I designed the Tokyo Olympics horse show jumping course. I never know if I’ve made a mistake until the first rider competes.

Left: Santiago Varela, showjumping course designer. Right: competitor at horse jumping show jumping over a high fence.
Left: Santiago Varela at the FEI Nations Cup Final in 2016. Right: A rider jumping the course Varela designed.

  • Santiago Varela designed the show jumping course at the Tokyo Olympics.
  • He has to make quick decisions about the course on the day of the event.
  • He tells journalist Clara Murray: “The life of horses and riders is in my hands.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I started show jumping at a very young age. Once, when I was competing in the children’s category at the Spanish Championships, I approached the course designer and asked if I could be in the arena to help him set up the fences. That’s when my career as a course designer began.

I began designing at the Madrid Horse Show from 1984 until 1998. I then worked my way up through Fédération Equestre Internationale – the international equestrian governing body. I designed various Grand Prix, World Cups, and regional championships.

Climbing the ranks in the FEI is very structured. I am Level 4 – the highest.

This is my first Olympics as the course designer, but I was involved with the Rio 2016 course as a technical delegate, assisting with setting up the course and arranging walk-throughs with the competitors.

When I was first asked to design this course, I decreased the pressure in my other career. I decided when I was young that I would have two, having studied economics and worked in the infrastructure business.

I started some new projects when the Olympics were postponed, possibly cancelled. In September 2020, I became CEO of AGR-AM, a renewable energy asset management arm of Ardian.

So now, I am working very hard. Having this passion for horses means that if I need to sleep a little less, or work on the weekends, I’ll do it.

Many times I spend all my holidays with horses, not family. I’m lucky that my wife, daughter and son all understand perfectly that they are my passion.

When I first start to design a course, I sketch it out on paper with simple lines. It all needs to flow – the most important things in this sport are rhythm and pace.

A course should challenge the horses, but they need to be able to jump it naturally. The tests are always there for the riders, not the horses.

My team has built around 60 fences but we designed more than 200 jumps that can be arranged in thousands of combinations.

We have tried to respectfully represent Japanese culture. Many people said we should use manga characters, but we couldn’t as they are copyrighted.

We have been working on the courses for three and a half years but many decisions like the exact height and width of the jumps will be finalized in the arena.

We will need to consider the weather, floodlighting and ground conditions. Many times, you’re walking the arena and, for whatever reason, you feel something needs to change.

We don’t have time to test the jumps in the arena. The final course is only put together on the day. We can test parts of the course or individual jumps by secretly incorporating them into other competitions.

Once you’re in the Olympic arena, it’s like a melon, you open it and eat what you get.

If I make a mistake, I won’t know until the first horse goes round. Then I have to see it 50 more times as the other riders go one by one.

Once, at the show jumping World Cup in La Coruña, I got a distance wrong. There was one extra stride in a double jump. The horses were landing too far from the second fence after jumping the first, which threw off the rhythm.

I stayed up all night watching the videos to analyze where I went wrong.

The life of horses and riders is in my hands.

I need to keep my mind calm to take these decisions under pressure. Sometimes there are only 20 minutes to make changes. Having a team to help is great, but, as the course designer, I have to be ready to take responsibility.

Working with horses helps to keep my mind fresh and relaxed. People ask how waking up at 4 a.m. on the weekend to start building courses from 6 a.m. is relaxing. If I’m honest, I also don’t understand it.

My only worry coming into the Olympics is to do my best. There are thousands of variables and you can’t control what happens in the arena. Even the top riders make mistakes. Nothing can be expected.

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I’m a lifeguard for Olympic swimmers. Our job isn’t as ‘useless’ or easy as people think.

Olympic lifeguard James Meyer in the pool at the 2016 US Olympic swim trials with two swimmers
James Meyers (top, facing right) in the pool at the 2016 US Olympic swim trials.

  • James Meyers has been a volunteer lifeguard at four US Olympic swim trials since 2008.
  • He says that lifeguards are essential at these events, not “useless” like a recent meme implied.
  • He tells writer Ryan S. Gladwin what it’s like being a lifeguard for the best swimmers in the world.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A meme from the Rio 2016 Olympics said “if you feel useless today, remember somebody is working as a lifeguard at the Olympics.”

It is a misconception that we’re useless. Unfortunately, people do get hurt so we have a role. Of the four Olympic trials where I’ve been a lifeguard, this year was the first we didn’t have to get in the water.

I’ve been a lifeguard in Nebraska, Omaha for 26 years now. The Red Cross does the lion’s share of lifeguard training, I’d been working for them back in 2008 and they asked me to help out with the trials.

It sounded like fun so I said yes and I’ve kept on doing it ever since.

It’s not just the athletes we have to look after, oftentimes you have outside groups that use the pool in between trials’ prelims and the finals. We’re not just life guarding the athletes, we are also lifeguarding for those events. We’ve never had to go in for an athlete, it’s always been for everyone else.

The only reason we didn’t have to enter the pool this year was because of COVID, there were no outside groups allowed in.

