Going through a crisis of any sort teaches us so much about our community and ourselves. It’s not just about facing the problems with resourcefulness and courage – it’s also about wrapping the cloak of humaneness and kindness tightly around ourselves so that we emerge from any physical disturbance without losing our soul. Because when the fight has ended, what will matter is not our battered body but whether we still have the values that make our society wholesome spiritually.
So far Bahrain has been a fine example of compassion and common sense in tackling the shock of the pandemic. In the very beginning, when unfortunate travellers brought the pandemic to our doorstep, no less a person than HRH the Crown Prince himself stared down the rumour mongers and brought us all together to unite in the fight against a deadly invisible enemy.
Now, when murmurs of discontent about ‘expat spreader clusters’ raised their ugly heads, very senior government officials have firmly nipped the talk, pointing out that the spike in the Covid spread is the result of reckless socialising over Ramadan and Eid despite the government clearly enunciating the protocol and also the issue of people breaking self-isolation rules. As to the workers who fell victim to the virus, the government has swiftly moved them to quarantine centres, away from crowded living quarters where proximity can encourage the spread of Covid. In the process, greedy landlords who stuffed hapless workers a half-dozen to a room, were taken to task. It is a cleansing inside out, alright!
A community volunteer who liaises with officials and people quarantined at the Sitra centre told me that every person was given basic necessities such as a bed, clothes-rack and bedclothes as well as three square meals a day and meds – in short, they are treated with dignity. Sure there are issues of leaky toilets and overcrowding, but we must remember these facilities were literally established overnight and for a large number of people who have no cohesive pattern of living together unlike workers in a single ‘camp’ who live by a common work rhythm.
We have been hearing horror stories from other countries where those who test positive are simply checked into overcrowded makeshift quarters like school classrooms and the community is expected to rustle charity packages of everything from food to hygiene products. It’s psychologically damaging and can leave the quarantined person even more traumatised than his/her brush with a death-giving virus.
What distinguishes Bahrain in its Covid fight is the clear-eyed focus on respecting human rights even as the fight to contain the pandemic is ramped up. From top-down, the sights are trained on the goal of emerging from this crisis with the famed spirit of the kingdom and the essential compassion of the Bahraini community alive.
As we get set to welcome the trending ‘new normal’ and go to malls with our masks on and sit in offices – why, even cafes – at two-metre distance from each other, we should all send up a prayer that some things just don’t change. That’s why Bahrain will emerge stronger from this situation and with a better understanding of what it takes to be human.
Thank you Bahrain!