Impact of COVID19

Mar 19, 2020

Monday 2nd of March 2020, Serena started to talk about the Corona virus. Of course, we all heard about it, it stared in China, December 2019. But as of then it was not only in China anymore, it was slowly spreading over Europe. Serena wanted to think ahead and discuss an action plan.

I had my reservations. I also laughed at Serena, don’t worry so much it’s just a kind of flu. Serena already spoke about closing the company. To me, as a down-to-earth Dutchman, it all seemed very exaggerated. Anyway…. This was a preliminary discussion to our weekly manager meeting. To make us aware and to think ahead what this could mean to the company and for your work.

Tuesday March 3rd: Manager meeting with sales manager, production manager, marketing assistant, me (office manager) and Serena. Serena would like to set up an emergency plan to work from home as much as possible. I still laughed at it. But well if Serena wants to do that, of course I will.

We put on paper who is employed, for how many hours at Serena’s art factory. Who can do what at home? Who is employed by employment agencies? Can they do anything else if the shops are closing?

After that it was quiet for a week. But the virus spread over the world… On Tuesday March 10th, a cruise ship docked on Curacao with 7 suspicious Corona cases. Our marketing employee’s husband works as a pilot and had to bring the ship in. Serena was immediately alert; Has he been on the boat and has he been in contact with the people on the boat?

As a result, the marketing employee was obliged to work from home for the safety and health of everyone. Ultimately, it turned out that 5 out of 7 had tested positive. No one has left the boat and the pilot was protected on the ship and had no contact with the infected people. But Serena absolutely did not want to take any risks.

Hmmm, Serena is really serious, and the virus is getting closer. Therefore, I finished the emergency plan. Then it all went very fast… On Friday morning at 8:20am, our Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath gave a pers conference that the first Corona case on the island was a fact. A male tourist was carrier of the virus, he and his wife are quarantined. They had been in contact with 40 other persons who are being tested and monitored from then on. In response, airlift for all European inbound passenger flights was closed later that morning. Now the seriousness of the situation became clear to all employees of Serena’s Art Factory, including myself. Friday at the end of the day Serena spoke to us courageously. Everyone had to observe hygiene and should not have personal contact. We would keep a close eye on the situation over the weekend. After a prayer by one of the employees we went home.

Curacao has a brand new hospital with only 16 respirators. It is therefore clear that the most important thing is to minimize the number of corona cases. Sunday evening, we had an emergency consultation with Serena and the marketing employee by video call about what to do with the painters.

Monday afternoon, March 16th: The rest of the airlift also closed by the government. That day we still worked as normal at the factory. The store in Punda closed immediately that morning. It became clear that this was also the last day that the factory will be open, and that as much as possible will be done from home.

During the preparation of the emergency plan, it had already become evident that the main concern is to keep the personnel employed by Serena’s Art Factory working. We can work on a stock that can be sold later.

It was therefore decided to cancel the people who are employed as on-call workers and the people who work via the employment agency for the time being. This has been a very difficult decision. Everyone has to survive and everyone desperately needs the money. Serena is a very socially oriented person and these decisions are therefore extra difficult. Serena spoke to everyone personally and explained the situation. I saw that she had a very hard time with it, and it took a lot of her energy.

Of course, there are also about 70 painters who regularly paint Chichi’s. They all work from home, but if there will be no sales for the time being, no other decision can be made than to temporarily stop painting. Some painters badly need that money so it is awful to decide this.

All “permanent” employees went home on Monday with activities fitted to the person. One took plaster and molds to pour and sand Chichi’s. Another took Chichi’s to put hair rollers on and another one took Chichi’s to paint. Everything was well organized, and I felt the relief from everyone that we could arrange it this way. We have created a whatsApp group to keep up to date.

Tuesday, March 17: I arranged the last financial things that was needed at Serena’s art Factory. Cash register administration and the last deposit.

As I write this, I have just installed my home workplace. We hope it doesn’t take too long. We keep up the courage and wait for the world to decide.