Covid-19 crisis should be a learning moment

As a “new normal” sets in, restrictions on large gatherings bring with them a silver lining

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , October 26– 2020 :- Jubee Vargheese (bride) and Justin George (groom) during their marriage ceremony held at the St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Dubai. Relatives and friends wearing protective face mask and gloves as a preventive measure against the spread of coronavirus and maintaining social distance during the ceremony.  (Pawan Singh / The National) For News/Online/Instagram. Story by Kelly

The coronavirus pandemic has affected more than 30 million people and affected livelihoods around the world. It has also altered the nature of key moments in life – rites of passage, such as wedding ceremonies and graduations – for the foreseeable future. But the challenges posed by Covid-19 have also proven that fixing shared problems is not only possible, it is a common responsibility.

Ensuring that people respect basic hygiene precautions, and practise physical distancing, remains the world’s best bet to contain the pandemic while scientists work to find a cure or a vaccine against the virus. In the words of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, the fight against Covid-19 is a "shared responsibility" for all of society.

Leading by example, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, attended a royal wedding via video call on Tuesday. Abu Dhabi has banned large weddings, limiting gatherings to 10 people, while Dubai recently allowed residents and citizens to hold physically distanced ceremonies, while encouraging virtual ceremonies.

The parish priest at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Jebel Ali, Father Reinhold Sahner, told The National that some religious ceremonies now tend to last about 20 minutes. “There is a maximum of five people in the church at any one time, including the bride, groom and priest,” he said.

Many couples look to their wedding day as the best day of their lives, and some may take more than a year to plan for the perfect ceremony. Some feel that they have been robbed of this opportunity because of the pandemic, deprived of the opportunity to hold a grand feast or a large celebration at home. But as the “new normal” of the pandemic sets in, these restrictions bring with them a silver lining.

The pandemic has dealt a blow to people’s pockets. Millions around the world have been laid off or had their salaries slashed and can no longer afford huge wedding receptions, a luxury that many young couples barely had the means for even before the outbreak. Newlyweds sometimes had to take loans and begin their married lives carrying debts so that they could hold lavish receptions and avoid disappointing friends and family.

Now, the pandemic has forced people worldwide to rethink the way they celebrate important moments in their lives, with an onus on intimate gatherings, modest ceremonies and smaller budgets.

As the "new normal" of the pandemic sets in, restrictions on large gatherings bring with them a silver lining

Other rites of passage such as university and secondary school graduations are being held completely online. While this may not be ideal, new technologies have brought people together in an era of physical distancing and limited flight options. Video conferencing and messaging applications have allowed people to connect on their big day and create new memories with friends and family halfway around the globe.

When Covid-19 was first declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March, many were hopeful the situation would be resolved within months. It has now become clear that containing Covid-19 will be a long-term effort – one that could last years and will inevitably affect key moments of our lives. But it is also an opportunity to find solutions and switch to a “better normal” once a cure or a vaccine is found.