James Meyers by the pool at the US Olympics swim trials in 2021
James Meyers by the pool at the US Olympics swim trials in 2021.

It’s kind of like the fire department. Our whole goal is to be in the background, if you have to see us generally something bad has happened.

The flipside of that is if there is an emergency and we make a mistake, it ends up on YouTube or TV – nobody wants that.

Lifeguards at these events are mostly trained to respond to medical problems or injuries where the person can’t get out of the pool. That is more likely to happen at Olympic trials, compared to a public pool where lifeguards are trained to respond to drownings.

The whole lifeguard crew are volunteers, people come from all across the country to get involved. We’ve had people from the business world to nurses – to college students with friends in the trials.

Working these events is generally a great experience. You get to sit on deck to watch Phelps and Lochte battle it out or when somebody sets a record.

Some of the volunteers swim competitively, they pick up a lot of techniques, habits and drills they’ve never seen before.

The closest we’ve come to rescuing an ‘athlete’ was back in 2012. Once the Olympic trials were over, we also hosted the National Masters Meet – which is like a swim team for older people.

We had a guy go into cardiac arrest while swimming. Luckily, he survived but you can see why we’re needed.

Back in 2016, I’d just had hip surgery but still wanted to be involved so I had a scooter to get around the building. Apparently, I got too close to Michael Phelps and he had to jump out of the way. I never saw him, so in my mind it never happened but it’s quite fun to say I nearly ran him over.

As volunteers, we’re asked not to request autographs while in uniform but backstage you have an opportunity to get them.

There’s about 700 volunteers for the trials with only 50 of them being lifeguards. People travel here on their own dime, paying for their own hotels, just to get involved. We turn up at 5:30 a.m. and sometimes go till 10 p.m..

Nothing happens without the army of volunteers behind the scenes who get no credit at all.

We hope not to have a role but we do. When we are called upon we have to be prepared for it. We can’t sit there disinterested like the girl in the meme.

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The Netflix generation won’t want to own cars – here’s how the auto industry can adapt

Two women sitting laughing sitting on car
Younger consumers are drawn to the convenience of subscription services and will want the same model for using cars, Dr Andy Palmer argues.

  • Ex-Nissan COO Dr Andy Palmer argues subscription models could be the future of car use.
  • In this op-ed, he says Millenials and Gen Z are already used to such models in other areas of life.
  • They could combine the flexibility of rentals with the benefits of ownership, he writes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A quick look at your bank statements will most likely reveal a consistent theme in each month’s transactions: payments to Netflix, Apple Music, or Amazon Prime.

A generation of consumers, and I’m one of them, have become addicted to subscription services.

Simple and no-strings-attached, subscription services seem to exist for every possible product out there. And now cars are joining the subscription surge.

The auto industry has experienced significant upheaval over the past decade.

Auto executives have dedicated most of their time and attention to adapting the physical and technical make-up of the cars they produce, such as shepherding from internal combustion engines to hybrid or electric in response to a more climate conscious market.

However, changing consumer attitudes are fuelling another major shift for the industry to contend with – and automotive executives are slowly waking up to it.

The industry has long been known for its resistance to change and may find this shift in consumer behaviour difficult to navigate. The good news is that it requires is a marketing shift rather than an operational one, which is easier to manage.

Manufacturers that already cater to a younger audience will naturally find this shift in marketing easier.

In September 2020, Volvo became one of the first brands to launch a direct-to-consumer subscription model. Sixt, the international rental service, also launched a subscription service in the same month.

For a monthly fee, Volvo gives motorists access to a car with everything but fuel included in the package. The simplicity of this appeals to younger generations and urban dwellers who see cars with less emotion and romance than those of an earlier vintage.

For the baby boomers, cars represented post-war prosperity. The VW Beetle became a generational icon in the 1960s and 1970s.

For Generation X who entered their economic zenith during Margaret Thatcher’s era of yuppies and flashy excess, cars symbolized status and wealth Millennials were a trickier sell, but were ultimately attracted to cheaper, smaller and urban-friendly vehicles to suit their lifestyles and budgets.

The lifestyles and budgets of Millennials and Gen Z are no doubt behind the reason why they are by far the heaviest users of subscription services.

To many, the beauty of the car subscription model is that it confers the convenience of car travel provided by ride-hailing apps like Uber or Lyft and ride-sharing ones like ZipCar while still giving customers their own car they don’t have to share that they can get to know and become attached to.

There is also an argument that, as zero emission vehicles become more popular, the subscription model is better suited to electric vehicles.

Over time and after excessive use, electric vehicle batteries become less effective. This means that you’ll progressively get less mileage from a single charge.

Rather than replacing the entire vehicle, which would be highly expensive and inefficient, we may see battery leasing become the modus operandi for motorists in the near future.

While Volvo’s entire car subscription package has created buzz, Renault are leading the way when it comes to battery leasing. When purchasing a Renault Zoe, buyers can choose to lease a battery on a subscription basis rather than owning it outright, reducing the price of a new car by nearly $10,000.

