ONE of my pastimes in this enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is watching videos of “The Big Bang Theory”, one of the longest running and top sitcoms in the United States which unfortunately ended in May 2019. The story revolves around the lead character Dr. Sheldon Cooper, a genius Physicist who lacks social skills. He is rude, sarcastic and has a quirky behavior. The sitcom creates humorous situations in this uncommon trait of Dr. Cooper which is so out of this world. The writers exploit this plot for entertainment purposes.

It’s a good thing that Dr. Sheldon Cooper is just a fictional character. In reality, humans are by nature social beings. Part of being human is to express affection through kind words, touching, hugging and kissing. We are hard-wired to interact with fellow human beings. However, with the ECQ, we are forbidden to make physical contact or even get close with fellow human beings. We are told to avoid face to face interactions as much as possible. In the so-called ‘new normal’, social or physical distancing is the rule.

Practicing this no-contact and social distancing felt awkward at first. When I went out to visit some barangay officials, I had to forgo the standard handshake greeting which I have been doing for the longest time. Instead we made elbow-to-elbow and foot to foot gestures while laughing out loud. It is so unnatural. Even our traditional “pagmamano” (kissing of hands) has to be stopped at least during this ECQ.

This sentiment was voiced out by no less than New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. His state is the hardest hit by the coronavirus. In his daily press briefings, he lamented how hard this pandemic is for them emotionally. He said: “There is something to this lack of ability to connect. Don’t hug, don’t kiss, stay six feet away. We are emotional beings and it is important for us, especially at times of fear, times of stress, to feel connected to someone, to feel comforted by someone.”

The emotional hurt is even harder for the victims of Covid-19 and their families. Imagine not being able to visit and comfort sick love ones. It is even more painful not to be on the side of a dying loved one. You can’t even see or touch them for the last time because they have to be cremated immediately. No wake, only grieving and mourning alone. Just thinking about this scenario makes me shiver.

How long will this “new normal” situation last? I guess it will be until a vaccine or a medicine is developed. By then, Covid-19 will just be an ordinary virus like the common cold. Hopefully it won’t take too long before the treatment comes out that people would get used to not being “human”.

Loneliness and isolation because of the lockdowns might also affect our mental health. This adds up to the worries about the future, about the threat of the virus and the possibility of losing our jobs or businesses.