Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
June 24, 2020

Japan Launches Worlds Most Powerful Supercomputer To Find Cure

Japan’s new so-called ‘Fugaku’ supercomputer, which has this week been declared the most powerful in the world, is to be used to search for a potential cure for the coronavirus.

The machine is capable of performing 513 quadrillion complicated mathematical operations every second. Fugaku requires 28 megawatts to run – more than two Eurostar trains!

Although it won’t be fully operational until next year, the team leading the project have already used it to run simulations on how cough and sneeze droplets spread through office spaces and public transport.

The White House’s expert on infectious diseases has warned the US is experiencing a “disturbing surge” in coronavirus cases.

Infectious diseases specialist Dr Fauci has highlighted recent spikes in states such as Florida and Texas, which are largely reopening businesses despite reporting thousands of cases per day.

Dr Fauci’s comments come following President Trump’s apparent desire to slow testing in order to slow the reporting of new cases.

Speaking at a campaign rally on Saturday, the President remarked: “When you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases,” the president said. “So I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down, please.’ They test and they test.”

Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • IMF expects global economic activity to decline by 5% in 2020, owing to the damage caused by large scale economic shut downs and the compromises that must be made by surviving businesses away from efficiency and in favour of heightened workplace safety and hygiene measures.
  • Pubs, cafes and restaurants in England will be allowed to reopen on 4 July.The government and the industry hope that gyms can reopen in mid-July, subject to health guidance.
  • A sharp increase in cases in Latin America in the second half of May led the World Health Organization (WHO) to warn that the Americas were the new centre of the pandemic. But there have also been new spikes in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Discover Supercomputer 3, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr Creative Commons

Travel in the COVID-Zone

Travel in the COVID-Zone
June 17, 2020

The Results Are In: Oxford Team Discover Existing Medication Capable of Helping COVID-19 Patients

In the quest to find a drug that can be used to treat the most unwell coronavirus patients, Oxford researchers have discovered that a cheap and widely available corticosteroid medicine called Dexamethasone cuts the risk of death by a third. Dexamethasone is used in the treatment of various illnesses involving inflammation in the body.

Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough.”

Brits Bring the Virus Back to New Zealand

Two travellers from the UK arrived in New Zealand and have subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. This follows a period of no-new-cases which last week meant that New Zealand could ease restrictions within their own borders. New Zealand’s Prime Minister has requested that the army keep a tighter control on the quarantine measures at the border.

Beijing Prepares to Contain Potential Second Outbreak

This week, Beijing has once again returned to a state of lockdown following 106 new cases which appear to have spread within the city’s largest wholesale market. City officials have contacted over 200,000 people in order to test them to help get the the bottom of how the virus has spiked again.

Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics

  • US Airlines have threatened to ban passengers who refuse to wear a face mask in a bid to encourage people to comply with government advice and to slow the spread of the virus. Figures suggest that more than a quarter of confirmed global cases have occurred in the USA.
  • France’s phased removal of lockdown restrictions was unexpectedly extended to Paris on Sunday, allowing cafes and restaurants in the capital to open their doors for trade so long as workers and patrons follow WHO guidelines of keeping a 1m distance from each other.
  • Worldometers: Up to date Coronavirus statistics

Main image: Close-up of a solution in a dropper, Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker, Flickr Creative Commons

Forgotten Seafarers

Forgotten Seafarers

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, 1.6 million seafarers are stranded at sea and are unable to go home, while relief crews cannot be brought in.

The UK Chamber of Shipping said up to 2,000 – or around one in 13 – of the UK’s 25,750 seafarers were among the stranded.

In a letter written to Shipping Minister Kelly Tolhurst, the trade association has asked the UK government to sign up to and acknowledge the International Maritime Organisation COVID-19 guidance for personal protective equipment and for interactions between ship and shore-based personnel to ensure crew changeovers can resume. Getting them home is “increasingly taking on a humanitarian dimension”, it adds.

Working at sea often entails consecutive shifts over weeks or even months with few days off, followed by a rest period of weeks or months between trips. While these seafarers are unable to return, work will resume even for those in need of a break.

Discover the seafarer way of life with our series Tough Boats

Mark Dickinson, general secretary of seafarer union Nautilus International, said many UK seafarers were working 90-hour weeks.

In an interview with the BBC, he said: “It’s a confined workplace – not the Hilton Hotel – for three, four or five months. The accommodation is fairly basic and you’re with a small group of people.

“You get into a situation where you think, ‘I’ve got six weeks to go,’ ‘I’ve got four weeks to go,’ and even when this is extended by 24 hours it’s pretty awful. It’s worse when it’s so open-ended.”

Despite uncertainty, seafarers have been honoured for their hard work and professionalism throughout the global pandemic by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF).

More information:

Watch: Tough Boats – The Arctic

Download: Tough Boats – Great Lakes

Read: Major Shipping Firms Dedicate $5bn To Clean Fuel Research

Read: Phobic Traveller: The What, When & How of COVID-19 Travel

Read: All-Female Sailing Team ‘eXXpedeition’ on a Mission to Clean Up Our Oceans

Main image: Container ship leaving bay area, Derell Licht, Flickr Creative Commons

By Sofi Summers

Tips For Coping During Lockdown

Tips For Coping During Lockdown

It would be fair to say that more of us than usual are facing stress and/or anxiety this month, and with looming uncertainty as to when we will return to normal, it is important to look after your wellbeing. The good news is that most of us have got plenty of time on our hands to take proper care of ourselves, but if you’re struggling for ideas we’ve put together a list of tips and resources for remaining calm and staving off Coronavirus anxiety – and dare we say – using this awkward time wisely!

Mood Boosters

Positive news

John Krasinski of The Office has launched a YouTube channel aptly named “Some Good News“, covering any and all positive news that the world has to offer. Spare 30 minutes from your week (preferably minutes which you may have been spending ‘terror scrolling’), and check in with John every Monday for his mood boosting show.

Online therapy

The mental health tech sector has experienced a boom in the past month, with more and more people seeking help from online and app-based sources. App based services such as Better Help offer an affordable and easy way to access a professional ear to chew on. If you’d prefer to deal with your stressors on your own, services such as Headspace use meditation to build awareness alongside a healthy sense of perspective.

Watch something inspiring

Head over to the Pilot Guides Store and download any number of our shows. We’re currently loving our Pocket Guides (currently half price!) for planning our next city break, and Travelling in the 70’s for some good old fashioned nostalgia!

70's cars in Los Angeles, Travelling in the 70's by Pilot Productions

70’s cars in Los Angeles, Travelling in the 70’s by Pilot Productions

Schedule video calls with loved ones

Whether its a quiz night, a cup of coffee and a chin-wag or a shared takeaway, utilise video calling to maintain meaningful connections with people you care about. Aside from the obvious boost this will provide to your mood, it will also give you the opportunity to take your mind off your own problems and check in with everyone else.

A screen-ban

Set an allocated time every day where you turn off the TV, put down the phone or tablet and close your laptop. Use this time to read, practice journalling, meditate or some other activity aside from your chores. Actively unwinding can help your frantic thoughts to slow down, inspire creativity and help you let go of factors which are beyond your control. Aside from the benefits of the activities themselves, less screen time will help slow down your consumption of negative information, give your eyes a break from harmful blue-light and help you recognise when you are simply scrolling because you are bored.

Sleep

Physical exercise

In most places, lockdown laws enable individuals to partake in an hour of physical activity each day. This is for good reason – exercise generates feel-good hormones! It’s also a great opportunity to get some fresh air, vitamin D, and connect with nature. Don’t forget that walking counts as exercise too, and now would be a great time to take in some of your local sights!

Historic Walks Hollywood - Justine in the Hollywood Hills

If you cant go out, ensure to do something physical at home. Yoga is a great way to relax your body and mind. Isometric (such as a plank) and isotonic exercises (such as squats and push-ups) are great if you do not have much space and are confined to home.

DVD: Historic Walks

Sleep hygiene

Preparing and preserving your bedroom as a place for sleep can be very important when trying to minimise disruption to sleep! In the morning, make your bed and air your bedroom; and in the evening light a candle or spray some calming linen spray. Stay away from your bedroom until it is time for bed. Also, Mr. Sandman is not a fan of the blue-light from your phone either, so make sure to leave it aside for a restful nights’ kip!

Routine

Set a time for bed each night and stick to it, set an alarm each morning and avoid sleeping-in. Is your sleep pattern already busted? Try to move your bedtime and wake-up back by 10 minutes each day. Even so much as paying attention to your sleep pattern and making a concerted effort towards maintaining a routine will help you feel more in control.

Sleeping in a yurt... Pilot Productions

Sleeping in a yurt… Pilot Productions

Finances

Cash KingMake a zero-sum budget

Do you know where your money goes each month? Knowing where every penny has gone, and where every penny should be will help restore a sense of control in these financially stressful period. There are some fantastic online tools to help you draw up this budget, and many computers come with a pre-loaded budget templates!

Seek help

If things aren’t looking too rosy, then don’t bury your head in the sand. As well as finding out if there are any state benefits which you may be entitled to receive, you should look to temporarily reduce your obligations where possible. Many lenders are offering payment holidays as well as adjustments to repayment schedules, so call your lenders and discuss ways to ease your situation. Remember, it is in their interest for you not to default! Institutions such as Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK can provide some clarity on where to find help, and help you seek it. In the US, assistance generally varies from state to state, so do some digging and find out if there is anything you can do to ease the burden for even a short period.

Home

Spring clean

It is that time of year, after all. What better way to spend an afternoon than cleaning your house from top to bottom, and ‘putting winter away’. Having a clean and tidy environment in the spring time is important, especially when you’re spending so much time at home.

Clean out your closet

Take inventory of your closet! Set aside anything you no longer wear ready to donate it to a charity shop or a clothes bank. Alternatively, to generate some cash, you could sell them online! As the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!”. Apply this principle to other cupboards, too. Perhaps you have a pile of paperwork stashed away that you’ve been meaning to sort through, old electronics which have been sat in a box collecting dust, or a bathroom cabinet full of lotions and potions – get rid of what you no longer want and organise what you do!

Get creative in the kitchen

Empty out your food cupboard and fridge and get creative! Not only will this help with efforts to cut down on your spending, but cooking can also be a great way to release some stress. There is a plethora of recipes using just about any ingredients on the internet, but we would recommend checking out our Ten Great Global Recipes for inspiration!

A spicy pudding soup with fresh fruit. So wrong, but so delicious.

spicy pudding soup with fresh fruit. So wrong, but so delicious. And more or less exactly what you’ll get when you combine the contents of your cupboard…

Work

We love this Antique Writing Desk. When you're done for the day, you simply shut it! Image by Thomas Quine, Flickr creative Commons

We love this Antique Writing Desk. When you’re done for the day, you simply shut it! Image by Thomas Quine, Flickr creative Commons

Working from home

Pilot HQ’s tried and tested tips:

  • Stick to a routine: Clock in and out at roughly the same time each day where your role permits!
  • Make the most of not commuting: Go for a walk and/or eat a good breakfast!
  • Keep your work area as separate from your living area as possible: As tempting as it might be, taking your laptop to bed is not as productive as you think it is!
  • Take a lunch break!
  • Get dressed properly: Not just for that ever impending surprise video call, but getting dressed for work will help you focus on work, and keep work and home tasks separate.

Furloughed or on leave

Devote work-time to professional development or other activities which will help to enrich your career and and add value to your employers or your business. This is not limited to simply seeking out online courses; a more holistic approach to enrichment will enhance your life and your career. We love activities such as learning a language, or exploring the plethora of lessons that history has to offer. Why not check out our Study Guides to get a taste for what you might be interested in pursuing.

Unemployed

As much as finding gainful employment is your priority here, it may also be useful to take this time to reflect on your career so far to help determine what your next move might be. If you were already looking to make a change in your career, then there is literally no time like the present. Those who have lost their jobs could also engage in enriching activities to keep the mind as sharp as possible for when that interview finally comes your way.


Have you already engaged in any of the above, or do you have your own coping strategies? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Main Image: Ned Kelly‘s First Home in Beveridge, Pilot Productions

Where in the Wild has the Coronavirus Come From?

Where in the Wild has the Coronavirus Come From?

Following the outbreak of Coronavirus which is currently spreading from its source in Asia accross the world, scientists are trying to figure out where it has come from, and exactly how it transferred from the animal kingdom to humans.

So far, scientists have ascertained that the virus has been transmitted inter-species – or that is has ‘host jumped’ – from animals to humans, making it a ‘Zoonotic’ virus. Whilst widely reported that this likely came from a bat, it has not been confirmed. Bats are believed to be the original carrier of the former SARS virus and of many other ‘coronaviruses’ due to their particular animal behaviours, such as living in large colonies and covering large distance by flight.

Providing that the virus was originally carried by bats, scientists believe that it unlikely that its first human transmission arose out of direct contact with the notoriously tricky-to-catch mammals. Rather, it is understood that the bats may have transmitted the disease among other wild species more likely to be handled by humans.

Pangolin, Adam Tusk, Flickr Creative Commons

Pangolin, Adam Tusk, Flickr Creative Commons

In fact, it has been suggested by some that bats may have passed the virus on to pangolins, which are poached from the wild to be illegally trafficked to places where their scales and meat are either considered a delicacy, or a form of medicine. This black market trade is completely unregulated and so it would be difficult to trace the transaction where the transmission occurred. It is believed that of the many places that pangolins are trafficked to, Wuhan in China is one, and is also – perhaps coincidentally – where the virus first presented in humans.

Read: You’ve Probably Never Heard Of The World’s Most Trafficked Animal

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals carrying the virus but finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, according to Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL).

More information:

Read: Midnight Remedy: Bat Soup

World Health Organisation: Travel Advice


Main Image: Ground Pangolin at Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa, David Brossard, Flickr Creative Commons

By Sofi Summers

Major Shipping Firms Dedicate $5bn To Clean Fuel Research

Major Shipping Firms Dedicate $5bn To Clean Fuel Research

7 major global shipping firms have between them pledged $5 billion to develop new clean fuel systems to tackle pollution caused by the industry.

The firms’ aim to decarbonise transoceanic shipping has been received positively by the wider industry and environmental campaigners alike. Shipping accounts for 3% of global emissions and for 90% of how goods are transported around the globe.

Currently viable options include biofuels, green hydrogen, ammonia, renewable electricity and fuel-cells.

The ship owners also are also welcoming a fuel levy to help support research and development in the future. The shipping industry is known for being heavily subsidised, with legislation protecting them from taxes in most parts of the world, however these calls signify a change in attitudes and an acknowledgement that pollution will not tackle itself.

This move also comes following an International Maritime Organisation regulation which has seen fuel suppliers innovating for the January 2020 date which it is set to come into effect, for heavy fuel oil suppliers cut the amount of sulfur used in ship fuels. The sulfur-containing fuel, when heated before combustion, creates harmful sulfur dioxide as a by-product which is released into the atmosphere. It is thought that the reduction of sulfur in the fuel will dramatically improve public health, particularly in the world’s busiest major port areas such as Shanghai, Singapore, Rotterdam, Los Angeles and Valencia.

The international shipping community is clearly demonstrating wider awareness and an eagerness to follow many of the world’s heavy industry communities in their commitment to tackle climate change.

More information:

Read: Chinese Firm to Manufacture 200,000 ‘New Energy’ Vehicles by 2025

Read: All-Female Sailing Team ‘eXXpedeition’ on a Mission to Clean Up Our Oceans

Read: IMO 2020 – cleaner shipping for cleaner air

By Sofi Summers

Main Image: Emma Maersk, Roy, Flickr Creative Commons

Chinese Firm to Manufacture 200,000 ‘New Energy’ Vehicles by 2025

Chinese Firm to Manufacture 200,000 'New Energy' Vehicles by 2025

Chinese bus and truck manufacturer Beiqi Foton Motor plans to put 200,000 ‘new energy’ vehicles on the road by 2025. The $2.6 billion (¥18 billion) initiative hopes to develop new road transportation vehicles with hybrid-electric, fully-electric, and hydrogen fuel cell technology.

Hydrogen as fuel is created by the electrolysis of water, which splits the oxygen from the hydrogen. The electrolysis process can use wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, fossil fuels, biomass or nuclear energy to generate the electricity required in a ‘green’ manner.

The vehicles will mostly be used for commercial purposes, such as public transportation and road haulage, in a bid to improve air quality and help China to battle pollution in its economic and industrial hubs.

Beijing Air Pollution, Kentaro Iemoto, Flickr Creative Commons

Beijing Air Pollution, Kentaro Iemoto, Flickr Creative Commons

Atmospheric Pollution is a well documented issue in China, and is estimated to be responsible for 1.6 million deaths a year. Many large national companies are beginning to make the commitment to developing greener practices to help combat the problem.

This level of commitment to innovation is a responsible and economically feasible way for industry leaders around the world to tackle some of the environmental damage caused by industrialisation. Environmental damage has largely been caused by ‘innovation’, but could be solved by it too.

China, despite being the worlds 4th largest producer of oil, produces just 5% of the world’s supply which is not enough to meet the demand of the nation. In 2017, China surpassed the United States as the worlds number one importer of oil. In the future, a move towards renewable energy and hydrogen as a source of fuel could see China’s crude oil consumption, among other fossil fuels, fall dramatically.

Watch our episode Tough Trucks – Morocco to see the the world’s first fully electric pick-up truck!

Main image: Toyota hydrogen fuel cell at the 2014 New York International Auto Show, Joseph Brent, Flickr Creative Commons

By Sofi Summers

Rare Mouse-Deer Caught on Camera in Vietnam

Rare Mouse-Deer Caught on Camera in Vietnam

One of our greatest pleasures is discovering cute, exotic animals that we never knew existed, and this Mouse-deer is no exception. Especially considering nobody has seen one since the 90’s!

