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.
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
PAWS FOR THOUGHT!
Yes, COVID-19 is cat-astrophic. Now comes word that if you are a cat owner who is self-isolating or have symptoms of Covid-19 – high fever, persistent dry cough, aches in your limbs or extreme chills – you should consider keeping your pets indoors to stop them carrying the virus on their fur, a veterinary body has advised.
The British Veterinary Association said animals “can act as fomites” – objects that can become contaminated with infectious organisms – and could hold the virus on their fur if they are petted by someone who has contracted it.
“For pet owners who have Covid-19 or who are self-isolating we are recommending that you keep your cat indoors if possible, during that time,” the BVA said in a statement on Wednesday. “The virus could be on their fur in the same way it is on other surfaces, such as tables and doorknobs.”
The BVA said, however, that its main advice to pet owners was to practice good hand hygiene.
And it stressed that it is not suggesting all cats should be kept indoors, and said owners should do so “only if the cat is happy to be kept indoors.”
It’s worth noting that there has been a tiny handful of incidents in which animals have themselves tested positive for Covid-19, including a tiger in Bronx Zoo in New York, but even in those cases there is no evidence that animals can pass the virus to humans.
“It is very important that people don’t panic about their pets. There is no evidence that animals can pass the disease to humans,” the BVA posted in a statement on Twitter. “From the small number of cases it appears that dogs do not show symptoms, but cats can show clinical signs of the disease.”
The greater concern is that infected owners pet their cats, who then leave the house and are petted or stroked by strangers.
One study from China – it has not been peer reviewed yet so needs to be taken with an element of skepticism – found that cats appear to be susceptible to catching Covid-19, and the cats in the study were also able to infect each other, although they showed no signs of illness.
Ferrets were also able to catch the virus, although it didn’t appear to harm them. Dogs, on the other hand, were not susceptible, according to that study.
The coronavirus did, however, show up in the feces of five dogs, but no infectious virus was found.
The lesson from this seems to be that we all need to be ultra-cautious of the moment. If your cat is an indoor cat, best keep them inside for now.
MY ESSENTIAL VIEWING
I spent the evening playing Sim City once more. As a result of my efforts, the population of Evertonia is now 11,843 and I have managed to balance the city budget – I did slash transportation costs to make it work and also upped industrial taxes. Schooling has also taken a hit. But such is life building a city in a simulation game.
THE GOOD NEWS
FENCES MAKE FOR GOOD NEIGHBOURS
I’m rather taken by a story from the Reuters news agency written from the border that separates German and Switzerland. I don’t know if you’ve even been to Kreuzlingen on the Swiss side of border close to Constance, but it is one of the most beautiful and visually stunning places on Earth. Rolling hills. Alpine scenery. Forests and lakes. Good food too. And great chocolate.
But back to the good news story.
Coronavirus, of course, respects no boundary between the two nations, nor indeed, anywhere else around the world. These days, the two cities straddling the Swiss-German border are separated by a strip of grass and two fences them after the countries closed their borders to slow the spread of Covid-19.
In a park on Lake Constance’s shoreline residents of both cities normally move freely across an invisible line marking where one nation ends and the other begins. But everything has changed: Most Germans cannot come to Switzerland, most Swiss are barred from Germany.
On most days, lovers, brothers and sisters, parents and their children, and old friends pressed against the chain links in the spring sunshine, just close enough to say “I love you”. They are too far apart to touch.
“This is our only chance to stand across from each other, face-to-face,” said Jean-Pierre Walter, a Swiss who drove an hour from Zurich to see his German partner, Maja Bulic. “We can at least speak to each other. That’s something.”
For weeks, they have telephoned or spoken over FaceTime. But fibre optic and Facetime is no substitute for flesh and blood.
“At some point, you have to see somebody in person,” said Bulic, who drove for more than two hours from near Heidelberg. “It’s difficult, but I know one day it will be different.”
This is a coronavirus no-man’s land. It traces the route of a barbed wire-topped barrier that split Switzerland and Germany during the Second World War and that was removed long ago.
The fences have become a meeting point for people divided by the epidemic – and a reminder of its disruption for Europeans accustomed to traveling where they please.
Switzerland is not in the European Union, but agreements allow Swiss and the bloc’s citizens to travel virtually unfettered, in normal times.
As the coronavirus spread — it has killed 559 people and infected 21,100 in Switzerland, while in Germany the toll is 1,342 dead and nearly 92,000 infected — the governments clamped down on border traffic.
Currently, those Swiss and Germans with cross-border jobs can go back and forth. For nearly everybody else, it’s forbidden.
The fence went up in mid-March as a single layer.
This week, officials added a second, since people were passing beers, playing cards and kissing through the chain links – hardly the required two-metre separation required under social isolation rules.
Kreuzlingen officials said of the decision that too many people were not obeying the rules.
Swiss border police, reinforced by the Swiss Army, patrol the Swiss side. An occasional German federal police squad car makes the rounds just opposite.
While those at the fences said they largely accepted personal deprivations to slow the spread of the disease, some observed that the power of states to halt activities once taken for granted was intimidating.
Germans, for whom a wall long divided East from West, said they never imagined another one in Europe.
“It’s like being in jail,” said Veronica Campanile, a Constance resident meeting friends from the Kreuzlingen side.
Dominik Loroff drove three hours from Munich to meet Michele Graf-Ludin, from Winterthur, 50 minutes away in Switzerland. They had read about the fence, how it had become a magnet for those trapped on different sides of the coronavirus divide.
They had hoped to touch but settled for sharing chocolate bars thrown quickly across when border police weren’t looking.
“It’s sad, when you consider the fate of individuals,” Loroff said. “If it was still just one fence, it would be OK. The second fence is tough.”
All of the above goes to show that we are indeed social animals and relish the company of others. Yes, the fence is there for now. Yes, social isolation measures are necessary for now. But there will come a soon – and it gets nearer with every day we do indeed spend apart now – when things will be normal once more.
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was shared with me from Gus, who is a closet admirer of the policies of US President Donald Trump. Sadly, I think that there’s more than an element of truth in it…
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 11 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
Yay! The hump day – everything else is downwards from here. I’m on the other side of the curve – and I have less curves myself too, even if I am not stepping on a weighing scales for another 10 days.
Well, began the day with the usual cup of hot water and two slices of lemon. And no, it doesn’t have the same effect of coffee but, according to the book, it’s supposed to ease your system into the day. Personally, I prefer a good mug of steaming fresh-brewed coffee to shock my system into working mode. That will come for sue, in 11 days’ time. That’s what I’m missing most after giving up caffeine, sugar, most carbs, juices, dairy and other beverages. Ahhh, but I’m a better person for it I keep telling myself.
Time will tell. Just not now.
The usual breakfast of porridge with half a banana, cinnamon and banana – but I have given up on using almond milk. No need for it and, quite frankly, I can’t get my head around that almond and milk can go in the same sentence. Milk it is not. The juice from squeezed almonds it is. This I won’t miss and it will likely never darken my shopping trolley again. I’ll leave it for vegans and the like.
I kept lunch simple yesterday, flying one eff and having it on a rice cracker. My jury is still very much out on rice crackers, and I believe that there were wall insulation in a previous life, or used as packaging material before some health guru somewhere had the bright idea of pressing them into round cookie shapes and passing them off as food. But now, on this 21 day detox, the humble rice cracker merely serves as a space filler between real food.
A lot of recipes on this detox depends on home-made chicken stock. For that reason I had to roast a chicken yesterday, had a breast for supper with some roasted carrots, beetroot and parsnip, then stripped the meat from the rest of the carcass and made a stock from the bones by adding in a diced carrot, celery, bay leaves and some sliced onion.
I have to confess that when this is over, I do long for some red meat. Like a steak. Or veal. I think that I will only eat it once a week, have potatoes or another starch twice a week – and continue to eat as Dr Joshi suggests for the other five – but with coffee, hmmmm coffee, on all seven. Did I tell you I missed coffee?
THE STOCK SHOCK
Ok, so after a day’s trading, my portfolio has taken a nice little increase, with my 100 shares of Just Eat Takeaway rising to 6616p (£66.16) each, and now worth £6,616.00. I also have cash in hand from cashing in other shares in Ocado on Tuesday of £3215.51.
So do I go for oil or not?
The latest reports on Reuters says that the world’s top oil producers Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States still seemed at odds on Wednesday before this week’s meetings on potentially big output cuts to shore up crude prices that have been hammered by the coronavirus crisis.
For me as an investor – ok, a play investor, that’s not exactly encouraging, is it?
The reports says that Saudi Arabia and Russia, which fell out when a previous pact on curbing supplies collapsed in March, have signalled they could agree deep cuts to crude output but only if the United States and others outside a group known as OPEC+ joined in.
But the US Department of Energy said on Tuesday that US output was already falling without government action, echoing views from the White House that it would not intervene, even as global demand for crude has plunged by as much as 30 per cent.
Here’s the clincher paragraph for me: “Let’s wait for tomorrow or the day after,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, when asked about Russia’s position before Thursday’s OPEC+ talks.
I think I’ll wait and see too. No, I’m staying put as I am for now.
This is how my portfolio stands now:
Wednesday’s net worth: £9831.51
Just Eat Takeaway, 100 shares: £6616.00
Cash in hand: £3251.15
% Loss -1.68%
£ Loss -£168.49
A quick reminder that I started with £10,000 (abut Dh45,000) in play money, I can only buy at the end of a trading day, and I don’t pay brokerage fees.
THE IDIOTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
A COVEN OF COVIDIOTS
Boy, is there a good collection of COVIDIOTS out there today.
BORED IN A BIKINI
No one would ever accuse former Hills star and Instagram “influencer” Kristin Cavallari of being blessed with an arsenal of intellectual firepower, but you have to hand it to her: There are worse places to self-quarantine than the Turks and Caicos.
The reality TV star has been stuck on the Caribbean island with her husband, Jay Cuter, three children and BFF Justin Anderson in the wake of Covid-19. So she posted some bikini photos for her 5 million shut-in fans – but all is not necessarily going swimmingly for the heroine.
Cavallari, 33, is moaning she can’t reach all her followers and is stuck with wearing the same threads day after day. A fate worse the death, no doubt!
The airhead moaned: “I’ve spent years building this family of followers on Instagram and now more than ever I’m having trouble reaching all of you when I need to most. The algorithms have thrown me huge curveballs and for the first time in a long time, I have a new way to get in front of all of you within SECONDS. That is why I’m excited to announce that I’m launching a new platform where I can reach each and everyone of you every time via text! No more BS.”
Oh, and she’s offering 20 per cent off everything in her fashion lines as a Covid-19 treat.
Just step right up shoppers…
STAY APART, YOU’RE TOO CLOSE
And then there’s this tale that shows that the coronavirus can’t stop this British couple from being complete COVIDIOTS.
The couple were spotted having sex in a London park in broad daylight.
“During my afternoon jog, I spotted two morons having sex by the woodlands,” a disgusted woman told The UK Sun, adding that they were “writhing in plain sight.”
The outraged Mrs. Parker even filmed a 13-second clip of the pair, apparently showing a partially dressed woman romping with a man who caressed her hair. “So much for staying home and saving lives,” the jogger said, calling it “disgusting.”
I couldn’t agree more. Puts a whole new twist on social distancing…
MORE THAN A MISS DEMEANOUR
And then comes word that police are hunting a Texas teen who took to Snapchat and threatened to give people the coronavirus.
The 18-year-old will be charged with making a terroristic threat in connection with the alarming social media videos, police posted on Facebook.
“We have no confirmation [she] is actually a threat to public health,” police wrote. “We are, however, taking her social media actions very seriously.”
A local television station obtained a video of the terrible teen arriving at a drive-thru testing site for Covid-19. A nurse can be heard saying she should go home and wait for results. Next, Maradiaga is shown shopping at a megastore.
“I’m here at Walmart about to infest every [expletive], because if I’m going down, all you [expletive] are going down,” she said “If you want to get the coronavirus and [expletive] die, call me. I’ll meet you up and I will shorten your life.” Then she coughed.
CRAMPING THEIR STYLE
And then there’s word that lockdowns are playing havoc with cheaters.
A private eye claims there’s been an explosion of love rats during the coronavirus crisis. Julia Hartley Moore, a private detective in New Zealand, told the Daily Mail that with many couples locked down due to quarantine they’re noticing weird things about their partners.
“Changes in behaviour are often a key indicator of an affair. Things like never letting you near their mobile phone or being secretive about its use, for instance,” Hartley Moore told the Mail.
“The coronavirus lockdown means people who are having affairs will be desperate to concoct reasons to get away from their partners. A classic is to start an argument and then claim they need to go out to ‘cool down’.”
Cheaters, she said, tend to be risk-takers so self-isolation or Covid-19 may not deter them.
“Are people really capable of putting intense physical relationships on hold for months? Where there is a will, people will always try to find a way,” she said.
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 mailto: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