Does COVID-19 create a social polarization?

By: Syed Zain Ul Abbas

After 6 month strict closure of educational institutes on 15th of September I was on my way to university feeling happy after finally breaking the shackles which restricted me to stay home and work from there. I know it’s too late to write about COVID as we already hearing awareness message while calling to our dearer and nearer ones i.e. Alhamdulillah we have controlled COID-19……!

While staying on traffic signal and waiting for the light to turn green in my car, I saw a guy standing beside my car on a quality sports bike with a splendid performance, sporty shape and a first-class impression, wearing branded t-shirt of famous brand with khaki chino pant, having main official version of wrist watch of world class brand and at last K-95 mask (with filter) which can be easily seen under his full face motor bike helmet.

Following the custom of signals of Asia a beggar came to that guy and as for money. I was astonished to see the behaviors of both the motorcyclist and beggar. It was unusual and never seen before. He (the motorcyclist) was scolding him badly seemed that he is a carrier of virus on the other hand the beggar constantly asking for money it seemed that the motorcyclist have taken his right. In this happening a question aroused in my mind was “Does COVID create a social polarization?”

Social polarization is associated with the segregation within a society that may emerge from income inequality, real-estate fluctuations, economic displacements etc. and result in such differentiation that would consist of various social groups, from high-income to low-income.

After this whole scenario a thing came into my mind that we have created two poles in our society. First one consists of people suffering from poverty and lost their jobs during pandemic while on the other hand who did earning and remain sanitized.  The coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has been characterized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), attacked societies at their core. My family also followed the same and sent our maid back on paid leave after she got mild seasonal fever. The poorer and low income family was most likely to hit by corona virus since they were living in a crowded places, had low income job and less access to health care. While the other pole spent quality time with family because they all had that poor people lack.

Chaos and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic may have made a catastrophic future seem less remote and action to prevent it more necessary. However, it may also have the opposite effect by having minds focus on the more immediate threat of the pandemic rather than the climate crisis or the prevention of other disasters.

The writer is a physiotherapist & lecturer at University of Lahore.