With its roughly 33 million inhabitants, Peru is the fourth biggest country in South America by population. To date (28FEB21), 1,324,000 million people in Peru have been infected with
COVID-19 and over 46,300 have died. How is the virus changing people’s lives – and especially those of shipping line Hapag-Lloyd’s employees?
In the company’s “My life with COVID-19” series, Hapag-Lloyd Communications Director, Nils Haupt (NH) and his team focus on the most affected countries to get first-hand information from the local staff on how their lives have changed since MAR20.
In this issue, Joana Hidalgo (JH), a 23-year-old Sales Steering Trainee in Lima, Peru, speaks about her personal experiences.
NH: Joana, how did COVID-19 start for you personally?
JH: Peru was heavily affected by the pandemic. The entire country went into lockdown on 15MAR20. We all thought it would only last for two or three weeks, but COVID-19 got worse and worse. Basically the state of emergency and quarantine measures lasted until 30JUN20.
NH: How was your personal experience with COVID-19?
JH: I was born and raised in Iquitos, which, with its 465,000 inhabitants, is the largest city in the tropical rain forest area in Peru, and only accessible by plane. My parents and my siblings still live there. Iquitos rapidly became one of the epicenters of the pandemic in Peru. As my father worked in the fire department and was one of the coordinators and key supervisors for the COVID-19 emergency response, he had to work very hard to keep key supplies to the city running. On 20APR20, my mom called me, telling me that my dad had caught the flu. We didn't take it too seriously, as he was a very strong and healthy person, only 55 years old. We were sure he would recover soon, but we were wrong. His condition quickly got worse. Already three days later, he could hardly breathe.
NH: You had to rush him to the hospital?
JH: Yes. He urgently needed oxygen. But when we arrived there, they wouldn't admit him. Only after the fire department intervened, they let him in. The hospital was totally overcrowded with sick people - the system had collapsed. Patients were literally dying in the hallways. There was not enough oxygen, there were hardly any respirators, there was not enough medication. During that time, Iquitos lost 500 people per day to COVID-19.
NH: What happened to your dad?
JH: His fellow firemen organized oxygen from the emergency vehicles. While I was rushing to a pharmacy in Lima to get medication and sent it to Iquitos by plane, my family bought a respirator. But it was already too late. My father died on 29APR20, after six days of battling with the dysfunction of his lungs.
NH: Could you attend the funeral?
JH: Unfortunately, not. The authorities wanted to bury him in a mass grave outside of the city, because there were too many casualties to hold individual ceremonies. But we were able to get hold of his body and secured a funeral at the cemetery. For me, he is a hero. He fought against the virus in the front row without any fear. And he gave his life for others. As my father was everything for me, you can imagine that I am still heartbroken.
NH: How is the situation in Peru now?
JH: I believe that the worst is over. But seeing people on the streets who are behaving as though there isn´t any danger is still unbelievable for me. I am totally traumatized and try to protect myself all the times. I avoid meeting my friends and only leave the house when it is unavoidable.
NH: What do you miss most at the moment?
JH: Of course, I miss my father tremendously. But I also miss my colleagues in the office. They have really supported me during this very challenging time in my life. When I was in total despair, they even sent food to my home – so I did not need to take care of running errands. The team in the office has become a kind of family and I am extremely grateful for their amazing support.
NH: What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis?
JH: Value your friends and your family. Give and take each hug as though it were the last one, because you never know if you will be alive tomorrow. Protect yourself. Don´t ever not take this pandemic seriously! It´s not a fake, it´s not just a flu. It might kill a loved one – and it might even kill you.
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
The interviews are published in Hapag-Lloyd’s in-house channels.
By courtesy of the company’s communications department, we are authorized to run the interviews as well.
This way, a broader readership gets access to the testimonials.
So far, Angie Morales from 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, Valparaiso-based Roberta Herrera, Rodrigo Gonçalves of Santos, Brazil, and Emanuela Lomazzi of H-L’s office in Milan, Italy, have been featured.