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.
Saturday April 17, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
FAILING THE OLD AND INFIRM
More than month into the new reality of lockdowns, daily death rates and the numbers of those infections, it is clear that Covid-19 has cut a disproportionate swathe through our elderly and infirm.
While authorities in Europe have generally managed to flatten the curve and limit the numbers who actually need care in intensive care units, there is a sad trend becoming clear.
We have failed our elderly.
Care homes in many of Europe’s nations and in the US, are where a lot of deaths have occurred and where the virus now poises a very grave danger.
Workers in these care facilities are also complaining loudly about a lack of PPE – personal protective equipment. As one UK newspaper noted a few days ago, they are the forgotten front in this war against Covid-19.
Now comes word that police in New Jersey have discovered 18 bodies of elderly people stored in a shed at a large nursing home in the state.
Officials said on Thursday that a total of 35 residents had died at the home in Andover, which is made up of two separate buildings, since the end of March. The said 19 of those deaths linked to coronavirus.
END UP IN A HOME
I turn 60 in a few months’ time. I am at the stage of my life where I do think about becoming ill or infirm. And the prospect of ending up in a care facility is not one that I – nor most other people, would readily opt for.
If this coronavirus makes us reflect on the way things were before, then that is not entirely negative. Certainly, in western society, we need to seriously evaluate how seniors are treated, whether they get the dignity and respect they deserve, and whether the care home system as we knew it – farming seniors out to homes and largely forgotten about – actually really works. Is it really a reflection of how we are – or were – as a society.
I don’t know the answers, but there is a striking difference between the way elderly family members are treated and respected across many cultures. Maybe that’s something we can learn from in the west?
NOW IS NO THE TIME TO POINT FINGERS
Right now, the focus of governments needs to be on making sure that every effort is being brought to bear on fighting this coronavirus.
There will be ample time when we are on the other end of this – and we will get through this together – to examine what went wrong, who reacted and who didn’t, and who made mistakes and what can we learn from the,.
That’s why I’m a little perturbed to read a report from London that says that a leading public health professor is making headlines for saying that the British government was too slow to react on a number of fronts to the coronavirus outbreak .
Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially refrained from approving the stringent controls that other European leaders imposed but then closed down the country when projections showed a quarter of a million people could die in the United Kingdom.
So far, more than 14,576 people with COVID-19 have died in British hospitals, though new official data indicates the true death toll could be much larger.
“Where were the system errors that led us to have probably the highest death rates in Europe?” Anthony Costello, professor of International Child Health and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health, told the Health and Social Care Committee of the British parliament.
“We have to face the reality of that: We were too slow with a number of things,” Costello told the committee. “We could see 40,000 deaths by the time it’s over.”
Costello, a paediatrician who is an expert in epidemiology, said the government should make sure its response to the second and additional waves of infection was not too slow.
He may have a point to make, but is this really the right time to do it?
I think it’s important to remember that no one – you, I, experts or politicians – saw this pandemic coming.
This has swept the world so fast that it’s difficult to start the blame game right now.
Right now, there are patients in the fight of their lives – and many are losing – so let’s keep the focus on helping them and stopping this pandemic in its tracks.
And when that’s done, let’s get everyone back to work, in jobs, in an economy that is back up to steam.
TURNING A NEW LEAF
One of the positives of this lockdown is that we humans are having much less of an impact on our natural environment. And in beauty spots around the world – where greater bare-legged and beer-bellied tourists are usually rushing to take selfies rather than take in the views, nature has taken over again. Just like it should.
In Yosemite National Park in California, bears and herds of deer are strolling through car and coach parks.
“It’s very quiet right now at the park,” Yosemite Conservancy President Frank Dean says. “It’s an amazing scene where you hear the natural sounds of the river, wildlife and the birds. The wildlife is getting a little bit bolder now because there are few people around.”
Yosemite, one of the best-known national parks in the US, has been closed to all except a few employees and local residents since March 20, in response to the public health emergency triggered by the coronavirus.
The park, famed for its waterfalls and giant sequoia trees, normally attracts over 3 million visitors a year, most of whom arrive between April and October.
“We are trying to anticipate and plan how the park will be when it reopens, because, you know, it won’t be business as usual this summer,” Dean said.
