COURRIER INTERNATIONAL
Courrier International is a Paris-based French weekly newspaper which translates and publishes excerpts of articles from over 900 international newspapers.
Coronavirus
Rozena Crossman

Work → In Progress: Why Our Work Days Will Never Be The Same Again

The world found out quickly that COVID-19 would be a major interruption to the way we worked. By now, there is little doubt that the health pandemic — and resulting lockdown measures and travel bans — will leave permanent traces in company policies, employee behavior and our relationship with work spaces and technology.

Yet it goes even further: Since work is so central to people's lives, we are beginning to see how these changes could reshape the broader organization of our economies and societies.

Still, the changes will reveal themselves over time — and as this new edition Work → In Progress shows, the devil will be in the details. What both employees and employers must do right now is begin to think hard about the trade-offs implicit in such potentially big changes to our working habits and policies. Teleworking, for example, has ushered in a new era of flexibility but also raises questions about the potential loss of in-person mentorship; in Ivory Coast, mobility restrictions and closed schools have exacerbated alarming labor issues; while in South Africa, medicine delivery service is helping pharmacy employees handle a growing workload.

TAKE OUT Thanks to COVID-19, the delivery sector has expanded way past pizza and Amazon orders. South Africa, battling both coronavirus and an HIV epidemic, has instituted a medicine delivery service with 240,000 chronic medication packages reported as delivered in mid-June. Although pharmacy employees are struggling to adjust to the unprecedented workload, this new mode of distribution looks like a promising tool for both governments and companies fighting the economic impact of coronavirus. If this trend continues, delivery driver may be the next hottest job on the market.

ETHICS MATTER There's lots of talk about how quarantine has accelerated new work trends, but it has also exacerbated alarming labor issues. According to the International Cocoa Initiative, lockdown in the Ivory Coast has led to a rise in child labor. The combination of closed schools with a lack of adult workers due to mobility restrictions has caused the number of children performing dangerous tasks such as heavy lifting or working with chemicals to increase from 16% to 19%. It's an urgent example of how labor legislation should not take a backseat during the pandemic. On the contrary, it should be front and center, an integral part of every country's fight against the growing economic depression.

STAT DU JOUR

LOST MENTORS "I can only sustainably work from home because I have 40 years of office experience behind me," wrote Richard Harris, a Hong-Kong based CEO and investment manager in the South China Morning Post. In an age of coronavirus and Zoom meetings, he wonders how younger employees will be able to grow professionally without hands-on help from a mentor. HR departments should think carefully about how educational relationships between colleagues can be fostered digitally, or the results may be dire for the future workforce.

HOT TOPIC As the climate continues to change, so do our work habits. Vietnamese rice farmers had their work hours turned upside down by a recent heat wave, forcing them to pick the paddies at 2 a.m. instead of during the day. Temperatures of 40 °C have made outdoor labor impossible after 8 a.m., and the only source of light during night shifts are small head and pocket lamps. Because of this, workers are half as productive and their family lives are heavily affected. It's another item on the long list of reasons why fighting global warming is our most pressing issue.

THE ODD JOB

GOOD INVESTMENTS Social and political issues can spill into workplaces of every sector, and industries around the world felt the effects of the #BlackLivesMatter movement and protests against the murder of George Floyd. Big corporations are seeing pressure to make real change, as some investors are turning away companies that aren't committed to diversity. One resulting example is BlackRock announcing a plan to increase their number of Black employees to 30% in the next four years. According to the Financial Times, however, "shaping investment portfolios to achieve racial justice is incredibly difficult, primarily because of the lack of data." It looks like companies will need to combine technological savvy with CSR in order to attract tomorrow's investors.

ARTIFICIAL ACTING "LOL," as the kids say: The most beautiful robot in the world is unemployed (until movies can start filming again)! When we hear about robots stealing our jobs, the first thing that comes to mind is probably not the movie industry. Yet, the android Erica will be the lead lady in Life Productions' $70 million sci-fi picture, "b," which tells the tale of a scientist tasked with creating perfect human DNA. Created by Hiroshi Ishiguro, a roboticist at Osaka University in Japan, Erica's features were modeled after Miss Universe pageant finalists to make her the most beautiful robot in the world. As an aspiring actress, Erica is great at remembering lines but struggles with adapting her tone of voice to a given context. As she keeps practicing lines with human actors, the developers hope she will be ready to perform when production resumes.

