This week we have testimonies of two citizens coming from the biggest world powers, both greatly affected by the coronavirus. They will both tell us about their daily lives during these hard times. You will see the testimony of Greg Gaghan from Pennsylvania, USA and Leo Liu from Shanghai, China.
The governments are fighting to find new solutions to avoid an economic collapse. They must also implement a heavy hygiene strategy which runs counter a whole capitalist system of which globalization is the foundation. Ironically, Communist China had adapted well to this same model, which it had even taken over.
As China reports 82,883 cases to date, the city of Wuhan, home of the epidemic, officially has no more Covid-19 patients hospitalized, according to local media. The last patients were moved to a quarantine location before they could return home.
In the United States, more than 1.2 million cases have been identified. Despite this heavy toll in the country, Donald Trump visited a mask factory in Arizona … without wearing a mask. He also called for a reopening of the country’s economy, although he said the deconfinement should be accompanied by an increase in the death toll. A mysterious person donated USD$1 million to employees of the Santa Cruz Californian Hospital. Thanks to this anonymous donation, each member of the nursing staff will receive a bonus of at least USD$600.
As for Leo Liu, he represents Daily Energy Co, supplier of solar panels in China. Leo chose a photo of his team present at Intersolar exhibition in Sao Paulo. He is the second one, starting from the left.
“What are the measures taken by the government in relation to Covid-19?”
Greg: “Our government has taken many actions against Covid-19. All of them are intended to stop the spread of this virus and saving lives. Some of the actions are mandated at the Federal Government level and some are mandated at the state level. Essentially, when we talk about the Federal Government, we are talking about the President. In the other hand, there is the state level (Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, etc.), we are referring to the governors.
The President has shut down air travel in and out of the US to most if not all other countries. The Federal government has issued overall guidelines for what individual states should do about containing the spread of the virus.
If the President determines states are acting recklessly he can create Executive Orders that will override Governors’ decisions. Many of the states have “shelter in place” orders. What this means is that a person is supposed to stay at home. They are only supposed to leave to get food, or if they work in a job that is considered essential. Examples of essential jobs are healthcare workers, police, and grocery store workers. Most of the states on the east and west coast are in complete lockdown. These are the states with the highest number of coronavirus cases.”
Leo testifies: “COVID-19 hit us while having our biggest national holiday: the Spring Festival. I was my family and stayed locked down for 30-40 days.
There wasn’t much work during holidays and even after it due to the lockdown. So we kept communication via WeChat or phone calls but as a factory, this is a second concern for us. In March the government allowed us to re-open but we needed to follow certain regulations. When it came into Mid-April, some government offices started handling some procedures digitally, such as taxation.”
“In your opinion, are these measures sufficient to deal with the virus?”
According to Greg : “the actions taken by our government with the information and resources available were well done. At the time of the outbreak, we didn’t have the resources or policies in place to deal with a pandemic. If you take a step back to all that has been accomplished in the past few months, it’s incredible. Testing has been increased exponentially. New tests have been invented that can test more people with shorter time to receive an answer. Medical equipment is being built at a quick pace and our resources have been reallocated to help those in need.
From a manufacturing perspective, this is amazing. Under normal conditions, it takes months and months to design, build and manufacture products. In a matter of weeks, we converted some of our automotive capacity to build ventilators. Automotive parts and ventilators are completely different devices. Yet, they figured out how to do it.”
Leo : “I am used to travel a lot across the world, I believe I am an objective person. At the beginning, the local government of my province made some mistakes, we cannot deny it. It’s a new thing and it took them some time to realize that it is a very infectious virus. Because of our government’s mindset, they don’t want negative news to spread, and I understand, many countries did the same. A lot of democratic countries have that same mindset, trying to minimize the effects not to create panic.
But in terms of managing the crisis I think Chinese government did a remarkable job. They’ve closed down the cities very fast, implemented ideas, regulations and technologies such as restrictions on entry and exit, using high tech tracking systems, measuring risks, and they’ve quickly gathered results of Covid 19 by putting up test kits.
From an economic perspective, the government heavily supported manufacturers willing to produce items needed to fight Covid 19, such as masks. The local authorities in China pay back 50% of the investment to encourage factories to produce medical supplies. Production plants have sprung up in abundance in a short period of time. Chinese doctors and nurses are the most able to protect themselves since they have all the necessary equipments.”
“How is the containment for you in the current context in your country?”
Greg thinks the containment is progressing slowly : “Our government and our people are doing everything we can to contain the virus. The virus was so widespread in the beginning that we were completely overwhelmed once we realized what was happening. People are also becoming impatient. They want to be outside and enjoying the springtime weather.”
