For Many, Coronavirus Alters Work as They Knew It

As the world battles the coronavirus, businesses have had to adapt their practices or close shop altogether. Recently unemployed workers have been forced into new jobs or started businesses to make ends meet. Here’s a look at some on-the-job changes around the world.

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Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Batbilguun Baatarbileg studies during his shift at Briti Grey, a coffee shop in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital. Mongolia swiftly shut its borders and public institutions, including schools and universities, in January as the coronavirus spread through neighboring China. As of May 16, Mongolia has 135 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. China has 84,038.

While universities are closed, Batbilguun works full time at the coffee shop and takes classes online. He says he works five days a week and earns 600,000 Mongolian tugriks (MNT) ($215) per month. Although the work keeps him busy, the coffee shop has seen drastically fewer customers since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Mongolia on March 9.

Nansalmaa Oyunchimeg, GPJ Mongolia

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Mexico City, Mexico

For 20 years, Erika Téllez, 30, has been making doughnuts, a skill she learned at a young age while helping with the family business. In all those years, Téllez says, this is the first time she has seen the tables and benches empty at Market on Wheels, a mobile marketplace in Mexico City. To comply with government-mandated measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Téllez put up a plastic barrier between her and her customers.

“At least they’re letting us work,” Téllez says. “It’s affecting us because people only come to buy something and then leave. They don’t stay to walk around anymore.”

But on May 13, the Mexican government ordered all markets on wheels to close down starting the following day. That included Téllez’s doughnut stand.

Officials in Mexico extended social distancing measures and limits on nonessential activities until May 30. Mexico has reported 45,032 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of May 16, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. A total of 4,767 people have died.

Mar García, GPJ Mexico

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Kopay, Sri Lanka

Maheswaran Kalaiyarashan, 13, center, buys a handmade face mask in Kopay, a suburb of Jaffna, Sri Lanka. Kutoobdeen Abdul Hussain and Eidres Abdul Hussain used to sell household goods, but switched to masks to meet the demand sparked by the coronavirus. Sri Lanka was under a strict stay-at-home order for most of April, but the order was lifted in Jaffna on April 27. The region is now operating under a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily.

“The government has made it mandatory for people to wear a mask, and since the curfew has been relaxed, more people are buying it,” says Kutoobdeen Abdul Hussain.

As of May 16, Sri Lanka has 949 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths.

Vijayatharsiny Vijayakumar, GPJ Sri Lanka

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Kampala, Uganda

Geoffrey Kamulegeya sells fruit and vegetables on the Kisaasi Roundabout, a major road in Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Before the coronavirus became a concern, Kamulegeya was working as a chef at Top Notch Hotel in Ntinda, a neighborhood in northern Kampala, but hotels and other nonessential businesses were closed on March 31.

“When they locked down because of coronavirus, I started this new business to be able to fend for my family,” says Kamulegeya.

As of May 16, Uganda has 203 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and no deaths.

Apophia Agiresaasi, GPJ Uganda

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Chilpancingo, Mexico

Teodoro Santiago Zárate signs a letter given to him by the staff of the municipal government office of Chilpancingo, the capital of southern Mexico’s Guerrero state. The letter states that Santiago must temporarily close his furniture business because it is considered nonessential. Although Santiago agrees with measures put into place to slow the spread of the coronavirus, he does not agree with closing his shop.

“They should take into consideration that if we don’t work, we don’t eat,” says Santiago. In addition to the responsibility of feeding his family, he says he also has to pay the salaries of his two employees and cover other business expenses.

“It’s good that the government is taking action, but they should also look for ways to help us,” says Santiago.

Avigai Silva Panchito, GPJ Mexico

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