How workers around the world are coping

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The coronavirus pandemic is a crisis that touches everyone. Countries around the world have imposed lockdowns, and a deep global recession is unavoidable. Workers on every continent are struggling to cope with the economic fallout caused by the spread of Covid-19. A harpist in Argentina wonders where her next pay check will come from. A business owner in Ghana worries about the health of her employees. A flight attendant in China struggles to pay rent. Here are their stories.

Since December, Covid-19 has spread across the globe and the number of infections continues to rise. This map shows confirmed cases, and black markers indicate the location of the 16 people you’ll be hearing from.

María Fernanda Peralta

Harpist, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Covid-19 in Argentina

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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Argentina

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Data note: Data for some smaller countries and regions is not shown on all maps, and some data points have been removed by cropping.

María Fernanda Peralta, 34, spent the past year playing music at a hotel in Abu Dhabi. But when hotel occupancy plummeted because of the coronavirus, her employer did not renew her contract and she returned home to Buenos Aires.

“It is really sad, it’s really difficult,” Peralta said. “I have never experienced anything like this and I don’t know how it is going to be from now on.”

Argentina has been on lockdown since March 20, and the government has told people only to leave their homes to buy essentials like food and medical supplies. Peralta got the last plane from Abu Dhabi to Argentina before Emirates, the largest airline in the Middle East, suspended flights.

With no income, Peralta is thinking about teaching online to make ends meet. But she also worries about the economic fallout from the pandemic in Argentina, which was already suffering from rampant inflation and a devalued currency.

Peralta on Argentina’s fragile economy

“I think it will be very difficult from now on. It will take time, a long time, to recover. We will just have to wait and hope.”

Ma Yanping, market vendor, Liaoning Province, China

Ma Yanping

Market vendor, Liaoning Province, China

Covid-19 in China

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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Liaoning

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Lunar New Year is usually a great time for Ma Yanping’s seafood business, but sales from the market disappeared this year as the coronavirus spread in China.

“Suddenly there were no customers visiting the market,” said Ma. “Everyone went back home and did not come out.”

In accordance with policies in her town, the agricultural markets stayed open while supermarkets closed during the epidemic. Still, at the market where she does business, at least a dozen other vendors lost their livelihoods.

“I know someone started working as a courier. Others are just unemployed now,” said Ma.

Ma, 54, is a single mother and has a daughter in college. Like every other student in the country, her daughter is stuck at home and doing her studies online.

“Suddenly there were no customers visiting the market. Everyone went back home and did not come out.”

Ma Yanping

Ma is under pressure to make 500 yuan ($70) a day to pay utilities and rent. But there are few signs yet of people returning to work in her town, and she isn’t sure when life will return to normal.

Tommy Mallen, Musician, Ireland

Tommy Mallen

Musician, Cork, Ireland

Covid-19 in Ireland

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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Ireland

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After graduating from university with a law degree, Tommy Mallen, 24, took a weekly slot at a pub in Cork, Ireland, playing guitar and singing, which paid €200 ($217). Picking up a few other gigs around town allowed him to pay his rent while he decided on a future career path.

“A lot of my security as a freelance performer comes from being able to draw a crowd, which means you’re at the mercy of the pubs,” he said. “There’s no safety net or benefits for a freelance gigger.”

With pubs closed, Mallen was forced to move home to Kerry, on the west coast of Ireland, and cancel his lease in a shared house. He could not afford to pay rent on the €112 a week ($122) the Irish government offers people who are looking for work.

Mallen on having to move home with his parents

“I’m just lucky to have a home to move back to. There is potential this could have put me on the street or in a hostel for a number of weeks. That’s scary to think about,” he said.

Freda Obeng-Ampofo, personal care entrepreneur, Accra, Ghana

Freda Obeng-Ampofo

Entrepreneur, Accra, Ghana

Covid-19 in Ghana

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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Ghana

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Freda Obeng-Ampofo, 34, is the founder of personal care brand and social enterprise Kaeme, which produces shea butter, handmade soy candles and black soap, which is made from the ash of locally harvested plants.

The company sells its products in 15 countries, but shut down operations on March 16 to protect the health and safety of its employees.

