Chile is one of the most economically stable and prosperous nations in South America. To date, roughly 533,000 of its 17.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19, and 14,800 of
them have died. How is the virus changing people’s lives – and in particular, those of shipping line Hapag-Lloyds’ staff?
In the company’s “My life with COVID-19” series, Hapag-Lloyd Communications Director, Nils Haupt (NH) and his team take a look at the most affected countries to get first-hand information from the employees on how their lives have changed since March 2020.
In this issue, 27-year-old Roberta Herrera (RH), Senior Coordinator Human Resources and based in Valparaiso, Chile, describes how her life changed after she and her entire family tested positive.
NH: What were your initial experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic?
RH: It was in March 2020 when we started to work from home. It was very weird and also extremely sad for me, as I absolutely love being with my colleagues and my team. I’m a people person. I haven’t been back to the office since March.
NH: How was working from home?
RH: At that time, I was living with my parents and two siblings, including my twin sister. As my mum has some health issues, we were very scared for her – especially when we saw the reports from Italy on TV.
NH: And then, suddenly, you were personally affected…
RH: Yes. My twin sister works as a nurse in a nearby hospital, but she was not directly taking care of COVID-19 patients. On 2 May, she came home after a 24-hour shift and had a severe headache. At first, we thought it was most likely just fatigue. But she called the next day and said she felt extremely feverish. So she took a test – and it was positive. Directly after that, the entire family took a test, as well. But, luckily, it was negative for us. So we were very relieved!
NH: How did you manage the quarantine?
RH: My sister was taken to a sanitary residence where COVID-19 patients with only mild symptoms could be quarantined and monitored. Meanwhile, we stayed at home, still full of concern. Only a few days later, the entire family developed symptoms. We had to take a test again. And all of the tests came back positive.
NH: How did the infection develop?
RH: It sounds strange, but my 60-year-old mother just had some pain, but she was basically free of the typical symptoms. I was the one who was severely affected. I felt super bad, and my body hurt as if I had climbed a mountain. My head felt like it was on fire, and I also lost my senses of taste and smell for two days. It was really tough for a week, but then it gradually got better. I stayed in bed. And I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, so I managed to read four of the books in a row.
NH: So how did things go for your twin sister? Did she have exactly the same symptoms?
RH: Absolutely. We were experiencing the very same things. And since she was being monitored regularly, I knew in advance exactly what I would need to do at home and didn’t need
to worry too much. On 21 May, we were feeling well again. But that was only after three weeks full of insecurity, pain, and fear.
NH: Is your life back to normal now?
RH: I wish. My sister and I have developed several complications. We regularly feel sick, I am freezing all the time, and she is suffering from ear infections. After having recently taken an immunity test, they found out that we have lost our antibodies – meaning that we could get infected again. So we have to protect and take care of ourselves.
NH: And you left your home?
RH: Yes, to protect my parents, my twin sister and I moved out together. She is my best friend, and we are inseparable. My cousin moved together with us – to protect her parents as well. We stay at our new home, cook, watch movies, drink a glass of wine, or decorate.
NH: I have heard that you are very outdoorsy type…
RH: Yes. That makes it very difficult to stay at home. We grew up on an island in the southern part of Chile, so we are used to nature, the forest, and the ocean. I was a Girl Scout when I was a kid, and we did lots of camping, trekking, and sports. I love to play soccer, which I started while I was at university. Today, I play in the Hapag-Lloyd women’s team here in Valparaíso. Additionally, I love basketball and going to the gym. And, as you can naturally imagine, I miss all of this terribly!
NH: What have you learned from this crisis?
RH: I have learned that it is extremely important to be well-informed. I see some of my friends on my Instagram feed, and they ignore what’s going on with COVID-19. We need to understand that this is dangerous, and we need to take it seriously. People shouldn’t only trust social media. And I also learned how to stay in touch with my friends, even if they are far away. The digital world offers lots of chances to stay in touch – even if you can’t meet up with each other in person. But, honestly, I can’t wait to see my friends and colleagues again. And how much fun will it be to be on a soccer field again!
Interview: Nils Haupt
Hapag-Lloyd’s Nils Haupt started a series of interviews in which shipping line employees talk about their jobs and the daily challenges they have to master
during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The interviews are published in Hapag-Lloyd’s in-house channels.
By courtesy of the company’s communications department, we are authorized to publish the interviews as well.
This way, a broader readership gets access to the testimonials.
So far, Angie Morales from H-L in Guayaquil, Soniya Mokal of H-L Mumbai, Marcelo Alejandro Saravia working for H-L in Valparaiso, Sophie Nieves from Buenos Aires, and Natalie Alexander of Atlanta, Georgia have been featured.