COVID Perspective from Odetta

Map Data from April 14, 2020, and COVID incident data from April 6, 2020, Johns Hopkins dashboard

Coming straight out of Paris: I was living in Paris when the initial Wuhan outbreak started to get noticed in the media. I was considering canceling all travel, but fortunately, at the last minute, I decided to head to a friend’s birthday in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. During this visit, the world shifted, and I decided to stay put. Wyoming is one of the best states to ride this out from a quality of life perspective, even though its government is one of the 8 states to not yet enforce a stay-at-home. My friends in Paris have to download and submit a form to the government each time they want to venture outside their homes for essential services, although today the government launched a digital app with a QR code that you can fill out.

But you can read more about Paris and Wyoming in the news. I wanted to share some of the experiences I have been hearing from our team in the Middle East and South Asia. Odetta has 175+ women working remotely in 30 different countries, and fortunately, everyone is safe and healthy, so far. What we all know is that the systematic lack of testing for COVID-19 makes it hard to understand the incidence counts especially in this part of the world, and as such, I’ll add these stats purely for context. It seems reasonable to believe that the developing economies will be hit badly, just with a time lag.

Here is a snapshot of what is going on with some quotes from our team, ranked by # COVID-19 cases.

A Snippet all the way from Turkey

Turkey with an 80 million population has 27,069 cases and 574 deaths so far. Despite having one of the fastest-growing outbreaks (and ranking ninth in the world for a total number of confirmed cases), Turkey has called only for a “Voluntary quarantine” for most of the country. According to Fadime O.,

“The first case and first death of Turkey was reported on the 10th and 17th of March, 2020 respectively. The number of cases and deaths is increasing so fast that we are afraid to share either same or maybe worse scenario than Italy. But why is it so bad here? First of all, “Social distancing” is not successfully practiced in Turkey, especially when education was put to pause because of the pandemic, a high number of people traveled across the country. Nobody was prepared for it, but finally, now we do have a curfew for people age 65+, and then those who are below 20 years old. Secondly, the virus might have been in Turkey even before it was reported officially because there was one American citizen who tested positive after his/her travel to Turkey. Before this one, two transit passengers (one to Nigeria, one to Singapore) tested positive in their own countries. However, Turkey reported its first case, after these events. The third reason is, there is also a limitation in testing. Of course, more tests are being performed lately, but those people who came back from abroad couldn’t get tested earlier. And unfortunately, some of those people also broke the quarantine. Finally, there were large groups of short pilgrimages coming back to Turkey, and they were quarantined in different cities, but Alas! They didn’t take the situation seriously and didn’t want to stay in quarantine, so they escaped across the country, spreading the virus.”

A tale of COVID-19 from India

India, the world’s second-most populous country, is under nationwide lockdown, with 3,599 cases and 99 deaths. According to Ekta S.,

“Situation in India is getting worse with cases increasing day by day. There are various hotspots recognized like Mumbai, Noida, Gautam Budh Nagar where it is spreading fast. There is a complete countrywide lockdown for 21 days starting from March 25th, 2020 and ending on April 14th, 2020. People are trying to stock up essentials for at least the next two months as predictions are that it might get worse in the coming days. I am at my native place with my mom taking care of my dad whereas my husband is alone in Bangalore and cannot travel in these circumstances. All flights and trains have been suspended.”

An excerpt from the Philippines

The Philippines with a 104 million population has 3,246 cases and 152 deaths. According to Florence P.,

“The whole country is under community quarantine. Only one quarantine pass is issued in each household which allows them to buy food. There is a scarcity of toiletries and canned goods. Numbers of confirmed cases are still increasing especially in Manila. They are also lacking health practitioners.”

Some Truth from Pakistan

Most of my team comes from Pakistan, a country of 220 million people, with limited health care budgets, and only 1,700 ventilators and 15,000 masks for the entire country. Pakistan currently has 3,157 cases and 47 dead. I heard recently that Pakistan’s health budget (<2% of GDP) is smaller than the ISPR (army’s) communication budget. Pakistan was impacted by the surge of the virus coming from the epicenter in Iran, given that thousands of Pakistanis visit Iran every month for work or religious pilgrimage. According to Muza S.,

“Pakistan is ill-equipped to deal with the pandemic. Being an underdeveloped country, it cannot afford national lockdown yet the authorities failed to take adequate measures and have now left millions lingering in fear.”

