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.
Friday April 17, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
CORONAVIRUS: VETERAN, 99, RAISES £15M WITH HIS GARDEN WALKS
I am totally in awe of Captain Tom Moore. He is turns 100 years of age. And he has put many to shame.
About 10 days ago, he started a GoFundMe appeal to raise £1,000 (Dh4,587) for his local National Health Service just outside London.
His idea was to walk around his garden 100 times, hoping the some locals would chip in for his efforts.
He uses a walking frame after all. And while he’s in reasonable health – they say when you’re old if it doesn’t hurt it doesn’t work – it was still quite a challenge for him to try and raise money for fighting Covid-19.
So on Thursday morning, not only did Captain Moore finish what he started, so far he has raised a staggering £15.2 million for the NHS. And saluting him on his 100th lap was a guard of honour from the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment – the soldiering unit that replaced the one he fought for during the Second World War.
HONOURING A REAL HERO
After his final lap, the Captain’s achievement was trending on Twitter, with many well-wishers offering their congratulations, describing Moore as “truly amazing and inspiring”, a “legend”, and “an extraordinary fundraiser”.
The NHS posted: “We salute you”, while the UK’s Ministry of Defence called the battling senior “one of our own” as it thanked him for his efforts.
“We class Captain Tom as one of our own, so it’s a fantastic honour to be here today to witness such an inspirational act from a phenomenal individual. Thank you Tom!” the Yorkshire Regiment said on Twitter.
“We set out originally to raise a little bit of money by me walking up and down 100 times in reference to my 100th birthday,” the hero said. “But if I've done the 100 by tomorrow, I'll have to continue past my birthday, which won’t matter because I’ll continue walking while people are contributing money to a marvelous fund for the NHS.”
MAKE HIM A KNIGHT OF THE REALM
Now some are calling on this remarkable man to be honoured by Queen Elizabeth with a knighthood.
“It would be marvelous to have such an honour, but I don’t expect anything like that,” he told the BBC. “I think it would be absolutely – Sir Thomas Moore, have you ever heard such a thing?”
As his finish his 100th lap in a blazer and proudly wearing his war and service medals, Tom had worlds of encouragement for the 66 million Britons now living under lockdown.
“For all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment: the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away,” he said. And with more than half of the world’s population also under lockdown, there are words we all should take to heart.
If this remarkable old soldier can show us the way, then putting up with closed quarters for a few weeks to save lives isn’t that much of a hardship.
The next time you complain about not having a fast enough broadband, think of Captain Tom. The next time you moan about there being nothing to watch on the television, remember Captain Tom’s incredible bravery in raising a fortune in charity for the NHS.
And the next time you whine about not being able to go out, ask yourself if you would have the courage to do what he did if you ever indeed make it 99 years of age.
Here’s more of his words of wisdom putting all of this into perspective.
“You’ve all got to remember that we will get through it in the end, it will all be right, it might take time,” he said. “At the end of the day we shall all be okay again.”
They don’t make then like that anymore – and more’s the pity.
A NOT-SO-HAPPY NEW YEAR IN THAILAND
This is the festival of Songkran in Thailand – celebrations to mark the New Year there – and normally a time for large gatherings and street parties.
Not this year. The celebrations were put on hold with the nation of nearly 70 million people under strict lockdown rules because of coronavirus.
Still, Thais were able to visit temples during Songkran to take part in its more traditional aspects.
At Wat Suan Kaew temple north of Bangkok, dozens of worshippers waited patiently to pour water over the abbot’s hands – an act Buddhists believe will wash away past misdeeds.
Abbot Prayom Kullayano was separated from them with a two-metre-long bamboo pole acting as a funnel, a “new innovation” by his temple, he said.
He had also installed a sanitising gate at Wat Suan Kaew’s entrance, and the sprawling complex included an area where volunteers made face masks.
For those who feel lonely from self-isolation, “it will bring joy when they see this kind of environment,” Phra Prayom said.
Other temples in Bangkok had different social distancing measures in place, such as erecting plastic shield guards in front of praying monks.
The government has urged everyone to remain at home, and a night-time curfew has kept all but essential vehicles off the street.
It make me think that it feels as if the New Year celebrations ringing in 2020 were years ago, not just a mere four months ago.
Is there any way we can wind back the clock and forget about 2020 for now.
PANNING THE PANDEMIC
PAWS FOR THOUGHT FOR NURSES AND HEALTH WORKERS
As I’ve written here before, I have both a niece and a nephew who have their sleeves rolled up, their gowns and gloves, masks and visor shields all done up as they care for Covid-19 patients in Melbourne, Australia and Leeds in northern England.
All healthcare workers around the world are putting their lives on the line every day they turn up to provide care and medical attention to this with coronavirus.
They are real heroes. And anything that can be done to support them must be done so by the rest of us.
We have it easy compared to them.
