Healthcare providers in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States among others have ramped up efforts to vaccinate vulnerable people against the Coronavirus since a number of vaccines, each from different pharmaceutical companies and research teams, have been approved for use.
Meanwhile, the so-called COVAX initiative has set out to help provide poorer nations with a share of the global supply.
Run, Forrest! Run!
More Coronavirus News & Statistics
Europe tightens COVID restrictions ahead of Christmas. Germany will return to a national lockdown until January 10th, but with the restrictions relaxed slightly from 24 to 26 December, allowing a limited amount of festive household mixing.
Main image: B-18007 China Airlines with special Boeing livery Boeing 777-309(ER) coming in from Taipei (TPE) @ Frankfurt (FRA) / 01.06.2018, Oliver Holzbauer, Flickr Creative Commons
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
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
Phobic Traveller: Challenges and Innovation in the Travel Industry
May 20, 2020
The 21st century has once again ushered a new age in travel.
First, the World Wide Web made the creation of travel websites sites so easy that phobic travellers had their own runway to competitive choice. This became an oasis of inexpensive air fares, that would fly you anywhere, anytime. Soon it became an electronic, paperless realm, with an app on your smartphone. You were checked in, and you just had to get to the airport complete security, and take that flight.
Then, along came 9/11 and with it heightened security, which at the time was very intense but after 20 years the world has adjusted.
Now we have COVID-19. It’s created a new challenge that could last another 20 years. Thus begins a new chapter in the history of travel, to the dismay of phobic travellers everywhere.
Travel agents will now include special assistance as a new feature in their post COVID roles, especially for their corporate travellers. There will be a duty of care with in-depth guidance and check lists galore. This will make the reservation process lengthier.
The demand for travel will not be great initially. As confidence creeps back, air fares will be reshaped, and rise. The phobic traveller will now be worrying that travel will no longer be as affordable.
Airlines will use strategy when choosing their aircraft, and retire older models. They will replace them with a more modern and cost effect fleet. This will help them revitalise and kick start their new financial model.
It will be a tough struggle, but the tide will turn slowly.
The phobic traveller will be twitching and panicking, as the old way of travel becomes a distant memory.
A new era of post-COVID travel may see Airports ask travellers for immunity passports. Security checks will take place with much sanitation.
‘Manage My Booking’ tools may be rebranded to supply post-COVID, pre-flight additional guidance. We are certain that we will see the creation of travel assist COVID-apps which you can download on your smart phone, reducing the stress and worry in the new age of travel.
This will be great support for phobic travellers everywhere.
All airlines already introduced checked and unchecked bag fare types, and post-COVID travel may see a limitation on cabin bags.
Airfares will restructured for a host of reasons. Will we return to an age when only the rich could afford to travel extensively?
The UK Foreign Office currently advises against all non-essential travel. You can check border controls for all countries on the link below.
The UK Government has announced from next month arrivals in the UK will face a 14-day quarantine this will include returning British holiday makers, with a possible air bridge to exclude Australia and Greece where COVID has been low. This could be very traumatic for the phobic traveller.
Right now it is twilight zone – reality hasn’t quite sunk in. We we are in speculation mode.Are you ready to take to a runway and travel again soon?
Stay tuned to more editions of Travel in the Covid Zone.
Main image: Departures Terminal 5, London Heathrow Airport, Andrew Milligan Sumo, Flickr Creative Commons
Phobic Traveller: The What, When & How of COVID-19 Travel
May 6, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic and it’s temporary freeze on travel is proving to be an enormous worry for the world’s Phobic Travellers.
Never in the history of travel in the 20th and 21st centuries have we seen such a major decline in travel – thousands of aircraft parked without a destination to fly to. Not even during The Gulf War or 9/11 was there such a dip. It is fair to say that right now we have a frozen industry.
For many who have booked their summer vacations, and hope for a refund, there will be further disappointment, as cash strapped airlines and travel companies cling on to their cash reserves which are paramount to their very survival. Many will only refund by giving their customers vouchers for future travel.