With the Netflix model becoming so popular in other industries, it is only logical that consumers will begin to demand this level of flexibility for more high-ticket items as habits continue to shift.

Dr Andy Palmer a former CEO of Aston Martin and COO of Nissan. He holds non-executive positions, including chair of electric bus company Switch Mobility, vice-chair of battery manufacturer InoBat and chair of EV scooter company Hilo.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I couldn’t find a hospital bed for my COVID-struck father in India. Days of frantic searching showed me how overwhelmed our health system is.

New Delhi hospital beds
New Delhi – April 26: A healthcare worker in PPE attends to a patient in an isolation ward – a banquet hall temporarily converted for coronavirus patients.

  • Nilanjana Bhowmick’s father’s oxygen levels steadily fell after he tested positive for COVID-19.
  • She searched for a hospital bed in and around Delhi but health services, overwhelmed by India’s second wave, had none.
  • “He has made it through. But if his condition had worsened, I don’t know what we could have done.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

My heart ran cold as the doctor sent us a message on WhatsApp about my father’s deteriorating condition. “He has an inflammation in his lungs – given his age and medical history – you should be prepared to hospitalize him.”

My father has Parkinson’s, a heart condition, weak lungs and high blood pressure. I kept thinking: “Where am I going to get a bed? Or oxygen?”

On April 15, my 75-year-old parents, 15-year-old-son, and I tested positive for coronavirus. We were shocked. We were extremely cautious when it came to protecting ourselves from COVID-19, however it did not seem enough in the face of the the rising infection rate in India.

But as a doctor friend later would tell me: “The way things are right now, you could test a random person on the street and he or she would possibly test positive.”

If India escaped COVID-19 relatively lightly last year, we are living a nightmare in this second wave.

On Tuesday, India announced it recorded 323,144 new cases, and 2,771 deaths in the previous 24 hours. On Monday, for the fifth straight day, the country set a new global record for daily cases in the pandemic.

In Noida, the satellite town of the capital New Delhi where we live, there is also a huge shortage of beds and oxygen. Hospitals have been sending out urgent appeals for oxygen.

One even had to go to the Delhi High Court to plead for more, saying they had just three hours of it left for 400 patients, 262 of whom had COVID-19. The court’s ruling ordered the government to “beg, borrow or steal” to get what hospitals need.

My social media feed has been one long ream of urgent pleas from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers. Someone’s friend, someone’s sister, someone’s father or mother or grandparent need help.

Nilanjana Bhowmick with her father COVID-19
Nilanjana Bhowmick with her father Monotosh Bhowmick.

For the first two days after our positive tests, we anxiously monitored my father. At first, he had no obvious symptoms. But then his oxygen levels were dropping consistently.

My heart was in turmoil. I thought that, if his condition continued to deteriorate, I would not be able to wheel him into a hospital to get him the required care.

On the evening of April 17, I messaged our family doctor with our blood reports and told her that my father’s saturation levels were fluctuating below 94. She gave a list of hospitals I should call to get him admitted. And then she was gone. Doctors are severely overworked, too.

After half a day of calling, I was at my wit’s end. No one had a bed available.

The next two days went by in a frenzy of friends trying to help with leads. As I chased hospitals, an acquaintance suggested I get in touch with her friend, a lung doctor. She suggested I immediately get a scan done to see what condition his lungs were in.

I’d tested positive but no one was coming to help my father. No one from the authorities has called to check on us, nor has any health worker visited. I was desperate and so I decided to head out, in my COVID positive state, to get him the care he needed.

On April 20, still weak from my own infection, I somehow hauled him onto his wheelchair and took him to a nearby COVID-19 hospital.

As an attendant wheeled my father into the scan room, I sank into a chair in the waiting area.

I saw it fill up with patients. It was 7 a.m. but there were already at least 10 people waiting for their scans. When I went back in the afternoon to collect the report on my father, the number had more than doubled.

“Are there any beds available at all?” I asked the chief medical officer, feebly, knowing she would say no. She looked at me with kindness, and sadness. I managed a small smile, too.

I brought my father back home that day. My fingers had remained tightly crossed through the day as I hoped for his condition to remain stable.

Friends and acquaintances, even sources and professional contacts, called and offered to help but I knew we were as helpless as each other. I drew some strength from their concern.

On the evening of April 21, I consulted the lung doctor once again with the test results. She confirmed that my father had inflammation in his lungs and I should start looking for a hospital bed.

“I know how difficult that would be at the moment,” she said. “But let’s hope he responds to the medicines.”

Her hospital had no beds available either.

I lost count of the calls I made that evening. Everything was full. I would get a lead and dial the number. They either wouldn’t pick up, the number wouldn’t connect or the lines would be perpetually busy. I gave up after a while.

“Whatever the emergency, we will have to deal with it at the time,” I told my mother. She nodded quietly.

Over the last few days, however, my father started responding to the medicines. He began to talk coherently. He sat up and began eating. And most importantly, his oxygen levels stabilized.

