Since January to March 2020, the governments of various countries in the world have implemented large-scale social restrictions or even lockdown in an effort to level the curve for the number of COVID-19 cases. This application has many psychological effects due to the forced changes in social life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people begin to live in a period of transition where most of them are struggling to follow this rapid change.
Workers must adjust to working from home. The sellers change stalls from the shop to the online platform. Young people who often spend time in cafes must stay at home. Many couples cancel a wedding party in an effort to prevent transmission of the corona virus. Married without a party that was unusual now it feels normal. Likewise with other things that look small slowly become a habit, such as washing hands with soap, wearing a mask, or immediately change clothes and take a shower when returning from traveling.
It is imperative that we do not let down our guard. But physical distancing, lockdowns and other measures to slow down and stop transmission are affecting lives and livelihoods. People are rightly asking: How much do we have to endure? And for how long? In response, governments, and health authorities must come up with answers to identify when, under what conditions and how we can consider a safe transition through a gradual shift in measures.
As we consider transition, we must acknowledge there are no ‘quick wins’. Complexity and uncertainty lie ahead, which means that we are entering a period where we may need to rapidly adjust measures, introduce and remove restrictions, and ease restrictions gradually, whilst constantly monitoring the effectiveness of these actions and the response of the public.
Any step to ease restrictions and transition must ensure:
1. That evidence shows COVID-19 transmission is controlled;
2. That public health and health system capacities including hospitals are in place to identify, isolate, test, trace contacts and quarantine them;
3. That outbreak risks are minimized in high-vulnerability settings – particularly in elderly homes, mental health facilities and people residing in crowded places;
4. That workplace preventive measures are established – with physical distancing, handwashing facilities, respiratory etiquette in place;
5. That importation risks can be managed; and
6. That communities have a voice and are engaged in the transition.