The Yin to the Yang: Is There a Bright Side to the Coronavirus?
The lock-down finally happened, as well it should. Saturday evening, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe ordered all bars, restaurants and non-essential shops to close across the country in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. This includes cinemas and discos and all non-essentials. Banks, pharmacies, food stores and supermarkets will remain open as will all public transportation. This comes after administrators had already banned events that gather over 100 people together and schools were closed as of today around the country.
Until that announcement, life in Paris seemed normal. The shelves in the markets weren’t being emptied, people were out and about just like always and while the cafés weren’t as busy as usual, people were in them having a meal or a drink. The French seemed pretty nonplussed about it all.
The Coronavirus is creating anxiety and stress on one hand, yet removing stress in another way. I am seeing the negatives and positives of the situation we’re in — the “yin to the yang.” Since the Coronavirus started in Wuhan in the People’s Republic of China, the yin (dark side) to the yang (bright side) seems an appropriate way of describing what’s happening. In Ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang is a concept of dualism, “describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.” (Wikipedia.org)
Yes, the Coronavirus is worldwide pandemic that is a disaster on many levels. First, there is our personal fear of contracting the disease and possibly not recovering — dying. Or there is the fear of carrying the virus and infecting others. These fears are at the top of the list and are creating more than a pandemic, but a pandemonium across the globe. That’s the dark side.
On the bright side, we’ve discovered that we really are a global society. As French President Emmanuel Macron said in his speech a few nights ago, in an effort to coordinate the efforts of all European nations, “This virus does not have a passport.”
No joke. It doesn’t affect people differently because of where they live, or what their skin color is, or their religion, etc. Age and the robustness of our immune systems are the only factors of how well we recover or not, and that’s because as our immune systems age, they weaken, making us more susceptible. Macron is campaigning for only closing the borders between European countries when it’s “relevant.” When will it be “relevant?”
Meanwhile, Air France issued a letter to all of its customers that in response to the virus, they are strengthening their measures to ensure travel safety by applying “very strict hygiene measures” on their planes: full cleaning of their cabins, the carpets, and seats; the disinfection of all surfaces subjected to physical contact; providing hygienically clean blankets; cleaning up the air in the cabins by virtue of an air-recycling system that renews the cabin air every three minutes and regularly spraying the cabins with disinfectants. These measures and more should have been put into effect long before the Coronavirus, but as a result, not only are they doing this now but are promising to continue these measures in the future. Isn’t that the bright side? And shouldn’t all public transport being the following suit? I believe it will.
I’ve been watching the U.S. President’s speeches and press briefings about the pandemic, with a host of experts at his side. The bright side to the crisis is how it’s become a bipartisan campaign to control the spread of the virus. Republican or Democrat doesn’t matter. Red tape is being cut and relationships between the public and private sectors are being built all in the interest of saving as many lives as they can. At least, that’s what they say, although time will tell as to the truth of many of their very bold statements…about when a vaccine will be available, how many people can be tested, etc. I don’t believe much of it. Nonetheless, it’s about time somebody thought about the nation instead of just themselves and their political careers. I’d call that a very bright side.
Saturday, I received an email from the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques announcing “exceptional measures to pay our taxes” — a kind of grace period to defer tax payments without incurring penalties. For those of us tax residents in France, if you are self-employed, you can adjust your rate and deposit it at any time. You can also defer the payment of your down payment on your business income from month to month up to three times if your down payments are monthly, or from quarter to quarter if your down payments are quarterly. If you have a monthly payment contract for your CFE (“Cotisation Foncière des Entreprises”) or property tax, you have the option to suspend it by contacting your debit service: the remaining amount will be deducted from the balance, without a penalty. (Learn more here)
Recently, I received a tax bill with a penalty for late payment added to it, even though it was the first time I’d gotten the bill. It’s a kind of trick they play –– the bill is on your online account, but if you don’t go online to find it, and therefore don’t know it’s there, they send a follow-up bill with the penalty included — a clever way of earning 10 percent more from the taxpayers. While it seems rather silly for the French government to be worried about getting their taxes paid when their entire population is at risk of being sick or dying, it seems like a step in the right direction that maybe they should implement in the future by understanding human error and frailties. I already paid the tax and the penalties, and now I wish I hadn’t mailed it so quickly!
I have a friend who had the Coronavirus symptoms and was feeling sicker at the moment. She started to panic about how to deal with it. The French authorities say to dial “15.” These two numbers on your telephone connect you with emergency medical services in France, or “SAMU,” “Service d’Aide Médicale Urgente” (Urgent Medical Aid Service). Local SAMU organizations operate the control rooms that answer emergency calls and dispatch medical responders…at least that’s what they are supposed to do. Friday night, it rang busy, period. There was no way to get through to them — overrun, we were sure, with emergency cases.