“It’s really tough because our current work is not something you could do working from home,” she said.

Obeng-Ampofo on why she’ll continue paying employees

Obeng-Ampofo has committed to paying her workers for at least two more months, should that be required.

“They’re supporting a whole bunch of people in their families. So not paying them, it trickles down and causes a lot of negative trade-offs in their lives,” she said.

Ghana’s capital, Accra, has been on lockdown since March 29, and Obeng-Ampofo said it is strange for the streets to be so quiet. She has a newborn baby to look after, so she tries not to leave the house.

“I have a family, and I don’t want to go out and get infected and then infect them,” she said. “That’s selfish, that’s not fun.”

Ilaria Rocchi, UN consultant, Genoa

Ilaria Rocchi

UN consultant, Genoa, Italy

Covid-19 in Italy

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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Italy

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Ilaria Rocchi, 25, works at the United Nations in New York on gender equality and women’s rights. But as the pandemic worsened, she returned to Genoa, the northern Italian city where she grew up.

“The United States has a private healthcare system, which makes things very difficult if you are not a citizen,” she said. “When the virus started to spread my health insurance was expiring, and I thought I would get better care at home if needed.”

“The US has a private healthcare system, which makes things very difficult if you are not a citizen.”

Ilaria Rocchi

Rocchi is trying to stay in contact with her colleagues in New York, but she doesn’t know when it will be possible to return to work. The United Nations pays consultants like Rocchi on a daily basis, and she’s not getting a pay check while in Italy.

“I am scared and worried because I have no clue how long this might last. Things will probably never be the same, but I try to think positively. As long as my family, loved ones and myself are well, I feel blessed and will keep on smiling.”

Manasi Deshpande, bakery owner, Pune, India

Manasi Deshpande

Bakery owner, Pune, India

Covid-19 in India

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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India

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In Pune, a major city southeast of Mumbai, Manasi Deshpande, 26, designs cake sculptures that depict everything from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to characters from Frozen.

Yet her five employees have not been able to bake for weeks because cake orders have evaporated.

“It’s terrifying, really,” she said. “We have received no government assistance and I have no idea what to expect.”

On March 24, the Indian government locked down the country of 1.3 billion people. Weddings, birthdays and other events have been put on hold.

Deshpande on why the government should do more to help businesses

Two days later, the government announced an economic stimulus package worth $22.5 billion aimed at protecting low-income people. Still, Deshpande said the government isn’t doing enough to help small and medium-sized businesses.

“It is understandable that orders have been cancelled, but we still have to pay wages and rent. For now we are holding on, but if this continues for much longer, I’m not sure if my business can be sustained,” she said.

Marcus Thlomelang, Barista, Johannesburg

Marcus Thlomelang

Barista, Johannesburg, South Africa

Covid-19 in South Africa

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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South Africa

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Marcus Thlomelang, 30, is a veteran barista at the Bean There coffee company in Johannesburg, which sources its beans from fair trade suppliers across Africa. He takes pride in his customers knowing him by name, but now the cafe’s doors will be closed during a strict 21-day nationwide lockdown in South Africa.

“Coffee is pretty essential for people in a city like Johannesburg,” he said with a grin. “But this is affecting us big time. The luxury lodges we supply are all completely shut down and our walk-ins won’t be able to come in.”

South Africa has suffered a major outbreak, and was among the first countries on the continent to move aggressively to combat the virus. The country’s central bank started buying government bonds on March 25 to help support the economy.

“The luxury lodges we supply are all completely shut down and our walk-ins won’t be able to come in.”

Marcus Thlomelang

“It is the right decision to shut down the country. It is right for all of our safety. We now just need to hope for the best,” Thlomelang said. “My family is checking in with me a lot. I tell them – ‘don’t panic!’ ”

In the meantime, Marcus and his fellow baristas are completing a course on Barista Hustle — an online coffee education site where even pros like him can learn more.

“This is all quite stressful, but at least I now will have time to study,” he said.

