• Goodbye to the Crowded Office: How Coronavirus Will Change the Way We Work Together

    As lockdowns are relaxed around the world and people return to their workplaces, the next challenge will be adapting open office spaces to the new normal of strict personal hygiene and physical distancing. Rachel Morrison writes in The Conversation that while the merits and disadvantages of open plan and flexible workspaces have long been debated, the risk they posed of allowing dangerous, highly contagious viruses to spread was rarely (if ever) considered. But co-working spaces are characterized by shared areas and amenities with surfaces that need constant cleaning. Droplets from a single sneeze can travel over 7 meters, and surfaces within pods or booths, designed for privacy, could remain hazardous for days. Perhaps—if vigilant measures are in place—some countries can continue to embrace collaborative, flexible, activity-based workplace designs and the cost savings they represent. But this is unlikely to be the case in general in the coming years. Even if some organizations can operate with minimal risk there will be an expectation they provide virus-free workplaces should there be future outbreaks.

  • Pressured by China, EU Softens Report on Covid-19 Disinformation

    Bowing to heavy pressure from Beijing, European Union officials softened their criticism of China this week in a report documenting how governments push disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents, emails and interviews. European officials, worried about the repercussions, first delayed and then rewrote the document in ways that diluted the focus on China, a vital trading partner — taking a very different approach than the confrontational stance adopted by the Trump administration.

  • The Pandemic Is Liberating Firms to Experiment with Radical New Ideas

    The pandemic may be an unmitigated calamity, but in some quarters it is spurring innovation, as firms come up with new ways to keep making existing products despite disrupted supply chains, or, as demand collapses amid self-isolation, create new ones. Some are changing the very way they innovate.

  • Lockdown Only Made Corona Crisis Worse, Claim Experts

    Three Hebrew University professors claim that Israel and other countries could have controlled COVID-19 without resorting to lockdowns. Their data-based study argues that the “medieval” approach of quarantining the population for a prolonged period takes a catastrophic economic and social toll.

  • German start-up in global demand with anti-virus escalators

    Tanja Nickel and Katharina Obladen were still in high school when they patented an idea to disinfect escalator handrails using UV light. Michelle Fitzpatrick writes (AFP / Barron’s) that a decade later, their small German start-up UVIS can barely keep up with orders from around the world for their coronavirus-killing escalators and coatings for supermarket trolleys and elevator buttons. “Everybody wants it done yesterday,” Obladen, 28, told AFP at the company’s workshop in central Cologne. “The pandemic has made businesses realise they need to invest in hygiene precautions for staff and customers. It’s gone from nice-to-have to must-have.” As Germany begins to relax some lockdown restrictions, the start-up’s five-person team has been inundated with requests from shops, offices and cafes eager to reopen to a public newly aware of the health risks lurking in shared spaces.

  • Global Military Expenditure Reaching $1917 Billion in 2019

    Total global military expenditure rose to $1917 billion in 2019, according to new data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The total for 2019 represents an increase of 3.6 percent from 2018 and the largest annual growth in spending since 2010. The five largest spenders in 2019, which accounted for 62 percent of expenditure, were the United States, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia. This is the first time that two Asian states have featured among the top three military spenders.

  • EU Approves $580 Billion to Mitigate COVID-19 Consequences

    The European Union approved a $580 billion aid package to help mitigate the consequences of coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in member countries. VOA News reports that European Council President Charles Michel said Thursday the package was expected to be operational by 1 June. Michel said it would help pay lost wages, keep companies afloat and fund health care systems. At Thursday’s virtual summit, the EU leaders also agreed on a recovery fund, without giving a specific figure, intended to rebuild the 27-nation bloc’s economies. However, officials said $1.1 trillion to $1.6 trillion would be needed. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the impact of the economic crisis following the coronavirus outbreak is unprecedented in modern times.

  • As the Coronavirus Interrupts Global Supply Chains, People Have an Alternative – Make It at Home

    As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on global supply chains, a trend of moving manufacturing closer to customers could go so far as to put miniature manufacturing plants in people’s living rooms. Most products in Americans’ homes are labeled “Made in China,” but even those bearing the words “Made in USA” frequently have parts from China that are now often delayed. The coronavirus pandemic closed so many factories in China that NASA could observe the resultant drop in pollution from space, and some products are becoming harder to find. Joshua M. Pearce writes in The Conversation that at the same time, there are open-source, freely available digital designs for making millions of items with 3D printers, and their numbers are growing exponentially, as is an interest in open hardware design in academia. Some designs are already being shared for open-source medical hardware to help during the pandemic, like face shieldsmasks and ventilators. The free digital product designs go far beyond pandemic hardware. The cost of 3D printers has dropped low enough to be accessible to most Americans. People can download, customize and print a remarkable range of products at home, and they often end up costing less than it takes to purchase them.

