, the head and AM in AM&A) knew exactly why she was asking me this question. The answer had to be YES – SDGs still matter, even more now actually. But people needed to really ‘get’ why.
These are my thoughts…
The world changed overnight. Yesterday we were laughing with friends at the pub. Celebrating birthdays, weddings, meeting with colleagues and opening up our minds at the annual conference. Yesterday we were attending sports games, cheering on our favourite players, celebrating big wins and commiserating heartbreaking losses. Yesterday we were having date nights at the theatre, dining out at our favourite restaurant, and shopping at our local mall. Yesterday the kids were in school, the baby was at nursery, and we worked our 9-5 with limited distractions.
Yesterday our grandparents were well, our GP and hospitals were there when we needed them, and we didn’t worry about giving out big hugs. Yesterday we were counting down to our next holiday, jumping on the train to work, pricing flights for a last-minute weekend break. Yesterday we had job security, positive forecasts, unlimited growth. The world changed overnight, and today we live in a new reality.
Today we stay home, to keep our neighbors safe. We send emoji hugs and hearts to our friends and family facing incredibly challenging circumstances. We watch as our communities band together, motivated to help the vulnerable and lift spirits. Today we plan virtual coffee dates, game nights, and drink with friends – keeping our social needs fulfilled, regardless of physical limitations.
Today we look to those key workers, keeping our society moving and safe, with newfound admiration and respect. The teachers navigating virtual classrooms, the health care workers healing the sick, the grocery store workers keeping shelves full of food, and the police officers ensuring that our country is safe and secure. Today may be a different world than yesterday, but it is also full of hope.
In this time of growing uncertainty, is it still imperative that we focus on sustainable development? Should we take a pause, or do we continue to do our part to achieve the SDGs by 2030?
There is no doubt that the mission today seems more difficult: inequalities, poverty, and hunger have become more visible, no matter where in the world we live. But in this, there is opportunity, perhaps more than ever. A reset button for the global society to identify, plan, and begin recovery with sustainable development at its heart.
Has there ever been a word as misunderstood as ‘sustainability’? I know many people who still think of recycling or green initiatives when they hear the term, probably an unintended consequence of lumping sustainability in with anything eco-positive.
But in these difficult times, I think sustainability has become more clear, more tangible, than ever. Over the last month we’ve watched as the things we take for granted have become dismantled, the effect far-reaching. Suddenly our food, health, economic, and industrial systems have been laid bare. Basic resources have become more precious. Parts of our society, people of our society, who we never took a second glance at, have become integral pieces for moving forward. For surviving. For healing.
Some of these issues have been more psychological than absolute, but if you’ve been in any area of the world affected by COVID-19, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. A sustainable society has good health, equality across socio-economic groups and genders, no poverty, decent work and economic growth. These are all Sustainable Development Goals but they are also all major issues we are currently dealing with as a global society in ways that we weren’t yesterday.
Now that the majority of us find ourselves living in a new reality of self-isolation – the social, cultural, and economic sides of sustainability are teaching us a lesson. It is ALL important. When any piece, any SDG, is missing – our society can no longer function in a sustainable way.
We must take this time to identify the gaps, regroup, reconnect, and look at ways that when recovery comes – we are ready to lead with the Sustainable Development Goals at the helm.
COVID-19 is Highlighting the Issues
As many countries enter lock-down, or have been dealing with the new reality for weeks already, something has really struck me. Friends are discussing the latest Netflix binge on social media or asking for book recommendations, neighbors are stocking up on enough food to realistically last them months, and I’ve been complaining (and feeling absolutely exhausted) because I need to juggle my two children at home with work and keeping the house in a livable state. I’m not discounting the real problems we have, there are many serious concerns for all people in the world at the moment, but for those of us able to work through them at home with virtual meetings, the latest salacious Netflix documentary, and all the carbs we can digest – we are truly blessed.
I’ve been listening to some fascinating stories on NPR (National Public Radio) this week covering India’s lock-down and quarantine measures throughout Africa and how it is affecting citizens in these countries. It was a lightbulb moment for me. Not because I learned something new necessarily, but because it confirmed to me why the SDGs matter even more today than they did yesterday.