Bears, coming out of hibernation, were being seen more frequently as they were less secretive and felt more comfortable, he said.
Coyotes were the most noticeable change, said Dean.
“They are out in the daytime now and they’re not afraid. I mean, they’re just sort of walking by people and walking around, among buildings.”
How wonderful is that?
Hopefully, when things get back to a new normal, maybe we will have a greater respect for all of the creatures great and small with whom we share this little blue planet on its trips around the sun.
EL CHAPO AND EL COVID
I will admit to being fascinated by the lives and times of big narco barons who were and remain a curse on Mexico and Columbia.
That’s why a story about the daughter of famed drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman popped up on my radar. It turns out she And several Mexican cartels have been doling out aid packages to help cash-strapped residents ridE out the coronavirus pandemic.
In one video posted on Facebook, Guzman’s daughter, Alejandrina, can be seen stuffing toilet paper and food into a cardboard box bearing slick logos and a designer stencil-style image of her father, the former Sinaloa cartel chief who is now in a maximum security US prison.
The oil, sugar, rice and other items in the boxes, which the video narrator calls “Chapo’s provisions”, were distributed in Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara, in western Jalisco state.
Alejandrina’s handout was linked to her company, which legally markets clothing and alcohol associated with her father’s image under the “El Chapo 701” brand.
CARTELS COURT PUBLICITY
Active members of cartels have also been courting publicity, with images and video on social media showing gang members providing succour to local residents.
Famed for brutality, including beheadings and dissolving victims in vats of sulphuric acid, the cartels also have a history of trying to win over hearts and minds of impoverished communities where they operate.
The “El Chapo 701” brand gets its name from a Forbes listing in 2009 that ranked him the 701st richest person in the world. Forbes estimated his net worth at $1 billion at the time.
“We are working and contributing. A great pleasure to visit your homes and give you these Chapo handouts,” said a post on the company’s Facebook page showing Alejandrina, wearing a black facemask with Chapo’s face, handing out parcels.
Several Mexican cartels have given away branded food boxes in recent days, often ensuring their gunmen are photographed with the aid recipients.
In one video shared on social media, dozens of people can be seen tussling for packages stamped with the logo of the Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG). A printed logo on the boxes states: “From your friends, CJNG, COVID-19 contingency support”.
Hooded men in military fatigues can be seen tossing the parcels into a crowd of residents.
MEME OF THE DAY
Here’s a collection of memes sent to me from my first cousin, Paul, who is living in New York.
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 20 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
This is my last day of this and I will be weighing myself before I have breakfast.
It’s been an interesting exercise – the worst thing being the three liver flushes that are grapefruit juice, garlic, ginger root, lemon juice and olive oil. Yuck! And then wash it down with fennel tea.
No sugar. No carbs. No dairy. No red meat. No caffeine. No processed foods. Lots of fresh vegetables and spices, chicken and fish.
I feel lighter. I am sleeping better. I haven’t taken an antacid for my stomach in weeks. I can see a visible weight loss. What’s more, this whole process hasn’t been too difficult.
Because I am under lockdown restrictions – some 57 per cent of the world’s population is too – this detox regimen has helped my focus much more on meal planning. And because I only have limited access to shopping, only going once a week, I have had to plan my purchases a lot more too. And that has helped.
Certainly too, doing this detox now has taken up some of the time that might be otherwise wasted.
I also think I am enjoying the taste of food now as distinct from before.
Throughout, I have resisted the urge to weigh myself regularly. That will come in good time.
But I also do think that from now on I will limit my intake of red mean and carbohydrates such as pastas and potatoes. I’ve decided I will only eat those at the weekends.
And as I’ve said here many times before, I find that not having coffee first thing in the morning was the hardest thing over the past three weeks.
I’ll also watch my sugars – cutting them out as far as possible.
Tomorrow – the big reveal! I’m think a five kilo loss?
THE STOCK SHOCK
So I has a reasonable good day. Just Takeaway Foods gave back all of the gains that I made on the shares, dropping back to 7756.56p (£77.5656). Yesterday, I purchased 1,800 shares in Morrisons, a supermarket chain in the UK. It gained 3 pence, making up for a good portion of the Just Eat losses, meaning I finish the week quite well. This is how my portfolio stands now:
Net worth: £11,124.42
Just East Takeaway, 100 shares: £7756.56
Morrisons, 1800 shares: £3,340.88
Cash in hand £26.98
% Gain + 11.1%
£ Gain +£1,114.42
Just a reminder that I started out with £10,000 in play money – about Dh45,000. It’s all pretend, I don’t pay for trades and I can any amount but only at the end of the a trading day.
