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Like millions of others around the world, Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly is currently under COVID-19 lockdown. This is what life is like in social isolation in Ireland, where there are strict rules about who is allowed out, where, and under limited circumstances.

DAY 72: Tuesday June 9, 9am


A walk on a ‘new’ beach has never felt so good

There’s more movement allowed after 12 weeks

I went for a walk on a new beach on Monday afternoon that’s some 25 kilometres from my house. Under new rules that kicked into effect in Ireland on Monday, I have a new sense of freedom – even if there are still many restrictions in place.

Actually, chances are that you’ve seen the beach I walked on.

If you’ve watched the Tom Hanks movie Saving Private Ryan, then you’ll be familiar with Curracloe Beach. It was the stand-in for Omaha Beach, where United States forces landed on D-Day 76 years ago on Normandy.

Curracloe was turned into Normandy using thousands of extras and thousands of gallons of fake blood.

So, in many ways, the first stage of my liberation from coronavirus happened on Curracloe Beach too.

Monday was the day that Ireland will commence what Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described as ‘Phase Two Plus’ of its roadmap to ease COVID-19 restrictions.

At the start of May, Varadkar announced a five-step plan for lifting the measures put in place by the government to slow the spread of COVID-19.

That five-step plan has been condensed down to four and a number of measures have been brought forward after the government announced the acceleration of the previous roadmap on Friday.

The government advice to the public has changed from “stay home” to “stay local”.


Health officials have stressed that the modifications are not a license to return to normal but instead, incremental evolution of the country’s approach to the virus as new cases and hospitalisations continue dropping.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said as Ireland progresses through the road map’s phases more focus will shift to individual responsibility to comply with relaxations.

“If people want to find loopholes in it and ways of doing things or just simply ignore it it’s difficult for us to stop,” he said. “The majority of people are with us and want to stay with us for their own protection and for the protection of their families and for the protection of the community.

First off, public health advice is still for people to avoid unnecessary journeys and to continue to work from home if possible.

As part of the accelerated roadmap, people will be permitted to travel anywhere within their own county, or up to 20km from home, whichever is greater from today.

The government is stressing that, while restrictions on travel and on many activities have been eased, people should “stay local”.

In terms of social visits, up to six people from different households can now meet up both indoors and outdoors for a short period while maintaining strict social distancing.

Social visits also apply to the over 70s and medically vulnerable who can welcome a small number of people to their home. People are advised to wear face coverings and gloves during these visits.


It was six months ago that Chinese authorities first reported cases of coronavirus in Wuhan and so much has changed since then. There are more than 400,000 dead, some seven million cases worldwide and we are only now getting a true grip on how we might be able to defeat this virus with a vaccine.

It’s been reported on Monday that British scientists thought to be leading the global race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine are reportedly also close to a major breakthrough on a life-saving antibody treatment.

The Oxford University team have been confident about their work on a vaccine for coronavirus, with millions of doses already being manufactured by pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca in the expectation that it will work.

And there is now similar confidence that a separate project to create an antibody treatment for those especially vulnerable to COVID-19will also prove successful, with testing now said to be moving at “full speed”.

Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca, has described the treatment as a “combination of two antibodies” in an injected dose, reducing the chance that someone would develop resistance to one of them.

He told The Sunday Telegraph that the treatment could be vital for the elderly and vulnerable, “who may not be able to develop a good response to the vaccine”.


Healthy people can develop antibodies to a disease to fight off the infection and protect them from it in future, and coronavirus antibody testing has become a key priority for governments around the world.

Thousands of frontline National Health Service staff in Britain have started being given antibody tests for COVID-19 to find out if they have had it, although scientists are still uncertain as to whether antibodies provide guaranteed immunity to the virus.

More from Covid-19

But while an effective antibody treatment could be vital for some, Soriot told The Sunday Telegraph the vaccine remains the priority. He added that production for antibody therapies is far more expensive than it is for vaccines.

