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.
DAY 26: Friday April 24, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
FORGET ABOUT THE IDEA OF ‘IMMUNITY PASSPORTS’
I’ve read on a number of social media posting from friends who are under lockdown across Spain that one of the ideas being looked at is allowing air passengers and tourists to travel if they have “immunity passports”.
But it’s bunkum.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that countries should be worried about “second waves” of Covid-19 and warned that they should operate on the basis that the virus will be “with us for a while”.
At briefing on Thursday morning, the WHO also expressed caution about serological tests, which look for the presence of antibodies to determine if an individual had previously had the coronavirus.
Asked if such tests could be used as the basis for so-called “immunity passports” for people to return to work, senior emergency officer at WHO Europe Catherine Smallwood said it’s too early to come this conclusion.
WHO CAN’T DRAW CONCLUSIONS
Smallwood said that, while antibody tests can give “an indication of who has been infected” within communities, “we cannot draw certain conclusions about the results”.
“One, because there’s a margin of error in the test results itself and these tests so far have not had the validation that gives us full certainty on the results,” she said.
Secondly, the WHO still has an incomplete understanding on the immunity that is conferred after infection.
And that’s is incredibly important.
“We would advise very, very much caution in interpreting these types of results at the personal level and certainly in using them for determining whether a person can return to work or other types of decisions, which also have broader ethical implications that we need to treat and understand more carefully,” Smallwood said.
‘WE LIVE IN A PLANET OF VIRUSES’
And speaking about the future prospects for the spread of Covid-19, WHO regional director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge said that “we live in a planet of viruses” and that until vaccines are found governments must devise ways to live in the presence of infections.
“We have to live with potential and current outbreaks whether it is coronavirus or older ones. So in that sense, we are moving towards a new reality,” Kulge said.
“The development of vaccines and treatments are being sped up but even either with vaccines it’s very important that will be equitable access. So in that sense, the key issue for the time being, is for governments and societies to implement what we know of, and to have indeed a mindset that the virus is going to stick with us for a while.”
We had all better used to the idea that we will be living in a changed world once the current coronavirus restrictions are lifted – and our lives may never indeed be the same – for a long time to come.
DEBUNKED: NO, TRUMP DIDN’T TWEET HE’D NEVER LET THOUSANDS DIE IN A PANDEMIC IN 2009
Right, let’s get this out of the way once and for all.
Regardless of that you think about United States President Donald Trump, some things being said about things he said are simply not true.
Yes, his favourite mode of communication is Twitter.
And yes, he’s engaged in a war of words with many governors across the 50 states about the way he may or may not have handled the coronavirus crisis.
He’s even tweeted earlier in April saying that the way former US president Barack Obama and vice-president Joe Biden were a “disaster” in handling the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.
However, in recent days, a screenshot purporting to be a tweet from Trump from ten years ago which shows him criticising Obama has been shared widely on social media.
The tweet says: “Obama’s handling of this whole pandemic has been terrible! As President, ALL responsibility becomes yours during a crisis like this, whether or not you’re entirely to blame. John McCain, and for that matter myself, would never let thousands of Americans die from a pandemic while in office.”
TIME-STAMPED TWEET IS FAKE
The purported tweet is time-stamped at 3.32pm on 23 November 2009.
While – let’s face it – it sounds like something Trump would say, he didn’t.
The tweet is fake. And here’s why.
First of all, in 2009, it wasn’t possible for a tweet to be that long. Before November 2017, posts on Twitter could only be 140 characters long.
The tweet has well over 140 characters so it couldn’t have been sent in 2009.
Secondly, there are tools to check whether or not a tweet is legit.
Using a Twitter advanced search, you can look for posts from a particular account on a particular day.
Trump never tweeted this on this day, or on any other day. And it doesn’t appear in an archive of his tweets either.
While he may say a lot of things that are questionable, this particular tweet attributed to Donald Trump is simply a fake.
Yes, it is indeed fake news.
TAKING OUT PLANES’ MIDDLE SEATS IS ‘IDIOTIC’
I don’t know if you’ve ever flown Ryanair. It’s the biggest budget airline in Europe and had dumbed down air travel to the point where it’s just like getting a bus.
The only good thing about Ryanair is that it’s cheap – often offering flights for as little as €5.99 (Dh24). But it has a terrible record when it comes to way it treats passengers.
But it is cheap. And people use it because it’s cheap.
And Ryanair is a pain to deal with if you have a customer service issue.
Because of coronavirus, I’ve had to cancel tickets. While the European Union says all airlines based in the EU must offer a full refund and not just travel vouchers that have to be used within a year, Ryanair has made it as difficult as possible – like pulling hens’ teeth – to get a refund.