As contributed by Sajjal M.,

“Blue-collar workers have taken a direct and immediate hit from the enforced curfew and lockdown. Most have refused to pay their van/bus drivers, maids, and domestic help, etc. driving pangs of unprecedented hunger and helplessness. Online businesses have shut down the only source of income for families in Pakistan who cannot fend for their dependents. On the other hand, heroes without capes come forth more often and set exemplary role models by selflessly devoting their minimal resources to serve the doctors by sewing protective suits, by walking miles to deliver groceries to the needy and in the least, spread positive vibes to uplift, everyone, to feel better every day.”

According to Maria K.,

“I spent 6 days in isolation waiting for my Corona test results; these were the hardest days of my life. But these 6 days were life-changing as well. I have new respect and acknowledgment for people, relationships, things and blessings that I have been taking for granted all my life. The urban areas in my country have more awareness about Corona, so they are following the lockdown more seriously, while those residing in rural areas believe different conspiracy theories like it’s a hoax, it’s a game for money, etc. One great thing I saw in Pakistan is that no one, absolutely no one did any hoarding of things. Secondly, I have never seen as much charity being done as I do now. It’s more than the holy month of Ramzan (a month in which everyone gives alms, charity, and money). After giving paid leave to my maid. I called up to check on her to see if she needed anything and it made me so happy to know that she had so much food and goods that she sent some share to her married daughter as well. Pakistanis known for their generosity are really living up to the expectations. May the whole world come out stronger than ever from this pandemic and crisis.”

The situation in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia with a 32 million population has set strict protocols, and currently holds 2,402 cases and 34 deaths. According to Florence P.,

“Places of the country that have cases daily are in total lockdown and some places have a curfew of 3 pm to 6 am. We can go out only for groceries. Only groceries and pharmacies are open at this time. So far, people are following the curfew hours because if not and caught on the road, that person will have to pay fines. Daily confirmed cases are getting lower since community quarantine is imposed.”

Let’s hear from The United Arab Emirates:

The United Arab Emirates with a 9 million population has 1,799 cases and 10 deaths. According to Leen M.,

“Being in quarantine for two weeks, and 24hr lockdown well on its way, it is quite anxiety-inducing to watch places shut down. However, work has been very productive as we spend less time during the day traveling and moving around. Overall, I have a positive view on how the situation is being handled by the UAE government; everyone is abiding by governmental regulations and orders. Little hope on this ending soon though.”

According to Asna T.,

“Although we have cases on the rise here, the government has boosted efforts to contain the spread of the virus. I have never before felt such a sense of belonging to a community than during this lockdown. In this crucial time, when we are not personally meeting, People are appearing from their windows, balconies to sing the national anthem together to show solidarity and harmony. It is such a heartwarming moment to see people so connected yet so far. My family has been indoors for 3 weeks now, I can now feel how important the little things are such as, a walk down the street, fresh air, sunshine, watching the kids playing in the parks, enjoying a cup of karak tea on the corniche. Pray that everything goes back to normal soon and we emerge from this stronger, wiser and full of compassion for our planet and everything in it.”

View of Egypt

Egypt with a 97 million population has 1,173 cases and 78 deaths. Many of my team as of last week were still traveling for work and non-essential services. According to Heba S.,

“In Egypt, the situation is starting to be very serious given the fact that people still don’t follow the WHO instructions. The number of infected cases is almost 1000 now with a prediction of a massive increase. Government has started a partial curfew but it’s not enough!”

Situation of Jordan

Jordan has instituted incredibly strict measures forcing its 10 million populations to stay indoors. They even shut down grocery stores and pharmacies for a limited period until protocols were set. Residents were not allowed to go for walks for a 5-day curfew. This has since been lifted slightly and seemed to have worked with 345 cases and only 5 deaths so far.

Voice of Gaza

The West Bank and Gaza have 253 cases and 1 death. According to Ayshe A.,

“Palestine is going through a very tough time, as we are not able to test all 50,000 Palestinian workers in Israel who are coming back before 15 April (Jewish Passover all economy is closed down for two weeks). Before their return, we were only 100 people infected. In the last three days, our confirmed cases became 260. It is believed that it is because of those workers who came back.”

We asked Odettians to share their experiences regarding COVID-19 to know the situation of their community and country in general. It is heart-wrenching to know that we are all suffering from it in one way or the other but despite these challenging times; we do feel an overarching sense of unity, in that we are all fighting a common enemy. We believe we will come out of this pandemic much stronger and positive. We wish to see you all in a Pandemic free world soon.



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Katharine Wolf

Katharine Wolf

Founder & CEO @OdettaInc. Building #futureofwork platform powered by #womenintech