Leo : “Apart from washing hands, and wearing masks, the most important was providing personal and traveling info whenever we travel. This was accompanied by a few apps used by the government to track people’s movements using their mobile phones’ signals. When we enter a place we need to provide our name and mobile number, then through any of the apps our whereabouts in the last 2-3 weeks will be shown. And judging by the whereabouts we will be given green/yellow/red codes. Those with green codes can move on and those who have been to the heavily affected areas and hence got yellow or red codes will have to be quarantined and observed and treated if diagnosed.”
“Can you explain your typical “containment” day?”
Greg works for a business that sells equipment to medical companies : “We are allowed to stay open. Many people at my company are working from home. But, I still come into the office most of the time. Our country now has strict guidelines that we have to adhere to while working. We have to stay six feet apart from one another, wear masks, wash our hands and our work environment is sanitized frequently. Additionally, our stores limit the amount of customers. The isles of the stores are now marked so you can only enter one way, to prevent people from passing by each other. My wife’s workday is a little different than mine. Our schools are closed for the rest of the year. Luckily my wife can work from home now. Parents now have the extra responsibility of working and helping children with their schoolwork.”
Leo : “In terms of how the routines change, we just needed to wear a mask and use hand sanitizers whenever we enter a place. we also need to get used to the fact that all communities only keep one entrance/exit so that it can be controlled; all restaurants provide only take-away service if open.
“If you have children, can you explain how their care is different from the usual?”
Greg : “Most of the schools are set up for children to submit their homework digitally. The children have become proficient with Zoom, Email, and all sorts of remote work technologies. All of the children’s day time care facilities and sports are closed indefinitely. Luckily many of the parents who had their children in day care are able to work from home. Since sports are cancelled, we try to be creative to stay fit and active. We make sure we play outside with them as much as possible and encourage them to keep themselves busy.”
Leo’s son is in the 3rd grade in primary school in Shanghai : ”The current semester starts from February to June, I’m quite certain this whole semester will be spent at home and classes will be held online. Parental participation is needed and becomes a big part in our daily routine nowadays.”
“After all this ends, will you make any changes to your lifestyle? ”
Greg : “On some levels, our busy chaotic lives have slowed down a little bit already. We now have time to sit down as a family and watch an hour or so of TV every night. This is something we now look forward to. So far, we have watched all of the Harry Potter movies, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Hunger Games movies. Feels also good to share our meals together because we are no longer driving to separate places at separate times. We will try to keep the pace of our lives slower and spend more time together. Let’s see how that works out.”
As for Leo : “It’s already ending in China and starting now in May, all the restrictions in China have been removed and now we are free to go to restaurants and touristic attractions. Certain areas even re-opened earlier. But the schools will be the last ones to reopen.
Also, in the last few months we have learned how to use 2-3 softwares to work remotely. Basically our telecommunications have increased a lot, we are mostly working from home, only buying daily necessities from the internet. I think as for the lifestyle it had a big impact, for example I wanted to learn Brazilian Portuguese and I was enrolling for the course and now the school is only providing online courses. So this virus is finally making companies and governments to innovate.
To sum up, I believe many of these procedures will be kept in the future, because it’s very convenient, I feel the same about these changes, I save a lot of time by working and taking classes from home for example.”
“Last question, do you have any particular advice for us to cope with this period at home?”
Greg tells us : “my advice for people at home is to be creative and try to have fun with what you have. If you are having problems, reach out to friends and loved ones. Talking to people helps. Finally, stay positive!”
Leo : “We are fortunate because the containment began right after Chinese people returned home and joined their families for Chinese New Year. So we’ve got to spend a lot of time with them, which is a good thing.
The activities you can do during a confinement are very limited, it’s easier if you’re well surrounded. Another thing, is to keep myself in good shape: I used to go to the gym once every 2/3 days. Now I workout 20 to 30 minutes per day following Youtube videos. This has been helping me a lot, since increasing immunity levels is crucial at this moment. In my family, we’ve chosen one person to pick up all our online groceries and shopping purchases. It’s important to pick one person to do that.
To sum up, I advise you to spend time with your family and loved ones, make sure you exercise at home, to develop some kind of passion. I’m starting to learn Portuguese, for example which is a very good time killer. My day goes by quickly when I study, because I find it fun and interesting. I advise you to find something that makes sense for you”.
This is how, even from our homes, we can still have a little taste of travelling to other countries. We hope you enjoy this format and that it allows you to take a break from it all, while learning during these very particular times.
Stay tuned to find out our last edition of the “Travel with us” series. You will meet two speakers from Turkey and Italy, who will talk about their daily lives during pandemics. Stay with us!