‘Chevrotain’ otherwise known as mouse-deer (though not belonging to either family), are the smallest hoofed mammals in the world, originating in forests in South and South-East Asia, and forested parts of West Africa. The Silver-Backed Chevrotain is native to Vietnam and had not been sighted for around 30 years – until now.

The Vietnamese Chevrotain had made it onto the Global Wildlife Web Size-5_Silver-Backed-Chevrotain_whiteConservation’s 25 most wanted missing species list, with specialists unsure as to whether these creatures had become extinct.

Chevrotain originating in Asia can weigh between 0.7 and 8.0 kg. In other words, their size ranges from a small Guinea Pig up to a Jack Russell dog. They lack antlers or horns, but have long canine teeth used for fighting. Chevrotain live mostly on plants, live in couples and give birth to one (very cute) baby Chevrotain at at time.

Cameras were set in forested areas by zoologists in order to find out, and fortunately there were multiple sightings of the mousy-looking critter. The Silver-Backed Chevrotain is the first of 25 missing species that the organisation hopes to find.

Global Wildlife ConservationGlobal Wildlife Conservation

Main Image: Global Wildlife Conservation

India’s Record Breaking Monsoon Season

India's Record Breaking Monsoon Season

India’s monsoon season is finally forecast to come to a close on October 10th this year, marking the end of the longest rainy season the country has ever seen.

Typically, the monsoon season lasts through the months of June to September, and draws in before the end of September. The last time the nation saw such a long monsoon period was in 1964, when the rains did not withdraw until the October 1st.

There has been extensive flooding across the northern regions of India due to this year’s rainfall, and it is estimated that the flooding has caused over 100 deaths. Collapsing homes and drowning are responsible for many of the deaths. The rain was initially forcasted to be no more than average, but India has gone on to experience the highest rainfall in 25 years.

The floods have also damaged some of India’s summer crops such as cotton and soy, but the additional rainfall is expected to be of benefit to the winter crops that the nation grows such as chickpeas, wheat and rice. The additional rainfall will also restore reservoirs and ground water supplies for the coming dry seasons.

India is known for its hot, tropical weather. In general, April to June provides the hottest and most uncomfortable weather. The monsoon rains come shortly after and last through September. The cooler weather lasts from November to mid-March, with fresh mornings or evenings and nice dry, sunny days in-between.

More information:

Read: Destination Guide: India

Read: Trekking in East India

Watch: India’s Independence Railroads

Buy: The Story of Tea DVD

By Sofi Pickering

13,000 Japanese Volunteers Welcome Tourists At The Rugby World Cup

13,000 Japanese Volunteers Welcome Tourists At The Rugby World Cup

13,000 Japanese volunteers from across the nation are this welcoming the arrival of rugby fans from all over the world.

The record-number of volunteers, known as “Team No-Side”, are assisting tourists and fans around the venues as well as at nearby transport points, while some are working for VIPs such as government, business and popular culture figures from around the world.

For the duration of the Rugby World Cup, more than 400,000 visitors will arrive for the games which began on the September 20th and run through until the November 2nd. The games are being held in 12 cities across the nation including Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka.

2011 Rugby World Cup, Jean Francois Fournier Photographe, Flickr Creative Commons

2011 Rugby World Cup, Jean Francois Fournier Photographe, Flickr Creative Commons

In the initial recruitment drive, over 38,000 people applied for the 10,000 positions, attracting applications from people from all over Japan – of all genders and generations. 13,000 candidates were eventually selected for the roles and have been training in the 12 centres around the country since.

The roles are completely unpaid and with no expenses covered, however many view it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and of great importance to Japan. The event is the first major rugby tournament to be held in Asia, and the Japanese are bound by a sense of pride and duty to showing off their nation’s best side.

Akira Shimazu, the Rugby World Cup 2019 Organizing Committee CEO, is banking on Team No-Side to help make the tournament a success.

“I want them to present the tournament together as the face of the historic first World Cup held in Asia, and enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Shimazu.

This is the first of many more important events to come to Japan, with the Summer Olympics and Paralympics returning to Tokyo next year!

More information:

Read: WOW: What’s On Where In September

Buy: Empire Builders – Japan

Download: Adventure Golf – Japan

 

Main Image: Tokyo, Nicholas Cole, Flickr Creative Commons

By Sofi Pickering