Rodrigo Contreras, Fitness entrepreneur, El Salvador

Rodrigo Contreras

Entrepreneur, San Salvador, El Salvador

Covid-19 in El Salvador

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

/

El Salvador

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In late March, within just days of El Salvador registering its first case of coronavirus, the country’s president announced a nationwide lockdown that includes a ban on mass public gatherings, including concerts and sporting events.

“People were unhappy with the decision at first,” said Rodrigo Contreras, 31, the co-founder of a group fitness class app called Fitu that he was preparing to launch in the country as part of an expansion into Latin America.

Contreras: Businesses must evolve or die

“However it’s been a wise decision,” Contreras said of the lockdown. “It’s amazing a less developed country was able to take such strong measures.”

Still, fitness trainers cannot meet clients with studios and gyms closed, leaving them with no source of income.

“For small businesses like fitness studios, it’s a troubling time,” said Contreras. “We are trying to support both sides of the community by providing ondemand video classes and additional platforms. But a lot of these studios just have to release promotions for free and hope this passes.”

Contreras said he’s not sure how long the situation can last, explaining that “people need profits.”

Sherin Al Alami, Dubai, (38)

Sherin Al Alami

Creative director, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Covid-19 in United Arab Emirates

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

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United Arab Emirates

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Sherin Al Alami, 38, is the founder and creative director of La Clé, a music and artist management company that provides entertainment for events in the United Arab Emirates.

Yet the events industry has become “obsolete” in recent weeks, according to Al Alami, because of the coronavirus. She estimated her own company has had 50 events cancelled, mostly in March, which is typically the busiest month in Dubai.

“At the end of February, contracts began to be abruptly cancelled by hotels, and then it trickled over to corporate and private events,” she said. “Anything we had lined up [to] September is gone; hotels have gone into crisis mode.”

The government has announced support measures such as additional electricity subsidies and credit guarantees to small and medium-sized businesses. But most of Al Alami’s artists are freelancers who were brought out for the holiday season from abroad, and she cannot guarantee their wages without work.

“I had to turn around and send many back home to their respective countries. Our main struggle right now is not even getting events, it’s cash flow,” she said.

“The whole world is feeling this, not just me. This is what I try to tell myself when I think ‘oh my god, my company may crumble in three months.’ ”

Sherin Al Alami

Dubai is in lockdown and Al Alami is happy with how the country is handling the outbreak of the virus. She hopes that cancelled events will eventually be rescheduled.

“The whole world is feeling this, not just me. This is what I try to tell myself when I think ‘oh my god, my company may crumble in three months.’ ”

Jan Zapletal, Food Supplier, Czech Republic

Jan Zapletal

Food supplier, Zborovice, Czech Republic

Covid-19 in Czech Republic

Confirmed cases: 0

Deaths: 0

/

Czech Republic

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Jan Zapletal, 33, is the owner of a business that makes and distributes food in the Czech Republic. His company is small, with 30 employees and a fleet of 10 vehicles.

Zapletal is concerned there will be much less demand in the coming weeks. His biggest customer, an auto parts supplier, has warned it could be forced to close for three weeks because the industry has ground to a halt in Europe.

“There will be a radical decrease in revenue, simply because our customers won’t be able to pay us,” he said. “It goes down the supply chain.” The government is offering billions in financial aid and loan guarantees, but Zapletal worries that might not be enough.

Zapletal senses his staff are reluctant to come to work. He has heightened health and safety procedures, procuring enough face masks and hand sanitizer for two weeks. He paid five times the normal price for the supplies.

Louise Mills, primary school teacher, Australia

Lv Fan, flight attendant, Shenzhen, China

Brenda Mundaca

Kim Eun-hee, club owner, Seoul

Andrew Parkinson, CEO Plymouth Argyle, UK

Graham Carter, real estate developer, Vancouver (39)

Home sales in Canada are expected to dive nearly 30% this year according to a Royal Bank of Canada analysis. The government has promised a $57 billion aid package for workers and businesses struggling because of the coronavirus.

Graham expects the pandemic will force a “paradigm shift” on the industry. Businesses will have to embrace digital solutions such as virtual tours and video calls to interact with potential homebuyers.

“We are taking a long term view and are able to pivot to more virtual or high-tech solutions in these uncertain times,” he said.

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Afraz hassan

A Passionate About Sports..........

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