  • Government tells U.K. Businesses: Time to Get Back to Work

    Businesses are being discreetly advised by ministers on how to get people back to work in the coming days and weeks amid growing concerns over the economic impact of the lockdown.  Harry Yorke, Gordon Rayner, and Hayley Dixon write in The Telegraph that the government believes there is plenty of room within the existing restrictions for more people to be working, and is now actively encouraging firms to reopen. British Steel, house builder Persimmon and McDonalds are among the latest in a growing number of firms announcing that they are reopening despite the lockdown. It came as the chief medical officer said there was now “scope for maneuver” to ease some restrictions in the near future because the transmission rate of the virus is now within a manageable range. Scientific advisers have told ministers that Britain should be in a position to start lifting the lockdown by mid-May, with a team of experts compiling a detailed report on the issue for Boris Johnson when he returns to work next week. Ministers are already making plans for garden centers, car dealerships and other retailers where social distancing can be maintained, to reopen during the first phase of a gradual exit from lockdown. New data shows that increasing numbers of people are venturing out to shops, parks and workplaces as the nation grows tired of staying at home.

  • Europeans Start Feeling a Way Out of Coronavirus Lockdowns

    European governments are rolling out plans outlining how they will start to cautiously unlock their countries and fire up their economies, but the lifting of lockdowns is being complicated by a string of studies suggesting that even in cities and regions hit hard by the coronavirus, only a small fraction of the population has contracted the infection. That presents governments with exactly the same dilemma they faced when the virus first appeared: Lock down and wreck the economy to save lives and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed with the sick, or, allow the virus to do its worst and watch health care systems buckle and the death toll mount. There had been hope that sizable numbers — many more than confirmed cases — had contracted the virus, protecting them with some immunity, even if temporary, from reinfection. That would help ease the complications of gradually lifting restrictions.

  • Ministers Can’t Keep Hiding Behind the Science

    It’s dishonest and cowardly to keep pretending that how and when the lockdown is lifted isn’t a political judgment call. Matthew Parris writes that the political leaders of the country – the U.K. in his case, but any country – must have the courage to share with the public the political — political, not medical — choices they must make, and take ownership “of the trade-offs that only politics can settle: trade-offs between deaths caused by one disease and deaths caused by others less immediately in the public eye; between the longevity of the elderly and the education of the young; between mortality in April 2020 and debt that will scar a whole generation; between loss of life and loss of livelihood.” Whichever side you come down on in this trade-off, Parris write. somebody’s got to say there’s a trade-off, and it isn’t ‘the’ science. “It is for the ministers who will make the judgment to be upfront with the public about the human cost. They can ‘follow’ the science, cite the science, be guided by the science, but in the end the science will lead them to a point where paths diverge.”

  • U.K.: Parliamentary Opposition to Huawei’s 5G Deal Growing Significantly

    Support in the British Parliament for allowing Huawei a role in Britain’s 5G network is collapsing. In January, the U.K. government granted Huawei approval to supply 5G technologies for parts of the U.K. network – with some restrictions, which critics of the deal say are meaningless. The government’s plan requires an act of Parliament to take legal effect, but the opposition to the deal among members of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party has been steadily growing, especially in light of China’s lack of transparency regarding the coronavirus epidemic. Observers now say that the hardening of opposition to the deal among rank-and-file Conservative MPs will make it difficult — if not impossible — to get the legislation passed.

  • One Simple Number Can Solve Boris's Grimly Complex Lockdown Dilemma

    When Boris Johnson returns to work, he will have to grapple with a difficult decision. The British economy is on the brink, and must be revived, but the PM cannot risk the dreaded second coronavirus peak. Leaders of countries must make tough decisions in difficult situations, and Allister Heath writes that Boris’s decision ranks below the Cuban missile crisis matrix, of course, but above Tony Blair’s Iraq War calculations or Margaret Thatcher’s Falklands choices. “The Prime Minister faces a series of horrible moral and practical dilemmas best understood through elementary mathematics. The key concept is the R0 (pronounced R-nought): If the R0 is under 1, every victim infects fewer than one other person each, so the virus remains contained; if it is above 1, they each pass the virus to more than one other, contaminating swathes of the population quickly.”

  • How to Build and Deploy Testing Systems at Unprecedented Scale

    Without a vaccine or therapeutic drugs, neither of which is guaranteed, countries thus face a future of bouncing in and out of lockdown every few months, with infection rates ebbing and flowing in response. “The result will be mounting death tolls, depressed economies and confidence-sapping uncertainty. This can, however, be partly ameliorated by extensive testing for the virus. Testing enables the government to keep tabs on the disease, reveals which social-distancing measures work, and, if those testing positive remain at home, instils confidence in the public that it is safe to go out,” the Economist argues.

  • Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 10 Years On: What Did Scientists Learn?

    Ten years ago, a powerful explosion destroyed an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others. Over a span of 87 days, the Deepwater Horizon well released an estimated 168 million gallons of oil and 45 million gallons of natural gas into the ocean, making it the largest accidental marine spill in history.