Friday. 24/4/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Tomos Lewis

Standing together

Later today, Canadians will have the opportunity to take part in a national vigil to commemorate the victims of a gun attack in rural Nova Scotia last weekend that claimed the lives of 22 people. The massacre, which unfolded over 12 hours across 16 locations along Canada’s east coast, is the deadliest gun attack in Canadian history. It has sent a deep sense of shock throughout Canada; a nation that, like many others, was already in a state of unease due to coronavirus lockdowns.

Unusually but unsurprisingly, today’s vigil will take place online. That will, in principle, allow more people to be present, in the same place at the same time, for the official observation of a moment of national grief. But it will inevitably mark a departure from past moments of trauma that were memorialised in a more tangible way. In 2018, for example, violinists played to mourners along the route of a van attack in Toronto and later that year, when a bus crash in the Canadian midwest claimed the lives of a junior sports team from Saskatchewan, people across the country placed ice hockey sticks on their porches in a spontaneous tribute to the victims.

Today’s online memorial – which will feature performances by Nova Scotia musicians and messages from Canada’s national, provincial and religious leaders – might feel to those joining the vigil from home like a more solitary tribute. But it is nevertheless a moment that best reflects Canada’s unofficial slogan of the coronavirus outbreak: we are all in this together. It’s a phrase that will ring especially true for many Canadians today.

Politics / Russia

Spreading responsibility

Vladimir Putin normally relishes a chance to show that he’s in charge. But in this pandemic, the Russian president has largely deferred to state and local actors, including Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin (pictured, with Putin). Mark Galeotti, a Russia expert and senior associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, says that Sobyanin has done a good job of keeping the pandemic under control in Russia’s capital. But Galeotti worries that the absence of a strong national directive will prove to be dangerous as the virus spreads to other parts of the country. “When you’ve made this massively centralised system, the czar can’t afford not to be present,” Galeotti told The Globalist. “Although [Putin] is going to try to dump all the blame on governors for whatever goes wrong, the fact of the matter is that this is a case where Putin is going to be found wanting when the country needed him.”

Health / Switzerland

Mask mobilisation

A team of Chinese technicians is in the process of setting up two mask-making machines in the Swiss town of Flawil, 70km east of Zürich. The appliances, flown in from Shanghai on Wednesday at a cost of about CHF1.6m (€1.5m), were funded by the Swiss government and will turn out as many as 100,000 masks every day by the time they are operational in the middle of May. The fact that even Switzerland should require Chinese engineering aid is a notable sign of just how urgent the production of masks has become. But the country’s spending spree on protective equipment doesn’t end there. As some schools and key businesses prepare to reopen next week, Switzerland’s ministry of defence has budgeted CHF400m (€380m) to purchase more than 100 million masks that will be sold to retailers at cost. Such investments are a welcome precaution for the Swiss as they slowly adjust to a new normal.

Urbanism / Italy

Country pursuit

Life in lockdown has left many urbanites wondering what the future holds for our dense metropolises. Many city dwellers might now be dreaming of a country residence within easy reach of nature. Stefano Boeri, the architect behind the plant-filled Bosco Verticale towers in Milan, says that the repopulation of rural villages should be actively encouraged and managed by governments, with tax incentives to support people’s relocation. Boeri’s call has sparked a conversation. The country’s National Union of Mountain Towns and Communities has said that it would happily contribute to such a strategic plan. It’ll now be up to the central government to decide whether it wants to listen. Italy has about 5,800 towns with fewer than 5,000 people; many are in a state of half-abandonment and have long needed intervention to help them survive. It’ll be up to the central government now to decide if it wants to heed Boeri’s call.

Business / Global

Stepping up

From luxury players such as LVMH and Prada to small independent labels, thousands of fashion brands have responded to the pandemic by pivoting from making frocks and fragrances to protective medical gear and antibacterial gel. They have used their factories to shift products with a deftness honed over years of hitting tight seasonal deadlines. But they’re hardly the only heroes of this pandemic. In the latest issue of [The Entrepreneurs[ (https://monocle.com/shop/product/1717919/the-entrepreneurs-2020/), we highlight some of the surprising actors behind the scenes, from Christine Lagarde (pictured) at the European Central Bank and mayors providing their city’s businesses with financial relief to a pair of New York publicists who set up a scheme to build support for independent restaurants around the US. This pandemic has caused much hardship but it has also seen plenty of people step into the void.

M24 / The Entrepreneurs

Built to last

Building a brand that will last is about knowing your market and your customers. We check in with three founders for practical advice on staying resilient in tough times. We meet Alexander Bent of District15, a boutique property developer in Hong Kong born out of the Sars epidemic; Richard Christiansen of Chandelier Creative in Los Angeles and branding expert Peter de Boer in Amsterdam.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: The Entrepreneurs 2020

The second issue of The Entrepreneurs comes at a time when many founders and owners will be facing the biggest challenge of their careers. To help, we’ve compiled a timely compendium of advice and stories from some of the world’s most resilient businesses, big and small. What tools do you need to survive? And where are the opportunities? Find out here. Available now at The Monocle Shop

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