He has made it through. But if his condition had worsened, I don’t know what we could have done.

I’ve seen what happens when a broken system is overwhelmed

I am still holding onto that list of hospitals and medical resources I made. I am keeping my fingers crossed that my parents will be able to get the second dose of their vaccines without much trouble.

But I have seen what happens when a broken system is overwhelmed.

The tragedy that’s unfolding here is the world’s biggest COVID-19 crisis since the pandemic began more than a year ago. As I write this, an oxygen express train, the first one of its kind and carrying 70 tonnes of the gas, has reached Delhi.

Countries across the world are lending a hand. The Indian government announced on Sunday that they would be setting up 551 oxygen plants.

Why did we not boost our capabilities before? The oxygen plants could have been set up while cases were plummeting. Global trends should have taught us the second wave would be worse than the first one. There are going to be more until the world is vaccinated.

From May 1, anyone over 18 will be able to get vaccinated. The government will have to ramp up vaccine production urgently. Over the last few weeks, many states have reported shortages.

Why was the Indian government so desperate to announce an end to the pandemic? Only last month, the health minister – himself a doctor – said India was approaching the “end game” of COVID-19.

On April 17 – when I was anxiously watching my father’s oxygen levels deteriorate – Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at an election rally in West Bengal, praising the size of the crowd that was too big for anyone to socially distance.

On Monday, I walked into a small crematorium near my home, where there were seven pyres burning. There were no hospital staff or health workers to certify the causes of their deaths, so we won’t know how many were because of COVID-19.

One local told me: “I have never seen so many bodies burning here at the same time.”

In 12 years living here, neither have I.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I watch paint dry for a living. It’s never boring – there’s so much to look for.

Matthew Risbridger
Matthew Risbridger at work.

  • Matthew Risbridger, 21, works at paint developer and maker AquaTec Coatings in Wrexham, Wales.
  • “People’s reactions are usually a bit like 20 Questions … they don’t really understand I watch paint dry.”
  • He explains to freelance journalist Caitlin Tilley why he’s never bored.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

I was looking for a job in a laboratory because I was interested in science. I did Chemistry, Mathematics, History and Physics A Levels and this is my first job after leaving school at 18.

I saw it advertised on a job website. I’ve been doing it for three and a half years now.

On a typical day, I’d get a request from a company asking for paint to do a certain thing with certain specifications and drying cycle. Then I’d get a base formulation, make, say five or six samples with different ingredients.

I have to test all the samples by watching them dry to see how they dry, how hard the paint is once they’ve dried and how long it took them to dry. For each job I usually have to test different variations of the paint and watch it dry 10 to 15 times.

I don’t find it boring because I’m not just sitting there; I’m looking for something even when I’m watching the paint dry. I’m inspecting it, looking for cracks in the film, ripples, bits in the paint, or any defects. If it’s too thick, you’ll get a texture that looks like orange peel.

We have multiple different ways we can dry things. It could be on a schedule through ovens, infrared heaters, fans, wind tunnels or air drying. I have to watch the paint dry to examine how it dries and how fast it dries.

I watch how it dries on all sorts of surfaces, such as metal composite doors or wood. On some surfaces we are looking for a smooth and level coating, whereas with textured coatings you’ve got to make sure the texture is there when it dries. It all depends on the paint and what you paint it on.

There are big variations in how long paint takes to dry. We have paints that dry in 15 minutes, and then some which won’t dry for an hour.

I will feel the paint to check when it’s dry. I scratch it with a knife to see if it’s gone hard, because it could be dry but still soft. I use a stopwatch or timer to see how long it takes.

It’s satisfying to see the paint dry, especially with high-gloss products, because they dry really smooth. Wood coating is my favorite type of paint because it’s the one I know most about.

Matthew Risbridger drawing down
“I don’t find it boring because I’m not just sitting there; I’m looking for something even when I’m watching the paint dry.”

Our clients are generally in the modular and portable industry, so they need containers’ painting. They’re also in the joinery industry, so we work with wooden fences, as well as composite doors and industrial paint contractors. The majority of the time they want the fastest drying possible.

I kept working on the site throughout the pandemic. We had new jobs come up, such as spray painting test centres for the NHS.

We have a lot of competitors, but mainly they work with solvent-based paint. We are the market leader in water-based paint. There is one other man who works between production and my role. There’s a team of 20 people on-site and then sales managers on the road.

The best part of the job is successfully completing a project. For example, working out why there’s cracking in the paint. It can be stressful when the deadlines are quite close, but most of the time we have a schedule. Also, I’m making a good salary for a first job right out of school.

It’s complicated to try and explain my job to people. I mainly say that I work with chemicals. People’s reactions are usually a bit like 20 Questions because they don’t really understand that I watch paint dry. Some people just can’t get their head around it so they give up.

My friends and family are happy for me in my job; they see it as sticking to what I know and like, because it’s about finding things out and problem solving. There’s a lot more to it than just watching.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The UK’s ‘red list’ now bars travel from India to contain the spread of COVID-19 variants. Here’s what it means, which countries are on the list and how it works.

