Despite how scary the world is right now, there is always a reason to smile. Life goes on — people still laugh, love, care, work, learn and help one another. It’s just that the dread and anxiety sometimes clouds our judgement and makes us forget about everything else. While you were busy reading about the climbing number of COVID-19 cases in your country, you probably missed out on the stories of everyday human progress and development.
Here are 18 stories from the last month that prove that the world isn’t all dark and gloomy.
New York man sends number to woman using drone, succeeds in getting a date
While social distancing and quarantine measures have wreaked havoc on the love lives of many, this New Yorker proves that it’s still possible to shoot your shot and succeed. In early March, Jeremy Cohen, a freelance photographer, flew a drone with his phone number from his balcony to a dancing ‘cutie’ on a neighboring rooftop.
Tori Cignarella (aforementioned “cutie”) said that she was just enjoying a Saturday on her rooftop when the drone landed. “There were people in the direction I was facing and I just started dancing. I like making people laugh if I can, and I like making myself laugh, too,” she said in an interview to TIME magazine.
After going on a virtual date, with the two sitting at separate tables on their respective rooftops, Cohen turned up at Cignarella’s front door in a giant inflatable hamster ball. “I needed to see her, but I also wanted her to respect the fact that we should be social distancing,” Jeremy says in the now viral clip uploaded to his Instagram account.
Love finds a way.
In Singapore, thousands are contributing to migrant worker causes
Singaporeans are now coming together to help migrant workers.
Although NGOs and non-profits have been advocating for better migrant workers’ rights in Singapore, individuals are now coming forward to contribute their part. Ways to help migrant workers are now compiled in a nifty document that is updated frequently.
Initiatives such as It’s Raining Raincoats and Project Chulia Streets have been supporting migrant workers for years. Newer projects are being launched in-light of COVID-19. Recently, MAD WISH was launched, calling for volunteers to teach English to migrant workers. Project Belanja is another project that works with Blossom World Society and Restaurant Association of Singapore to provide catered food to workers.
Donations can also be made to Healthserve, HOME and TWC2, which are some of the largest NGOs providing services to migrant workers. A fund-raiser that recently went viral was started by Preetipls and UTOPIA. Their campaign to garner donations for Healthserve and TWC2 managed to garner almost 3 times their initial target of $100000.
Despite the alarming situation in migrant worker dormitories, every small contribution will hopefully help alleviate their struggles.
Taiwan government officials wear ‘girly’ coloured masks
During a Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) press conference in Taiwan, a reporter pointed out that young boys were not wearing government rationed pink masks due peer pressure. These boys were putting themselves at risk because the masks were “girly” and not masculine enough.
In response to the reporter’s question, every male official present at the briefing put on a pink mask. The CECC’s head, Chen Shih-chung, went on to say that “It’s fine for a man to wear pink!” and that his favourite childhood cartoon was “The Pink Panther.” Affirming messages like these not only play a role in upkeeping public health, they also root out toxic masculinity from a young age.
“Everyone can wear any color of mask. Pink is actually a good color!” he concluded.
104-year-old World War II veteran defeats coronavirus in time for birthday celebration
For many millennials, this pandemic might constitute the roughest period of their lives. Beyond the social isolation and the health scares, there are far reaching economic consequences that threaten to change the way the world works.
Having fought in World War II and having lived through the Spanish Flu of 1918, 104-year-old Bill Lapschies wasn’t really fazed by the fact that he had contracted the Coronavirus. “I don’t know. It just went away. Sit out here, and you can get rid of anything,” he said in an interview to Oregon Public Broadcasting. Considering that mortality rates have been significantly higher for the eldery, Bill’s doctor estimated that he had a 30% chance of survival. “This could have easily gone another way. There’s not a lot of interventions that can be done,” the doctor continued.
Remarkably, Bill was discharged just in time to celebrate his 104th birthday on March 25. Overall, he spent less than a month in the hospital for the virus and never got any severe respiratory issues.
Iron man, indeed.
Science and Nature
Solar has record-breaking week in Germany, provides 23% of generation
In April, the use of solar energy to generate electricity hit a record high in Germany. Solar generation accounted for 23% of the country’s total electricity generation. This contributed to increased use in renewable energy sources, which amounted to 55.4% of the country’s electricity generation.