For those already living in poverty, they are now faced with food shortages, unemployment, and fines or even beatings for being on the streets – a problem when you have no safe place to go to. Children who only get a meal when they go to school, are now home with parents who have no idea how they’ll feed them. Healthcare systems that were already suffering with a lack of trained professionals, unsanitary conditions, and ill-equipped facilities are now faced with a pandemic of unknown trajectory, severity and cure.
When we discussed Goal 1: No Poverty, Goal 2: Zero Hunger, Goal 3, Good Health and Well-Being and Goal 4: Quality Education, we looked at many areas of the world where these issues are literally life and death barriers. Now, we see them recognisable in our own communities, but for those who were struggling before – the situation is now dire.
The clock on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is still ticking. We may have been put on a pause, but we need to be ready when the world opens up once again. We can’t waste time.
But for individuals, like you and me, how can we continue to change the world when we can’t even leave our homes? I decided to take a look at my own social network and see what they are doing to help. I hope these ideas inspire you to do something similar in your community, or spark an idea for a project of your own. Technology is at our fingertips, our communities are waiting in our local Facebook groups, help is needed and we can work together for tomorrow. I hope you’ll join us.
Five Ways Individuals Can Change the World: Coronavirus Edition
1. Follow WHO and Government Guidance
If you’ve been ordered to self-isolate, if you have underlying health conditions or family members in your household who are vulnerable, stay home. Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being should be a priority for each one of us at the moment. By following official advice, not only do you stay healthy, but you protect the health of others in your community. This is by far the most important way you can help the world at the moment. If you risk your own health, you can’t help others. First-responder 101.
(AM&A put together a handy infographic on COVID-19 and what you should know, including the most useful resources for getting up-to-date information. While so much has changed with COVID19, some basic principles remain the same. You can find the full infographic here.)
2. Find Creative Ways to Use Your Talents
I’ve been in total awe of friends, family, and community members who have taken their talents or hobbies and put them to use in ingenious ways. From sewing masks for grocery store workers to crafting scrubs for local nurses, you may be able to make a difference in a big way using skills you already have.
Sewing is just an example, of course. I have a friend who is offering free social media audits to local businesses and a former classmate who has offered legal advice for local employers to help them retain employees through the crisis.
Not only will the recipients be extremely grateful, but it can also be a great way to pass the time if you are in an area that is requiring non-essential residents to stay home.
The masks below are a great example, made by the mother (who I adore) of a dear friend in their home state of New York.
3. Help the Vulnerable
For those of us without underlying conditions or living with vulnerable people in our household, there is a great need to get essential supplies to those unable to do so for themselves. In the UK, there was a nation-wide call for volunteers, 750,000 have already responded to help the efforts. But before the government started officially pooling together human resource, communities across the UK began creating Coronavirus response groups.
In times like these, it is amazing to see that for many the natural response is to ask, how can I help? Probability is high that if you live in an affected area, a community group has already started mobilising on Facebook. Whether you pick up groceries for an elderly neighbor, drive them to an important doctor’s appointment, or simply give someone who is feeling lonely a call to say hello – there has never been a more opportune time to see what a difference such a small act of kindness can make.
Any volunteering efforts of this nature should follow government guidelines. In the UK, helping the vulnerable is a valid reason to leave your home as long as precautions are taken. Maintain physical (social) distancing rules whenever possible, wash your hands regularly, and avoid entering anyone’s home.
If you are unable to leave your house because you are isolating or vulnerable yourself, there may be ways that you can help online or on the phone. Check with your local groups and charities to see what they require. Most organisations who are still running at the moment need all the help they can get.
The picture below was taken by Grace of AM&A. After a shop in her village closed its doors, they offered their food to vulnerable people in the area. Grace dropped off care packages to her grandparents and other elderly neighbors she knew. You can see by their smiles that such a simple act of kindness made a tremendous impact to their day.
4. Help Food Banks
Many countries currently on lock-down or stay-at-home orders have also initiated rations on certain grocery items. Essentials like bread, milk, eggs and toilet paper are limited to one or two items per customer to ensure availability for all. While this is great in theory, many of those items haven’t returned to the shelves.
