California Wildfires Have Burned Over 2 Million Acres of Forest This Year
At present, more than 14,000 firefighters are fighting around 24 major fires across the state of California which continue to grow.
It is estimated that this year, an area totalling around five times the size of London has been burned by these wildfires.
The fires do not stop at the state border – Oregon and Washington state are facing similar destruction.
The smoke from the fires has turned the skies orange, prompting calls for various neighbourhoods most at risk to be evacuated. Similar fires in 2018 damaged or destroyed 24,226 structures, and caused 100 confirmed fatalities.
Dry and hot weather, paired with gusty winds, is helping the fires to spread.
Los Angeles county saw temperatures of 121F (49.5C), a record high over the weekend, and San Francisco hit 100F (38C) on Sunday, breaking a previous same-day record of 92F (33C) set more than 100 years ago in 1904.
These temperatures have two large risks attached to them. First, when combined with dry, gusty winds, can facilitate the spread of a fire. Second, they result in an increased electricity usage, primarily from the use of air conditioning systems, somewhat overloading the electricity lines. The power grids in California are notoriously sensitive to high temperatures.
California power companies have warned of power outages to attempt to control the situation and prevent any further fires from starting. Dried woodland material falling onto electrified lines was the direct cause of one blaze in the 2017 wildfires.
These record breaking temperatures are also causing electrical storms, with lightning striking dried areas of woodland. Dead, dry trees are the perfect fuel for a large blaze.
This week, one particular blaze was reported to have been ignited by a ‘pyrotechnic’ device used for a gender reveal stunt. Devices such as these often combust, releasing a coloured smoke, indicating the gender of the baby.
Main image: The Woolsey Fire, California, 2018. Photo courtesy of Peter Buschmann
Travel in the COVID-Zone
Travel, Explore, Defer?
For most of the northern hemisphere, this time of year marks the start of a new academic year, and for many students this means upping sticks and moving to a new house, city and sometimes even country!
As with many other things over the past few months, the coronavirus has now put pay to this year’s foreign cohorts. A report conducted by Ernst & Young estimates that only about 330,000 foreigners are studying in Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand this year, down from 1.09 million in 2019.
However, they also predict that 2021 will see up to 1.85 million people starting degrees in foreign countries, as those who deferred this year resume their studies.
In the UK, Cambridge University has said it will be only conducting online teaching for the duration of the new acadmeic year, deferring the arrival of over 20,000 students to the city, which usually make up around a sixth of the entire city’s population!
Meanwhile, Harvard’s 2020 freshmen have arrived on campus in a socially distanced manner, with most student expressing relief at having made it, and a little disappointment at the lack of buzz about the Yard. In past weeks, the New York Times has tracked thousands of cases that were linked to students returning to campuses across the nation.
Hope and Fear: How Pandemics Changed the World
Our latest documentary explores the impact on our planet of viral diseases across the ages.
COVID-19, which struck with such devastating impact in the early months of 2020, is just the latest in a long line of pandemics that have devastated, and in some cases, destroyed societies throughout time.
Like all pandemics, COVID-19 was sparked by human interaction with the animal world.
“Hope and Fear: How Pandemics Changed the World” looks at the circumstances that have caused these diseases – whether it be hygiene, poverty, overcrowding, urbanisation or the growth of cities – and how travel has impacted on their rapid transmission resulting in pandemics.
Other Coronavirus News & Statistics
The University of Georgia has advised its students to wear face masks during sex. In a COVID pamphlet, it said: “Consider wearing a face mask during sex. Heavy breathing and panting can further spread the virus, and wearing a mask can reduce the risk.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading by example and has been spotted exercising in a bid to shed his excess pounds after asking the nation to do the same. In 2018, 63% of adults in the UK were overweight or obese, and 20.2% of children aged 11 were obese. It is understood that being overweight puts you at risk of becoming seriously ill with the COVID-19 virus, along with multiple other health complications.
Main image: Cambridge University, Mark Fosh, Flickr Creative Commons
Travel in the COVID-Zone
25 August, 2020
First documented coronavirus reinfection reported in Hong Kong
A man in his 30’s is reported to have become reinfected with coronavirus more than 4 months after his first diagnosis.
Hong Kong scientists say that the two strains of the virus are “clearly different”, making it the world’s first proven case of reinfection
The World Health Organization warns it is important not to jump to conclusions based on the case of one patient, and experts say reinfections may be rare and not necessarily serious. It is fully expected that the virus will mutate over time.
Usain Bolt tested positive for COVID-19 following his birthday celebrations.
Usain Bolt, world sprinting superstar, has tested positive for COVID-19 just days following his “big, mask-free” birthday party.
The Jamaican 100m and 200m sprint world record holder is said to be isolating at his home in Jamaica, and has so far not displayed any symptoms of the illness.
Main image: Hong Kong, November 2011, MojoBaron, Flickr Creative Commons
Travel in the COVID-Zone
August 5, 2020
Come Fly With Me
Virgin has unveilled designs for a new supersonic plane capable of travelling three-times faster than the speed of sound. A flight leaving London could reach Sydney in just 5 hours, though the jet would remain very exclusive, carrying only a handful of passengers, and is obviously not on 2020’s list of priorities. Back in the real world, uncertainty in the industry is causing Virgin huge financial worries, leading them to file for chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the US this week, in the fear that cash reserves will dry up if a rescue deal isn’t struck on August 25th.