We tried calling SOS Médecins. This is a medical emergency service which sends doctors directly to a residence instead of sending an ambulance (house call), seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, “and participates with close liaison with the public emergency services (ambulance, fire brigade, hospital), and continuity of care in many urban centers and its periphery.”
Guess what? There were no doctors available in the area. Her last resort…to hightail it to the nearest emergency room. She did. After 1.5 hours of waiting alongside other potentially infected people, a practitioner examined her. Did they test her? No. They refused to. Why? Because…no explanation really, although I suspect they just don’t have enough testing kits. They sent her home to quarantine herself for two weeks, with a prescription for Doliprane (France’s answer for everything, an analgesic used to treat fever and muscle pain) and a face mask so as not to infect others.
(For information call the official government phone number: +33 (0) 800 130 000)
Doctolib.fr sent me a notification listing practitioners who offer video consultation. Video consultations are secure and are reimbursed as physical consultations. Doctolib is an online appointment-booking service for patients. I had an appointment this week with my own physician for my annual check-up but postponed it in order to free up space for other patients who need it more and not be around sick people if I can help it. While I use Doctolib to book the appointments, I emailed her to let her know. She wrote back, “That’s a better idea. I’m hoping to do mostly video consultations for the next few weeks. Strange times…Keep well.”
While all this is very dark indeed, I can already see how our lives will be changing. Video consultations will become more mainstream as will all aspects of virtual working. All companies and businesses will be seeking a way of doing business without physical communication. Offices and retail space will become less important and suffer financially as online purchasing and delivery services will prosper. This was already the trend, but with the pandemic, the trend will be accelerated. There is both a dark and bright side to this evolution.
On a personal note, the closing of my favorite cafés and restaurants is devastating since I stopped cooking or preparing food at home years ago and developed a habit of dining out at every meal. I came to really enjoy having a pristinely empty fridge and the stovetop always being spotless. The dishwasher rarely got a run. This changes everything, chez Leeds. Over the last few days, I’ve made trips to the market and to Picard (France’s premier frozen food dispensary) to stock up on canned goods, frozen foods, and fresh produce to start eating at home once again. (Only two other shoppers were there and their bins were full. Go figure.)
This is the bright side, as I rediscover cooking (I used to be quite a formidable cook…once upon a time) and save money since dining out can get quite expensive. The fridge is so packed to the gills that I took photos of its guts and sent them to a few of my closest friends who I knew would get a kick out of seeing it at this unusual state. The only other times it’s been so filled with edibles are when my daughter visits as she loves to cook healthy things at home. (Wish she were here to keep me company and cook for me! Ha!)
Sunday afternoon was one of Paris’ most gloriously beautiful days. I hit the market about 10 a.m. and found it virtually empty of customers and filled with produce. I stocked up and didn’t even have to wait in line. Strange, right? With all the reports from other places emptying the shelves in a panic, I realized the French simply don’t do that. Their level of tolerance to a crisis hangs tough and they don’t seem to live with fear. It’s either the yin or the yang — hard to tell which. Will they live longer with less stress or die because they lacked the fear?
Sunday, I had lunch with friends in their apartment. Was that a dumb thing to do? My daughter says, “yes.” “That’s the whole f—ing point of social distancing.” It’s true that the bright side of social distancing is that it’s most effective for a disease such as this, when the infection can be transmitted via droplet contact or even indirect physical contact (by touching a contaminated surface), or airborne transmission (if the microorganism can survive in the air for long periods). But social distancing has a dark side: “loneliness reduced productivity, and the loss of other benefits associated with human interaction.” (Wikipedia.org)
Those of us at lunch all felt safe that none of us were infected and that we wouldn’t pass it on to each other. But do we know for sure? No. It’s a way of staying sane, however, when there’s virtually nowhere to be, especially on such a beautiful day. After lunch, we strolled over to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont where Parisians were thoroughly enjoying themselves on the grass, strolling the paths and discovering the park — it’s open free space to feel somewhat removed from the threat of the virus. That was the bright side — people were finding other ways of fulfilling their lives.
Will the parks soon be off-limits, too? If that happens, that will be very dark, indeed. Again, I resort to the yin and the yang. There are two sides to every coin and in this case, we have to take the bad (no choice), but we can find the good in the situation. There is always a balance, even if we don’t see it clearly from the outset.
I know that business will suffer, but that will give me time to get other projects done — things that have been on the to-do list for too long, unresolved. I know that a lot of my future travel plans will be thwarted, but that will open doors for other possibilities. We have to live in the present because for the moment, that’s all we’ve got. And never lose sight that there’s always a bright side to the dark side: the yang to the yin!
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. We have developed relationships with a number of financial and tax experts to assist our clients. With all the upheaval caused by this pandemic, consultations are more important than ever. For more information, please visit our Global Money Services page today.