Soriot has previously suggested that scientists will know by July if the Oxford vaccine will work.

Trials are ongoing in the UK and have also got started in Brazil, after concerns that the UK’s falling transmission rate could stifle the work being done.

Under the leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly downplayed the threat of COVID-19, Brazil has become one of the epicentres of the disease. Brazil is second to the US in the number of cases globally, with more than 670,000, and has reported 35,930 deaths, only behind the US and the UK.


AstraZeneca has signed deals ensuring millions of doses of the Oxford vaccine can be manufactured if it works. One is with Microsoft founder Bill Gates, to supply doses to low and middle-income countries; the other is with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.

Around 30 million could be made available in the UK as early as September, Downing Street has said.

However, some scientists have expressed caution over how soon any vaccine could be made available.

The vaccine, named ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is made from a weakened version of the common cold virus, which causes infections in chimpanzees.

The virus has been manipulated to not cause harm to humans, but contains part of COVID-19 so to trigger the body's immune response to the virus's spike proteins, which it uses to enter human cells and multiply.


From yesterday, most people arriving into the UK will now be required to self-isolate for 14 days under British government measures to guard against a second wave of COVID-19.

All passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – will have to fill out an online locator form giving their contact and travel details, as well as the address of where they will isolate.

People who fail to comply could be fined £1,000 in England, and police will be allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure they follow the rules.

Border Force officers will carry out checks on arrivals and may refuse entry to a non-resident foreign national who refuses to comply with the regulations.

Failure to complete the locator form will be punishable by a £100 fixed penalty notice.

The plans have been met with strong criticism from opposition parties and some Conservative MPs – as well as the travel industry.


British Airways has begun legal proceedings over what it calls the government’s “unlawful” quarantine measures.

A leaked Home Office document seen by The Daily Telegraph reportedly said there was no method for officials to ensure a person’s details are “genuine”.

The quarantine regulations must be reviewed every three weeks, with the first taking place by June 29.

They could be in place for a year, when the legislation expires, unless the government decides to scrap it sooner.

Travellers arriving from within the Common Travel Area (CTA) – which includes Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands – will not need to self-isolate unless they have arrived in the CTA in the last 14 days.

In Ireland, anyone who arrives in from another country is legally required to fill out a passenger locator form with details about where you plan to self-isolate.

Everyone who enters the country is asked to self-isolate for 14 days after arrival.

This rule applies to every passenger, including Irish citizens returning from abroad, people with no symptoms and people who have tested negative for COVID-19 in another country.


UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We all want to return to normal as quickly as possible. But this cannot be at the expense of lives.

“The science is clear that if we limit the risk of new cases being brought in from abroad, we can help stop a devastating second wave.

“That is why the measures coming into force today are necessary. They will help control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.”

The policy comes into force as Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said around 25,000 jobs could be at risk at the west London airport, and warned that the scale of cuts could have a “devastating impact on local communities”.

The Department of Health and Social Care said another 77 people had died after testing positive for the coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Saturday – the lowest daily total since March 23, though figures are regularly lower on weekends.

No new coronavirus deaths were reported in Scotland for the first time since lockdown began, according to the latest Scottish government figures. There were also no new COVID-19 deaths reported in Northern Ireland.


Thousands of anti-racism protesters attended rallies across the UK on Sunday despite the Health Secretary Matt Hancock saying there was “undoubtedly a risk” that it would lead to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

On Sunday, Hancock insisted the government made the “right decisions at the right time” with the coronavirus lockdown, despite a leading scientist saying lives would have been saved had ministers acted sooner.

Infectious diseases expert Professor John Edmunds suggested the UK should have imposed restrictions in early March – although he admitted it would have been “very hard to pull the trigger at that point”.

Prof Edmunds, who attends meetings of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show: “I wish we had gone into lockdown earlier. I think that has cost a lot of lives unfortunately.”

Asked if he agreed with the professor’s comments, Hancock later replied: “No. I think we took the right decisions at the right time.”


Unlike most countries, Sweden never locked down during the coronavirus pandemic, largely keeping businesses operating, but the economy appears to be taking a hard hit nonetheless.

Under the Scandinavian country’s controversial approach to the virus, cafes, bars, restaurants and most businesses remained open, as did schools for under-16s, with people urged to follow social distancing and hygiene guidelines.

Whatever hope there may have been that this policy would soften the economic blow now seems dashed.

“As in most of the world, there will be a record decline for the Swedish economy in Q2,” SEB bank economist Olle Holmgren said.

Sweden’s top epidemiologist said last week that there was room for improvement in the country’s softer approach to curbing the spread of COVID-19.

But Anders Tegnell, the public face of Sweden’s virus response, defended the decision not to impose a strict lockdown.

“If we were to encounter the same disease with everything we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden and the rest of the world has done,” Tegnell told Swedish Radio last Wednesday.

A rebound was likely in the latter part of the year, but “we expect it to take a long time before the situation normalises,” bank economist Olle Holmgren told AFP.


In neighbouring Denmark on Monday lifted the limit on public gatherings to 50 people from 10 as it relaxes measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the ministry of health said.

The restrictions on public gatherings were put in place on March 17.

Swedish officials insist their strategy was always aimed at public health, and never specifically at saving the economy.

The idea was to make sure hospitals could keep pace with the outbreak and protect the elderly and at-risk groups.

Sweden has succeeded at the former, but admitted failure at the latter, with more than three-quarters of virus deaths occurring among nursing home residents and those receiving care at home.

“When we have decided what measures to take to stop the virus from spreading, we have not had any economic considerations. We have followed the advice of our [public health] experts on this issue,” Finance Minister, Magdalena Andersson, told reporters in late May.


Still, authorities acknowledge that keeping businesses open was also part of a broader public health consideration, as high unemployment and a weak economy typically lead to poorer public health.

Sweden, a country of 10.3 million, had reported 4,639 COVID-19 deaths as of Friday.

That gives it one of the world’s highest virus mortality rates, with 459.3 deaths per million inhabitants – four times more than Denmark and 10 times more than Norway, which both imposed stricter confinement measures.

At first Sweden’s export-heavy economy seemed to be doing okay, with GDP actually growing by 0.1 per cent in the first quarter.

But now the country is expected to follow the same path as most of Europe, with its economy shrinking for the full-year 2020 and unemployment soaring.

In April, the government predicted GDP would contract by four per cent in 2020, compared to its January forecast of 1.1 per cent growth.


Again, another meme shared with me by my neighbour Craig. He must spend half of his day on WhatsApp.

Image Credit:


I came across and interesting element on NBC where those under lockdown posted their one line confessions from lockdown. What they thought, what they did, their fears and other worries or concerns. The comments show that we’re pretty much the same the world over.. You can always share yours to and mark it for the Going Viral blog.

Here are today’s 25 confessions:

1: The fear that keeps me up the most is that our literal lives have come to depend on others not being stupid and selfish.

2: My anti-vax sister is moving to a more ant-vax state in two weeks to “give her kids a better life”. It just makes me so sad.

3: For those missing human contact, remember that this is how the elderly and disabled often feel if they are stuck at home.

4: Went to the doctor yesterday - first time out since February. Even though I took precautions I’m convinced I’m going to get sick.

5: I’m a Mental Health Counselor. I hate going online to see clients. I need the contact as much as they need to talk.

6: It's always been my dream to work from home full-time. Right now I am and loving every single minute of it. I don't want to go back.

7: I battle depression and rely on social interactions and routine to keep it at bay. Every day that passes I feel that demon pressing.

8: I feel bad that I can't work but thankful that my husband can. I hope he doesn't get sick!

9: I'm estranged from my dad because he won't take the stay at home orders seriously. He wants me to travel across states to see him.

10: I work in healthcare and am ready to die if needed. More scared and saddened by what I see from fellow Americans than of death.

11: I was going to see my sister a few weekends ago. She said I could visit her outside, not inside. I didn't go. Sad.

12: Paramedic. When we need to quarantine due to exposures, we won't get paid – Unless you test positive.

13: Never realised how needy my friend is.

14: I’m starting to realize how little my "friends" actually care about me, and how much more effort I put into my friendships.

15: I’m forced to watch first responders kids. I stalk their parents on Facebook to see if they are social distancing. They aren’t.

16: I found that I like working from home so much that I’m changing directions with my career to make it a permanent shift.

17: Working from home has solidified my feelings that we need to get in financial position for me to be a happy person again, or go part time.

18: I didn't like my job and I am stoked to be home doing nothing and watering my plants and reading. I'm grateful to have this break.

19: My longtime friend who works at a grocery store thinks this is a hoax with fake numbers.

20: I wish I were alone more. I'm eating my feelings, fat and miserable – not suicidal – but don’t care if I live. Don’t care about much.

21: I just want to be alone.

22: My daughter was supposed to graduate, find a job and move to a different city. Instead she is home. I love having her here.

23: I know too many people that believe the conspiracy theories, random youtubers, microchipping conspiracies over doctors and scientists.

24: I’m loving the fact that so many coworkers are now working from home. The office is so much more quiet!

25: I’m lonely beyond measure. Doubt anyone would notice if I fell ill and died; when the rent is due I suppose.



Monday was a day of modest gains, returning a profit of £130.50 on trading in London.

A reminder that this is all pretend, I started out in lockdown with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 to invest on the London Stock Exchange, I don’t pay for trades and I can only buy or sell when the market is closed. There’s no minimum on the amount of stocks I can buy, just as long as I can afford them.

On Sunday evening, I purchased 350 shares in Ryanair, Europe’s largest carrier on the belief now that the continent is opening up, the lockdown price had already been factored into to Ryanair’s share price, and that it will rebound once people are able to start planning for holidays now.

On Monday morning the airline said it will not cancel flights to and from the United Kingdom despite the introduction of a 14-day quarantine for international travellers because thousands of Britons are still booking holidays

New rules requiring all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days came into effect on Monday even though Ryanair, Europe's biggest budget airline, EasyJet and Aer Lingus-owner IAG have threatened legal action over what they cast as a draconian move that will cripple the British tourism industry.

The quarantine is designed to prevent a second surge of COVID-19 and in England a breach of the rules will be punishable with a £1,000 fine. It will be reviewed every three weeks and "air bridges" are being discussed with some top European destinations such as Portugal.


Asked whether Ryanair would cancel July and August flights if the quarantine remained in place during those months, group CEO Michael O'Leary said: “No, because the flights are full outbound of the UK. British people are ignoring this quarantine, they know it's rubbish. Ryanair is operating a thousand daily flights to points all over Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece from the 1st of July, the 2nd, the 3rd and every day after that.”

With planes around the world grounded since late March, airlines had hoped to start flying from July to rescue their summer season.

The three airlines have sent a "pre-action protocol letter", which can be followed by legal action, to denounce the quarantine plan as "wholly unjustified and disproportionate".

O'Leary said he expected British tourists to still book holidays in Europe but that European tourists would be put off travelling to Britain, hammering the domestic tourism industry.

The stock was down marginally for me.

Once again, PowerHouse, a green energy supplier that I bought two months ago for 87p, was a gainer, up more than 6 per cent on the day. Both Ocado, the grocery delivery company and drinks distiller Diageo retreated, but I still ended up on the plus side, and my portfolio is up by more than 43 per cent since I started this exercise at the end of March.

plus side, and my portfolio is up by more than 43 per cent since I started this exercise at the end of March.

This is how things stand after Monday:

Net worth £14,314.88

Ocado, 100 shares: £1983.50

Diageo, 100 shares: £2884.00

PowerHouse, 1200 shares: £4716.00

Ryanair, 350 shares: 4497.50

Cash in hand: £233.88

£ gain on last trading day: £130.50

% Gain overall: 43.1 per cent

£ Gain overall: £4,314.88


Hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug touted and previously taken by President Donald Trump to fight coronavirus, has fallen out of favour and public view as studies – like one halted Friday – have suggested it does little to treat infection while exposing users to dangerous side effects.

Not all researchers have given up on the drug, however, and recent developments show it is not yet dead as a potential weapon against COVID-19, especially as a preventative in people not yet exposed to the virus.

On Thursday three authors retracted a widely publicized study about the use of the drug in coronavirus patients. The authors had found COVID-19 patients who took the drug were more likely to die. After its publication in the influential British medical journal The Lancet, however, the authors faced criticism over their data.

When the company that supplied the data declined to provide the full data set and other information for review, three of the study's four authors wrote, "Based on this development, we can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources.”

A day earlier, the World Health Organisation recommended that its researchers continue to study the drugs' potential use against coronavirus, restarting a paused trial.

And researchers across the US are still testing the drug. The 48 or more trials still underway include at least 17 that are testing whether it could still play a role as a prophylactic preventing COVID-19 infection, even if it may not help treat patients who are already infected with the coronavirus.


On Wednesday, the New England Journal of Medicine published the results of a University of Minnesota trial that showed the drug did not help prevent COVID-19 trial in patients who were already exposed to the virus.

Dr. Bradley Connor, the lead investigator for The New York Centre for Travel and Tropical Medicine’s trial, was undeterred by the Minnesota results. “Science is based on multiple studies. This doesn't change anything.”

Connor’s trial examines whether hydroxychloroquine could be a prophylactic prior to exposure to the virus. “I think this deserves further study given the preliminary data from Europe and the in-vitro data would suggest that we need more information.” Connor says enrollment for his team’s double-blinded, randomised placebo-controlled trial is set to begin over the next two weeks and is focused on pre-exposure for healthcare workers.

With eyes on the drug’s preventative role, teams at Duke University Medical Center, ProHEALTH and UnitedHealth Group, NYU Langone Health in New York and Hackensack Meridian Health Corporation in New Jersey tell NBC News they’re continuing or have concluded their trials regardless of recent findings.


A decades-old drug, hydroxychloroquine is traditionally used to treat autoimmune disorders including lupus and arthritis medicine and is also prescribed to prevent malaria. Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, there was evidence the medication might help treat patients with the coronavirus.

It's known to have side effects, including muscle weakness and heart arrhythmia, although experts say it's generally considered safe for a healthy population as long as it's not prescribed with other medications that could cause arrhythmias.

The University of Minnesota's study of the antimalarial did not find serious side effects such as cardiac complications, though participants were more likely to have minor gastrointestinal effects like nausea or diarrhea.

Experts say that data point is critical.

"The main takeaway from this study is that hydroxychloroquine, as we suspected, is generally safe. Although the drug did not show a statistically significant benefit when people took it immediately after exposure, it may still have a benefit for prevention prior to exposure," says Dr. Adrian Hernandez, principal investigator of the HERO research program coordinated by the Duke Clinical Research Institute. Compared to the Minnesota study, the HERO study will give the drug earlier and for a longer duration — 30 days instead of five days.

“This is a well done, really informative study,” says Dr. Daniel Griffin, chief of infectious disease for UnitedHealth Group and ProHEALTH New York. Griffin is leading a two-pronged trial of hydroxychloroquine's effectiveness preventatively as well as in patients taking it within the first day or two of illness.


In early April, when Griffin's team first took up their trial, many people had already begun taking the anti-malarial. “It wasn't so much that I was impressed by any early data,” he said. “It was more that I realised that this was something that people were using. And it was really important to know whether or not it was safe and effective. The reason I say I don't think it's a nail in the coffin is that, fortunately, they didn't find any serious adverse effects ... no one's actually being killed by hydroxychloroquine and that's what I think puts a nail in the coffin.”

Dr. Michael Belmont, medical director at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital, says he is “not especially encouraged, given the experience with active treatment, given the experience with post-exposure prophylaxis, but I still want to complete my study looking at pre-exposure prophylaxis."

Belmont is the principal investigator of NYU Langone Health's ongoing trial of hydroxychloroquine for pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Belmont says he has used the drug on rheumatoid arthritis and lupus patients for 35 years without much short-term toxicity, adding that he still sees a possibility that a lower dosage of the drug may prevail in "reducing either the occurrence of symptomatic infection at all, or at least have a mitigating effect so for those that become symptomatic it's less likely they'll require hospitalization, ICU, and intubation."


Hydroxychloroquine initially became a lightning rod after Trump repeatedly touted it as a preventative measure against the virus. On Wednesday, the White House released results of the president's latest physical, including that he had taken a two-week course of the drug as well as zinc and vitamin D following the COVID-19 diagnosis of two West Wing staffers.

Medical teams tell NBC News the politicisation of the drug has complicated the trial enrollment processes.

“It's become quite a challenge I think to enroll people in a lot of these trials and actually ever find out if it is particularly attractive preventative or early treatment,” Griffin said.

In his study's case, initial enrollment was set at 850 participants, although the team is not enrolling new people at the moment. Instead, it's monitoring the 50 or so participants already enrolled, most of which are healthcare workers. So far, Griffin says there is no evidence of harm or serious adverse effects caused by the trial.

“What we found in our trials was a combination of people not being interested in enrolling, a number of people withdrawing from the trials because either they were concerned or their physician was concerned — and so we ended up in our trials with very limited enrollment,” Griffin explained.


Belmont says while his trial is still on track for completion this September, his team's experience recruiting their initial target of 350 healthcare worker participants has been similarly paused.

Over the course of recruitment, initial enthusiasm for hydroxychloroquine in active treatment waned and the overall number of acutely ill COVID-19 patients entering NYU's medical centre and exposing themselves to workers declined. Currently there are about 100 participants enrolled in the trial after some workers opted to provide blood samples for the trial’s observational arm instead of taking the drug.

As a result, said Belmont, "I fear I may have lost the ability" to demonstrate a meaningful effect of hydroxychloroquine on acquiring the infection, “but that's the reality of doing clinical science.” He still hopes to provide insight into how patients tolerate the drug and address other exploratory goals.

Still, at least five groups previously conducting clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine on healthcare workers told NBC News their teams had failed to be approved by review boards, withdrawn, or suspended their trials due to recent trial results, safety concerns or difficulty in enrolling participants.


Montefiore Medical Centre in New York officially withdrew its trial of the drug's treatment of healthcare workers after it was deferred by its IRB, or review board. The study's principal investigator, Dr. Priya Nori told NBC News, "We didn't pursue the study further because we just didn't feel it was worthwhile." Nori said that hydroxychloroquine was removed from the centre's treatment protocols weeks ago.

Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Research Foundation in Austin also withdrew its proposal before receiving approval due to safety concerns. Dr. Adam Singer of Stony Brook University in New York said his team did not move forward with its approved trial because "we cannot get healthcare workers to agree to participate in the study."

In anticipation of a possible second wave of the virus in the fall, Griffin said his team will continue to engage therapies beyond hydroxychloroquine. “As each week, as each month goes by, my hope is that there are more things that are being developed specifically for COVID-19, with even more exciting potential therapeutics and prophylactic medicines that we may want to focus our resources on.”


I’m not an expert, but I might be able to help you make a bit of sense of this. And we can all get through it together. Isn’t this what this is all about.

Send your questions for me to

That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. I have used files from Reuters, AP, DW, Sky News, Twitter and other European and North American media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.

Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe