COVID NOTES FROM OUR MEMBERS
Jonathan Schwartz, ICEFAT Steering Committee Chairman
As we all await what the “new normal” will look like at the other end of the COVID-19 apex, our member agents continue to strategize and modify those strategies on a day-to-day basis. The ICEFAT Steering Committee contacted some of our members for reports on how they are coping in their region. Conditions vary, not only by region, but for instance, in the US, by state. There is even a disparagement in how one part of Italy is reacting to measures than another. One question remains unanswered: How will we all function once given the back to work order (note: some regions have not cut services, but this also remains in flux)? Certainly, with caution, social distancing and protective measures such as masks, gloves, the treatment of surfaces and of course, multiple hand washing. ICEFAT wishes its partners and customers, their family and friends, good health and a speedy recovery. The future will likely highlight our amazing ability to adapt to completely unknown factors as they arise. There will be ups and downs, steps forward and steps back, but in the end, we are a vibrant and diverse community, stronger than the sum of our parts.
Here’s a digest of what’s going on throughout the ICEFAT world:
Although lockdown has been lifted, state-owned museums and galleries remained closed with exhibitions being cancelled or postponed till end May. To prevent second wave outbreak, China has closed entry to foreigners. Non-Beijing citizens are able to enter Beijing but subject to 14 day self-isolation at home. Locals from Shanghai have installed health code bar apps on their mobile and they are able to travel out of the city without 14 day self-isolation at home as long as their health bar code is green.
Business in China is at full strength. (HELUTRANS)
The biggest blow for the arts industry was the cancellation of Art Basel Hong Kong, which was slated to open on March 18. Following Art Basel’s decision, Sotheby’s, who scheduled their annual spring sale a week after, cancelled the event. All leading galleries have either closed their spaces or open for appointment only. The decision to shut down government-run museums toward the end of January was part of a broader social-distancing policy and remains effective as of April 1.
Office, operations and warehouse remain open though booking of airfreight becomes extremely challenging with the increase of rate and shortage of space due to cancellation of flights. (HELUTRANS)
Since the beginning of March, our staff and crews have been using protective gear in the office and on all onsite assignments. Around the middle of March, we devised a plan for “Work from Home” for all our office and accounting staff. Of course, the warehouse facilities and packing crew have a physical presence, albeit limited in observance of social distancing.
Unfortunately, following the total and mandatory lockdown announced by the Government effective 24 March, we are unable to perform any pack outs, collections and deliveries, other than for ”Essential” Goods” such as medical and hospital supplies, food and groceries etc. All incoming and outbound aircrafts and ships, other than those carrying essential commodities, have been banned from entering India and hence there is no question of either receiving or forwarding any shipments during this lockdown period.
As a gesture of our goodwill, Star is waiving all storage charges, for any “In Transit” shipments, held in our storage effective April 01, 2020 until June 30, 2020 or such extended period, till the lockdown is lifted and we are able to forward these shipments.
We are of course able to continue to receive and answer all client and agent enquiries via phone and emails and continue to monitor all shipments currently enroute or at airports/ports. We will keep all our clients and partners, around the world, updated on further developments, as and when we have more information. (STAR)
Art events have halted with stay at home announcement extended until 30 May. That said, Yamato is still fully prepared to handle artwork import/export and coordinate and communicate if client is available. All museums and auction houses are closed and some galleries are closed as well.
This weekend 4 – 5 April would be the most important moment for the Japanese government to decide an emergency period. At the worst case, the government may announce to all a stay home order under certain regulation which has some force. If this decision is made by the government, it will only be possible to continue work by remote and operation will be mostly halted. (YAMATO)
In Korea, it has been a while now since the first major breakout in mid-February. We have been able to contain the virus in pretty much controllable stage by speedy and efficient actions of the government, now things are quite cooled down and most people are ready to go to back their normal lives. We so far had no lockdown or curfew at all in anywhere of the country so our services have been fully functional from the day one and we come to our office everyday just normally. (DONGBU)
Singapore government has announced it will impose a stricter measure to contain/combat/slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus on 3 April. All non-essential business is suspended from 7 April to 4 May in order to minimize transmission. Logistics and storage services are allowed to operate with core staff only.
In line with government latest effort to contain Covid-19 outbreak and protect both our customers and employees, Helu-trans (S) Pte Ltd will enforce telecommuting for all our office employees as part of our Business Continuity Plans effective 6 April 2020. We are seeking clarification from the ministry if our operation and storage facilities will remain in open and will keep all posted. (HELUTRANS)
The Austrian Government imposed a de facto curfew. The region of Tyrol, where MuseumsPartner is located, was quarantined. While the quarantine in Tyrol ends on April 7, the curfew for the whole of Austria was extended until the end of April. All museums are closed and our operative business is almost completely stopped at the moment. (MUSEUMSPARTNER)
The Republic of Bulgaria declared a state of emergency 13 March. Only essential services and businesses remain open. Logistic companies remain operational, though many have chosen to close due to lack of activities. We are working from home but our warehouse is staffed and small units of art handlers with trucks ready to serve any urgent need. (ORBIT)
The government reacted quickly and decisively. Public places are closed through May and in the southern part of Finland, the borders are closed. Many people are telecommuting, but otherwise people are allowed to move freely in groups not exceeding 10 people. There are no restrictions for moving cargo in Finland. We continue to follow government instructions, maintaining social distancing and washing our hands frequently! (BEWESHIP)
In France the government instructed total lockdown in the evening of March 16th, effective the 17th at noon. As most companies we have decided to follow the instructions and close down our office and warehouse. Anyone out on the streets has to fill out a document each time we leave our home, and this document can be checked by police who are controlling in the streets/public places. Office staff is continuing to reply to emails and follow up on estimate requests etc.
We had to organize ourselves very quickly, set up a system so that we can work from home and handle daily issues, such as supplier’s payments and credit control, and have someone check the premises regularly.
As of April 6th, the lockdown is in effect until at least April 15th. There is a strong feeling that the lockdown will probably be extended a bit longer but we will know more closed to April 15th. (GANDER & WHITE)
Many smaller entrepreneurs now live at the subsistence level. There are packages from the state to support them. According to our finance minister, the federal government wants to finance measures to overcome the corona crisis with 122.5 billion Euros. Many companies have announced short-time work for their employees. The state supports the economy very extensively in the form of aid packages, inexpensive loans, one-off payments, etc. There are many people who telecommute. Obviously, the number of telephone conferences has increased. (SCHENKER)
The Hellenic Republic imposed strict measures beginning 15 March. Only essential services and businesses remain open. Logistic companies remain operational, though many have chosen to close due to lack of activities. We are working from home but our warehouse is staffed and small units of art handlers with trucks ready to serve any urgent need. (ORPHEE BEINOGLOU)
The situation in Italy is still critical but it seems we reached the apex of the curve and the number of people in intensive care is now reduced for the first time since the beginning of the spread. We are now the third most infected country (after US and now Spain), but the one with the most mortalities.
The economy is totally disrupted by the long time lockdown, also in our industry which is now totally still. Government is funding some help for families with a monthly contribution and for companies with some social safety nets to pay the non-worked hours. It’s not easy to get these helps, due to the high bureaucracy, but we hope it will become easier once started. It’s now time for the European Community to act as a real Community and prepare a common help program and rebirth of the economy when the emergency will be over. (APICE)
The Portuguese Authorities declared a state of Emergency and they are asking to close all non-essential activities. Now, there are police officers controlling some roads and accesses. No other activities are allowed outside. At Feirexpo, because the safety of our employees and customers come first, we decided to stop all operations and all our team is now at home, safe. (FEIREXPO)
There is a ban on all private and public events, restaurants, sports and cultural spaces; only businesses providing essential goods remain open. The measures are in force until 19 April. On 25 March the Swiss government extended entry restrictions to all Schengen and non-Schengen states, however those entering the country for professional reasons (i.e.: worker’s permit) are allowed to cross the border. Transportation is exempt from the restrictions, goods can circulate however the quantity of movements is limited due to many companies in lockdown. (Zust Bachmeier)
Canada’s world ranking has moved from 21st in the world to #13 for the number of confirmed cases
– Canadian Optimism – Canada’s mortality rate is only 1.4% compared to the world’s current rate of 5.3%. Colleges and Universities have cancelled their semesters and both Federal and Provincial governments are predicting that the current situation will extend well into May and most likely beyond. The Federal Government has warned us not to be complacent as this is only the first wave. They are offer several aid programs and incentives to furloughed and terminated workers. Similar programs are available for small to medium sized businesses. (PACART)
Stay at home orders are slowly being enforced, but work continues normally for now. (CORDOVA PLAZA)
Our famous constitution affords the individual states certain rights and controls over local policies, so it is taking much longer for the entire Union to adhere to the only practical solution we have to “flattening the curve” while we wait for a vaccine that will not be available for quite some time. All states are under a federal order to stay at home until the end of April when another advisory will be announced to perhaps extend this date. Most states have issued orders for the cessation of non-essential businesses, and those industries that are providing health care, food and infrastructure support are under pressure to maintain social distance and protect each other while performing their duties. The transportation and handling of artworks and cultural objects are non-essential, and as of this writing, most companies, certainly all ICEFAT agents, are observing the restrictions, except for those states with a looser definition. Fine art warehouses only have a skeleton crew in order to monitor conditions. Customs brokerage and air freight on all cargo craft is still possible, but with restrictions on supply chain to manage non-essential goods, the morally correct decision is to place all fine art shipments on hold. (ATELIER 4)
Our government announced a mandatory quarantine that started on March 20th until tomorrow but yesterday they announced an extension until April 13rd. Only some specific activities are allowed and all transportation is controlled by the police and the military. Our warehouse and administration is closed. The only permitted activity at our facilities is the surveillance which is 24 / 7. We are all working from home but most of our operations are on hold such as are most industries in our country. Customs is only working for those approved goods by the government.
We have plenty of work to do since this is the time for new ideas. Our government is announcing economic measures to help the industries and commerce. Furthermore they have implemented new regulation for credits and bonuses for freelance workers. (DELMIRO MENDEZ)
The first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Brazil in 25 February. Local transmission has been reported in most of states, and the pandemic has triggered a variety of responses from federal, state and local governments. Schools and universities have been closed since 16 March and most companies have implemented home office to the office staff and we are complying. We also have established protocols for our teams and have trained them to make sure all actions and preventive cares are understood by all. On 27 March, the President announced the closure of its borders, beginning on 30 March for 30 days, to individuals arriving by air who do not fall into one of several categories. All land borders have been closed as of 19 March. Due to the limited international passenger flights, most cargo is being transported by air cargo freighters or by sea and cleared by Customs in ports and airports without restriction. Our government is taking measures to help industries and commerce and will also help freelance workers and the disabled. We are respecting the recommendation of social distancing which was extended until 14 April. (FINK)
The first case of Covid-19 was confirmed in Peru on March 6th. After this, the Peruvian Government took immediate control and since March 16th we are in mandatory social distancing and lockdown. Also, our borders have been closed, and there is no national or international passenger’s transport (by air or road). We also have a curfew from 6 pm to 5 am. Tentatively, these measures will be until April 12th and they have been taken in order to have the least amount of Covid-19 cases as possible since our social security system is very fragile and it will not be possible for us to handle the epidemic with thousands of people in need of hospitalization. (N LEIGH)