Citizens worldwide are experiencing a biological event like no other. Termed Covid-19, this coronavirus claimed over ten million lives worldwide. Well before the World Health Organisation classed Covid-19 as a pandemic, scientists were already racing to triangulate its symptoms and determine its transmissibility (World Health Organization, 2020). Today, science and technology equip biologists and virologists in tackling a seemingly invisible foe able to bring potentially deleterious and unforeseen consequences to human beings and societies.
To complicate things, nations also contend with social issues such as unrest, genocide, eroding freedoms, and uncooperative citizens refusing to wear masks. Governments can exercise their authority in quelling social issues. However, the world must turn to science in tackling a virological entity.
Make no mistake though. The scientific community cannot battle Covid-19 on their own; Neither can governments or citizens do so without mutual cooperation. Truly stemming Covid-19 infections is an arduous task that can only be undertaken with full cooperation from the civic, political, scientific, and communal spheres. Everyone must have their hand in the societal pie.
The pressure is mounting on scientists, researchers, and global leaders. While the world inches closer towards a working vaccine, the clock ticks. The race is on to find a cure even as Covid-19 claims more lives in parts of the world that face political, economical, and societal turmoil (The Economist, 2020).
In the absence of a vaccine, governments combat the virus by calling for safe distancing measures and for citizens to wear masks. Authorities routinely fine people for not wearing masks or breeching safe distancing rules. Physical altercations are common between masked and unmasked people. Responsible people know what they must do.
Yet, this is no ordinary, run-of-the-mill disease. Seen through a sociological lens, pandemics are rarely ever only a virological event; It is also sociological in nature. Here, Covid-19 wages war on two fronts: Virological and sociological.
If sociology concerns itself with the study of groups of human beings that function within societies, then sociologists can offer additional perspectives and insights on the adverse effects of pandemics on societies themselves.
And rightfully so. Not only is Covid-19 deadly to human beings, it is perhaps deadlier to entire economies. If an economic downturn hasn’t already gripped the world, some countries slip outright into a technical recession. Proper handling of the outbreak is paramount. Yet, who knew that a response to the pandemic would also mean punching the economy in the face?
We see authoritative responses in dealing with a pandemic. Governments mandate the temporary closure of schools, entertainment venues, museums, workplaces, and businesses to stem the spread of Covid-19. In doing so, social life in some countries grind to a halt. Bustling places turn into a ghost town overnight. For people accustomed to and in need of social interactions, it is a physical and mental struggle. We can also expect other societal issues to ferment during times of restricted movement.
Now, people are staying home not only out of necessity but by choice too. Furthermore, when people stay away from each other to reduce infection rates, physical interaction decreases. This pandemic diminishes an already dwindling need for people to shop at stores. Why go to a store when necessities can be delivered at the click of a mouse? For some, social distancing measures are a minor annoyance. For others, their way of life is upended. Some enterprises that have operated for decades close their doors for good.
Covid-19 consumes lives and livelihoods indiscriminately. The effects of the pandemic cannot be overstated: People lose their lives battling the disease. Many will lose work. Even more will lose their ability to find employment. These are unprecedented times. Making sense of great social change will require a keen sensing of the deep and far reaching effects that the coronavirus brings. A post-covid world will be different. Already, we are going through structural changes to society.
All these are examples of social consequences from a biological agent. Covid-19 might well also be a sociological death knell as the disease disrupts the social sphere with its virulent antics.
The disease affects people of all races, ethnicities, religions, and classes. Yet, the outcomes of infected persons are unequal. For people living in poverty, people lacking access to healthcare, and people on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, their response to the Covid-19 infection is vastly different. Diseases affect people equally, but present disproportionate outcomes for people in different classes. A minor illness can very well end the lives of citizens who already struggle to make ends meet. What more of a deadly coronavirus?
Countries that do better in handling the pandemic extend healthcare access and support to all its citizens. This pandemic requires a multi-faceted response. Mounting a successful defence necessitates a protracted view of global economies, citizen cooperation, political stewardship, medical discoveries and technological advancements. Bouncing back from devastated economies demands a retooling of society. Though the disease has disrupted social lines, we can overcome it only by working together.
The Economist. (2020, May 14). On the blink – The European Union is having a bad crisis. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/leaders/2020/05/14/the-european-union-is-having-a-bad-crisis
World Health Organization. (2020, March 12). WHO announces COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19/news/news/2020/3/who-announces-covid-19-outbreak-a-pandemic