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'Due to unfortunate circumstances, I am awake'

By Khin Chaw Skyi | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-08-19 16:23

Editor's Note:

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, governments across the world have taken strict measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Everyone's life has changed dramatically due to the pandemic, and we still don't know when we will finally defeat the invisible enemy. However, life moves on. In our series "My story of fighting COVID-19", we will share stories from our readers on how they are fighting against COVID-19 in their daily life. We hope these stories will inspire you.

Paresh Nath/China Daily

I lived in peace like many others just before the global pandemic of COVID-19. Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream. I was not used hearing to the word "outbreak" even once in a year. But due to unforeseen circumstances, the COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, emerged as a global threat earlier this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses extraordinary challenges to the world. Currently affecting more than 200 countries and territories, the virus has upended the lives of children and their families everywhere, placing a huge strain on often already overburdened health and education systems.

Five weeks after confirming its first COVID-19 case on June 25, 2020, Myanmar reported 292 confirmed cases, but 208 recoveries and six deaths. The country's largest city, Yangon, became the outbreak's epicenter, though cases have been detected in other states and regions. Landmarks and buildings across Yangon were lit up in support of healthcare workers.

On the government's side, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has assumed a central and visible role in the government's response, heading two newly established committees, using social media, and hosting televised virtual meetings to engage with health workers, officials, volunteers, businesses and union representatives. It is very important not to listen to rumors and to regularly check the news and follow guidelines by the Ministry of Health and Sports.

At that time, there was a critical shortage of surgical masks and N95 masks and must be reserved for health care providers, while cloth masks were easy to find and could be washed and reused. I was surfing the internet for the best way to sew a face mask with fabric. Then I made my first one and tried to wear it for a day. So, I made another dozen cloth masks and found those who could not afford to buy them. I discovered that another yard of 44-inch wide fabric could make 10 masks daily. I presented them to a social welfare volunteer, who gave them to senior citizens. Then I organized my friends to make washable face masks as much as we could and distribute them to remote areas where the general public lived.

According to guidelines from the authorities, I did not have any guests over at that time nor any idea of visiting places. When returning home from outside, I washed my hands with soap for at least 20 seconds. If water and soap weren't easily available, I would use hand sanitizers with 60 percent ethanol content. My friends from an industrial chemistry department were making hand sanitizers and selling it without generating a profit.

At least 20 out of the 500 factories in Myanmar have shut down, leaving more than 10,000 potentially unemployed as a result of COVID-19. Due to disruptions in the raw material supply chain, some factories have permanently ceased operations, while some have stopped operating temporarily and others have reduced the number of workers at their facilities. However, I realized it was a hard situation for everyone. I organized my friends within the food industry to provide for some basic household needs.

One of the key things during a pandemic is taking care of personal hygiene by showering and washing your hands. Other important things include eating nutritious food and getting enough sleep and exercise. I tried to do some suitable, non-intensive physical exercises at home to stay in shape, including joining in on home fitness challenges on TV. I ate right and added more spices such as ginger, garlic and pepper, which are natural immune boosters.

It's been important to practice empathy during this time, not only for others but for myself as well. In addition to boosting social connectedness and increasing helping behaviors, empathizing with others also improves your ability to regulate your emotions during times of stress. Feeling empathy allows you to better manage the anxiety you are experiencing without feeling overwhelmed.

We use the Zoom application, as it provides video call and online chat services through a cloud-based peer-to-peer software platform and is used for teleconferencing, telecommuting, distance education and social relations.

As I am a new MBA student, I have potential networking opportunities with my peers and alumni. By using the internet, I can communicate with friends, family, relatives and other close people through the phone or social media. Although far apart, we can remain close to each other's hearts with a sharing and caring spirit. Friends are forever and we have turned challenges into benefits.

One of the best things I can do to support others is to simply stay home. Staying out of the way helps prevent the spread of the virus, which helps ensure that healthcare professionals and resources are not overwhelmed. Working from home and staying at home is generally easy, but it does come with the challenges of psychological stress. Some people have seen their incomes drop and the unemployment rate is also high.

When I felt frustrated after enduring two months at home, I realized that boosting my motivation to study was the best way to counter the stress of isolation. I read Sapiens, a book by Yuval Noah Harari that briefly recounts all of human history. I bought this book in 2018 and have not even finished all the chapters. I also generated "a book a day challenge" with Facebook friends on social media.

"Due to unfortunate circumstances, I am awake". I am aware that physical things can be unreliable, but only sympathy, empathy, social ties, sharing and caring can enhance motivation or hope during tough times.

Let's join together to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope in the near future we'll once again see more of those beautiful smiles.

The author is a student at Yangon University of Economics in Myanmar.

The article was provided by South and Southeast Asian University Network. The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of China Daily and China Daily website.


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