For low-income workers who aren’t able to bulk up their grocery shops to last an entire week and for those who are unemployed or homeless, the situation is especially difficult. Food banks all over the world have seen a huge increase in demand for their services, and this was before COVID-19. While we don’t yet know the full extent of damage that has been caused, it is a healthy assumption that things are not going well, particularly for those who were under or near the poverty line before the crisis hit.
Due to rations in place, food banks aren’t able to acquire the stock required to feed their local communities. For those who can, the demand and need for food from local families, is more pressing than ever.
There are two main ways you can help your local food bank so that they can keep feeding the hungry.
1. Add extra tinned/non-perishable items to your next shop. Tinned vegetables and meat, instant mashed potatoes, rice, and long-life milk are always needed. Find a drop-off point for your local organisation, these are usually locations where no face-to-face contact is necessary. (My local food bank has boxes at the grocery store where you can leave the items.)
2. Donate. Many organisations are running low on resources due to the increase in demand. Donations can help them continue to give food to those who need it, offer hot meals to the community, and provide essentials for families faced with going without. Donations do not need to be large to make a difference, five dollars can cover a box of cereal for two families. That could translate to 4 children having breakfast every morning for a week.
The image below shows an example from my community food bank on the types of food donations that are especially helpful.
5. Encourage Good Mental Health
This has been a steep learning curve for global society. Many of us no longer have the freedom to see our family on a whim, celebrate life’s big moments how we normally would, or simply grab that weekly coffee with a friend. Many of us are learning to work from home for the first time, which can be challenging on its own, but is made all the more complicated by having spouses, children, and big emotions to deal with on top of it. Many of us are scared for our health, for our jobs, for our loved ones, and for the future. THAT IS OKAY.
If there has ever been a moment to take things day by day, this is it. Be easy on yourself and prioritise your mental health. If you feel like you are in a good place, and that you have the mental capacity to do more, then reach out to others and check in.
A friend and I usually meet once a week for coffee, it is an important time for both of us to unload and reconnect, now we have moved it to Skype. While a huge hug would be preferable, the virtual connection still fills the necessary void. Texting is great, but if you are able to check in on your loved ones “face-to-face” it really can make a difference. You never know how someone is dealing with their life changing overnight, that call could be what gets them through another day.
You can also encourage good mental health in strangers. Making someone smile after a stressful day can do wonders. Thank the woman at the till who rings up your groceries. Let your delivery guy know, even if he needs to stand six feet away, that you appreciate him. Use empathy, even when it is difficult. You may think that a friend is overreacting to the state of the world, but respond in kindness, in understanding.
Many households across the world have started putting up rainbows in their windows. It is mainly targeted at children confined to short walks around the neighborhood, a kind of rainbow treasure hunt, but I can guarantee people of all ages can’t help but light up at such a simple, but beautiful, gesture.
The photo below shows off the amazing efforts of Grace’s nieces and nephews.
Encouraging good mental health in ourselves and others may seem an odd suggestion for changing the world. But we will be unable to meet the Global Goals, we will be unable to proactively take those small steps to create big change, if we are not taking care of our emotional health, and of those closest to us. Ask for help if you need it and reach out to those around you, even the ones who seem strong.
I need to find the good. I need to do something. I need goals to reach towards. I knew that the SDGs still mattered in the Coronavirus era, just as Anita did when she posed the question. However, the why evolved from the SDGs ‘are still important’ to ‘they have never been more important’.
There is much sadness and fear in the world right now, but we must also look at the gift we’ve been given. While today looks nothing like yesterday, we can learn from today to build a better tomorrow. The SDGs matter more than ever. We must use the framework going forward, not as a tick box exercise, but as a defining, strengthened architectural plan for building a more sustainable world in the post-Corona chapter.
All of us at AM&A wish you and your loved ones good health, in all the ways that matter. Stay in, stay safe, stay hopeful. The road in front of us may seem uncertain, but together we will navigate through, stronger than ever. I’m so grateful you are on this journey with me. Stay safe.
