COVID-19: 2020'S Unifier and Divider

COVID-19 is a major unifier and divider of people, countries and societies not only for 2020 but for the 21st century. 


The year 2020 was dominated by one major issue: the COVID-19 pandemic. The disease, caused by an unknown type of coronavirus, spread quickly across the globe since it was first detected back in late 2019. According to the Coronavirus Resource Center of Johns Hopkins University, COVID-19 has, so far, affected 191 countries and regions, with almost 74 million reported cases that resulted to the deaths of nearly 1.7 million. Most of the reported cases are mild or asymptomatic in nature, which means that those who are most prone to the worst that COVID-19 can do include the elderly, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

While the world recognizes its effects on individuals and the global health care system, COVID-19 has done more damage to countries and people economically. The lockdowns being implemented by governments resulted to the loss of the livelihoods of many, as jobs had to be cut due to businesses being forced to shut down temporarily or for good or scale down operations. The travel restrictions also severely disrupted the normal flow of commerce, causing abnormal supply and demand patterns and spikes in the prices of goods and services, especially with people being forced to stay at home and be dependent on either supplies coming from the government or privately-owned courier services, mostly driven by e-commerce.

COVID-19 is a major unifier and divider of people, countries and societies not only for 2020 but for the 21st century. The world has not seen such something like what COVID-19 did since the last major global pandemic, the Spanish Flu during the 1900's, and the SARS pandemic that hit a lot of countries during the 2000's. With air travel being prevalent and most people being able to go from one place to another with relative ease, the spread of COVID-19 was extremely fast that it almost instantly divided and unified everybody for one reason or another.

The world is already polarized by severe differences in politics before the pandemic began. COVID-19 only made it worst. It made people more bitterly divided along partisan lines, especially politicians who are trying to outdo each other and those who are trying to exploit the pandemic to get what they want politically or financially. The ugly divisive politics can be seen clearly countries such as the Philippines, where the political opposition, virtually being aided by the mainstream media, is trying to paint a picture of an incompetent administration, which, despite limitations in resources and logistical challenges, is doing its best to not only control the spread of COVID-19 and help those who got sick but also address the needs of those who lost their jobs or have to shut down their businesses and forced to stay home, which is why the country is relatively doing well compared to the United States and the Western European nations, which are now dealing with a third wave of COVID-19 cases and forced to implement lockdowns and other disease control measures.

The lockdowns and travel restrictions caused by COVID-19 divided families and friends. Unlike in the pre-COVID-19 world where people enjoyed the physical presence and company of each other, COVID-19 forced almost everyone to be confined at home. With movement of people impeded, interaction can only be done impersonally through social media platforms, chat messengers and video conferencing applications. If there is a chance to go out of their homes, people could not interact closely because of social distancing measures and the need to wear face masks and face shields for personal protection and disease control and prevention.

COVID-19 ironically is also a unifier. It unified the peoples of the world behind front-liners- doctors, nurses, pharmacists, scientists, laboratory technicians, ambulance drivers and emergency management personnel, soldiers and policemen, security personnel, supermarket and wet market workers, bank employees, farmers and other agricultural workers, delivery crews and others working in the courier industry, teachers who are forced to do distance learning methods, garbage collectors and others who help clean and disinfect communities, and others who have to work in order to keep the world going and commerce flowing at a time when almost all countries are closed. While not being able to interact in person, families and friends began to look after each other. Peoples also began to rally behind their governments, akin to what Filipinos are now doing, supporting President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration in their effort to help the Philippines win over against COVID-19.

As 2020 draws to a close, my fervent wish is that 2021 will be a much better year for all of us. With extensive and intensive work being done on vaccine development and the search for a cure, hopefully COVID-19 will be gone by next year. By then, I am hoping that we will start living under a much better "new normal," with us being able to be with our families and friends again, new job and business opportunities being created or existing ones being re-opened and expanding. Nothing can be more joyful that seeing and feeling again a sense of normalcy after having to go through a rough time caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

May we all have a very merry Christmas, and a happy, prosperous and COVID-19-free 2021.

About the Author
Benedict is an agricultural economist, academician and writer. He has gained experience and expertise in various fields of economics, business, political science and public relations after through professional ventures in the academe, and in the public and private sectors. He has authored or co-authored key publications on topics ranging from agriculture and food security to global affairs and politics.
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