Hotel quarantine arrivals
A couple arrive with their luggage by coach to the Holiday Inn hotel near Heathrow Airport in west London on February 17. Since February, travel to the UK from countries on the ‘red list’ has been subject to mandatory hotel quarantine.

  • India is now on the UK’s “red list” to prevent the spread of a new COVID-19 variant identified there.
  • Travel from the 40 countries on the list is only permitted for UK residents and citizens, after a mandatory quarantine.
  • There are no exemptions to avoid quarantine and no way of being allowed to shorten it.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As India’s daily COVID-19 cases surge to global records, the UK has added the country to its “red list” of places from which travel is banned to to prevent the spread of coronavirus and its variants.

The red list could be compared to “Level Four: Do Not Travel” advisory issued by the US State Department, which now covers most countries in the world because of the coronavirus.

But while that is a plea for US citizens not to go abroad, the red list works in the opposite direction – it forbids travel from 40 countries.

India was added at 4 a.m. on Friday, after 77 cases wre confirmed in the UK of the “double mutant” B.1.617 variant – which contains two mutations of the original virus – that was identified in India.

Before this, anyone who had been there within 10 days could travel to the UK if they self-isolated on arrival and tested negative twice.

Now, only UK and Irish citizens and those who permanently reside in the country can enter – and only after a 10-day quarantine in an approved hotel where they are closely monitored.

A quarantine requirement for 33 countries was first introduced on February 15 to stop the spread of coronavirus variants that may be more transmissible or deadly.

The red list has been expanded in the last two months. Kenya and the Philippines were added on April 9, along with India’s neighbors Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson did not rule out adding France to the list earlier this month but stressed “it would have consequences” given the scale of trade between the two countries.

All the 40 countries are in Central America, South America, Africa, the Middle East or Asia.

The red list in full: Angola, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Burundi, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Eswatini, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Guyana, India, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Suriname, Tanzania, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Uruguay, Venezuela, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Countries are added by ministers, who review scientific data and advice from experts in infectious disease at the UK’s Joint Biosecurity Centre, the Department for Transport told Insider.

Ministers consider a country’s capability to monitor and sequence COVID-19 variants, how fast coronavirus is spreading in the community there and the number of cases, and any evidence new variants are coming to the UK from that country.

Those quarantining in hotels must test negative on day two and day eight and cannot leave for any reason. There are no exemptions.

One couple who quarantined in February passed the time by exercising, playing cards and watching 70 episodes of “Suits.”

Travellers must pay the bill. A single person pays £1,750 ($2,435) and every extra person in a party cost another £650 ($904). For children aged between five and 12, it is an extra £325 ($452).

Failure to quarantine can mean a fine of £10,000 ($13,913).

More than 500 people – a tiny proportion of those who’ve travelled to Britain – have been fined for failing to isolate

Lucy Moreton, a spokesperson for the ISU union that represents borders, immigration and customs staff, said there were isolated examples of people refusing to quarantine.

“We are seeing a small number of individuals leaving. They don’t want to go, so they don’t,” she said. “We know in the first 24 hours of starting hotel quarantine in Northern Ireland, three people had left.”

Since the start of the pandemic, police have issued 511 fines in England and Wales to people who failed to self-isolate after arriving from a country on the UK government’s quarantine list, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council.

The number is 0.0044% of the approximately 11.6 million people who have travelled into the UK since the start of restrictions.

British residents who travel abroad without an essential reason – such as work, education or family – face a £5,000 ($6,957) fine for doing so, until the restriction on international travel is lifted.

The Home Office said it could not provide figures on how many of these fines had been imposed.

A lack of reliable data can result in countries being added to the red list at short notice, long after a COVID-19 outbreak appears to have taken hold.

Professor Linda Bauld, a public health expert at the University of Edinburgh, said Britain’s previous policy of “travel corridors” (in which travel to certain countries with low case rates was allowed with fewer restrictions) suggested it was using a threshold of the number of cases to determine which countries to add.

“That’s almost meaningless because countries are testing at different levels,” she said.

“It’s difficult to say there’s a strong scientific rationale why some countries are on a list and others aren’t, when other countries are likely close to the threshold.”

But Bauld said quarantine has proven effective in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, and Vietnam that mandated them from an early stage and have kept infections low.

Bauld is producing a paper for the Independent SAGE group, a group of scientists set up to provide an alternative voice to the government’s scientific advisory group, that will urge authorities to waive quarantine fees for low-income passengers who were forced to travel for family reasons such as bereavement.

Before the pandemic, 92 direct flights departed from India to the UK every week, carrying up to 22,737 passengers, according to VisitBritain. Hundreds of thousands more travelled weekly through connecting airports to the UK.

In January, just 631,500 passengers arrived at British airports – down 91% from the 7.1 million who flew into the country the previous January, before the pandemic.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Indian politicians encouraged a return to normal as COVID-19 cases fell. Now hospitals are overwhelmed as a ‘double mutant’ variant takes hold – but mass gatherings continue.