Now, there is no more trading until Monday. I’ll have a think over the next couple of days but I think right now I’ll be staying with my picks until after Monday trade finishes. But I am in positive territory, up £1,114.42 on the three weeks – and that’s better than a kick in the pants.
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection of covidiots, taking solace from the fact that not all lifts in a building reach the top floor…
ANGER UNMASKED ON FACEBOOK
Here’s one clown who needs a course in anger management – and pronto.
Robert Kovner, 62, of Sebring in Florida, created an angry Facebook post threatening to shoot everyone at a Publix store because not enough shoppers were wearing masks.
He was, needless to say, arrested and charged with making a written threat of a mass shooting, a felony.
He’s being held in jail on bond.
“We realise these are stressful times, but there is no excuse for making threats like this,” local police said. “It’s not a joke. It’s not just a bad day. It’s a crime.”
SOCIALITE’S ‘HEARTBREAKING’ STAY AT THE RITZ
Here’s one “influencer” who has lost a grip on reality right now.
Brit Natasha Rayne, 54, who had to quarantine at Cleveland’s $3,000-a-night Ritz-Carlton hotel, shared her “heartbreaking” story of having to clean her own room and live on takeaway sandwiches.
Oh the horror! The ignominy!
Keep in mind, this is a snob who slipped past the travel ban to meet her surrogate twins. She pulled strings to get on a private jet to the US when there were restrictions put in place on who could enter.
“Being quarantined at the Ritz-Carlton sounds posh but it isn’t,” she told the New York Post. “We were almost the only other people in the hotel. There were no amenities whatsoever.”
Try living in a studio apart with five other people!
“I feel like I am in someone else’s movie,” Rayne whined. “It’s heartbreaking.”
Yeah right, my heart bleeds.
The out-of-touch socialite has since fled Cleveland in a private jet for Malibu on the beautiful coast of southern California – where she’s renting a waterfront mansion.
Spare me this twaddle, please!
‘INFLUENCER’ NOT LIKE OTHER ‘INFLUENCERS’
And then there’s the ramblings of New York “influencer” Tanya Zuckerbrot who is crying that she doesn’t want to be compared to other “influencers.”
Some of her 100,000 Instagram followers – am I missing something but how can such a bimbo “influence” so many people? – suspected she was covering up the fact she wasn’t in New York as she claimed.
Old photos of her Manhattan apartment and tightly cropped livestreams apparently made those followers suspicious that she was lying about her real location.
There is hope, I say, they have minds of their own!
Poor little Tanya had to admit she did indeed fly to a Florida mansion, on a private jet.
“I don’t want to be compared to influencers who have been sick and [gone] to other places,” she whined.
Really? I am missing out on something when it comes to influencers. I’ve been under the influence several times, but never to the likes of these clowns!
Maybe things won’t go back to the way they were before this pandemic took hold.
OUT TO MAKE A QUICK BUCK
Here’s the story of a light-fingered electrical contractor in New Jersey who is far from being a bright spark.
Kevin Brady has been charged with stealing up to 1,600 respirator masks that were to be donated to a local hospital, the New Jersey officials have confirmed.
The electrical contractor who had access to storage areas in the Prudential Financial facility in Iselin, stole cases of N95 respirator masks that Prudential intended to donate to a hospital, Attorney General Gurbir Grewel and the superintendent of New Jersey State Police said in a statement.
“Between March 27 and April 1, Brady allegedly stole seven to eight cases of N95 respirator masks, each case containing 200 masks,” the statement said.
N95 masks, which are designed to filter 95 per cent of airborne particles, are considered critical personal protective equipment for medical professionals treating patients with Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
New Jersey is among the US states hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. New York and New Jersey together account for more than half of the 30,000-plus deaths from coronavirus across the US.
Brady was charged with third degree theft by unlawful taking and conspiracy to commit theft, the statement said. The charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000 (Dh55,085).
I hope he gets the lot – and hard time too in a maximum security jail.
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