Roof gardens on taxis in Thailand

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down tourism in Thailand, thousands of taxis were abandoned by their drivers. No tourists equals no taxis. Drivers lost their income and couldn't afford to pay the rental fees for their cars. Companies struggled to stay afloat. The Ratchapruk and Bovorn Taxi co-ops together ended up with 2500 (out of 3000) cars sitting idle in parking lots. The Thai government offered no financial support.

Faced with this situation, the Ratchapruk and Bovorn Taxi co-ops decided to join forces to create rooftop gardens on the idle taxis. They built bamboo frames and stretched black plastic bags over them. The frames were then filled with soil. Co-op staff have grown a variety of crops in these small gardens, including tomatoes, cucumbers and string beans. 

Visuals: Vaccination inequality

Our world is unequal. The distribution of the vaccines shows that. Rich countries have more doses than they need, while poor countries can’t buy enough. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says that this situation is slowing global economic recovery. Economists predict that low-income countries will lose at least $38 billion of their GDP in 2021 because of low vaccination rates. 

Low vaccination rates also put a lot of pressure on the healthcare systems of poor countries. Hospitals can’t treat other illnesses because of Covid.

The Director-General of the World Health Organization said that “Vaccine inequity is the world's biggest obstacle to ending this pandemic and recovering from COVID-19”.

Please have a look at the chart below and discuss it with your teacher.

Visuals: The death of cinema?

Did you watch the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony this year? Chances are you didn’t, and you weren’t alone. The 2021 edition was the least viewed and lowest rated in the award show’s history, according to Nielsen Ratings. Take a look at this graph from CNBC below: 

The 2021 ceremony saw a staggering 56% drop off in viewership from the previous year, which was itself already one of the least viewed shows in Oscar history. Now of course, these are just award shows. What about Box Office numbers? IMDB reports that the global cinema gross in 2020 was $2.1 billion, a loss of over $9 billion from 2019.  

Dogs sniff out Covid-19

Dogs have already been trained to smell drugs, cancer, and even blood sugar changes in people with diabetes. Now they're learning how to smell Covid-19. In trials, dogs detected the virus over 95% of the time, more accurately than rapid blood or swab tests. The dogs have even been able to detect Covid in people who aren't showing symptoms yet, which taking temperatures can't do.

Several countries around the world are working to develop these skills in dogs. To train them, sweat from people with Covid is collected and put on cottonballs. After they've learned to identify the scent, they then have to choose the cottonball with the sweat on it from lots of untreated cottonballs.

Visuals: Kids and vaccines

Vaccines can be a controversial issue in some cultures. For instance, according to the Washington Post, in the United States, 9 per cent of adults oppose vaccinating children against measles. Also, many people believe that the coronavirus vaccines are not safe.

Countries have different policies regarding whether it should be mandatory to vaccinate children. Have a look at the map below and discuss what you see with your teacher.

Visuals: COVID-19 vaccination rates

Vaccination against the COVID-19 virus started in December 2020. It has progressed at an unequal rate around the world. As of late April 2021, only a few million people had received a vaccination in the whole of the African continent, while over 200 million Americans had been vaccinated.

However, for some smaller countries, the situation can change very quickly.

Please take a look at the graph below and discuss what you see with your teacher. 

The Xupermask of the Black Eyed Peas has designed a high-tech face mask that looks like something out of a sci-fi movie. Called Xupermask, it has three dual-speed fans to keep you cool, and a design to keep you looking cool. The real money-grabbers are noise-canceling headphones, LED lights for nighttime, and Bluetooth capability. You can listen to music, take and make calls, and put on your own light show while wearing this thing. It doesn't come cheap, but at $299, it costs less than a set of Bose headphones, and a lot less than a mobile phone! And you can use the Xupermask for both, with a bonus face mask thrown in.

The look of the Xupermask was designed by Jose Fernandez. He created Elon Musk's spacesuits, and Marvel characters' costumes in the Avengers, Black Panther, and X-Men 2. So you know it's going to look out of this world.

Opera helps COVID-19 patients

The English National Opera (ENO) has teamed up with a London hospital to teach breathing techniques to people recovering from COVID-19. One of the common lingering effects of the virus is difficulty breathing. Proper breathing is essential for opera singers, so they're in a unique position to help patients recover. 

When in-house opera concerts were cancelled due to the pandemic, the ENO wanted to find other ways to use their skills to help others. They realized they are experts in breathing, so they created a 6-week program, called ENO Breathe, that uses therapeutic techniques reworked by singers. The techniques help restore lung capacity, as well as lessen anxiety through deep breathing exercises.

The mission of the century

CNN reports that according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), providing a single dose of a future coronavirus vaccine to all 7.8 billion people in the world will require the use of 8,000 Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, and that planning needs to begin now.

IATA's director general and CEO, Alexandre de Juniac, said in a public statement that "safely delivering Covid-19 vaccines will be the mission of the century for the global air cargo industry."

There are multiple vaccines being tested in human trials simultaneously around the world. Once a vaccine is approved for use, licensing and large-scale manufacturing will take place. However, without proper planning, these vaccines won't be able to fly the skies.

