Tuesday. 14/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Jamie Waters

Silver lining

Last week I interviewed the owner of a fashion brand that, like many companies, has pivoted to make masks and other medical equipment. At the end of the interview, after pausing to choose his words, he made an incisive point. The pandemic is different from the 2008 financial crash in many ways and a key one, he said, is that the emphasis is not on bankers and white-collar professionals but on workers who do things with their hands.

As well as medical professionals, we have become acutely aware of the importance of delivery drivers, warehouse workers and farmers in recent weeks. And of manufacturers: people in factories who make things – often in trying conditions – that keep our demands satiated and our economies moving. We rely on them to get food on our tables, cars on our roads and clothes on our backs – and, at the moment, to provide medical equipment for our hospitals.

Could this be a bright spot to come out of this dark moment? A long-overdue acknowledgement of the role of textile weavers in India, hi-tech phone manufacturers in China, car-parts assemblers in Germany and the makers of clothes in Italy? The pandemic has made us aware of the fragility of supply chains – and the world’s reliance on Chinese production. In its wake, there could well be a reassessment of how we manufacture. Many companies will decide that it is important to produce closer to home, where possible, in order to avoid logistical complications should another outbreak occur. Let’s hope that there will also be a newfound emphasis on the value of factory workers; they should not be in the shadows any longer.

Diplomacy / South Korea

Test flight

South Korea has won plaudits for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic; its relatively low death rate has been attributed to a policy of early widespread testing and tracing. US president Donald Trump has taken note: he put in a bulk order for test kits during a phone call with Korean president Moon Jae-in at the end of March and, if all goes to plan, a US Federal Emergency Management Agency plane will take off for the US with a cargo of 600,000 kits tonight at 22.30 Korean time {Tuesday, Korean time]. South Korea is faring better than many countries: with over 10,000 confirmed cases, fewer than 250 people have died. Yesterday, however, the country reported that more than 100 people have tested positive a second time after recovering and being released from quarantine. Officials are sharing their findings with the World Health Organisation to compare with similar results in other countries.

Design / USA

Critical list

Many cities have been forced to convert buildings into overflow emergency hospitals in recent weeks but this is no easy task. Thankfully, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is here to help. The AIA has launched an online tool to help officials determine which buildings can be best adapted into “alternative care sites”.

The Preparedness Assessment Tool, a 10-page checklist drafted by the institute’s Covid-19 Task Force, draws upon the expertise of architects, engineers, scientists and healthcare professionals, among others. According to the AIA, such places – whether they be in hotels or convention centres – shouldn’t be wood-framed or more than 20 years old. It’s also critical that they have access to the municipal water supply and a sufficient number of grounded power outlets. The checklist should help guide cities to the best possible sites for emergency hospitals.

Culture / Brazil

For the record

With many Brazilians not going out, online shows are in vogue and “live at home” performances from the country’s top Sertanejo musicians, a type of Brazilian country music, are dominating the entertainment agenda. Perhaps the most famous of them all is megastar Marília Mendonça (pictured in a screenshot of the event), who performed for almost three hours last week with 3.2 million people tuning in. That broke the world record for the largest audience of a live-streamed performance on YouTube, beating Beyoncé at Coachella two years ago. The concert also prompted a massive number of food donations for those affected by the outbreak. While her songs inevitably touch on topics such as cheating and being disillusioned with love, it was her charismatic and authentic delivery that garnered particular praise – a hallmark of the best live-streamed shows around the world in recent weeks. When you don’t have a stage to roam, it helps to show fans your true self.

Business / Global

Quick out of the blocks

So how have you been keeping fit under lockdown? The chances are fairly high that, at some point, your curiosity has been piqued and you’ve undertaken some sort of flirtation with online fitness classes. In Monocle’s May issue, which is available on Thursday, we profile the businesses bringing workouts straight into your home. From the headline-grabbing Peloton to industry giants such as Technogym and many more newer start-ups, the race is on to be the company that turns your home into a virtual gym. It’s hard to blame them; these firms do have something of a captive audience at the moment. But which one, if any, has the stamina to make it? And will it really make us all fitter? Order your copy from monocle.com to find out more.

M24 / The Stack

‘Ursula’, Buobooks, Impossible Library

We speak to the editor of Ursula, an art quarterly from Hauser & Wirth. Plus: a new platform to buy books written in Portuguese and Hamburg’s Impossible Library.

Monocle Films / London

All around the table: deli dipping in London

Hanna Geller and Jeremy Coleman of Building Feasts take us on a tour around their favourite London food shops and pick up supplies on the way to put their effortless hosting skills into practice.

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