From: Seoul, Korea
Hello Y'all. I finally caught up to this thread. I'll provide an update from Korea (I normally don't call it South Korea, since if I were referring to the other one, it would be "Our Friends Up North").
Things are starting to get back to normal, although social pressure is keeping people cautious (BBfanboy noted above that there's a "great sense of community responsibility" in these parts, but I'd say it's more like "I don't want to bring shame to myself or my family," and Korea has the added incentive of being very sensitive to global opinion). I always keep a mask in my pocket, but the missus warned me today that Koreans are posting pics of mask-less foreigners on social media. So, for reasons of "etiquette," she wants me to put one on, and not bring shame to the family. In Korea, to the random person on the street, as a grey-haired, i.e. older, and thus higher up the Confucian totem pole, and larger person than most, as well as someone who may not speak Korean, I usually don't get hassled, and I haven't in this situation. I'm more worried about my wife than anything.
Yesterday the Korean government announced schools would re-open on April 6. Barring some new flare up, I think that's a solid date. That will give cover for a lot of things to return to normal, such as the British Embassy pub *cough* re-opening *cough*. I still don't know anyone who has this, nor have I heard from anyone else that they know someone who has it, in Korea anyway. My journo buddies who went into the danger zone of Daegu are all good three weeks later.
As a very rough estimate, I'd say the downtown area has about 30-40% of people working from home, based on number of people walking around and how crowded restaurants are at lunch. About half of my people work from home each day. Speaking of business, although we are returning to normal here, the rest of the world ramping up in infections makes things like international events impossible. One of the things we do is provide PR for such events in Korea, so we’re taking a big hit to project-based income. I don’t see how the Japanese can keep the Olympics going—Japan may well be perfectly fine in August, but what about other parts of the world?
One more tidbit that might interest some: I talked to a buddy who works at the big Camp Humphreys base where most of the U.S. Army has consolidated recently, and he said they are doing temperature checks and asking questions at the base gate (he has to do that every morning). He said his operation, which handles Secret stuff and is “essential,” has gone to two shifts for social distancing purposes. He said if he catches the virus and they determine he got it off-post, he will lose his base access permanently, which essentially means he’ll be fired. Basically, he is prohibited from visiting any bar or restaurant or going anywhere else in the country. The USFK has had a PR problem for most of its existence, so I can see why they are being cautious on this one.
Stay safe out there.
Beer, because barley makes lousy bread.