Geopolitics

One More Enemy: Coronavirus In War Zones Around The World

Shortage of masks and respirators, lack of hospital space, muddled government action: inadequate responses to the COVID-19 outbreak are evident even in the world's most stable countries. So what happens when the virus arrives in places already under the weight of war?

Yemen: Given the ongoing stalemate, many had hoped Saudi Arabia would take the opportunity of the global pandemic to cut its losses, and pull out of Yemen altogether. The first coronavirus case was recorded in Yemen this week, coinciding with Saudi Arabia announcing a ceasefire with the Houthi rebels. Yet Houthi forces were wary of the truce and broke the ceasefire within in 48 hours, according to the Saudi-backed coalition fighting to restore Yemen's former government. For Yemeni civilians stuck between war and illness, half the UN's aid in the country will shut down due to a funding crisis caused by a withdrawal from donors such as the United States earlier this year.

Syria: So far, COVID-19's toll in the war-ravaged nation are only 2 deaths and 19 confirmed cases, but testing for the virus is woefully lacking. As 70% of healthcare workers left at the beginning of the civil war in 2011, the population has already been vulnerable to poor health for nearly a decade. Al Jazeera reports that social distancing is nearly impossible in displacement camps in Idlib, the last province held by the rebels.

Ukraine: The arrival of the virus did nothing to quiet the war between Kiev and Russian separatists in Donbass. With around 30 soldiers killed and 85 injured, March was one of the deadliest months on the front since the conflict started six years ago, according to Courrier International. And since April began? Ukraine has registered more than 3700 coronavirus cases and 107 deaths, but also 66 attacks from separatist forces.

Raising awareness in Syria — Photo: Moawia Atrash/ZUMA

Libya: Though only 26 cases have been recorded, the United Nations fears a potential outbreak spreading as military operations continue to ravage the country, with civilians trapped amid the clashes. Libya may be unable to cope with an outbreak as hospitals and clinics, damaged during the conflict, are already struggling with large numbers of victims of the fighting. "This is a health system that was close to collapse before you get the coronavirus', Elizabeth Hoff, head of mission for the WHO in Libya, told Reuters.

Sahel: The northern African region has been subjected to terrorist attacks since 2012. Entire areas in Mali have been cut off from state services, because of jihadist insurgencies and intercommunity conflicts, reports Le Monde, while fears are rising for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in packed camps across Sahel. "If we have coronavirus here, it will be a catastrophe," a man living in one of the three camps outside Mali's capital Bamako told The North Africa Journal. People living in these camps have been advised to use turbans as face masks, as protective gear is scarce.

Watch Video Show less
Geopolitics

Coronavirus — Global Brief: After Climate Change, War On Science Speeds Up

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: AFTER CLIMATE CHANGE, WAR ON SCIENCE SPEEDS UP

For those who believe in science and empirical evidence, the global "war on facts' has taken its toll on multiple fronts in recent years, from climate-change deniers to the anti-vaxxer movement trying to halt longstanding vaccination treatments.

And now, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, it's happening again — only at warped speed. "For the climate community, observing U.S. national political leaders' responses to the coronavirus pandemic has been like watching the climate crisis unfold on fast-forward," writes Dana Nuccitelli in Yale Climate Connections, a publication from the Yale Center for Environmental Communication. The article features President Donald Trump's denials of the gravity of both climate change and coronavirus side-by-side, and the comparison is stark.

Trump isn't the only leader who likes to wrestle with science. India's former chief scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research lamented to Science magazine that the country's Prime Minister Narenda Modi has "initiated what may be called ‘Project Assault on Scientific Rationality."" Modi once argued: "Climate has not changed. We have changed… our tolerance and habits have changed. If we change then God has built the system in such a way that it can balance on its own." Now, that same line of thinking has led members of the prime minister's party to publicly extol the virtues of cow excrement in treating COVID-19 without a shred of evidence.

Then, of course, there's Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's Denier-in-Chief, who went against his government's own scientists, claiming both the destruction of the Amazon and the dangerous spread of COVID-19 were blown out of proportion by the media, as Folha de S. Paulo reported. His country currently has almost 30,000 confirmed cases of the disease, placing it among the world's most affected countries, with reports that the death toll may be about to skyrocket. Bolsonaro's firing on Thursday of Brazil's health minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who had pushed for stronger restrictions, was perhaps the most direct challenge to the scientific community.

