“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light,” noted Douglas Adams, author of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”
If you want proof that Adams was right, look no further than the unsettling, unreal, almost dystopian events of the past few months. Bad news does indeed travel extremely fast – and, sadly, at the time of writing, there’s lots of it to go round. Worse than that, there is – seemingly – no other story in town. Every downbeat headline, every portentous news bulletin, every ominous conversation is fully geared around COVID-19 and its devastating fallout.
Yet if you dig underneath the constant gloom, there are countless tales of people and companies pulling together at a time of crisis. There is light to be found in the dark if you care to look for it. It’s just that, generally, good news hasn’t been getting much airtime of late.
From Fashion to Medical Devices: Industries join in the battle against the Coronavirus
Forgetting their differences
It’s not just big business that has been working to beat the disease. Entire countries have been forgetting their differences and pooling their resources. For example, in January, the EU sent 50 tons of protective equipment to China, where the coronavirus outbreak began. Later, when the pandemic in Europe took hold and then worsened, China sent supplies and equipment to the EU, with shipments emblazoned with the Chinese flag and the words “the friendship road knows no borders.” After speaking to Li Keqiang, China’s premier, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen emphasized that they were ready to “support each other in times of need”; a fact underlined when China – alongside Cuba and Russia – sent teams of medics to those areas of Italy most badly affected by the disease. Meanwhile the U.A.E. sent aid to Syria, Iran, Pakistan and a number of other countries.
Applauding the everyday heroes
The magnitude of the situation has also thrust into the spotlight those workers and institutions usually taken for granted. It would certainly explain why people in lockdown across Europe have been standing on their doorsteps and at their windows in coordinated displays of national unity to applaud and cheer healthcare staff. Other heroes operating at the sharp end of the crisis have been revealed to be delivery drivers and warehouse and supermarket staff, who are keeping supply chains running and shelves stocked and stacked with essential goods. This task, however, has become more challenging by the day.
Generous donations on a larger scale
The coronavirus has also prompted big, bold, philanthropic gestures from wealthy individuals. Among them Chinese billionaire Jack Ma, the co-founder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, who donated 20,000 test kits, 100,000 masks and 1,000 medical-use protective suits and face shields to all 54 African nations, plus ventilators and other equipment to New York, which was been hit hard by the pandemic. Designer Giorgio Armani contributed over $2 million to hospitals in Rome and Milan, as well as to the Italian Civil Protection Agency. Oprah Winfrey donated $10 million to various organizations. And Bill Gates announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would give $100 million to help global coronavirus detection, isolation and treatment.
Socializing the virtual way
Eric Yuan, founder of video conferencing company Zoom, made his service free for unlimited use in affected countries, including China, Italy and in schools across the U.S.
That’s been particularly welcome because, in these days of social distancing, video conferencing is more important than ever. It’s thrown a lifeline to people working from home and helped the mental health of isolated families and friends who are starved of human contact. Virtual coffee mornings and virtual evening drinks meet-ups have become commonplace. Under lockdown, Italians have been enjoying a virtual version of their vibrant cocktail hour, which they have called “Skype-aperitivo.”
“With nobody certain how long the lockdown will remain in place, we could not let this stop us from having our regular exchange,” says Parma-based TV executive Roberto Iotti, who began video calling his friends once or twice a week for a drink and chat. “As many of us use Skype for business anyway, we had an idea to just meet up virtually via Skype’s video function – ‘share’ a drink virtually and catch up on each other’s news.”
Free offers for arts and culture fans
And while cinemas, theaters and concerts halls have closed, many artists are determined that the show must go online, with pop stars and musicians – including Chris Martin, John Legend, and Keith Urban – livestreaming free concerts on social media. Arts organizations such as the National Theatre in London, Berlin’s Schaubühne theater and the Metropolitan Opera in New York have been streaming their productions online for free.