I’d like to invite you to take this journey with me, and AM&A, as I explore the 17 sustainable development goals. Each month we’ll focus on one goal and explore actionable ways that we as individuals can change the world. You can find out more about the SDGs here.
#COVID-19: 2020’s great, global lock-down.
As this invisible, inconceivable threat spreads swiftly and mercilessly across the globe, it has put us all into a completely different state of mind. An unnerved, uncertain, one.
Our shared world is finding itself in a position of never experienced before isolation. It is shutting off its borders. It is grounding our ability to travel and be with loved ones. It is closing down sports and entertainment activity and interaction. It is turning social places into areas of risk. It is turning grocery stores into empty scenes of earlier hysterical buying activity. And it is turning homes into home-offices, home-schools and mini-gyms.
COVID-19 is turning our world upside down and inside out. It is turning our shared world into a brave new world where we must live with something we are not able to see and do not yet understand, for a period of time we are not yet not quite sure about, severely restricting our funds and fun, severely threatening our way of life and lifestyle, alone…even if we are still in contact with others.
Critically, we are finding ourselves unable to turn to loved ones for a hug, for an exhale, for a safe space to escape fears, to find a sign of comfort that all will be ok.
As a result, the health crisis that is COVID-19 is not just a health crisis physically. For millions, worldwide, it is a mental health crisis.
As expressed by the World Health Organisation (WHO):
“Most people affected by emergencies will experience distress (e.g. feelings of anxiety and sadness, hopelessness, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, irritability or anger and/or aches and pains). This is normal and will for most people improve over time. However, the prevalence of common mental disorders such as depression and anxiety is expected to more than double in a humanitarian crisis.”
And this is, by definition, a humanitarian crisis.
THIS IS A HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
This is the first time our shared world has actually had to face an invisible threat to our health, our safety, our wellbeing individually and collectively. Our greatest risk can easily be, in our mind’s eye, everywhere.
This is not like terrorism we have sadly become familiar with. This is not like a natural disaster. This is not like an economic crisis where we can see tangible proof of what is happening, and we are able to understand how we can establish some sense of control before we can move on. The event happens, the fall-out is clear, the light is visible even if the tunnel looks long and dark.
COVID-19, the invisible curse that is taking over the world, is forcing millions upon millions to re-evaluate how we are to survive when under threat, not just economically (which is frightening enough), but as human beings, as a global community. The insecurity provoked by COVID-19 has become, in some places, primal. There is no need to go into the stats and analysis around shopping aisle scuffles for products such as rolls of toilet paper, bottles of sanitiser, pasta, bottles of wine, cleaning products – the shopping list is growing longer, supplies are growing thinner – especially, sadly, supplies needed by medical personnel on the frontline, ever day.
At times, seeing the panic and even prejudice rising, a lack of control and a loss of hope leads to a feeling of emotional paralysis. Fear for health – physical, financial and now mental, poses a triple threat to our global community’s ability to move forward when the time comes when we can open our doors, open our offices, and open our arms once more.
We must, therefore, recognise that COVID-19 has unleashed a health crisis that is going to last much longer than the physical crisis. Return to normal life is not just about getting the go-ahead from governments to unlock the lock-downs, getting the economy moving again.
Now, this time, is one of high risk of a mental crisis. We need to embrace it. We need to accept it. And we need to act gently with others, and with ourselves, to manage it.
Our world is going through a profound recalibration. Starting from Asia and now moving to the Americas, we are all seeing vividly that we are all one vulnerable community. No one is immune from the risks that exist from COVID-19. This virus is completely and utterly democratic. It has no prejudice re. geography, economy, culture, colour, religion, and as we are finding in some cases, age. It doesn’t care. It moves freely. It moves invisibly. It moves silently, and it moves swiftly. Our freedoms have been taken: our freedom to move around, our freedom to look someone in the eye, our freedom to shake hands, to hug, to trust. This is a challenge of humanity like no other.
Through social distancing, through home working and schooling, through isolation, through lock-downs, we are realising how dearly we need each other. We need the talk. We need the touch. We need the time together to share, to learn, to laugh, to love, to live a healthy life.