While demand for long haul flights looks very uncertain, short trips around Europe appear to be on the uptick, with budget airline Easy Jet laying on more flights to meet demand for holidays. This comes in spite of the extremely volatile and quick-changing travel guidance issued by governments. All this swivel-hips, flip-flop, u-turn madness has taken its toll on citizens, leading people to make their own decisions and take the risks into their own hands!
Departures and arrivals are still pretty much nonexistent in Australia, even for travel within its own shores, as lockdowns continue to intensify. In fact, our award for world’s strangest lockdown this week goes to Aussie state of Queensland which has banned People from travelling to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) where there are no cases
According to Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s first cruise sailing of 2020 departed Juneau on Saturday, carrying 30 crew and 37 passengers, for a weeklong voyage in Southeast Alaska. The cruise operators are planning a handful of additional voyages for the remained of 2020.
Tag; you’re it!
Singapore has introduced a tagging system to help assist in enforcing quarantine, whereby foreign visitors must wear a tagging device to ensure that they do not break the rules. Current rules dictate that only business and official travel is permitted to the country, subject to testing. It is reported that 2,200 vistors entered Singapore in June, down from 1.6 million the same month last year.
Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics
According to a report by the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 has provided the perfect opportunity for Suriname to identify its health industry’s shortcomings, and to put a plan in place to address them.
The International Finance Corporation’s (World Bank Group) new $4 billion financing platform will help increase the supply to developing countries of health supplies needed to fight the pandemic.
After months gone by with no coronavirus deaths, Vietnam have reported a fresh outbreak of COVID-19.
Main image: Melbourne Airport Flight Information… Non-existent! Pilot Productions
Travel in the COVID-Zone
July 21, 2020
First phase of human clinical trials shows Oxford Vaccine induces immune response
In the race to create a vaccine for COVID-19, Oxford Univesiry and AstraZeneca have this week announced that the human clinical trials show great promise.
When administered to patients in a controlled environment, the vaccine caused minor side effects in some cases which were reduced by taking paracetamol.
The team’s vaccine shows such promise that the UK government has done a deal to secure 100 million doses of the drug once it is ready.
Whilst the trials hold promise, it is still widely debated as to how far a vaccine could manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Pollard, the Oxford professor leading the research “We need more research before we can confirm the vaccine effectively protects against SARS-CoV-2 infection, and for how long any protection lasts.”
AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of the leading candidates among several others around the world, including an injection being developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech, another from state-owned Chinese firm Sinopharm and one from US biotech firm Moderna.
It is thought that an effective vaccine would see an end to lockdowns and travel restrictions across the globe.
Wearing a mask is a display of patriotism, according to Trump
Italy to receive €210 billion stimulus package to help with post coronavirus economic recovery
The European Union have this week unveiled a €750bn stimulus package to help get the hardest hit corners of Europe back on their feet again in a post-coronavirus world. 28% of the funds, which are made up of both grants and a repayable loan, will be shared with Italy, whose economy had been expected to shrink up to 11% this year.
South Sea Bubble Border Security… over the top?
Australia and New Zealand have recorded an extremely low number of COVID-19 cases in the pandemic — in part because they are very isolated islands and in part because they closed their borders early on and they have remained tightly shut.
Now in Australia these borders are being erected internally as cases spike in states like Victoria. Communities have been confined within tower blocks, suburbs and cities, and state borders have been sealed. Those who ignore these draconian rules heavily are fined and threatened with prison.
Australia’s Border security forces have always been tough and need no encouragement to do their job. Check out a recent report here.
Look out for our forthcoming documentary on the history of pandemics, Hope and Fear: How Pandemics Changed the World.
Borders are certainly not new in history. Check out our Globe Guides – Borderlines show about the barriers that separate the world.
Latest Coronavirus News & Statistics
Brazilian COVID-19 deaths top 80,000. President Bolsanaro has voiced concerns surrounding lockdown restrictions and how they are killing the economy. Bolsanaro, having tested positive for the virus himself, has criticised the states and municipalities who are locking down, saying that “Without salaries and jobs, people die,”.
India’s biggest airline, IndiGo, has announced job cuts for up to 10% of its workforce as planes largely continue to remain grounded.
USA coronavirus cases are rapidly approaching 4 million.
Main image: Injection needle with Vaccination text, Marco Verch, Flickr Creative Commons
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.
Main image: Discover Supercomputer 3, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr Creative Commons
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.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden has declared that there have been no new coronavirus cases in New Zealand for 17 days and has subsequently embarked on lifting restrictions previously placed on the country. In interviews with press, Ms Arden said that she ‘did a little dance’ with her daughter in joy and in relief that the virus appears to have been defeated.
The country will remove all coronavirus-related curbs on shops, restaurants and offices and physical distancing will no longer be mandatory, although it will remain encouraged.
Other COVID-Free nations include Australia & Fiji.
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.
Main image: Container ship leaving bay area, Derell Licht, Flickr Creative Commons
By Sofi Summers
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!
John Krasinski of The Office has launched aYouTube 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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
Make 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!
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.
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!
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.
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