With its roughly 17 million inhabitants, Ecuador is one of the less populous countries in South America. To date, roughly 166,000 people in Ecuador have been infected with COVID-19, and
13,000 of them have died. How is the virus changing people’s lives – and especially those of shipping line Hapag-Lloyd's employees? In our “My life with COVID-19” series, we take a look at the
most affected countries and hear from H-L employees about how their lives have changed since March 2020. Angie Morales (28) of Guayaquil kicks off the series.
NH: Angie, how was your experience with COVID-19?
AM: I live in Guayaquil, the big port city of Ecuador with roughly 2.7 million inhabitants. For Hapag-Lloyd Ecuador S.A. I work as Specialist Sales Execution Reefer.
Together with my sister, my brother, and my parents, I live in the southern part of the city. In April, my father developed some symptoms; he felt weak, had a fever, and just wanted to stay in
bed. A few days later, I got sick as well, developed the same symptoms, and also lost my senses of smell and taste.
So you stayed at home for a while?
We were already working from home since the lockdown started as from March 16th, but I didn't want to stay in bed. We were in the peak season for the banana business and under immense pressure, so it was no option for me to leave my colleagues alone.
But didn’t you go to the hospital?
At that time, hospitals in Guayaquil were already overcrowded. This was mainly because the people initially underestimated the virus and the risk of infection. Nobody kept their distance from others, nobody wore masks – and then the national health system was on the verge of collapse. We were given some medication and stayed at home.
How did you manage the quarantine?
My father and I went into self-quarantine in one room of our apartment and totally avoided contact with the rest of the family. Whereas the condition of my father got worse in the first week, I already felt better after some days. We stayed in the room together for almost a month and, with the medication, my father also got better after a while. Luckily, he didn’t need oxygen – as we wouldn’t have known where and how to get it.
How was the situation in the city?
For some weeks, it was horrible. Corpses were put on the streets by relatives because the authorities and funeral homes couldn’t keep up. The corpses were just covered in linen or rolled in a carpet and put on the sidewalk. Don’t forget that we have temperatures of up to 35 degrees, so families couldn’t keep their deceased relatives in their apartments. Finally, the mayor of Guayaquil, Cynthia Viteri Jiménez, asked the federal government to arrange for the bodies to be removed.
Did your wider family experience any major cases?
We lost three members of my extended family. But there were families that had many more members who died from COVID-19. Many people desperately drove from hospital to hospital but couldn’t receive any help. Some of them simply died in their cars. Coffins were sold out. At the city hospitals, the victims were just put into containers and later buried in a mass grave. It was a human tragedy we were going through as Ecuadorians.
When did you manage to return to the office?
Well, our office is still closed, and we work from home. But I was basically able to return to working from home a few days after my self-quarantine ended. I was happy to be back. Together as a team, we managed to take care of our customers. In fact, we had Hapag-Lloyd’s best-ever banana season in Ecuador.
What lessons have you taken away from this challenging time?
Take care of yourself – and don’t take this pandemic lightly. It isn’t just our own lives that are at stake when we don’t follow the rules; it’s those of our friends and families, too.
Interview: Nils Haupt, Head of Corp Comm, Hapag-Lloyd Group
Hapag-Lloyds Nils Haupt has started a series of interviews in which shipping line employees talk about their jobs and the daily challenges they must master, like the C-19 threat.
The interviews are published in H-L’s in-house channels.
By courtesy of H-L’s communications department, we are authorized to publish the interviews on our online platform as well.
This way, they will be more widely distributed since they are worth to be read by a broad(er) audience.
Angie Morales from Hapag-Lloyd in Ecuador kicks off the series.