COVID patient Calcutta
A patient being taken away for testing at a COVID-19 ward at a hospital in Kolkata, India, on Wednesday.

  • A second COVID-19 wave is devastating India, where a new “double mutant” virus variant emerged.
  • Insider spoke with people on the ground and experts about the threat and ways to address it.
  • Politicians so far have largely been unwilling or unable to apply strict restrictions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Hospitals in India are overwhelmed as the country grapples with a second wave of COVID-19.

There is a severe shortage of beds, the drug remdesivir, and medical oxygen. Desperate patients have been traveling hundreds of miles, searching helplines and social media, to find hospitals with enough capacity. The worsening situation forced British Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week to cancel a visit to the country. The UK and the US have also issued strong travel advisories for India.

On Saturday, when 261,394 new cases were reported in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted about the size of his election rally in West Bengal, where a huge crowd was crammed together.

Rallies have taken place in West Bengal and three other states, with thousands attending, without much adherence to COVID-19 precautions.

This reflects how dramatic India’s turnaround has been with the coronavirus. Early this year, experts hypothesized that this country of 1.3 billion people had reached herd immunity as cases steadily fell. The government’s own modeling study suggested the country’s outbreak would be over by February. In January, a health minister said India had “successfully contained” COVID-19.

Weddings, functions, and political rallies resumed as politicians encouraged a return to normal.

Now, India has more than 2 million known active cases, compared with 200,000 in January. Daily reported cases are three times as high as the peak of the first wave in September, with 314,835 announced on Thursday.

COVID Daily cases India graph
On Thursday, India announced it had recorded 314,835 coronavirus cases in 24 hours – a global record. This graph shows the seven-day average of daily cases rising in recent days, compared with the first wave last year.

A “double mutant” variant – which contains notable mutations that had been separately identified in two previous variants of the original virus – has taken hold.

Insider spoke with people on the ground about the extent of devastation this wave has caused as well as the constant challenge of enforcing restrictions at mass gatherings.

“Things have worsened this time around,” said Dr. Sonali Vaid, who previously worked for the World Health Organization and is now helping patients find beds in New Delhi.

“Many patients with severely low oxygen-saturation levels have had to manage at home, some with dire consequences, due to lack of beds,” Vaid added. “Things weren’t as bad last year.”

Despite this, the country’s largest religious gathering went ahead. The centuries-old Kumbh Mela sees tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims travel to bathe en masse in rivers in a ritual meant to cleanse them of their sins. It has brought millions this month to Haridwar, north of Delhi.

“The flow and blessings of Ma Ganga” – Mother River Ganges – “will ensure that coronavirus does not spread,” said the chief minister of Uttarakhand, the northern state where the event is taking place for all of April.

The government shortened the event from four months to one and insisted it was following Health Ministry guidelines on containing the coronavirus – such as mandatory negative test results and discouraging older, more vulnerable people from taking part.

But Deepak Rawat, a government official who runs the event on behalf of the state government, said these were impossible to enforce during the days of Shahi Snan, or royal bath, when devotees bathe in the Ganges.

Shahi Snan April 12 2021 water bathing
Naga Sadhus (Hindu holy men) taking a holy dip in the waters of the Ganges River on the day of Shahi Snan during the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on April 12.

On a single day, an estimated 2.1 million pilgrims were taking part, most of them neither wearing masks nor socially distancing.

“Enforcing COVID-19-appropriate behavior during these processions would be a folly, and we would be risking a stampede,” Rawat told Insider.

A senior official at the festival told AFP on Friday that they had “around 2,000 positive cases” in the previous four days. That week a senior priest was taken to a hospital from the site and died after a positive test.

Facing a backlash, Modi later tweeted appealing for the Kumbh Mela to be scaled back.

Dr. T. Sundararaman, the global coordinator for the health-activism network People’s Health Movement, said the Kumbh Mela should have been restricted in line with religious ceremonies elsewhere like the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

“What you now have is a runaway celebration with a great potential to act as a superspreader event,” he added.

In Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, which neighbors Uttarakhand to the south, videos emerged of crematoriums full of rows of burning pyres, raising fears official figures were missing many who were dying without having been tested.

The double-mutant variant of the virus that emerged in the country, B.1.617, may be behind the surge in cases.

Authorities don’t yet have the data to prove this, though the variant has mutations that were found in others to make them more transmissible and less likely to confer immunity on people who recover, said Gautam Menon, a physics and biology professor at Ashoka University.

“This wave is far more transmissible than the first one,” said Dr. Lancelot Pinto, a consultant in respiratory medicine at P. D. Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai, which was badly hit during both waves.

During the first wave, it was common for only one or two members in a family to be infected, but Pinto said he was seeing entire families testing positive now.

“We are getting many younger patients – those in their 30s and 40s – with moderate to severe disease,” he said, adding: “This could be because of the new strain or just because of the sheer numbers of infection this time.”

Public meeting
A political meeting at Shyamnagar Village, Tehatta, West Bengal, India, on Sunday. Two political parties have stopped holding rallies in the state because of COVID-19.