Even once it is deemed safe to open up borders, open stores, open restaurants, open a bottle of wine, it’s going to take time before people feel safe, secure and steady walking into those restaurants, walking into those shops, walking into those bars.
The rate of recovery of momentum of hope, of faith and of confidence is going to be our greatest test – it will define how long it will take for our economy to get back on its feet, and for our society to get back into the light.
This is Mother Nature teaching us a hard lesson, rebooting civilisation to be more civilised. Why did she feel the need to reboot? There are hundreds of answers to that question, but now is not the time.
Now is the time to relook the value we have for our health – our physical health, our financial health, and our mental health.
TRAVEL & TOURISM’S VALUE, AND VALUES, AS A VEHICLE FOR GLOBAL RECOVERY
Interestingly, this is a crisis that has unlocked the value of Travel and Tourism.
- closing of borders,
- grounding of airlines and cruise ships,
- closure of hotels & resorts, museums, trade shows
- dropping the curtain on entertainment,
- cancellation of events, both business and leisure,
- transfer of meetings to e-meetings, and
- limiting of groups to double-digits in any social space,
the value of Travel & Tourism has been exposed not just at an economic level through the critical value chains that the sector activated across products and services, but also, as importantly, the growing need for Travel & Tourism as a basis for personal health and wellbeing.
The value of the sector is now understood to go far past its impact as an employer (1 in 10 jobs worldwide), as a GDP driver (9% global GDP), as a source of investment attraction, as a SME stimulator, as a basis for national identity and competitiveness. The values of Travel & Tourism are also now shining through: understanding, respect, compassion, protection of culture, community and environment.
Travel & Tourism will be central to global community having the opportunity to exhale again, to celebrate again, to laugh again, and to heal – to cry, to feel that we have our freedoms back.
As stated by the HE Zurab Pololikashvili, Secretary General of the UNWTO,:
“The tourism value chain touches upon every part of society. This makes tourism uniquely placed to promote solidarity, collaboration and concrete action across borders in these challenging times and also ideally positioned to once again drive future recovery.”
Until then, and for the moment, we must keep calm, keep simple, keep safe:
- FACTS FIRST: Check sources carefully. Untruths are unhelpful.
- FOLLOW WHO GUIDANCE: https://www.who.int/
- PRACTICE GOOD HYGIENE: Stay home – stay safe.
- SHOW COMPASSION: We are all in this together.
- TRAVEL WISELY: Essential only.
Please see: https://anitamendiratta.com/2020/03/18/covid-19-coronavirus-infographic/
MOTHER NATURE’S LESSONS WILL ULTIMATELY BE UNDERSTOOD
Recognising that when all of our freedoms are taken away, whether we are citizens, migrants, wherever we are in the world, we are all feeling vulnerable. How do we move that spirit forward? How do we take it forward to really find solutions that allow us to genuinely become a sustainable global community.
We are learning the hard way, but we learning the lessons Mother Nature wanted to reveal.
Good can and must come from this, eventually.
- Medical infrastructure will be stronger,
- Community structures will be stronger,
- Appreciation for some of the previously under-appreciated roles – nurses, educators, retail & delivery labourers – will be stronger,
- Family bonds will be stronger,
- Personal care will be stronger,
- Finally, the definition of SUSTAINABILITY is recognised as relating to Economic, Cultural, Social and Spiritual sustainability….not just Environmental,
- Value for Aviation will be restored, flight shaming decreasing as investment in emission-reducing, sustainable aviation innovation increases,
And hopefully, hopefully,
- Our value and protection of our shared world will be stronger.
For the moment, signs of hope – as tiny as they may be – are critical to keep spirits strong. They may be warmer temperatures bringing sunshine and new Spring flowers visible from our windows. They may be new routines of video-chats with loved ones, making connecting more frequent than ever before. They may be simply a text message to say “I’m thinking of you. Stay safe.”
Stay home, stay safe, stay calm.
And as they say here in the UK: KEEP CALM, AND CARRY ON.
We have a whole new world to look forward to, together. x
Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020