The Phobic Travellers among us will experience very dark days, weeks and even possibly months ahead. The are many recurring questions: What if I don’t get my refund, or a voucher?; What if my voucher expires before I can travel again?; When will it be safe to travel?
The truth is none of us know when travel will take off again. It may not be until the end of this year. For the Phobic Traveller, everything right now is a weight of worry. Will people regain their confidence to travel again?
When movement is unlocked, the desire to see the world will hopefully overcome anxieties. But for the moment we can only escape from lockdown by dreaming of sandy beaches and sunny days ahead.
In one rather dystopian fell swoop, air fares will increase, security and health checks will morph into a 4 hour process and will become the new norm. Masks will be mandatory when flying and meals may no longer be offered.
On the upside, the rejection and subsequent reduction in this kind of travel could be great news for the environment. How many aircraft have you seen in a clean and clear sky recently? Greta Thunberg has recently called for a “new way forward” upon the end of the pandemic — is this what she has in mind?
Future forward decisions aside, budget airline Wizz Air has just started its operations again and we are certain many others will follow.
For airlines, it will be the survival of the strongest. Of the carriers who make it out the other side, how many will introspectively assess the vulnerabilities of their businesses? Global economic disasters always expose fragility, especially in cash-flow and supply chains.
However, for survivors, there will be ample opportunities for airlines to entice twitchy customers with imaginative deals to encourage them to book and fly away to to far away lands. To say the world deserves a holiday is a huge understatement!
But for the Phobic Traveller the questions will multiply. Reassurance will be the key to close the door on nervous and worrying thoughts.
Stay tuned for more encouraging updates on the re-emergence of travel as we once knew.
While some lockdown restrictions have been slightly relaxed in parts of the country this week, German authorities have banned all large events until at least August 31 in a bid to avoid a second wave of infections towards the end of the summer. Due to the nature of the event – festival goers are seated in very close proximity and the consumption of alcohol is thought to cause diminished regard for social distancing — the organisers had already indicated that the event might not go ahead.
Bavarian officials, have expressed regret that the businesses who take part in the festivities will lose out financially. It is reported that last year’s revenue amounted to around 1 billion euros.
The Oktoberfest started in 1810 on 12 October, as a celebration of the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, and was due to take place from 19 September to 4 October this year.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Home Sercretary Michael Gove has warned that the hospitality industry, most notably pubs and bars, will be of the last to see restrictions lifted levaing some businesses attempting to prepare for closures lasting until Christmas.
In the USA, of the states where lockdown rules are being relaxed, bars, nightclubs and restaurants will also be among the last businesses to see restrictions lifted.
Main image: Munich, Germany. Oktoberfest, Polybert49, Flickr Creative Commons
Wine Sales Are Booming
Following the closure of many on-trade bars, pubs and restaurants across the world, shops which sell wine and other alcoholic beverages are seeing a dramatic uplift in sales as consumers seek to enjoy a drink at home.
One alcohol delivery service, Drizly, based in Boston MA, have stated that earlier this month the announcement of a lock-down led to the biggest day of sales on record, outstripping otherwise busy periods such as New Years Eve and Halloween.
Meanwhile in the United Kingdom, the government specifically added provision for shops selling alcohol to stay open within the coronavirus lock-down rules.
Kent based winemaker and drinks company Chapel Down have seen sales in supermarkets and off licences grow substantially and direct online sales multiply dramatically as their customers seek to continue to enjoy their brands at home. Chapel Down report that on the current sales trajectory, their sales to consumers enjoying the drinks at home could more than make up for their loss of trade to licenced venues.
However, some nations have taken their lock-down further, effectively introducing a period of prohibition. South Africa, although continuing to harvest and produce wine, have introduced a ban on the purchase of both alcohol and tobacco in a bid to curtail incidence of domestic violence and to improve personal hygiene, adherence to social distancing measures and to mass-protect the nation’s immune systems.
The department of Aisne in northern France began with a similar approach but faced huge backlash from residents, forcing them to lift the ban and allow the purchase and consumption of alcohol.
Current trends suggest that widespread abstinence is unlikely. The wine market has been described in the past as recession-resistant — people like to enjoy a glass as much in good times as they do in bad times.
With many large-scale businesses rapidly adapting to this shift in demand, we hope that smaller, artisan and local producers do not neglect this opportunity to shield their businesses from the impacts of the virus. After all, when this is over, we are all going to need a drink to celebrate!
Main image: Malbec Wines from Mendoza’s Vineyards, Pilot Productions
By Sofi Summers
Consumer Brands Save the Day Amid Hand Sanitiser Shortages
As stocks of hand sanitiser gel begin to run dangerously low across the world amid the COVID-19 outbreak and spread, many alcohol producing companies and companies with denatured-alcohol licences and supplies of alcohol have pivoted their businesses to try to help close the gap – especially for health professionals and those most at risk. This mixture of small and large businesses show us all how lending a helping hand can make a huge difference.
BrewDog is a beer and spirits manufacturer based in Ellon in Scotland, and have switched their production lines to produce alcohol hand-gel totally free of charge to ‘those who need it’ across local charities and the community. The first batch of hand sanitiser was delivered to Aberdeen hospital to help the hard working staff stay safe.
Punk Sanitiser by BrewDog
Psychopomp is an artisan gin distillery based in Bristol, England, who have also begun to produce hand sanitiser gel to distribute among the community free-of-charge, but in exchange for a charitable donation to the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.
Warner’s Distillery in Northamptonshire usually prides themselves on saving the world from mediocre gin, but in light of the sanitiser shortages they have turned their production efforts to saving the world a little more generally.
Edinburgh based Leith Spirits have received much deserved praise in the press for their efforts. Having begun production of hand gel rather as opposed to their usual selection of gin, the company issued a plea on social media for plastic bottles to package the hand gel in order to keep production moving.
Jameson Distillery, Sean O’Neill, Flickr Creative Commons
Pernot Ricard, producers of drinks brands including Absolut Vodka and Jameson Irish Whiskey have put their Arkansas factory to good use by producing hand sanitiser instead of booze as the company reports a 20% hit to their operating profit due to the coronavirus. The French company hope to utilise some of their other USA factories to further increase their supply to help combat the empty shelves and dwindling hospital stores of hand sanitiser.
Diageo, the makers of Smirnoff Vodka and Johnnie Walker Whiskies have pledged to produce enough denatured alcohol to make 8 million bottles of sanitiser, to be distributed among the front line staff treating coronavirus patients in the UK, Ireland, Italy, USA, Brazil, Kenya, India and Australia.
Luxury fashion, cosmetics, fragrance and drinks conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) have turned their fragrance laboratories into hand-gel powerhouses, providing free-of-charge supplies of the sanitisers to overstretched hospitals. It has also been reported that the company has ordered 40 million face masks to distribute among the French health services, with the first 10 million masks paid for out of LVMH coffers, amounting to 5.4 million Euros. Bravo!
Our neighbours, West London based organic skincare brand Pai have launched their new ‘Acton Spirit’ Hand Sanitizer, named as such as the team believed that it summed up the amazing resilience and community spirit we have all seen here in West London. Pai sent out the initial batch to key-workers and is working on a second batch to make available for the public to purchase. For every tube purchased, Pai have pledged to provide key-workers and health professionals with one, too.
Pai’s “Acton Spirit” hand sanitiser in makeshift packaging
BeYou is a bit of an anomaly among this list, for its products mostly seek to provide women relief from period pain. BeYou impressively shifted their production to help beat the shortage of hand sanitisers within a week, and have been giving them away free with orders.
London-based luxury fragrance company Ormonde Jayne initially began manufacturing small amounts of hand gel to ensure the safety and hygiene of all of its staff members, and now they have begun distributing it among customers who purchase any of their delightful fragrances in-store or online.
Main image: The Old Jameson Distillery, Neil Turner, Flickr Creative Commons
By Sofi Summers
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
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.
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).