Vaccination has offered other countries a glimmer of hope, but while India has been able to vaccinate millions of people in a single day, only about 8% of its enormous population have had a first dose so far.

At its current pace, India would not vaccinate 70% of its people until December. It has authorized Russia’s Sputnik V for use, amid severe shortages of Covishield and Covaxin, which are made domestically.

Two political parties campaigning in West Bengal have called off rallies, while Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party decided this week to limit its rallies to 500 people, two days after the prime minister boasted about the size of his crowds. The Kumbh Mela is continuing until the end of the month.

In a Tuesday public address, Modi said lockdowns should be only a “last resort” because of the damage they would do to workers’ livelihoods. He said making everyone over 18 eligible for vaccination starting in May would ensure laborers were inoculated sooner.

He asked states to focus instead on containing specific sites of outbreaks.

Delhi began a weeklong lockdown on Monday – closing businesses and ordering people to travel only for essential reasons – saying the city’s health system had reached a “tipping point.” Maharashtra, the worst-affected state, is severely restricting travel until the end of the month.

Dr. Srinath Reddy, the president of the Public Health Foundation of India, who sits on national committees on COVID-19 management, said that for six weeks the country should ban gatherings of more than five people and require masks to be worn outdoors – the type of measures the country eschewed when it thought it was all over.

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Dropbox’s HR chief dropped 5 hours of meetings a week she didn’t need to be in after the company let workers organize their own days to be more productive

Laura Ryan
Laura Ryan’s “non-linear” work day now consists of blocks for calls, following by a block for independent work.

  • After going “virtual-first”, Dropbox introduced “non-linear” workdays to let staff organize their schedules more.
  • International HR head Laura Ryan tells Insider how an audit of her calendar showed there were meetings she wasn’t adding value to.
  • “That wasn’t allowing for any ad hoc meetings, which certainly wasn’t allowing much work to get done.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When Dropbox asked its 2,500 employees to audit their calendars to analyze whether there was anything they could cut, its international HR director Laura Ryan realized she “was in 15 hours of standing meetings a week, not adding value to any of those.”

“They had just built up over time. That wasn’t allowing for any ad hoc meetings, which certainly wasn’t allowing much work to get done,” Ryan told Insider.

The audit was the first step towards the “non-linear work day” that Dropbox began implementing in October, shortly after it announced it would shift to “virtual-first” working in which remote working was the default.

Teams define “core collaboration” hours for meetings and individuals are free to structure the rest of their day whenever they want.

This could be evening or early hours, whatever best suits when they function best and when they’re naturally inclined to sleep.

Under this system, Ryan, who is based in Dublin, Ireland, cut a third of the 15 hours of meetings she was in and re-thought her contribution to others.

Now, her day typically starts with preparation, breakfast and school drop-offs.

At 10 a.m., the first of her core collaboration hours begins, which are generally spent on calls. Between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. she is meeting-free and will respond to emails, work on documents, and take a walk.

She then goes back into collaboration mode, spending between 4 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on calls, with the occasional late international call.

Ryan said that, after employees do their calendar audit, they’re asked to block out the core collaboration hours needed.

Respecting other colleagues’ independent time by not requesting meetings outside collaboration hours – and equally not accepting meetings outside your own – was key, she added.

So is clearly communicating schedule preferences to others in the team so no one thinks a person has gone AWOL when actually they intend to be working from 8 p.m. to midnight that day.

Current company guidelines state that the “collaboration hours” should take place between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., to allow for some cross-time zone meetings.

Teams, however, can adjust these as required. The rest of the time is reserved for independent, focused work, and does not have to be during the traditional working day but any time the employee prefers.

Regardless of how someone cuts up their day, the idea was to move away from a mindset of “busy for the sake of it” to “impact,” said Ryan.

With office perks less of an attraction for future candidates, Dropbox will be emphasizing the policy in recruitment, Ryan said.

New employees will be able to discuss their preferred work pattern, be they early birds or night owls, with their line manager during their onboarding. Team meetings could be shifted earlier or later, as long as all are in agreement, Ryan added.

Some teams lend themselves to a work pattern outside of conventional hours naturally. Engineering teams, Ryan said, typically start and end later.

And any role that is not customer-facing, such as HR, or marketing and communications, could work well in a non-linear fashion.

Sales teams, for example, need to work more traditionally as most of the company’s customers are still working this way.

But Ryan said Dropbox’s sales teams have introduced a rotation system so staff can still do non-linear working hours on certain days.

Ryan said the company was willing to tweak the system as time goes on.

“We’re not going to get this right on day one, but we’ll figure it out together,” she added.

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I founded the world’s first all-digital model agency out of a shed in my mother’s shed. Now we have offices in the UK and US.

Cameron James Wilson with models
Cameron-James Wilson (left) with two of the digital models – Boyce (top right) and Shudu (bottom right).

  • Cameron-James Wilson, 32, began what would become The Diigitals in a garden shed in 2017.
  • He created Shudu, the world’s first digital supermodel, who has 215,000 followers on Instagram.
  • He spoke to freelance journalist Claire Turrell for Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The models at my agency have shot campaigns and editorials for Balmain, Louboutin, Ferragamo, and Vogue and have thousands of Instagram followers. Shudu is known for her statuesque physique, Brenn her curves, and Koffi his six-pack.

But these supermodels are not real. I own the world’s first all-digital model agency.

The Diigitals started as a hobby. I was working as a fashion photographer in London. I would shoot a fashion story, it would appear in a magazine, and then it would be thrown into a bin a week later. I wanted to do something artistic, but with more longevity.

I moved home to Weymouth in Dorset in the west of England in 2017 and I started looking at the digital world. I had always been interested in fantasy fiction artwork and CGI.

SEE ALSO: Don’t ignore the dread you feel about returning to the office. Here’s how to craft your ideal work life and get your boss on board.

I set up a studio in my mother’s shed, downloaded some digital programmes and started learning 3D modelling with the help of YouTube videos. A lot of the characters available were fantasy figures or pin-ups and I wondered if I could give one my own fashion spin.

I knew how to light real models in a photoshoot, but after that it was just trial and error. My first character was a Caucasian woman, and I spent hours learning how to make her look more realistic. Then I created a character who had more of a Middle Eastern influence and finally I created Shudu.

Shudu__The Diigitals

I posted a few images on Facebook to see what my friends thought. One friend immediately shared the shot of Shudu and then Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty brand reposted it. My life changed overnight.

In February 2018, Harper’s BAZAAR US ran a news story about Shudu, then four months later WWD wanted to include her in one of its fashion spreads. It was crazy.

Until that point Shudu was a piece of artwork as far as I was concerned, and now suddenly she was turning into a fully-fledged model. The WWD team wanted to include Shudu in a desert shoot. It was the world’s first 3D editorial.

The team cast and styled her, as they would do with any other model, but they sent her clothes to a New York photography agency who digitized them. The images were then forwarded to me, and I worked on them in my shed.

I was still learning at that point and I wasn’t sure if I could deliver what they had asked for, but it worked. If we would have wanted to do this in real life we would have had to fly to the desert. From the sustainability angle it was powerful.

Brenn, another model created by The Diigitals.

Shudu was now part of the real world and I needed to make her fit. As she started out as a piece of artwork, her proportions were inspired by fashion illustrations, now she has real world measurements.

The models started to gain traction. My friend and I talked about launching an agency. We rendered models throughout the night and within 24 hours we had the company name, a website, and seven models.

I moved out of the shed after 18 months and now have a state-of-the-art studio. My days are still kind of bizarre. When the pandemic hit in March 2020, enquiries went through the roof as brands searched for alternative ways to create fashion shoots. I might wake in the middle of the day and work till 5 a.m..

SEE ALSO: I’m a video game tutor who makes up to $5,000 a month. Here’s how I built a career teaching people how to win at ‘League of Legends.’

I often work on Los Angeles time as we now have a digital team in the US, who work on our B2B side. As the fashion world is trying to be more sustainable, they are choosing to showcase their collections on virtual avatars, rather than pack trunks of samples and send them around the globe.

There were avatars available before, but the brands have asked us to create bespoke models for them. I act as the creative director,as well as overseeing the editorial and advertising campaigns for Shudu and our six other supermodels who are working every week.

When I’m not chatting to the US team or giving talks via Zoom, I am busy creating digital artwork. At the moment, we are currently working on different catwalk animations and yesterday I spent the day working on Shudu’s make-up.

Cameron-James Wilson
Cameron-James Wilson talks about the work of the Diigitals

While our model rates are comparable to the rates of real-life models, each shoot has a different fee as we are also involved with production. It also depends how digitally advanced the brand is to what we have to do for them. It can take between two to three weeks to create an editorial story so these are extra fees that need to be factored in.

Our models have also now turned into personalities. Some have their own Instagram accounts, and Shudu has her own voice. Critics rightly pointed out that a white guy couldn’t be behind a Black woman, so we did a shout-out on social media for a woman who could become the voice of Shudu. Writer Ama Badu creates Shudu’s Instagram posts and is her voice in interviews. Ama also acts as advisor for Shudu’s character.

SEE ALSO: 3 women who turned their side hustles into businesses in lockdown – including one that has generated $467,000 in sales – share 3 tips on how to do it

The Diigitals also works with real models. Not every company can supply us with digital images of their clothes, so we’ve partnered with models and we turn them into Shudu.

They do the pose and we drop her in over the top of them. We also digitize the models as themselves for other projects.

The virtual modelling space has changed dramatically. It has now reached the point of being established and brands are looking to invest in this in the long term. We are about to launch a virtual clothing collection, which we will showcase on a virtual catwalk and sell to fans of avatars.

I can see a lot of fashion brands using gamification and you’ll see more branded clothing appearing through games like Fortnite. Thanks to the sustainability, brands are already embracing the virtual modelling world. I think it’s going to grow exponentially.

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