• AC Schwulst

How not to survive a pandemic as a scientist (in a South African context)

The year 2020 will be one for history books. The way our lives have changed all because of a single stranded RNA virus.



Back in about February when this novel coronavirus started making its way into mainstream news, as a scientist on a different field it was awesome to see a field of science having the spotlight for once in the news. Jump forward to now July, and not only are the scientists annoyed but the common population are as well.

Why I say that scientists are annoyed with what is going on is based on a couple of reasons:

  • The amount of fake news that is going around is spreading quicker than the Black Plague of England.

  • Articles that are being published have no proper controls, the wrong methodology has been used and then to top it off, it is not peer-reviewed or reproducible.

  • As a scientist you are always asked for your opinion on something that someone has read and when you start to explain your answer, they just stop listening or do the exact opposite of what you have just told them.

  • Most scientists not in the field of virology are unable to access their laboratories to continue their own research which is just as important.

Enough about that for now. Let’s get into ways in which you should not occupy your time and ways you should – yes some of these tips you have been hearing before but I will give you my take on it.


With this pandemic we have been at home a lot more – this does not mean that you ignore your friends. IT is amazing how after a phone call with a friend can make your spirit feel lighter and like you can conquer the world. Although it is not the same as meeting up and hanging out with them, still make plans with them. This will not last forever and by having a plan (or six) you have something to look forward to. I am naturally an introvert so for the first three weeks of this lockdown I was like ‘Yes, I can handle this, it is what I have trained my whole life for’, now it is the introverts that are standing up and making a noise about not being able to see other humans.


I have heard many people say that this is a good time for self-care and self-reflection. Which is true to a point. I say this because see my above point regarding friendships. Many of us do not practice a healthy amount of self-care and it can be daunting to start the process with all the social media posts going around about it. I suggest start with something as small as giving yourself a compliment in the morning, from there you can slowly add to your self-care routine and be inspired by the many social media posts that are going around. Remember you are just as important as that deadline that you are rushing towards. Self-care is not selfish!




At the beginning of this lockdown way back in March, I would have agreed to binge watching all your favourite series and movies (even those you have already seen at least ten times already). Now if you do want to unwind with a series or movie, try something new, be it in the same genre or a bold step into unknown world – you never know what you might discover.

Now calling all my bibliophiles and non-readers! As an introvert myself, books have always brought me comfort and I have normally stuck within a few selected genera. The same advice that I gave for series and movies applies here as well! IF you needed an excuse to start a new book or try out an audible book, this is the perfect opportunity. So, cuddle up with a hot cup of tea and enter a new world. Remember books allow you travel when you cannot go anywhere.


My final piece of advice on how not to survive a pandemic, is do not stop learning! LEARN, LEARN, LEARN. The holiday mindset is now over, use this time to learn something you have always wanted to, but never really had the chance to! The cool thing with learning something new is that no one can take it away from you and now that you have tried it you can discover a new side to yourself, or realise that what you thought would be cool to learn, just isn’t for you.

So now that you have the tips on how not to survive a pandemic, go out there and LIVE!

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