Our generation is facing challenging times, where instability, uncertainty and unpredictability is harshly pulling us away from our comfort zones.
We are attacked by an enemy we can’t see with our eyes. It is physically the smallest enemy one could be. The impact it has, however, is everything but small. A virus. A pathogen. An uninvited guest. Our world has been shaken. And when I say world, I mean WORLD. The whole world has been shaken and is standing still and shut for the last two months. This is a time our generation will talk about for years to come and the outcome of this crisis is still yet to be seen.
Here, at Impact Hub Zagreb, one of the things we cherish the most is the strength of our community. We have a diverse community of individuals from all areas of work and all areas of the world. It is at times like these communities matter more than ever. Communities let you stay in the know and have your back.
It so happens that in our team we have members who are following the Coronavirus crisis in 4 countries across the globe. I asked them to share with me insights from their home countries or countries of residence, focusing on the overall feeling and how the public is abiding to the measures from the authorities. Also, we took a glance at businesses in their countries, how they are affected and how/if the government is financially helping them. Let’s take a look.
Milenka Živković, Volunteer host at Impact Hub Zagreb, home country: Argentina
Total affected: 4887
“It is hard to tell what the overall feeling is. Argentina is a country with over 30% poverty, and huge socio-economic and educational gaps amongst its population. Adherence to norms and regulations is not one of our predominant cultural traits. However, there has been reasonable support of the lockdown, which has been mandatory since March 20th, and every week, the government is adjusting the regulations to allow specific businesses to gradually resume their operations. The biggest worry is the economy, which was already in a disastrous state before the COVID19 pandemic. Social unrest is also a likely possibility when the infections finally reach more alarming numbers.
When it comes to financial help from the governement there is 10.000 AR$ (less than 150 USD) relief subsidy for the unemployed and informal workers. There’s extension on the date of payment of some taxes and discounts for the month of April. There are extraordinary credits for small and medium businesses who have lost revenue, to be able to pay salaries. (These smaller business are the most hit financially). In the Labour area, provision has been made to avoid massive layoffs. Services will not be cut due to lack of payment. Credits are issued at rates convenient for small SMEs that meet certain requirements, such as vulnerable employees.
It would be valuable to bring awareness towards the issue of domestic/gender violence, which was already alarming before and has now escalated. On an average day, the relevant office in the city of Buenos Aires (CABA) receives an average of 48 complaints of abuse. While on the first days of lockdown this decreased to an average 16 (no violence in public places, for instance) and started gradually escalating to an average 64 cases in the same office. Reports are specific to gender violence, often made by neighbours.
The Ministry of Justice is speeding up all protection measures, taking arrests for flagrant abuse and isolating abusers in separate houses if they are available, or government-paid hotels. The many NGOs that work towards reducing gender/domestic violence have been instrumental in creating channels to protect victims.”
Jonathan Levine, Lead host at Impact Hub Zagreb, home country: South Africa
Total affected: 7220
Total deaths: 138
“Africa has a huge rate of poverty and this has a huge effect on people, especially workers that live day to day that are now unable to work and provide food or essentials for their families. Overall crime has dropped in the country, but this won’t be down for too long as people start becoming more and more desperate.
Two prominent South African families each donated 1 billion Rand (€50million). The president of the Republic announced on Tuesday night that the country will be putting up 500 billion Rand to support the country and its people (€25 billion). It is a huge amount of money, but having a population of 59 million people, it really puts that figure into perspective as that works out to €424 per person and that is nowhere near enough to support a person.
The president of South Africa initiated a FULL lockdown in the Republic. This means only essential services were able to operate. People are able to go to the supermarkets and pharmacies, but that is it. You were not allowed to be driving around with no purpose, no running, no walking of dogs. Anyone caught doing anything other than shopping for essentials were being arrested. The army was deployed throughout the Republic to assist the police force in the implementation of a hard lock down. Also all alcohol and tobacco products were prohibited.”
Hermes Arriaga, Managing director and Co-founder of Impact Hub Zagreb, home country: Mexico
Total affected: 24,905
Total deaths: 2271
“With 32 states in the country and under a federal governance system, the behaviour of numbers vary from state to state, but it is clear that the biggest cases are in places where society is respecting social distance, and the amount of tests applied are also playing a positive factor. Reactions towards the restrictions vary, while people are respecting the staying at home restrictions, in Mexico where around 60% of the economy rely on informal (gray market) transactions, a big part of the population lives on a day by day paycheck, which makes them very vulnerable to any economic shock and respecting social distance at the cost of their revenue loss is not in their priority right now.
Although the GDP in Mexico had a decrease of 2,4 % in Q1, the IMF calculates a decrease of 6,6% at the end of the year, probably with the biggest loss in Q2 a forecast that will be exacerbated by a very low oil price that Mexican economy depends on. Under this scenario, the government has released an stimulus package (a 0,7% of the GDP value, a very small one compare to other big economies) but has been short on achieving the desired effects, support is going more to vulnerable and marginalized sectors like unemployed and elderly and very scarce support to SMEs in key setors.”
Duška Jelić, Co-founder of Impact Hub Zagreb, country of residence: Norway
Total affected: 7904
Total deaths: 214
“I have been working normally all the time, meaning I was commuting to my office. We were not permitted the choice to work from home since the regulations were borderline for small companies. So we spread our desks apart, living by the 2m distance rule and the rest of us worked normally. But we were one of the few examples to do so, a majority of small and big companies very quickly responded with work from home and are still employing the rule.
The country didnt go into a total lockdown, although the measures were very strict on the commuting among the municipalities and of course travelling internationally. Main daily services were and still are active and there have not been queues for any of the daily neccesities.
There were quite a lot of people that were laid off, and that is mostly in the tourism sector, restaurants, bars and for example personal services like hairdressers and nail salons. The state has quite quickly ensured financial aid and also there have been quite quickly developed measures to help the businesses that are hit with the Corona situation. The state is all in all organized and people are counting on the support and reasonable guidance in this situation. Overall discipline is quite amazing. All the other sanitary measures are like anywhere else.”