Tuesday. 21/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Venetia Rainey

When experts rule

With an austerity-ravaged healthcare system, one of Europe’s oldest populations and an economy barely recovered from a deep recession, most expected Greece to be hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Yet nearly two months after the country’s first confirmed case, there have been fewer than 120 deaths – a staggeringly low number compared with other countries of a similar size.

So what’s the secret? There are a few things going on here but, crucially, both the government and the public have taken the pandemic seriously and relied on experts. All non-essential shops were closed within days of the first death and travel bans were introduced a few weeks later. Ruling party New Democracy has also given a masterclass in strong leadership and clear communication, with prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (pictured) appearing regularly on TV to address the nation and the opposition pitching in to present a united front.

The new routine here centres on a daily televised update from the government’s new infectious-disease advisor Sotiris Tsiodras (currently the most popular person in Greece, according to polls) and civil defence minister Nikos Hardalias (a close second). Roughly two thirds of Greeks tune in every day. A major test came last weekend during Orthodox Easter: although church services and street parades were cancelled, there could yet be a spike in cases; I saw a few people entering neighbours’ houses with trays of food. The fight is far from over – both in health and economic terms. But for the moment, Greece can bask in the unexpected praise. It’s a fitting riposte indeed to all those who dismissed the country as lazy and inefficient.

Aviation / Japan

Precious cargo

Japan’s two major carriers, All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL), have announced that they will be using their passenger planes to transport medical supplies from overseas. Gowns and masks are among the items that will be placed on seats in the cabins or in overhead lockers on flights without passengers. Though the airlines have cancelled 90 per cent of their international flights, both have seen an increase in cargo requests. ANA says that a 200-seat cabin combined with the cargo hold can carry 18 tonnes of goods. With hospitals reportedly short on personal-protective equipment, Japanese manufacturers, such as textile-maker Teijin and synthetic fibre-maker Toray, are increasing production of gowns and masks in factories in Japan and abroad. JAL started using overhead lockers to hold freight on passenger-free flights from China yesterday and ANA will follow suit this week. It’s a positive approach to a challenging situation.

Transport / Sweden

Motion picture

Polestar’s plans to launch its flagship Precept concept car at the Geneva International Motor Show in March were scuppered when the event was cancelled 48 hours before it was due to begin. So it’s taken more than sleek Swedish design and a sustainable interior to sell this new bit of hi-tech from the Volvo-backed electric car start-up – it’s also taken some home video.

“Today there are so many more important topics than show cars,” says CEO Thomas Ingenlath (pictured), standing on a minimalist set beside the vehicle, with its sleek brushed-metal finish, for a press spot filmed earlier this month. “But since we’re all locked in social isolation, we thought we could bring you a bit of food for thought about a greener future.” Ingenlath tells Monocle that he believes the film “expresses an authenticity that has come to life with self-produced videos under coronavirus”. Could this be a glimpse of things to come?

Culture / Brazil

Repeat success

In football-mad Brazil, Globo, the country’s largest television network, has found a solution to the lull in live sport. On Easter Sunday it repeated Brazil’s fifth and most recent World Cup final triumph, when the country beat Germany 2-0 in 2002 (pictured). The match drew the largest Sunday TV audience so far this year, with 37 per cent of viewers in the country’s biggest city, São Paulo, tuning in. Since then, Globo has made the repeats a weekly occurrence: last Sunday it aired Brazil’s victory at the Confederations Cup against Argentina in 2005 and this weekend it will be the Samba Boys’ 1994 World Cup win over Italy. Other TV networks are also repeating sporting events, including highlights from the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Brazilian sports fans are clearly feeling nostalgic – and perhaps longing for a time when the country’s economy was booming and its politics were less divisive too.

Design / Global

Working solution

Office design is rarely celebrated as much as that of the home but with workplaces shut worldwide, we’re all learning just how much these spaces are deeply connected with our wellbeing and, naturally, our livelihoods. We miss the ease of face-to-face communication and the manner in which the best-designed offices enhance collaboration and help productivity; a kitchen or living room just can’t compete. In the new issue of The Entrepreneurs, which is out on Thursday, we call upon the creative industry’s top thinkers and designers to highlight the workplace elements that we should all be praising. The wisdom of these bright business minds will not only help us to appreciate the office for what it is – but also for what it can be when design smarts and a little more thought and care are applied.

M24 / The Stack

Print media during coronavirus

Legendary newspaper designer Mario García tells us what lessons the print industry can learn right now. Plus: Christie’s print magazine, photography title ‘Source’ celebrates 100 issues and Monocle’s Jamie Waters on how fashion magazines are faring during the pandemic.

Monocle films / Porto

Making it in Porto

Portugal’s second city is close to the country’s manufacturing heart and that’s why so many designers have made it their home. We meet some of the bright minds in town.

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