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The Pandemic in our Sister Cities

Here's a share of what is happening in our Sister Cities.

As most of us know, the impacts of the pandemic can have a tremendous range of effects within our own communities. Our sister cities are also variously affected. Some have had relatively few issues with Covid-19 and are beginning to slowly reduce restrictions. Some are dealing with some VERY challenging problems to a point where it is kind of hard to wrap my head around them. The two sister cities most impacted are Alamos, Mexico and Uasin Gishu, Kenya.

As we all know, the pandemic is a fluid situation. Some of what is reported below is a week or more old.


The Pandemic situation in Alamos, Mexico 🇲🇽

In an effort to keep Covid19 from invading Alamos, the government shut down the city with blockades of the roads into and out of Alamos. Only those with approved need may enter or leave the city. It apparently has checked the spread. So far only one

person is reported with Covid19 and the people who had contact with that person are being closely monitored. “The measures that have been carried out in our town have been very strict, with checkpoints at the entrances, without letting in or out citizens who do not have important issues to mobilize, also with means of prevention in stores, banks and places of flow of people, we have had to bring groceries to people who have been left without their wages or people with very low resources both in the town and in the villages that belong to us and that we have to take care of. This has been a very great effort for this Administration, our Mayor Victor Balderrama…” Amelia Anaya, Municipal Tourism Director, March 30.

Unfortunately, the closing of Alamos has a significant fallout on the local population and is taking its toll. Many who were both economically and food challenged even before this, have lost jobs. Near-by rural communities are unable to get into the city. There is real need to get food to these people in and around Alamos. Dale Gray of SOS, (Sustainable Outreach Solutions) who has led the medical brigades to Alamos, joined with people in Scottsdale and Alamos to start the Alamos Food Drive – with a goal of $40,000, which was reached on May 28th. Most donations are from Arizona, and Mexico but also from other places around the world. The Hacienda de los Santos is making and delivering about 130 hot meals a day to residents who are ill or elderly and unable to get out to get food. The Alamos Food Drive has purchased almost 150,000 pounds of food so far. However, the need continues, and will continue for who knows how long. Therefore, they have set a second $40,000 goal.

If you are so inclined to make your first (or perhaps another) donation, please CLICK HERE


The Pandemic situation in Cairns, Australia 🇦🇺

Australia has had strictly enforced restrictions with high “on the spot fines” of $1300+ being reported by newspapers – and a friend who does not admit to knowing that firsthand.

Heavy restrictions have been in force since February with a complete lock down for 6 weeks in April and May. Some states are beginning to open up in stages. Cairns has had few cases, and Queensland (Cairns’ state) has been the slowest to open up and was still mostly closed up on May 21st when we heard from Sim Hayward, their sister cities coordinator.

Like Scottsdale, Cairns is heavily reliant on tourism all year, but they are just coming into their “high season” of winter, and people are worried, and many people have lost jobs.

The federal government has offered financial support to employers and people who have lost their jobs until at least September. There are still many flight restrictions, hotels and res-taurants are closed.” Sim Hayward, May 21.

SSCA is coming up on our 35th anniversary with Cairns and we hope that things will have opened up sufficiently by 2022 that we can safely plan activities together.


The Pandemic situation in Interlaken, Switzerland 🇨🇭

Interlaken has been extremely lucky. It is a relatively small community. There have been very few Covid19 cases and, to Sibylle Andres’ knowledge, no deaths. The hospital was well prepared to handle the epidemic, and the government quickly shut down businesses such as hotels, restaurants, shops, etc, and asked people to stay home, wash your hands and social distance.

“What a strange feeling walking through the empty streets (we were allowed to go outside for a more or less short walk). Tourism of course is down. No guests from abroad, nothing. The economic situation in Interlaken is very difficult and the losses are considerable. March/April is not high season in our town, that‘s an advantage. Nevertheless for many shop owners, hotel‘s a hard time.” Sibylle Andres, May 27.

In the past three weeks, however, things are starting to open with caution, with June 6 targeted to be mostly reopened – though continuing with social distancing and following hygiene measures. Borders with Germany, France, and Austria are reopened, though not with Italy.

Interlaken’s Sister Cities program and the high schools are disappointed that September’s exchange to Scottsdale had to be cancelled. As are we. The principal of Interlaken’s high school has cancelled all exchanges in 2020. And 2021. If a vaccine becomes available, the decision will be revisited. However, we in SSCA, and in Interlaken are grateful we were able to celebrate our 20th Anniversary in 2019 before all of these shutdowns began.


The Pandemic situation in Killarney, Ireland 🇮🇪

Killarney’s economy is very reliant on tourism, also. Over a million people are receiving state subsidies in Ireland, but this is not sustainable. Everything had been mostly shut down. Golf courses and other outdoor activities are slowly opening up.

The government of Ireland has “now begun to open up situations like building work and outdoor activities. It is their intention to do this in 5 stages 3 weeks apart so that by end of August some form of normality will slowly return. Ireland has had 1,500 deaths and 25,000 confirmed cases, with an 87% recovery rate. … the county of Kerry where Killarney is situated we had 308 cases that's just 1% so guess we are lucky” Sean Counihan, May 21.

Dublin, where most of the Irish population lives, has the most of Ireland’s Covid19 cases.


The Pandemic situation in Kingston, Ontario, Canada 🇨🇦

Kingston region has seen 63 cases of Covid-19. Their hospitals quickly increased capacity and are able to handle the increased load on their medical system. Kingston also has stay at home orders and businesses are taking a hit. Much of their economy is tourism oriented, and the sum-mer months are their peak season.

A photo of the Kingston, Ontario court house lit up in blue as a sign of solidarity and support for medical per-sonnel, and front line responders , and those fighting the Covid19 pandemic. Photo courtesy Sandy Berg
A photo of the Kingston, Ontario court house lit up in blue as a sign of solidarity and support for medical personnel, and front line responders , and those fighting the Covid19 pandemic. Photo courtesy Sandy Berg

There is “significant unemployment, and worry about the future of local businesses. We de-pend heavily on tourism… We are doing our best to support local businesses and tourist organizations. The city, our post-secondary institutions, and many local organizations have stepped in to help local businesses adapt and pivot during this period of uncertainty… It’s been difficult to watch residents endure some of the most challenging time of their lives; worried about their businesses, their livelihoods, their families and their health. COVID-19 has monopolized our newsfeeds, our routines and changed how we function in the world. That said, I’ve never been so inspired by the incredible resiliency, kindness and ingenuity of Kingstonians in the midst of this crisis. There are lots of reasons to believe that we’ll emerge from this stronger than before.” Mayor Bryan Peterson. May 22

Kingston’s Coordinator, Sandy Berg sent a drone video she and a colleague made a few weeks ago, see below.


The Pandemic Situation in Marrakech, Marocco 🇲🇦

“Here in Morocco, mainly in Marrakesh, things are under control due to the respected orders of the confinement. The rate of the outbreak is gradually increasing, but there is medication used. thanks God people are recovering every day and hospitals and doctors are fulfilling their duties to keep everyone safe and healthy. A lot of businesses shut down, and the job market closed up too but people who were in informal sectors got refunded by the financial box that was created to serve for this purpose.” Housnia Tiana, May 22.

No one is allowed to be out except for compulsory reasons such as groceries and medical. Local volunteer organizations and families have stepped up to help families in need. Some manufacturers are making respiratory machines and face masks. Schools are shut down and students are, like in the US, taking their classes online. Marrakech Sister Cities board members are working together to create a video about their students’ experiences and perspectives from our exchanges. We hope to do a similar project here in Scottsdale.


The Pandemic Situation in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya 🇰🇪

We heard from Kennedy Kibet, the Uasin Gishu coordinator, who reports that people are confused as the government is giving mixed signals. The borders are closed, which has led to food shortages in many places. Though the government is trying to keep price increases from being passed on, the poverty level is rising, and unemployment is rising, as are prices in the markets.

“Things are getting harder by day and people are very anxious about their livelihoods. Shelves are getting empty of stock and prices of essential services rising. The government has lowered the price of gas to cushion manufacturers from incurring losses and not pass it to consumers but on the ground things are getting harder especially those living in low income areas. … A few months ago the government gave a directive for partial government shutdown from 7pm to dawn up to now, but it’s the poverty level raising that will ultimately break people's back. Unemployment is raising due to closure of many businesses and if the government does not come up with a solution, soon it will be unbearable for many.” Kennedy Kibet, May 18

As you may (or may not know) northern Kenya got hit quite hard by the locust invasion that happened during our winter – and apparently the swarms are continuing. While Uasin Gishu County has not been directly hit by the locust swarms (yet) much of Kenya’s “bread basket” areas have been decimated – which will obviously impact the food supply.

To add insult to injury, the region has been hard hit by recent rains causing a lot of flooding and landslides and displacing many people, wiping out villages and small rural communities in several of the neighboring counties. Though it APPEARS that Covid19 has not hit the area hard, with little testing it is probably impossible to know fully until the number of “excess deaths” are analyzed in the future.

June 1st: update: A text message from a friend, “Things are opening up slowly in Kenya, but the reported Covid19 cases are escalating on each passing day. We truly covet your prayers.” Bishop Paul Korir, Anglican Diocese of Kapsabet, Kenya.


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