OPINION | What lessons are we learning from the coronavirus pandemic?

Health workers at a screening and testing site in Diepsloot.
Health workers at a screening and testing site in Diepsloot.
Photo by Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Ima

When the Covid-19 crisis ends, will we return to business as usual? Or will we use this time to deeply examine our current practices and challenge ourselves to improve systems in order to improve the lives of all the children of the Rainbow Nation, asks Rich Mkhondo.

More than 100 days since the first coronavirus case was reported in South Africa and more than 90 days since lockdown levels were introduced, have you stopped to ponder what things you may be learning from this devastating pandemic?

There are quite a few lessons that are being taught by this horrible plague that is Covid-19.

As we continue to grapple with the pandemic, we are learning that historically inflexible systems can suddenly become flexible. Indeed, systems, cultures and missions, can change, when there is the will to do so.

Strength and resilience

Covid-19 is displaying the strength and resilience of our nation in the face of adversity. In spite of the hard times we face, by and large, we are enduring the hardships with valour and the majority of us are complying with the safety measures necessitated to stop the further spread of the virus.

Our healthcare workers, from physicians and nursing staff, support medical personnel and all others, have risked their lives in the call of duty during this turmoil.

We are learning to appreciate health workers for their courageous dedication, as they face the hardship of performing their jobs while wearing hazmat suits and enduring long hours to heal the sick and fragile. The Rainbow Nation has much to be proud of.

Covid-19 as a torchlight

The past months have demonstrated that many lessons come out of adversity. We should consider these as a torchlight that we need to address and focus on for the future.

Let us acknowledge that we were not fully prepared for this calamity. We need to have better proactive planning to be ready for natural disasters, including pandemics and natural disasters of high magnitude.

As we move forward to reopen our country from lockdown Level 3 to 1 in the future, let us be mindful we have stories of our own.

Opening up to new ideas and initiatives

Countless lessons are practical, yet give way to extraordinary insight; others are remarkable new discoveries.

The scourge of Covid-19 has opened many new ideas and initiatives, stories of hard times, resilience, brilliance and courage.

When I asked a friend what she has learnt from this virus, she responded that the Bible points out that God delights when we learn and grow, and has a mysterious way of using the bad things that happen for our good.

Another friend told me he has discovered fears he was not aware he had. He learned to have a greater appreciation for life.

Many people have learned the value of entertainment to calm nerves, find balance. Reminiscing while watching old TV shows from our childhood rekindles a feeling of how pleasurable life used to be.

It's like an anchor to our soul. For example, since watching Michael Jordan’s Last Dance, I am committed to watching an interesting documentary once a week.

Covid-19 and creativity

I know friends who have explored their creative side, with new talents and ideas emerging. They've learned to sew, write, sing, play an instrument, decorate their home or personal space, and have been doing their own gardening.

People have found creative ways to celebrate. A friend recently held her virtual 50th birthday. Another, to remain connected, is having monthly virtual high tea with 15 friends to chat about their experiences.

Some have become more aware of their inability to handle stress and have learned new coping skills to help them take a sensible approach when problem solving.

Businesses have become resilient, stretching their industrial savvy with the expansion of services they provide.

We watched as micro, small and medium enterprises quickly came to the rescue by manufacturing personal protection equipment such as masks and hand sanitisers, to name a few.

Expanding food services to take-out or delivery was a stretch for the restaurants we know and love. Pharmacies have now resorted to providing delivery for all sorts of goods, such as prescriptions, groceries and almost anything you need.

Oh, and the challenges of home schooling. While working from home, some parents are doubling up as teachers and activity planners for their children. They have been stretched by the need to juggle a multitude of activities, while also managing their kids' daily activities and needs.

Health and economic impacts

We are learning that the economy is taking a knock from which it will take some time to recover.

The health and economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis are real, and it is critical that we take them seriously. But we must also acknowledge the very real, ongoing impacts of systemic inequities – many of which have been openly unveiled and demonstrated through this crisis.

It is a pity and sad that some of our friends have had the hard life experience of saying goodbye to a loved one taken away by this virus. The mark left by this cruel pandemic has been a journey of emotional pain and loss for many of us who have lost friends and family members.

Here are the 10 lessons of life I will take away from this time when our freedom has been curtailed and movements are being scrutinised:


Sometimes we take for granted the basic things such as a roof over our heads and food on the table. Let us be thankful and grateful despite being buffeted by the virus.

That longing for human connection

The handshakes, kisses and hugs are gone. This has been difficult for all of us, but we are getting used to it.

The benefits of wearing masks, washing and or sanitising hands and social distancing

The age-old hygiene drill is here to stay. Otherwise the infection will keep on rising.

Learning to live with less

I have realised that we can live with less, spend more time with family, and make more time to exercise, more time to reflect, and more time to do work as well.

The value of life

You don’t know what the future is going to bring.

Less focus on material things

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of cherishing those around us, especially family members.

The value of slowing down

It is important to prioritise "Me time".

Doing things that make you happy

It is important to do things which can help you stay physically and mentally healthy and at ease especially during a time of so much sadness.

Transparency is the best medicine

Transparency by the government, companies and organisations and provision of information can and will help educate citizens on the risks and necessary precautionary measures to help flatten the curve of the virus.

An act of kindness goes a long way

Take time to extend a hand to a stranger. Drop off those food parcels to those who are in need.

When the Covid-19 crisis ends, will we return to business as usual? Or will we use this time to deeply examine our current practices and challenge ourselves to improve systems in order to improve the lives of all the children of the Rainbow Nation?

At this time, all of humanity needs to step up and action the call of the assassinated American president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, when he said: "Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country."

JFK offers a number of prophetic quotes and potential lessons for our time. Let us accept his words of wisdom and hope when he said: "No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings."

 - Rich Mkhondo runs The Media and Writers Firm, a content development and reputation management hub.

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