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?
DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
I was thinking yesterday about how to make sure that with the focus on coronavirus, how can I make sure I don’t abandon some green habits that I try to do to make a personal difference on my environ-ment.
It’s important to remember that when this lockdown crisis is over, the bigger problems facing the planet will still remain.
Incidentally, all of the agencies that monitor things like air pollution, carbon dioxide levels – even the background movement of the Earth while monitoring for seismic activity – are all much lower. By stay-ing home, and one-half on the world’s population is under some form of lockdown or restriction on movement, our lack of normal activity is paying dividends on the environment.
As a matter of course, I try and limit my use of plastics. I opt for glass where possible, and try to avoid single-use plastics at all costs. But now, people think that food wrapped in plastic is safer.
I’ve just has a WhatsApp phone call with some friends in Malaga, southern Spain, and when they shop, they disinfect the foods with spray detergent and then rinse them before they use.
A report from research firm BloombergNEF pointed out in a mid-March report that “concerns around food hygiene due to COVID-19 could increase plastic packaging intensity.” After all, much of the mate-rials used in hospitals are made of single-use plastic, so shouldn’t we apply the same standards to our food?
But plastic itself does not make food inherently more safe. Greenpeace point out that a number of studies including one published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 17, found that the virus will persist on plastic longer than almost any material examined for up to 72 hours – which un-dermines the argument about plastic being safer.
While stores are wiping down and disinfecting surfaces like door handles, shopping carts and checkout card terminals, it’s highly unlikely that employees have time to clean every package of pasta or can of beans. But what are the chances of coronavirus being on those?
The message then is to choose glass over plastic.
And, as my friends Sharon and Lloyd in southern Spain have been doing for weeks now, purchased products can also be left in a separate box in an out-of-the-way place for three days, to allow any trac-es of the virus to die off.
It’s important to remember too that vegetarian meals will also reduce the number of trips to the su-permarket to buy fresh meat, for those without a freezer, and are better for the climate.
Vegeterian and vegan diets too generally have a lower carbon footprint over diets that favour meat.
Across Europe, spring is in the air, and it’s a perfect time to reduce our reliance on the grocery store and grow food at home. Certain vegetables and sprouts — herbs, radishes, lettuce and microgreens, for example — can be grown quickly and easily in a small garden or on a balcony or window ledge. And compost scraps from veggies like carrots and leeks can be used to regrow sprouts.
I know these are all small measures in the bigger scheme of things. But right now, we do have a lot of spare time on our hands – and it’s time to think about the future. The mantra of protecting the envi-ronment is to “think global and act local”. Your backyard and your shopping list, your cupboard and your fridge is as local as it gets.
MY ESSENTIAL VIEWING
I caught up last night on episodes 3 and 4 of Tiger King – it is a must-watch. It is hard to fathom that there exists in the United States such a sub-culture who breed big cats to such an extent. I will admit too, that I found one scene, where Joe Exotic, removes a tiger cub, just minutes old, away from its mother – all so that he could start up his petting programme once more. These people make me feel that trailer-park trash in parts of the US are actually royalty compared to these jerks. Watch it. It’s grip-ping and jaw-droppingly addictive. I have saved the final two episodes for another night’s viewing.
I’ve written here before about how such quality Brit cop and murder mystery shows are. I was there-fore very pleasantly surprised to see that Netflix had added new episodes of Unforgiven. So I caught the first one of the third season. Again, a barnburner.
Add it to the list of things like Luther, Line of Duty, the original Cracker if you can track it down, Hinter-land and Broadchurch. Riveting television that’s time well spent and leaves you going hmmmmmmmm.
THE GOOD NEWS
WHY CURFEWS AND LOCKDOWN WORK
Maybe curfews and lockdowns work when it comes to tackling youth crime in the United Kingdom – and elsewhere no doubt.
If you’ve been following the British media over the past couple of years, there has been a huge in-crease in knife crimes – and sadly murders – of young people. And most is related to gangs and drugs.
It seemed that every weekend two of three young people were murders by thugs carrying knives, and there seemed to be little way for police and social agencies to get a real grip on the issue.
County lines – a drug-dealing phenomenon, where city gangs targeted vulnerable small towns to ex-pand their criminal enterprises through intimidation and violence – were also a threat for police forces that had been hammered by a decade of austerity and cuts under consecutive Conservative govern-ments in Britain.
But then coronavirus hit. And that brought strict lockdowns. Now, gang rivalries have been put on hold and violence has essentially stopped.
Sheldon Thomas, who founded the Gangsline Foundation Trust, says county lines activity has also fall-en as police enforce the stay at home guidance.
Simply put, if you have to stay home, you can’t be out dealing drugs or drawing knives.
Some street dealers have even been throwing drugs to their customers in keeping with the social dis-tancing guidelines, however. But that makes it easier for police and others to spot, or for the narcotics activity to be picked up of CCTV.
Maybe there’s a lesson there for dealing with these yobs down the road. Curfews and keeping them apart works. And it saves lives.
A WHALE OF A TIME
Now that there is less human activity about, nature and wildlife are beginning to move into places where we humans would normally dominate. I live in Lanzarote in Spain’s Canary Islands for part of the year. The amazing video clip below – you’ll need to watch out for the whale just offshore – was shot not far from where I live. Because there are fewer boats in the water and fewer people in the sea, whales are coming much closer to shore. Thanks to my friend Lynne Robinson for sharing it with me.
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was shared with me by a friend via WhatsApp. Before the lockdown began in Spain, he ran a very successful little bar and restaurant that I have been known to visit on occasions while I live there. He’s Scottish. But we all have our problems now!
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 13 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
I’m starting to look at my diary with an element of envy. While the social distancing regulations for the coronavirus won’t be ending anytime soon – they’re likely in place until the end of April, if not longer – the same doesn’t apply to this 21 Day Holistic Detox.
I miss coffee. A steaming mug of it first thing in the morning. And another one to follow. Just nine more days… In the meanwhile, I have to put up with a cup of hot water and a slice of lemon first thing in the morning. Did I mention I miss coffee?
Breakfast was a fried eff on a rice cracker – of only because I was getting bored of organic oatmeal por-ridge, banana and cinnamon.
For lunch, I made a chicken salad sandwich, because I had some cold roast chicken left in the fridge. I added in some shopped chives, chopped parsley, sunflower seeds, finely diced celery and some ca-pers, making a dressing from sesame oil, salt and pepper and some lemon juice.
For supper, I used chicken stock to make a basmati rice dish, cooking it like I’d cook a risotto. I added shallots, a diced carrot, sliced asparagus, coriander and cumin seeds and a finely diced green chili. And I baked a chicken breast which I sliced on top of the rice.
But I still miss coffee.
THE STOCK SHOCK
I have been thinking that I might look at oil stocks as members of OPEC+ meet to consider production cuts. Remember your basic law of supply and demand. Less supply, prices rise, therefor oil company stocks go up.
Maybe I was wrong not to invest in oil. It has risen before that OPEC+ meeting but there is still no word on whether Russia and Saudi Arabia will reach a deal to curtail production after last month’s decision to open the taps and let it flow freely.
It’s this uncertainty that is stopping me from getting into oil right now. I’m also looking at the overall geopolitical picture too, and there is a lack of conflict or other incidents than might make oil rise – and there’s now a ceasefire in Yemen too. Also, the weather is getting warming, which means less heating oil. Factories around the world are at a standstill meaning there’s less oil being used in industrial pro-cesses right now – and that means less demand. And planes, which use the best quality at the top of a barrel of oil aren’t flying. There’s no demand for aviation fuels. People are driving less – less demand for petrol.
So even if OPEC+ does agree to production cuts, I’m thinking, there isn’t must room for oil to move up as things stand now in a world dealing with coronavirus. And any supplies that are out there are help-ing to saturate the market. This is my layman’s thinking trying to put all of the pieces together.
So no, I’m not going into oil right now – regardless of the OPEC+ meeting or potential agreement.
As a reminder, this is how my pretend portfolio stood at the beginning of the trading session on Thursday morning.
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 too 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.
Putting a lot of my portfolio – roughly two-third into a single stock is a risky strategy, but it has paid off.
My thinking is that with a lot of people under lockdown regulations because of coronavirus, they are more inclined to want to order food for delivery to their homes. After all, they can’t eat in restaurants and will get fed up sooner or later with having to cook for themselves. Besides, the lockdowns will con-tinue for several more weeks at least – hence my belief that Just Takeaway Food is a good investment option.
And on Thursday, the stock took off, almost up 14 per cent, closing on the day at 7502p (£75.02).
I’m also going to take a punt now on a firm called Totally, who are in the healthcare field. They provide support services to the NHS, but mostly in home settings. It’s been fizzing a bit – and it’s cheap – enough to warrant a look and an investment of some of my pretend money. I have £3251.15 cash in hand. That’s why I’m going to elect and purchase 250 shares, costing me £2793.00
Thursday’s net worth: £10753.13
Just East Takeaway, 100 shares: £7502.00
Totally, 250 shares: £2793.00
Cash in hand £458.15
% Gain +7.53 per cent
£ Gain +£753.13
THE IDIOTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Here’s my daily roundup of COVIDIOTS who just go to prove that maybe the human species isn’t as evolved as we think it is. Sadly, there are still knuckle-draggers out there.
UNMASKING A THIEF
A man who was caught stealing surgical face masks from a hospital in London has been jailed for three months, police said on Wednesday.
There has been huge global demand for face masks in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic from health care workers to ordinary citizens, leading many countries to say they have suffered shortages.
Police said Lerun Hussain, 34, had been detained by security staff at King’s College Hospital in south London as he tried to steal three masks. He pleaded guilty to theft at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday.
Rock and roll Reverend Landon Spradlin, of Gretna, Virginia slammed the “mass hysteria” that was trig-gered by the coronavirus pandemic. And now it has killed him.
On March 13, Spradlin shared a meme comparing Covid-19 deaths to swine flu, Patch reports. In it, he blasted the response as an overreaction and part of a media plot to harm US President Donald Trump. But the Blues Hall of Fame member played a gig at Mardi Gras in New Orleans and later fell ill.
He had gone to the holiday city to play his guitar and preach. His daughter Jesse told the BBC: “Mardi Gras is like Times Square in New York during New Year’s Eve. It’s a sea of people just drinking and par-tying. He was loud and laughing and in his element.”
It’s a hard way to learn a simple lesson – stay apart and stay safe.
RED-FACED MAYOR SAYS ‘SORRY’
The mayor of a small town in Illinois in the US has been left red-faced. He sent in police to break up a social gathering in violation of the state’s Covid-19 stay-at-home order.
Imagine Alton Mayor Brant Walker’s surprise when one of the partiers turned out to be his wife Shan-non. And no breaks for her. The mayor told cops to treat her “as he would any citizen violating the ‘Stay At Home’ order and to ensure that she received no special treatment.”
He said in a Facebook post: “I am embarrassed by this incident and apologise to the citizens of Alton for any embarrassment this incident may cause our city.”
The mayor opined that his wife displayed “a stunning lack of judgement” for her antics at Hiram’s Tav-ern, which continued operating after the stay-at-home edict.
A PIECE OF SPIT…
Police in Ontario, Canada, are hunting a man who spit after he spit on a Tim Hortons employee after he was refused service for walking through the Waterloo outlet’s drive-thru.
According to police, he walked through around 9:40 a.m. and became enraged when the worker would not serve him. He then attempted to spit at the worker who managed to close the screen before the slob’s gob landed.
“This type of behaviour is unacceptable,” police spokesperson Cherri Greeno said.
AND HIS SPITTING IMAGE
Customers at a Massachusetts grocery store in the US tackled a man who coughed and sit on produce in the Stop and Shop.
“Some guy at Stop and Shop in Kingston was coughing and spitting on the produce, he didn’t last long,” wrote Kyle Mann, who posted footage on Facebook, showing at least three men taking down the stooge. “He fought an employee and good customers took him down until the cops arrived.”
Police have not named the 65-year-old suspect, but say they don’t believe he has Covid-19. He was taken to hospital for evaluation.
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