Monday. 6/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Carlota Rebelo

Good in a crisis

My relationship with my native Portugal is not an easy one. We share many happy memories but the truth is that we have been on a break for quite some time – nearly a decade, in fact. Since my departure I’ve watched Portugal thrive from afar: it re-emerged from a financial crisis with its head held high, was rediscovered by tourists and businesses from all over the world and even triumphed at sports (football’s European Championship in 2016) and pop culture (the Eurovision Song Contest in 2017). And its handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been another memorable moment.

Portugal’s government suspended events and closed schools, non-essential shops and land borders before any virus-related deaths were registered (the only country in Europe to do so other than the Czech Republic) and many employers adopted homeworking before official rules were put in place. The prime minister, António Costa (pictured), meanwhile, has been outspoken on the need for European solidarity and unity. But perhaps the most telling sign of how Portugal’s response has been different to that of other countries is the decision to grant all migrants and asylum seekers rights of citizenship for the duration of the pandemic. The move allows them full access to healthcare and welfare. Not only is this the humane thing to do but, according to the Portuguese Council of Ministers, it’s a way of avoiding a public-health emergency.

Last Thursday, Costa extended the state of emergency for 15 days and announced new measures: all of the country’s airports will be closed throughout Easter and people should not leave their own boroughs other than for essential work or medical emergencies. These are tough times but, in a country that was under a dictatorship for decades and only became a democracy in 1974, I’m proud of the leadership on display.

Politics / UK

Labour exchange

Nearly four months after a crushing defeat at the ballot box (its worst result since 1935), the UK’s Labour party finally has a new leader. Keir Starmer, widely considered to be the frontrunner throughout the contest, was announced as Jeremy Corbyn’s replacement on Saturday with minimal pomp: the planned conference was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic and instead a pre-recorded victory speech was released online. Starmer, a party moderate and former human-rights barrister knighted for services to law and criminal justice, easily beat rivals Rebecca Long-Bailey, a Corbyn continuity candidate, and outside bet Lisa Nandy. The task that Starmer faces now is formidable: rebuilding Labour’s reputation. With the focus elsewhere during this epidemic and the next election still years away, Starmer should take his time to develop a reasoned, considered new platform. Let’s hope that he learned a few lessons from the failings of his predecessor.

Design / Italy

Containing the spread

Medical professionals might soon have better spaces in which to fight coronavirus: Connected Units for Respiratory Ailment (Cura). It’s a design project by Italian architect Carlo Ratti (pictured) – and a consortium of architects, doctors, engineers, military members and NGOs – that converts shipping containers into mobile intensive-care units (pictured). “Whatever the course of the pandemic, one thing is sure: the main challenge is the progressive shortage of ICUs,” Ratti tells Monocle. Although traditional hospital tents are quick to erect, they expose medical professionals to a higher risk of infection. Cura is designed to be equally quick to deploy but its containers work in negative pressure, acting as an isolation chamber to limit the virus’s spread. While the units can be moved as the pandemic continues, Cura’s open-source technical drawings can also act as a blueprint for others to replicate. Ratti hopes that the prototype, currently under development in Milan, will be completed in three weeks.

Hospitality / Global

Room service

Although openings and unveilings in the hospitality industry are rightly on hiatus, it’s heartening to hear of some hotels that are thinking creatively and pitching in. The Hamburg-based 25Hours group (pictured) is touting its rooms across Europe as desirable desk spaces for workers without offices. Here in London, five-star stopover Claridge’s reopened last week to house 40 National Health Service staff (for free) who are working at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. The Connaught and The Berkeley, meanwhile, have turned their hands to feeding key workers on the frontline of the fight. It’s a fine line between PR and practical aid but we’re in a battle that hotels all over the world can help with. As many sit empty, there’s a search for 45,000 self-contained accommodation spaces in the UK alone to accommodate the homeless. Hotels have been hard hit but they will be back. What’s more, many neighbourhoods will remember how they behaved when we needed them.

Arts / South Korea

Proceed with caution

With most cultural institutions shutting their doors during the pandemic, the decision of when to reopen will be a tough judgement call in the coming months. South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art offers a salutary example for its western counterparts. The museum had hoped to open its doors again this week after the country’s aggressive approach to testing and containing disease limited its spread. Prudently, it has decided to delay its opening a little further amid concerns of a second wave. Instead it launched its latest exhibition, of Korean calligraphy (pictured), as an 80-minute YouTube video walk-through. In South Korea the virus peaked in February (it has yet to do so in much of Europe and the US) but it’s better to be safe than overconfident – and wise to pursue the possibilities of digital space until an opening date is more assured.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Eureka 191: Olio

Tessa Clarke is CEO and co-founder of Olio. It was the first app to allow neighbours to share food, which might otherwise go to waste. Since launch in 2015, more than 3.6 million portions of food have been shared by almost two million people in 49 countries. The company also has a dedicated network of volunteers who pick up food from local businesses to share with the community.

MONOCLE FILMS / Global

Off-the-grid fashion retail

We walk the extra mile to meet shopkeepers who’ve gone off the beaten track to give their customers a different experience.

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