That’s why I love an initiative that’s taking hold in the UK and Ireland by Dogs Trust, a charity that fosters dogs.
Now it’s offering temporary foster care to mind the dogs of stressed-out and over-burdened health care workers. Hey, if minding their dog allows nurses and others to get some badly needed rest before they return to the stress of wards, intensive care units and treatment rooms – all behind personal protective equipment in high-risk areas – then that’s a marvelous thing.
It makes you think of the ways those of us stuck at home or living under restricted conditions might be able to play a very small part in putting the world to right once again.
MEME OF THE DAY
And in keeping with the theme of dogs, here’s today’s meme, shared with me on Facebook by a friend Pete. He’s likely somewhere between Glasgow and Aberdeen delivering petroleum products in his tanker. Stay safe, Pete. Stay safe all.
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 19 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
I went shopping on Thursday. There is dairy milk in the friend and coffee ready to be brewed. There’s also a leg of lamb which will go in the over on Saturday evening.
In the meantime, with two days left and one more liver flush to go, if I ever see a rice cracker again I’ll scream.
One of the blurbs on the book covers is from Gwyneth Paltrow who boasts that’s “Dr Joshi is truly special. I love him.” And then there’s promise that “just 21 days with Dr Joshi will change the way you eat forever and leave you looking and feeling fantastic.”
Yep I am feeling better, slimmer, more trim after 19 days of this.
I starting this thing weighing in at 99.0 kilograms. I have avoid scales since then – and won’t step on them until Saturday morning. Then I’ll have that coffee. As anecdotal evidence, I can close some buttons that I couldn’t before and I can do up a couple of extra notches on my belt buckle.
It should be interesting to see what happens.
FANCY JOGGING IN PARIS?
Joggers beware. If you’re out for a run in and around Paris, you better know your area.
The French capital was one of the only areas to prolong the ban on jogging between 10am and 7pm, but there’s a hodge-podge of rules of where and when you can run.
Get it wrong and French police will slap you with a €135 (Dh537) fine.
Jogging and other outdoor physical activities were not banned completely, but have been allowed in a restricted space of 1km from home and for one-hour maximum every day.
Cycling for exercise is banned altogether –although cycling to work or the supermarket is still allowed – and all group sports such as football are banned. Moral of the story? C’est la vie!
STUPID AND NAIVE IN BALI
Two weeks ago, I was fretting about getting out of Bali. I was there for three weeks on a long-planned holiday when half of the world began to lock down as the coronavirus pandemic spread.
Getting there was easy. Getting back was a nightmare and I am still waiting for KLM, Ryanair and Aer Lingus to refund me for flights.
European-based airlines are required under European Union law to refund travelers if their flights are overly delayed or cancelled altogether.
Some airlines are trying to just offer travel vouchers instead, but I’m sticking firm, citing EU 261/2004 for a cash refund.
Anyway, I was quite surprised to read about the
British couple and their twin toddler sons who took one of the last flights out of the UK to spend the lockdown in Bali.
Corinne and Dave Pruden say they maybe a “little bit stupid or naïve” but they wanted to protect their young children so bought one-way tickets out of the UK.
They left from London to fly to Denpasar on March 16 a week before UK imposed its tight lockdown advice.
And now the Prudens are living in an Airbnb bamboo hut in the middle of a rice paddy, with a blow-up paddling pool and food deliveries from local restaurants.
“The other people taking flights were returning home and we felt sort of courageous but perhaps being a little bit stupid or naive – it was quite hard to pigeonhole our actions and emotions and it was quite stressful,” Corinne said.
But she added that she was worried after speaking to her 72-year-old mother, who has been in self-isolation in the UK for three weeks.
“When I talk to her, I feel her fear and then I watch the news and read the news, it’s not a nice situation at all and we are luckily removed from it – to the point where if we didn’t talk to our family and we didn’t watch the news, we really wouldn’t be aware of anything happening here because we’re so isolated with this house.”
Stupid or naïve?
Listen. It’s both naïve and stupid. And here’s why. The people of Bali have enough to worry about now that the place is shut down. And healthcare there is not as westerners would expect. You ran off on a whim and have risked the lives of your children in a wonderful but place that is under incredible strain coping with coronavirus. And if you get sick, you’re taking medical care away from others in Bali who need it more.
Yes. Both stupid and naïve. That’s what I think.
THE STOCK SHOCK
Ok, so I’ve had a mixed day on Thursday with one day left in the trading week.
A quick reminder that I started this exercise 19 days ago with a pretend sum of £10,000 – About Dh45,000; there’s no minimum amount of shares I can buy, I have to but at the end of a day’s trading, and I don’t pay brokerage fees. And it’s just play money.
I entered trading on Thursday with a portfolio and come cash in hand was worth £1,1183.63.
