With around 210 million inhabitants, Brazil is the sixth-largest country in the world by population. To date, roughly 8.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19 there, and
210,000 of these have died. How is the virus changing people’s lives – and especially those of our employees? 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, Rodrigo Gonçalves, Supervisor Customer Service at the shipping line’s Quality Service Center in Santos, illustrates his personal experiences.
Rodrigo, how has COVID-19 changed your life?
At first, it only changed my professional life. In February 2020, we had the first COVID-19 cases in Brazil, and shortly after the first infections and the first casualties. And we realized: This is about death. Within two weeks, our entire team in Santos moved to working from home. I thought it would only be for one or two months. Well, I was very wrong.
Then your family was directly affected…
Yes. At the end of March, my grandmother had the typical COVID-19 symptoms. I took her to a hospital, where she tested positive and had to stay right away. Shortly after that, my mom developed the same symptoms and tested positive, as well. Three days after my grandmother was hospitalized, my mom also needed hospital treatment.
How was the situation in the hospitals?
The hospital to which I brought my grandma was overcrowded in the waiting area. There were lots of people waiting for treatment, most of them were short of breath, showing the typical symptoms. The hospital where my mom stayed was a specialized hospital for COVID-19 treatment; a large part of the clinic was dedicated to COVID-19 patients.
What was your biggest fear at that moment?
In situations like this, you are scared to lose a loved one. Of course, I was very worried, as my grandma is 84 years old and a high-risk person. And another challenge for me was that none of us knew much about the pandemic in March. Everything was new and unexpected. You didn’t know how to behave; you didn’t know whom to ask questions. And it was impossible to visit the hospital, as they basically shut their doors to any outside visitors.
How long did they stay in hospital?
My grandma was released after 10 days, and I took her home in my car. While sitting in the car, she had enormous problems breathing. She had chest pains and was starting to panic more and more. And so was I, as I really thought she would die in my car. I immediately took her back to the hospital, where they only told me that we should go home and give her oxygen. And so, we did. For two months, she was given oxygen for 14 hours a day and stayed in isolation. After two months, she recovered.
And what about your mom?
She had to stay in hospital for six days before being allowed to go home. She lost her sense of taste, and her vision was highly impacted, which we were told is a COVID-19 effect, as well. She is doing well today and has no aftereffects.
Those must have been some tough weeks for you…
Yes. The biggest challenge was balancing work and taking care of my family. I needed to talk to different doctors and nurses to get information and advice. And when both returned home, I felt like I was a nurse, psychologist, and cook in one person.
Brazil currently has very high numbers both of infections and deaths...
Yes. Unfortunately, many Brazilians don’t take the pandemic seriously. We are in the midst of summer now, and beaches, for example, are overcrowded. No wonder the numbers are going up again.
What has made you worry the most during the pandemic?
What worries me most is that COVID-19 is so unpredictable. Some people survive who are 80 or even 90 years old, and some young people without any pre-existing conditions die. A 33-year-old friend of mine contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized. He barely survived, and his lungs have been heavily impacted.
How has your everyday life changed?
I go running on the beach, but I wear my mask. Unfortunately, I had to stop playing soccer and going to the gym. I avoid parties and only meet in small groups of six people at most. And I take the necessary precautions wherever I go. The biggest change has definitely had to do with moving into my girlfriend’s place before the pandemic. We have spent a lot of time reading and watching movies. Besides that, she is a fantastic cook. It’s hard to believe, but I have gained 14 kilos during the pandemic! That’s something I’ll have to work on when this pandemic is finally over.
What’s your advice to all your colleagues around the world?
Respect others by taking care of you. If you take care of yourself and follow the rules, you are automatically taking care of others.
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, Natalie Alexander of Atlanta, Georgia, and Valparaiso-based Roberta Herrera have been featured.