Welcome back to this week’s installment of the all-new What Just Happened?!, a semi-comical weekly digest of the most important news from the UK, US and the World from Will Marshall, and Alistair Simmonds-Yoo. Look out for us every weekend, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Catch a Breath of Fresh Air
A Forbes shit-poster (or whatever the word is) estimates the potential lives saved by months of reduced air pollution in China to be ~80,000. This sort of stands to reason when one remembers that ~7 million people die globally from air pollution according to the WHO. It’s possible that one of the largest public health impacts of this whole pseudo-apocalypse is going to be less people breathing dirty air.
Also for other ‘viral opportunities’ see the beautiful waters of Venice, the clean air of China (& Italy, as satellite images show) and the return of the skies to their usual state of not having monkeys flying in them…
Comprehensive Fail Outs
It would appear some of the firms fastest approaching bankruptcy have done their level best to maximise their financial fragility. Some airlines spent ~96% of available cash flows on stock buy-back programmes i.e. the company buys shares, adding demand for the companies shares, which causes the company’s stock in aggregate to increase.
There’s a strong argument that such financially irresponsible firms, especially if they come to be bailed out by the government, ought be prevented from recommitting such douchebaggery in the future.
The UK response takes somewhat of a U-turn following research from Imperial College demonstrating how ~250,000 people would die in the UK under the government’s strategy prior to Monday (March 16th) i.e. keep calm and do nothing…
Johnson’s course correction has been met with significant criticism for ambiguity – specifically, Johnson has urged the public to avoid non-essential travel, gatherings and things like going to the pub or movies. Although, initially stopping shy of actually compelling such businesses to close their doors seeded anxiety since this prevented them from claiming financial compensation.
The government has since stepped up big time, or at least says it’s going to do so, as they offer to help pay wages for those facing coronavirus induced job insecurity. Up to £2,500 per month (up to 80% of normal wages) will be covered on behalf of companies otherwise unable to keep their employees on staff. Universal Basic Income via the novel coronavirus, VBI if you will. Except it’s not universal (doesn’t apply to the self-employed), it isn’t basic (the lack of clarity coming to businesses from HMRC is frightening), but it is income at least, and will save many thousands of jobs.
The Writing isn’t on the Wall
In the midst of aviation chaos the world over, the UK’s Department of Transport is altering legislation. It’s hoping to make skywriting legal again after a break of six decades. Priorities hey… Experts in the industry think there may be a reason that nobody has been bothered at the lack of skywriting in the UK for 60 years: that is that it’s almost impossible to do effectively in UK because of our tendency to have wind. DfT think it will spark innovation, others think most companies are unlikely to pay thousands for a few letters in the sky that will blow away in seconds. To each their own!
Facebook is receiving mixed reviews of their spam filtering functionality as many posts about the novel coronavirus are flagged and blocked. In fairness, it’s pretty difficult to distinguish everybody talking about the same thing all the time from one person saying the same thing over and over again… since one is spam and the other is omni-spam.
Amazon has taken a bold step in blocking new product listings in the Personal Care and Health & Beauty categories. It’s an attempt to stamp down profiteering, price-gouging and counterfeit products including face masks and hand sanitizer. There is a flip-side though (as someone who produces genuine hand sanitizer) you now can’t get hand sanitizer or other health products (that people actually want and need) on the market. Except, that is, for merchandise that Amazon itself has bought wholesale to make a better profit from selling at retail price than just taking their referral cut. In the midst of the chaos, Tennessee looks set to bring charges against a pair of brothers who spent 3-days touring the state in a U-Haul van buying everything they could find in order to resell at a huge mark-up on Amazon.