I am into Just Eat Takeaway for 100 shares and it has performed well. Yesterday, it rose by more than 3 per cent, closing at 8063p (£80.63), or worth £8,063.00
I also hold 250 shares of Totally which are a bit of a dog, slipping down to 1137.5p (£11.375), and worth £2843.75. They are going, and I have an additional £458.13 cash in hand, giving me £3303.88 to invest in something.
The UK government has just announced that the lockdown in Britain will continue for another three weeks. That means more shopping for eating at home and no dining out. Back to food stores and grocery suppliers. This time, I’m going to invest in Morrisons, a major UK food supplier and grocery store. I’m buying 1,800 shares worth £3,276.90
This is how my portfolio stands heading into Friday after some 3 weeks of pretending to trade:
Net worth: £11,366.88
Just East Takeaway, 100 shares: £8063.00
Morrisons, 1800 shares: £3,276.90
Cash in hand £26.98
% Gain + 11.3%
£ Gain +£1,366.88
Not a bad showing. If only this were for real!
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection of covidiots, serving as a reminder that you can lead a horse to water – but there are asses out there as well…
MALAYSIAN POLICE ARREST 13 AT BIRTHDAY PARTY
Who is the bright spark that thought it was a good idea to rent a plush condo on Penang island in the middle of a pandemic so as they could throw a birthday party?
The party in as a condo in Jalan Pangkor for the private party was in full swing when one of the law-abiding neighbours tipped off local police.
Police then crashed the party, bringing the hijinks to a quick end – and rounding up the all-male attendees who were aged between 19 and 26. In all, 13 miscreants were hauled off to jail.
George Town police chief Soffian Santong said the youths were found consuming alcohol when police raided the unit.
“One of them told the police during interrogation that he had rented the unit for RM150 (Dh126) per night and invited his friends to the party to celebrate his birthday,” he said.
They spent the night in the cells cooling their jets and face a court date down the road.
If they’re old enough to party, they’re old enough to be locked up for a good stretch.
NO, FACE MASKS AREN’T BEEN DOUSED WITH DRUGS
Do you really think criminals are so clever?
A fake message is being shared across Facebook and WhatsApp claiming that criminals are handing out chemically-laced facemasks to members of the public so they can drug and rob them.
The rumour, which started on Facebook, reads:
“WARNING A new thing circulating now. People are going door to door handing out masks. They say it’s a new initiative from local government. They ask you to please put it on to see if it fits. It’s doused with chemicals which knocks you out cold. They then rob you!! Please DO NOT accept masks from strangers. Remember friends, it’s a critical time and people are desperate, the crime rate will spike. Please be cautious & safe!!”
The message, which does not name any specific locations, has been shared thousands of times around the world.
UK police and officers in Ireland have knowledge of such a crime. Nor do police in the US. It’s a bogus warning.
Reuters dismissed the claim at the beginning of the month – yes it does sound like something that would gain legs and traction around April Fool’s Day.
The US fact-checking organisation Politifact also looked into the spurious claim and found no evidence from police, and no reports in the media, of this ever happening in America.
Reporters in Taiwan and Singapore have debunked the claim too.
Simply put, there is not one scintilla of evidence to back this warning up.
LOVELORN AUSSIE IS THE FIRST JAILED FOR BREAKING QUARANTINE
As the Meatloaf song goes… I would do anything for love but I won’t do that.”
An Aussie man who repeatedly sneaked out of coronavirus quarantine, reportedly to visit his girlfriend, was jailed for a month on Wednesday – the first person imprisoned under the country’s lockdown laws.
Jonathan David, 35, was arrested earlier this month after jamming open a fire escape and slipping out of mandatory quarantine at a Perth hotel, Western Australia Police said in a statement.
He told Perth’s Magistrates Court that he first flouted the law to get food but hours later broke quarantine again because he missed his girlfriend, Seven News reported.
By escaping through the fire exit, he successfully avoided hotel staff several times but was caught on CCTV, police said.
Under laws aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, David was required to isolate for 14 days after arriving in Perth from the southeastern state of Victoria on March 28.
This certainly gives a whole new meaning to the term “solitary confinement”!
BEHIND BARS – WHERE HE BELONGS
A man from Cavan in the Republic of Ireland has been jailed for a month after he coughed in a police officer through a cell door where he was being held for other abusive behavior.
Craig Donegan has become the second person in Ireland to be jailed for coughing at a police officer since the start of the coronavirus crisis.
The 21-year old was arrested last Sunday night for engaging in threatening and abusive behaviour.
He was detained in a cell at a police station – and he then coughed at an officer through the cell door.
Judge Denis McLoughlin told Donegan he believed the cough was a “threat” to the officer and that it was a very serious offence given the current health crisis. He jailed him for 28 days, backdated to when he went into custody on Sunday.
That should give him time to realise just how big of a covidiot he is when he’s locked up during lockdown.
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. I have used files from Reuters, Twitter and other European media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe.