China, Carmen Bakas
How do our Leiden alumni cope with the restrictive measures in their country, the possible finding of a vaccine, medication to combat corona or how do they cope with working from home, with or without children? Read the story of Carmen Bakas, Shanghai, China.
Leiden alumna Carmen Bakas (Civil Law and International Law, 1992) is a Counsel at DaWo Law Firm in Shanghai, assisting European clients, including Dutch companies. She also teaches the course International Contracting at the Law faculty of Fudan University, Shanghai.
Carmen was pleasantly surprised to learn that two of her colleagues at DaWo are Leiden alumni as well. Dan Xu has a Master’s degree (European and International Business Law 2011) from Leiden University. She is in charge of the firm’s Intellectual Property Law & Data Compliance practice. Zi Wang heads the firm’s Litigation practice and he holds a Master’s degree from Leiden University as well (European and International Business law, 2011). DaWo Law Firm Shanghai is a Chinese boutique law firm with a multi-cultural team and an international outlook.
We had no idea and hence were not prepared for how complicated the next months would be
Covid-19 has forced the whole world into lockdown; a drastic and sudden shift. For us in Shanghai, it started when schools and businesses remained closed after the Chinese New Year holidays end of January, 2020.
We had no idea and hence were not prepared for how complicated the next months would be. Before we knew it, flights to and from China were suspended and strict government measures came into place to contain and overcome the outbreak while friends and family abroad were worried as they were following the news.
The general advice here was simple: stay at home. The strict measures that the rest of the world is experiencing now, were the reality for months in Shanghai before. People stayed at home although there was not an official lockdown situation and the case numbers were very low. It seems that the Shanghainese just took their responsibility to avoid the spreading of the virus by simply staying at home as much as possible and being patient.
Shanghai embraced remote working to keep business going although this concept was not really well known in Chinese society. Companies were utilizing video calls to have meetings and the streets of Shanghai remained mostly empty with delivery services doing overtime.
DaWo Law Firm responded quickly to the outbreak by providing free legal advice with regard to urgent questions related to the measures especially on HR.
As Carmen is also teaching at Fudan University, she had to create a virtual classroom for her students while her teenage twin boys were schooling via e-learning as well and all extra activities such as soccer were cancelled.
Dan and Zi who met in Leiden and are happily married, spent more time together with their baby daughter since there were less court sessions, face-to-face client meetings, or other work events. They did a lot of baking and cooking which are activities they normally don’t have time for.
The large scale of implementation measures to interrupt transmission was successful, and as the weeks went by, the city of Shanghai lowered its public health response.
As the city opened up, the sensible and law-abiding thing to do was to wear a face mask in all public spaces, also at the office. There were hand sanitizers everywhere and mandatory temperature checks when entering public areas.
People have their “green code” which refers to a QR code generated from personal information gathered through various means to indicate if you are safe from Covid-19 infection. You have to show this QR code on your mobile every time you enter certain buildings or use public transportation. Face masks are part of daily life. The government stepped up to provide face masks to registered households which meant that you would never run out of this much-needed item.
A rapid spread of Covid-19 across the world
Suddenly there was a rapid spread of Covid-19 across the world which led to an unexpected irony of China closing its borders to almost all foreigners.
For Carmen and her husband, it meant that they had to cancel the ticket of their oldest son studying in Delft, The Netherlands. That was a disappointment because his university was offering online lectures either way and all his class mates went home to stay with their parents. At that point, it was our turn to be worried about our loved ones abroad as the pandemic unfolded.
Shanghai is almost back to business with a new normal: e.g. restaurants have special seating arrangements and limited customers.
There is a so-called ‘appointment-based tourism’ in place meaning you can only get into parks, museums, art galleries and tourist attractions if you make an appointment online providing necessary ID and green-code QR. Schools have reopened with glass dividers in the class rooms, one-way hall ways, pre-packed canteen food and of course face masks, daily health cards and temperature checks. It certainly helped that detailed guidance on reopening was released by the authorities.
We are in this together
It has been established that Covid-19 will shake global economies at the core, but here in Shanghai we feel that it has also brought us closer together. Families have spent much more time together, there was kindness amongst strangers, there were board games, there were home-cooked meals, and we witnessed pristine blue skies like never before as there was a dramatic drop in air pollution.
The last few months were challenging but we are looking forward to what the future will bring. People are confident and optimistic. We still love Shanghai and hopefully other countries will open up soon as well. We are in this together.
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