COVID vaccine: Phase 3's importance

Currently, 34 vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus are in various stages of clinical development, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, the process is long, typically many years. In the race for a vaccine, there is some debate on the merits of rushing through the process.

The vaccines process is long because there are 3 phases of trials. The first two trials focus on effectiveness—does the vaccine work or not. This is a relatively straightforward question and it can be proven in relatively small sample sizes. So, just a few hundred people are needed to test it. However, Phase 3 is used to prove the safety and efficacy of the vaccine—does it have significant side-effects, is it safe for people with compromised immune systems, and can everyone use it?

A mascot for the pandemic

Mascots, or yuru-kyara, are incredibly popular in Japan. There are yuru-kyara for everything, from sports teams to prefectures to a toilet disinfectant (seriously). Now they're offering the world a mascot for the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The yōkai (supernatural being) Amabié was first described in 1846, during a series of severe epidemics in Japan. It has three legs, a fish-like body, and the head of a bird with long, flowing hair. The original story goes that Amabié was spotted by an unnamed man on top of the ocean waves, glowing with a strange light. It gave its name to the man and prophesied a good harvest. Then Amabié said, "Should an epidemic come, draw me and show me to those who fall ill and they will be cured,” and disappeared into the water, supposedly never to be seen again.

Facial masks and deafness

Around 48 million people have some degree of hearing loss. Given the rise of wearing face masks in public, hearing-impaired people are struggling to understand those wearing ordinary masks as they muffle their voices. One way to solve this problem is to put on masks with clear windows.

When wearing such a mask, people can see your lips, which allows the deaf or hard-of-hearing to lipread and see facial expressions.

Alicia Austin teaches infants and children who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. Currently, Austin has many online lessons with her students, and she says that wearing a mask can make communication problematic. She says that children need to see facial expressions and recognition to learn, even if they do not have a hearing disability.

Surge in online grocery shopping

According to CNN, the outbreak of the coronavirus is pushing many Americans to buy their groceries online. With shoppers stuck in their homes, downloads of Walmart's grocery app and Shipt increased by 160%, and 124%, respectively, in early March compared with the same period last year. Instacart more than tripled, increasing by 218%!

While shopping for books and electronics online, and ordering dinner through delivery apps, have become the norm in American life, before the coronavirus outbreak most customers still preferred to purchase their meat and vegetables at the store. Last year, only 4% of grocery sales in the United States were made online.

According to a survey by analysts at Gordon Haskett Research Advisor, a third of consumers said that they had purchased groceries for online pickup or delivery in March, 2020. Around 41% said they were buying groceries online for the first time.

Consultancy will survive COVID-19

The novel coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted the consulting industry in ways that seem potentially ruinous. But do not lose hope. Yes, consultants are used to traveling a lot, and widespread travel restrictions make that impossible. And much of consultancy work is done face-to-face in internal and client meetings, which can’t be done when gatherings are prohibited. There is also the fear that businesses will suspend contracts in the economic downturn.

But we have an advantage this time that we haven't had in past catastrophes. We have the internet. We can have virtual meetings, share documents online and even give presentations with conference software that lets everyone be in the same “room” at the same time. So travel restrictions are less disruptive than in the past—people can do much of what’s needed almost as well from home.

COVID-19 overloads the internet

Many businesses are asking their employees to work from home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  Suddenly workers need to use telecommuting networks all day long. It’s putting a huge demand on internet services. 

Also, many schools have been closed. So children are home doing classwork online and watching videos or playing games. In Italy, internet usage went up by 90% in March when schools were closed. 

So home network providers are being tested in a way they never have before. Large providers say they can handle it, but no one knows when this situation will end. Hopefully the internet will keep working until then.

COVID-19: A global economic crisis

This simple equation is at the heart of the global economy: One person’s spending = another person’s income.

It’s referred to as “supply and demand”—producers will supply as much as consumers demand. So if consumers aren’t buying anything, producers won’t be able to sell anything. In other words, whenever you buy something, you pay someone else’s wages.

So the current COVID-19 pandemic is not just a global health crisis but also an economic one. When people are told to stay at home, they stop going to restaurants, bars, and movies. They can’t travel, so they don’t spend money on gas or airfare, and they don’t stay at hotels. And when no more than 10 people can be together in one place, everything from birthday parties to music festivals to major world sports events are canceled.

Netizens shame COVID-19 profiteers

The Japan Times published an opinion piece arguing that the issue of people hoarding surgical masks has served to show people’s true nature. It notes that the outbreak has resulted in the spread of fake news and racism, and some unscrupulous people have been reselling face masks and even toilet paper at highly inflated prices on sites such as Mercari.

The author says that social media has also become a tool for shaming those engaged in bad behavior in Japan. Sites such as Twitter have made it simpler to spread footage of morally dubious activity. For instance, users uncovered truly ridiculous posts, including one in which 35 packs of masks were being sold for ¥75,000 by someone who claimed to have risked their health getting them.