With the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus and the imposition of lockdowns in most countries, the WDC called on its members to contribute blogs describing that they were experiencing in their own organizations and households, and how they viewed the impact of the global pandemic.
Our huge trading hall, which is usually teeming with activity, is now fairly empty because of restrictions that allow only 100 people access at a time. Who would have imagined a diamond exchange with no handshakes to seal transactions?Almost four months ago, when the coronavirus broke out, I found myself having to manage the worst crisis the Israel Diamond Exchange has ever known. The challenge was massive and I approached it with great apprehension – to safeguard the health of the community, which includes more than 3,200 members and some 8,000 small and medium-sized business owners, and the health of the industry that is so dear to us all.
The economic crisis that struck in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic impacted in unprecedented ways on China’s jewelry retail markets and their supply chains. This was self-evident from the data collected at the Shanghai Diamond Exchange (SDE), where we saw polished imports through SDE into China decline by 70 percent during the first four months of 2020. But, with much of the lockdown now lifted, we are seeing businesses springing back. Many have returned to full operation and Chinese consumers are coming back to the shopping malls. We expect to see trade and the market gradually ramp up in the coming months.
More than four months and counting. My last trip abroad was in January. It was to the United States, where I visited New York City and Miami. I remember watching the TV news and hearing about an unusual flu-like virus that had been detected in Wuhan, and later talking about it with my staff in the Far East. At the time, I recall thinking: “Another SARS, far away in China. Just ignore it, stick to your agenda and it will go away soon.”
We are almost halfway through what has been an unexpected and turbulent start to the year. While tens of millions remain in lockdown, others are slowly easing their way back into a “normal” rhythm, albeit at a slow and careful pace. I am proud to say that here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), we are among the latter category.
I’m writing this during my 1,000th day in “Lockdown London”….no, that can’t be right! But at times it certainly feels like it. It also feels really churlish to complain when I look around and see the misery and heartbreak that this disease has caused.
As I write this on April 14, 2020, we are completing the 20th day of the lockdown in India and, tomorrow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi shall address the nation on his strategy about how he intends to lead the way for India’s 1.3 billion people. But let me take you back in time to December 2019.
In one short month the world has changed in very dramatic ways. In mid-February I was enjoying some golf in the warmer climate of the southern U.S. There was very little talk of even the seasonal flu, let alone COVID-19, although my 21-year-old son managed to get Influenza B from his college roommates.
I write to you from the comfort of my home in Antwerp, which would seem an unremarkable fact were it not the last place I would ordinarily expect myself to be in the middle of a workday during the final week of March. Uncharacteristically, for quite a number of days we have been fortunate to enjoy a beautiful blue sky outside. The bright light streaming in is most welcome during these trying times.