Monday. 13/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Josh Fehnert

Battle lines

How would you react in a crisis? A few short weeks ago the question might have felt far-fetched but now many of us are living out the answer every day – and it’s fearfully mundane. Most are handling the single biggest health emergency since the Second World War by hoovering the attic, rearranging bookshelves or repotting the Ficus. Who saw that coming?

Knowing that many of our readers are housebound and in need of a few diversions and some sound advice this spring, we’ve devoted the May issue of Monocle to the notion of home in all its guises – it’s out this week and available to order here. Inside we profile the fitness firms targeting you in your living rooms, talk home guards in the Affairs section and launch a manifesto for better buildings, with plenty of advice and ideas on creating a figurative pillow fort in which to hunker down and hide out as the battle rages around you.

You’ll also find telling tales from our global network of editors and correspondents – deep reporting and, yes, some comforting recipes, on-point residences and gardening tips. But more than that, you’ll find considered opinions and a roadmap for a kinder, friendlier future. Social distancing might feel more like an endless Sunday than the Normandy landings (and for many of us the battle of the bulge has somewhat different connotations). But make no mistake that this is a war, we’re in it together and we’re all fighting on the home front.

Politics / UK

Road to recovery

Boris Johnson (pictured) was discharged from hospital yesterday but he won’t be returning to work immediately; instead, he will be spending some time recovering at Chequers, the UK countryside residence for the UK’s prime minister. The news will have given Britons some comfort over the Easter break and shows that, with proper treatment, most people can survive even serious cases of coronavirus. But Johnson’s recovery – including his message on Saturday that, “I owe my life” to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) – was paired with predictions from health officials that the UK could face more deaths than any other European country. So this weekend should also serve as a reminder: to ensure that everyday citizens overcome this virus too, it is essential that hospitals have the equipment they need. It is also essential that social distancing is observed to ensure that the NHS isn’t overwhelmed with more cases than it can handle.

Society / Italy

First step

Tomorrow will see select shops and industries across Italy open for the first time in more than a month after its prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, granted a few exceptions to last week’s extension of the nationwide lockdown. The country has been all but shuttered since 9 March amid a devastating outbreak of coronavirus that has killed more than 19,000 people (a death toll second only to the US, which surpassed Italy this weekend).

On Friday, Conte said that the compulsory closure of non-essential businesses would continue until 3 May but waived the restriction for bookshops, stationers and shops selling children’s clothes. He has also given the green light to some timber production, computer manufacturing and the paper trade. These are still tough times for Italy but the government’s smart and practical choices offer a glimmer of hope that the end is in sight.

Culture / Asia

Caught in the undertow

Streaming services are benefitting from a captive audience as those in lockdown reach for the remote. But even these businesses aren’t immune to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This month, Malaysia’s Iflix service (pictured), which reaches audiences across 13 Asian countries, was forced to make an undisclosed number of redundancies. And at the end of March, Hooq, a Singapore-based streaming service, went bust just days before the city-state announced a partial lockdown. Their failure is partly a result of an inability to keep pace in a crowded market, where firms often live and die by their original content (Netflix dominates the high-end market even in east Asia). Hooq, in particular, failed to respond quickly enough to public demands for better local-language content (and struggled with customers used to pirating content). Though no industry is unaffected by the pandemic, the seeds of downfall were sometimes sowed before it began.

Urbanism / Minneapolis

Curb appeal

Residents of Minneapolis-St Paul in the US have been enjoying extra room in which to practise social distancing in the form of new bike and pedestrian spaces on streets next to its parks and lakes. Minnesota’s state governor, Tim Walz, introduced a ban on vehicles entering certain areas after ordering residents to stay at home. Walz’s stay-at-home directive was due to be lifted at the weekend but has been extended until May – it’s hoped that the pedestrian-friendly initiative, which has proved popular with residents, will be continued too. Advocates of “active transport”, which includes walking and cycling, are now suggesting that these spaces be made off-limits to vehicles permanently. With calls for similar action across the US, perhaps these Midwestern twin cities have the perfect model. The fact that the bans are in place on streets next to parks and lakes is a reminder that the success of pedestrian spaces hinges on the provision of amenities – not just the removal of cars.

M24 / The Foreign Desk

South America and coronavirus

Coronavirus had some way to travel to reach South America but it got there. And for distinctive national reasons, some of the continent’s countries look more vulnerable than others. We hear from our correspondents and experts about Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela.

The Monocle Book of Japan / Global

The Monocle Book of Japan

Jump aboard the Monocle Shinkansen and join our team as we go on a hunt for untold stories. Our new book delivers a unique insight into the people, places and products that define Japan, whether you want design inspiration or business nous. Pre-order your copy at the Monocle Shop.

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