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.
Wednesday 8 April, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
WHY SMOKERS AND VAPERS SHOULD TAKE NOTE
Coronavirus is changing our lives and heroic efforts are being made by medical personnel around the world to save the lives of those infected with Covid-19.
It’s generally accepted that the better condition your lungs are in, the better chance you have of fighting off this virus should you be infected.
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But I fail to understand, then, why people continue to smoke and vape – knowing that they are harming their lungs at best or, at worst, are creating a climate where coronavirus can more readily take hold in their systems.
Smoking wreaks destruction on the lining of the lung and impairs respiratory function. Respiratory function disruption is a primary element of Covid-19’s attack mechanism in causing severe disease progression and death. If you are a smoker, you are at far greater risk of severe illness and death from coronavirus than are non-smokers or ex-smokers.
Published studies from Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus for so long, show that smokers with Covid-19 respiratory disease have a poorer prognosis than non-smokers; have a higher prevalence of more severe disease; a higher prevalence of disease progression; a higher need for intensive care unit (ICU) usage; a higher need for ventilation; and are more likely to die.
And the differences are not trivial.
My local vape store is closed – but it will deliver for those who insist on vaping.
We know smoking and vaping are associated with an inflammatory process in the lining of the lungs, the very place that Covid-19 causes its most serious damage
In one study of 1,099 Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital in Wuhan, 31.7 per cent of patients who were smokers had severe disease compared with 14.5 per cent who were never smokers, having nearly twice the risk ratio. Smokers had nearly four times the progression to a worse state – 16.2 per cent versus 4.7 per cent – to intensive care units.
If you smoke, please stop.
If you vape, please stop. This virus should reinforce that need more than ever.
MY ESSENTIAL VIEWING
Have you watched Unforgotten? It’s on Netflix and there are two seasons, each a six-part cold case murder mystery. I’ve said it here before, no one does murder mysteries quite like the Brits. It’s moody, sharp dialogue, flawed characters and plot twists that keep you guessing right to the end.
It makes for addictive viewing. I’ve watch all six episodes of the first season and four of six of the second. It is sharp. Really sharp. If you fancy yourself as a detective capable of solving crimes of figuring out who dunnit – Unforgotten will leave you stumped. Brilliant. Well worth the watch.
That was the evening viewing, then came a news flash that United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been moved to an intensive care unit (ICU) at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London.
A couple of phone calls checking in with the office in Dubai – yes, they were right on it – but the rest of the night was spent watching news programmes on his conditions.
Certainly, there need to be questions asked about just how forthright officials at 10 downing Street were during the day when it was clear his condition was deteriorating.
Having the leader of the nation in such a serious condition at a time when Britons – and everyone else – is focused on overcoming this pandemic, is indeed a body blow and, quite frankly, depressing.
It certainly brings home to everyone just how pernicious this virus is. Again, it’s a reminder to us all that we need to take precautions, listen to advice and practise social distancing. Wash your hands and keep your hands away from your face too.
THE GOOD NEWS
MUSIC TO MY EARS.
I just love this story. Stelios Kerasidis is a seven-year-old Greek pianist and composer who inspired many with his talent. Now, he has composed a new work, titled ‘Isolation Waltz,’ inspired by the coronavirus pandemic.
The composition is a moving piece of music dedicated to all the people who have either suffered or continue to suffer all across the world from the disease, as well as those who are forced to stay at home, in isolation.
The piano wonder child, who started performing in public at the age of five — and performed at Carnegie Hall in New York at the age of six – has been composing music to critical acclaim for the past year.
Gosh, suddenly I feel old and haven’t accomplished much.
Last October, Kerasidis won first prize at the 2018 Golden Classical Music Awards Invited Winners List after a magnificent performance at New York City’s Weill Recital Hall. He played a Chopin waltz that wooed the judge then.
Young Stelios started playing piano at three when he took the first official lesson from his pianist father, who is also a music teacher. It was not long before the young boy’s talent was recognised by his teachers and the music world in general.
So far, he has also performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall and Vienna’s Musikverein, as well as played with the Athenian Sinfonietta orchestra.
Kerasidis became widely known to Greek audiences after his participation in the television show ”Greece You Got Talent,” where he amazed both the judges and the audience.
Here’s the link to his Isolation Waltz. Enjoy.
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was shared with me by my friend Dave, over in Toronto. As I said here before, I’m a sucker for any meme that includes a cat or dog. And if you have a cat, you’ll know this pose and appreciate that they are only letting you share their home during this lockdown for now!
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 10 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
Almost at the hump day, where I turn the corner on the homeward stretch.
The desire for coffee first thing in the morning remains strong. I’m not sure whether it is a physical urge or if it’s a matter of a being a morning routine that’s hard to shake.
As things stand, I start the day with hot water and lemon. Then as a change, I had some friend brown basmati rice in the fridge that I needed to use up. I simply tossed that in a pan with some sesame oil and poached an egg, serving it one top – nasi goreng Dr Johsi style.
Lunch was a smashed banana with honey and cinnamon on a rice cracker, while supper was the remainder of a chicken curry I made the night before. Instead of rice, I oven roasted some parsnip and beetroot, leaving its skin on.
I keep a packet of almonds at hand if I get peckish during the day. They’re easier than having to clean and peel a carrot and are a bit more appetising.
So far, feeling good, feeling trimmer and I’m beginning to see things that I hadn’t seen in years with the belly in the way before.
THE STOCK SHOCK
Tuesday was not a great day. I started it in positive territory, up £169.35 on my initial £10,000. That’s the first time in a week of this pretend trading that I had been on the right side which, given the volatility in the market right now, I was pretty proud of.
So how did Tuesday go.
My 500 shares of Ocado, the online grocery portal, slipped quite a bit. On Monday they were at 1365p (£13.65). They closed at 1310p, meaning they are now worth £6550, down from £6945 on Monday.
And my 49 shares in Just Eat Takeaway skipped slightly too, closing at 6548p (£65.48). They’re now worth £3208.52, compared to £3116.36 on Monday.
So what to do.
I am tempted by oil. There’s an OPEC+ meeting on Thursday where new production cuts are likely to be agreed between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
But Just East Takeaway still has legs.
I’m going to rebalance my portfolio.
I’m cashing in all my Ocado now for £6550. I’m going to increase my Just Eat Takeaway stake by 51 shares, giving me 100 – in real like there’s a minimum number you can hold. Those 51 shares will cost me £3339.48. With £7.99 cash in hand previously, I’m left with £3215.51 to play with.
So what to do?
I’m going to hold this in cash for now, then likely cash in all my Just East Takeaway end of trading Wednesday, and invest in some petroleum stocks – if it looks likely Russia and Saudi Arabia will agree to production cuts when the meet on Thursday.
This is how my pretend portfolio now stands:
Tuesday’s net worth £9,763.51
Just Eat Takeaway: 100 shares, £6548.00
Cash in hand: £3215.51
% Loss: -2.36%
£ Loss: -£236.49
Just a reminder that this is all pretend, and I started out with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 – in play money. I can only buy at the close of business, and I don’t pay brokerage fees.
THE IDIOTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
When it comes to COVIDIOTS, I’m happy to see that messaging app What’s App has announced that it is introducing restrictions on the forwarding of messages through its platform in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 misinformation.
And about time too.
Large volumes of misinformation about coronavirus have been circulated through messaging and social media apps since the virus first appeared back in December 2019.
Factchecking organisations and responsible news outlets such as Gulf News have been working tirelessly to debunk misinformation, while social media companies are also trying to restrict the flow of such content.
WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, said it has seen “a significant increase in the amount of forwarding” of content over recent weeks and that users report feeling “overwhelmed” by the volume.
In a blogpost, the company said it is removing its rule that messages can only be forwarded to a maximum of five people at a time, and is now introducing a new rule that messages can only be forwarded to one person at a time.
“With billions of people unable to see their friends and family in person due to Covid-19, people are relying on WhatsApp more than ever to communicate. People are talking to doctors, teachers, and isolated loved ones via WhatsApp during this crisis.
“However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We are now introducing a limit so that these messages can only be forwarded to one chat at a time.”
The company said that while it is not stopping people from forwarding messages to whomever they like, they are restricting people from forwarding messages, videos and other postings to more than one person in one go.
It hopes the move will slow down the spread of misinformation around the Covid-19 health crisis in countries around the world.
Other companies, including Twitter, have also taken measures to help slow the spread by adding links to the World Health Organisation or the websites from national government’s public health authorities where accurate and fact-based information can be obtained.
WhatsApp also added that forwarding messages on its platform is not, in itself, a bad thing as ”many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful.”
In principle, of course, it doesn’t stop the spread of false information – it just means it happens much slower. A bit like flattening the curve, really.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
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 Readers@gulfnews.com.
That’s it for now. Let’s check in with each other tomorrow. And stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe