Marcin Hlond, Director System Engineering at UltraSoC who heads up the team in Warsaw, Poland, gives his perspective of the coronavirus situation there.

 

 

The UltraSoC office in Warsaw, Poland, at the WeWork building, is not closed. They keep it open with some restrictions (e.g. all visitors must strictly register upon arrival), but the office is completely empty – everyone is working from home.

 

 

When working from home we communicate using the usual ways: Slack and voice calls. But we don’t really need to communicate much: everyone in our team is doing different things, which includes team members in Cambridge. I think so far we’re OK: it’s been only a few days. I’m personally used to it: I have done quite a lot working from home in the last 2-3 years, so I developed a certain discipline; not having young children any more helps I guess. but a member of my team has a young daughter so he needs to manage that.

The situation in Poland looks serious. Radical steps were taken about a week ago, when official diagnosed cases were still about 200.

  • The borders are closed to foreigners; only Polish citizens and residents are allowed back into the country, with obligatory 14-day self-isolation (no matter where they come from, how long they were abroad etc.)
    • This caused long queues on the land borders extending to tens of kilometers for a few days (but have now gone); this was because of lots of people who decided to come back and also because they are doing additional checks and papers to fill on entry (you need to state where you’re going to spend your self-isolation: police do checks on it)
  • All passenger scheduled flights are suspended; there are special ‘get home’ flights available to those who need to get back
  • Cargo traffic continues normally (with some extra delays on the borders)
  • Schools are closed, public events are not happening, theaters and cinemas are closed, and shopping centers also mostly closed
  • Smaller shops (including groceries, pharmacies) and gas stations work normally, with some extra precautions (such as no more than three people inside at the same time)
  • Some normal hospitals have been evacuated and turned into infectious diseases centers, in preparation for expected surge in cases requiring hospitalization (the peak is expected to arrive in the next weeks; health authorities promise enough beds)
  • But there are concerns about too few tests being done and other shortages that are likely to show when the system is fully tested (official cases are now approaching 1000; 8 deaths attributed to the coronavirus so far)
  • Normal doctor visits are converted to phone consultations where possible
  • Public transport working, with some precautions (drivers in buses are separated by a ‘do not cross’ tape for example) and reduced frequency (including many inter-city trains cancelled)
  • Warsaw is much quieter than usual but still not completely still

Overall there is not much panic at the moment; most people seem fairly disciplined and are staying at home if they can (but there is some usual trouble with people ignoring recommendations and still relaxing outdoors). There are some shortages for the usual items, and some shops are limiting how many items you can buy for certain things, but otherwise largely stable as far as I can see (at least for now).

On the plus side, the weather is not bad, with sunny (but fairly cold) days.

We hope that the situation resolves itself and that our normal daily routines return to normal soon, but for now we follow all the guidance and advice; and remain home.