Renewable energy is also on the rise in other parts of the world. Despite also being affected by COVID-19, the industry is predicted to have long-term growth. In 2019, Asia was the largest contributor to the increase of renewables in creating new energy, providing for 54% of the growth.
Some experts are worried that COVID-19 may lead to certain countries in the region to continue using oil for its industries. As governments are focusing on dealing with the virus, greener forms of energies may be cast aside in favour of cheaper oil. Nonetheless, others are optimistic that the transition to renewable energy may actually be encouraged, especially for countries that are able to more successfully deal with COVID-19.
Scientists Develop Potentially Vital Nasal Vaccine for Treating Alzheimer’s
Scientists are hopeful for new dementia treatments. A new nasal Alzheimer’s vaccine reduced changes and abnormal behaviour in the brain normally associated with the disease. Current tests on mice brought about positive results – the vaccine managed to build antibodies that removed tau proteins, the cause for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Although more research is needed for use in humans, it is still an accomplishment that may contribute to future treatments of such diseases.
First Koalas released back into the wild after the Australian bushfires
In the recent devastating bushfires in Australia, many koalas had to be rescued from their habitats. They are now slowly being released back into the wild. 12 koalas were already released in the Blue Mountains. Soon, more will return to their original habitats in other parts of New South Wales, Crowdy Bay, and Lake Innes Nature Reserve.
39 tigers from Netflix series ‘Tiger King’ are now living in a Colorado animal sanctuary
Tigers and bears that were in the Tiger King’s zoo are now living in The Wild Animal Sanctuary located in Oklahoma. These animals previously suffered from living in small enclosures, exploitation, and indiscriminate breeding. The sanctuary is now doing its best to ensure these animals have more space and freedom.
When the animals first arrived, they suffered from multiple maladies such as dietary and dental issues. Some of them were also mentally traumatised from their experience in Joe Exotic’s zoo. The sanctuary ensured that all their needs were met, feeding them vitamins and proper nutrition.
With the raised awareness on exotic animal exploitation, staff at the sanctuary hope that the Netflix series will inspire people to protect these animals. Beyond the dramatic characters featured in the documentary, more focus should be given to the animals to ensure that others don’t suffer the same fate.
Positive COVID-19 Developments
Over 500,000 COVID-19 patients have recovered
While COVID-19 graphs and statistics are usually anxiety inducing, this specific number is encouraging. Across the world, the number of patients recovering from the virus is increasing at an exponential rate. As of 16 April, 516,659 confirmed Covid-19 patients have recovered from the illness. In other words, out of the 651,902 patients with outcomes (death or recovery) almost 80% have beat the virus.
Partially, it’s because countries have started to effectively mobilise resources — rates of testing, availability of ventilators and protective equipment are all going up. It’s also because most patients have only mild symptoms and are able to recover at home without medical care. This number should continue to go up as we gain more knowledge about the virus and its mechanics. The hope is that with vaccines and experimental treatments, there will come a day when COVID-19 deaths are a thing of the past.
The coronavirus isn’t mutating quickly, suggesting a vaccine would offer lasting protection
Speaking of vaccines, studies published in March about the virus and its various strands have been extremely encouraging to scientists. Out of the more than 1,000 different samples of the virus being studied, scientists have discovered that there are less than 10 genetic differences. This is a relatively low number considering the large number of people who have been infected. In other words, it suggests that the virus isn’t mutating constantly and that the strands are rather similar.
This is good news as it means that the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV 2 would be a single one, instead of annual ones like the one for the flu. It also means that the virus is less likely to become more or less dangerous as it spreads.
Singapore’s contributions to the fight
NUS researchers are also leading the fight against COVID-19. Different teams are currently working on either diagnostics, therapeutics, or public health initiatives. The Agency for Science, Technology and Research, (A*STAR) alongside other biotech firms such as Veredus Laboratories, are working tirelessly to create new test kits that produce quick and accurate results. The development of such technology has allowed Singapore to send some medical supplies to other countries in their efforts to contain the virus.
Countries are doing ‘whatever it takes’ to ride out the economic aftermath of COVID-19
COVID-19 is not only an unprecedented public health crisis, it is also an economic one. Stringent lockdowns and social isolation measures around the world has meant that people aren’t able to work, study or play.
This massive fall in the demand will mean that many firms will lay off workers or downsize. To help cushion what might be a bigger recession than the Great Depression, countries around the world are unleashing monetary stimulus and other support packages on a massive scale. On 26 March, the G20 announced that it would collectively inject more than $5 trillion into the global economy and “do whatever it takes” to tackle the pandemic. To put things into perspective, this preliminary sum alone would constitute more than 6% of global gross domestic product. It is hoped that these packages would lead to less retrenchments and a more stable world economy.
Countries are acting more proactively than in the past.
Singapore pledges almost S$60 billion in stimulus packages
Being an economy that is dependent on world trade, Singapore has unveiled what some analysts are calling a “bazooka” package. Pledging almost S$60 billion, the government is prepared to spend almost 12% of Singapore’s gross domestic product in fiscal stimulus. This number is substantially higher than that of most countries.
The size of the stimulus package is also unprecedented in Singapore’s history. A S$20.5 billion Resilience Package was rolled out during the global financial crisis of 2008, while other packages have ranged from S$230 million to S$11.3 billion.
Direct cash handouts to individuals, subsidies and tax breaks to businesses, and an easing in monetary policy all aim to protect the livelihoods of struggling Singaporeans. “The primary aim of this (budget) is to take further steps to save jobs and protect the livelihoods of our people during this temporary period of heightened measures,” DPM Heng Swee Keat said.
Here’s hoping that it is enough.
You can now access 1.4 million books for free thanks to the Internet Archive
If you plan to read more over the circuit breaker period, the Internet Archive is creating a National Emergency Library for any of your scholarly needs. Students or academics worldwide in need of sources will be able to access the Library until 30 June. As waitlists are cancelled, gaining access to these books have never been easier.
Razer to donate 1 million masks
Global efforts in fighting COVID-19 have inspired corporations to do their part.
Razer, a popular gaming hardware manufacturer, is converting some of its manufacturing lines to produce surgical masks.
As its Southeast Asia Headquarters is in Singapore, CEO Min-Liang Tan is first reaching out to its health authorities before donating the masks to other countries around the world.
Both Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation are also sourcing, and donating materials required to fight COVID-19 in Japan, Korea, Italy, Iran and Spain. 500000 testing kits and 1 million masks will also be sent to the United States.
Louis Vuitton decides to make sanitisers instead of perfumes
Owner of luxury brand Louis Vuitton plans to use perfume production lines to produce hand sanitiser. With the nationwide shortage of antiviral products in France, Louis Vuitton hopes to contribute by delivering this hand sanitiser for free to health authorities.
Apple, Lego and Others design and ship face shields
Lego, the company behind a toy that is well-loved by all ages, is contributing to the fight against the coronavirus. Its factory in Denmark is now producing face visors for healthcare frontliners.
In just one day, the factory is able to produce more than 13000 visors. The idea came about when an engineering department head heard that frontliners needed more equipment, and he soon approached the rest of his team to come up with ideas. Close to 100 employees then worked together to come up with the designs and moulds for manufacturing.
Apple also unveiled its own design for face shields. Consisting of a face shield, forehead strap and silicone strap, it can be easily assembled in less than two minutes. The company has already delivered to a medical facility in California and plans to manufacture more than 1 million pieces per week in the US and China.
Other companies, such as Foster + Partners, and researchers from University of Cambridge, University of Queensland, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology are manufacturing their own designs as well.
Singaporeans band together to help small businesses
If you’re worried about not being able to support your favourite small businesses, fret not. You can now use ChopeAndSave to buy gift cards and support your favourite restaurants. Developed by a small group of Singaporeans based on a pre-existing app, this ensures that people are still able to support local businesses from their homes. A community-made directory of hawkers operating during the circuit breaker is also available here.
There is always hope to be found somewhere.
You just need to actively look for it.
Art by Angelia Gan.
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