Will the virus wake the world up to the dangers of not taking science seriously? Well, there may be a silver lining on the anti-vaxxer front, as those skeptical about vaccines are forced to rethink their beliefs as they join the rest of the world in eagerly waiting for one for the coronavirus. We can only hope that common sense will keep on spreading.

—By Rozena Crossman

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Toll: Worldwide cases surpass 2 million. Death toll in France jumps by record 1,438 deaths following three-day Easter weekend while Sweden passes 1,200 mark in "herd immunity" context.

  • Apology to Italy: President of European of Commission Ursula von der Leyen offers "heartfelt apology" to Italy for not being there when the country "needed a helping hand at the very beginning" of the pandemic.

  • Bailout pleas: The IMF reports that more than 100 countries have made requests for bailout funds in response to crisis.

  • "Free our children": Barcelona mayor calls for an end to strict lockdown measures for children, as Spain is the only country where they cannot leave home under any pretext.

  • Cluster at sea: At least 668 sailors from French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle have tested positive to the virus and 20 are hospitalized.

  • R.I.P.: Luis Sepúlveda, the best-selling Chilean writer, has died in Spain at 70 after contracting the virus.

  • Walk-a-thon: British 99-year-old war veteran raises more than £12 milionfor the National Health Service by walking 100 laps in his garden.

Watch Video Show less
Geopolitics
Worldcrunch

Coronavirus — Global Brief: What Happens In Wuhan Matters In Wichita

The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on this crisis from the best, most trusted international news sources — regardless of language or geography. To receive the daily Coronavirus Global Brief in your inbox, sign up here.

SPOTLIGHT: WHAT HAPPENS IN WUHAN MATTERS IN WICHITA

And 76 days later…

It was Jan. 23, 2020 when the central Chinese city of Wuhan was cut off from the rest of the world, as government authorities took action to severely restrict people's movements at the epicenter of what was then just the beginning of the burgeoning coronavirus outbreak. On Wednesday, the two-and-a-half-month ban on travel was lifted, ending the world's longest mass quarantine in memory.

That, of course, leaves much time for the rest of the world to count the days shut inside our own homes and cities. But even as each of us monitors our respective local situation, we will all be watching Wuhan closely to see what happens after its landmark "liberation" from coronavirus lockdown.

The international criticism for what were considered draconian measures in Wuhan are no doubt seen in a new light as other countries are now enforcing lockdowns of their own. And now, we will see another real-world experiment as restrictions are eased, providing precious data: to epidemiologists on the resurgence of cases, to economists on how quickly businesses can bounce back, and to all of us on how much it will take to get back to normal after weeks or months in isolation.

There is certainly a lot to learn from the Wuhan example, even if containment measures in different countries have varied widely. In China, the virus has been contained by forcing anyone with a fever and people who had been in close contact with someone believed to be infected into "centralized quarantine." This means that thousands of people were taken from their homes and placed in converted hotels, dorms and classrooms in order to stop transmission, even among family members at home. This has not been the case in most Western countries, where authorities have sought to keep people out of hospitals unless their cases are severe and advised people with symptoms to self-isolate at home.

All this to say that what happens in Wuhan won't necessarily determine what will happen in the rest of the world. If the resurgence of cases depends on how much immunity is already in the population, as some epidemiologists claim, China's efficient containment might eventually prove to be a weak spot. So, even as we count the days, there will be plenty of other data to calculate as well.

Michaela Kozminova

THE SITUATION: 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

  • Wuhan reopens: Coronavirus lockdown ends after 76 days in the central Chinese city where it was believed to have begun.

  • Toll: Deaths pass 10,000 in France, as the U.S. records highest death toll in a single day with more than 1,800 fatalities, 731 in New York state alone.

  • Europe blocked: Talks of European Union recovery fund to help southern countries, especially Italy and Spain, have stalled after 16 hours, leading the head of the European Research Council to resign, "extremely disappointed by the European response".

  • Polish vote: parliament approves legislation to allow presidential elections in May to be held as a postal ballot.

  • Pyongyang tests: In North Korea, 709 people have been tested and 509 are in quarantine, according to a WHO representative, but the country still reports no cases.

  • Where's El Señor Presidente? Even as Nicaragua continues to promote gatherings and mass events, while President Daniel Ortega has been absent for almost a month.

  • RIP Prine: U.S. raspy-voiced country icon John Prine dies from coronavirus complications in Nashville at age 73.

Watch Video Show less