COLOURFUL AND CONTROVERSIAL O’LEARY
The CEO of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, is a very colourful and controversial character in the airline industry. He has, for example, bought a taxi so that he can use bus lanes to travel through congested traffic quicker.
But he’s listened to. The airline he runs regularly turns on annual profits above €1 billion. So he knows what he’s talking about.
And like other airlines around the world, Ryanair is essentially grounded because of Covid-19.
And he’s just told the financial Times that he will keep his fleet of more than 800 planes grounded if governments or public health regulators insist that the middle seats be left empty as a condition of flying.
O’Leary warned recovery plans could be thwarted if seats are left empty for social distancing saying “either the Government pays for the middle seat or we won’t fly.”
The Ryanair Executive laid out plans for the airline’s recovery including plans to run 40 per cent of flights in July, with planes 50 to 60 per cent full.
GRADUALLY INCREASING CAPACITY
O’Leary said the airline would increase capacity to 60 per cent in August and 80 per cent in September before reducing flights for the quieter winter period.
However, the Ryanair boss said plans would be affected f there were “some entirely ineffective social distancing measures like having middle seats empty because if middle seats are empty we’re not returning to flying at all,” he told the Financial Times.
“We can’t make money on 66 per cent load factors. Even if you do that, the middle seat doesn’t deliver any social distancing, so it’s kind of an idiotic idea that doesn’t achieve anything anyway,” he said.
FEELING THE STRAIN OF COVID-19 18 TIMES OVER
I have to feel sorry for Ireland’s Health Minister, Simon Harris. He’s under tremendous pressure in trying to organise his nation’s response to Civid-19.
But earlier this week he was had to apologise for making what he called an “awful boo-boo” by incorrectly saying during a radio interview that there were 18 other coronaviruses before Covid-19.
Harris made the error when explaining during an interview on a breakfast radio show on Wednesday why a vaccine may not be found for the current coronavirus for some time.
“Remember this is coronavirus Covid-19 – that means there have been 18 other coronaviruses and I don’t think they have actually successfully found a vaccine for any,” he said in the interview.
Actually, the ‘19’ comes from the name in the year which it arose,, health officials explained.
Following the briefing, Harris posted a video on Twitter acknowledging and apologising for his mistake.
In fairness , he’s not hiding away from what he describes as “an awful boo-boo” .
“Don’t ask me how or why; I can only presume it’s a degree of cabin fever after being in this department on a very, very regular basis for the very last while – maybe a bit of sleep deprivation – I stupidly talked about there being 18 other coronaviruses, which of course there isn’t,” he said.
The minister struck a self-deprecating tone in his video, saying that he can be an “awful old idiot at times”. He apologised for any confusion that his error caused.
Harris said he was trying to make a point in the earlier interview that the public have to accept the reality that this virus “might be with us for quite a period of time” and that it had to be suppressed to a “safe enough level” so that people can “live alongside it.”
“My apologies for making a stupid mistake this morning,” he said. “Don’t tell anybody but I am human and it happens from time to time.”
Kellyann Conway, counsellor to US president Donald Trump, made a similar mistake last week around the name when criticising the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“Some of the scientists and doctors say that there could be other strains later on, that this could come back in the fall in a limited way,” she said in an interview on the Fox US television network.
“This is Covid-19, not Covid-1 folks, and so you would think that the people in charge of the World Health Organisation facts and figures would be on top of that.”
She was speaking about President Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO after he criticised the organisation for not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus after it first emerged in China.
2 NEW YORK PET CATS TEST POSITIVE
This news item will give you laws for thought.
Two cats in New York have become the first pets in the US to test positive for the new coronavirus.
The god news is that there is no evidence pets can spread the virus to humans, US health authorities say.
The cats, from separate areas of New York state, had mild respiratory illness and are expected to make a full recovery. It is believed they contracted the virus from people in their households or neighbourhoods, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Animals, pets, can get infected ... There’s no evidence that the virus is transmitted from the pet to a human,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the daily coronavirus briefing.
Thankfully, there are few known Covid-19 infections of pets globally, but one cat tested positive in Hong Kong and another recovered in Belgium nine days after falling ill.
MEME OF THE DAY
That last item on cats seems like a good moment to introduced this meme I picked up on Facebook recently…
DEBUNKED: COVID-19 CAN’T BE TRANSMITTED IN FOOTSTUFF
Let’s get something very straight. You can’t get coronavirus from your shopping items.
There have also been reports of people taking drastic steps such as washing their groceries before storing them and even leaving products in quarantine for as much as 72 hours to ensure there are no traces of Covid-19 on packaging.
“Currently, there is no evidence that Covid-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging,” says Dr Linda Gordon, the chief specialist in microbiology with Safefood.
She stressed that it was “important to follow good hygiene practices when handling or preparing foods. You should always wash your hands and surfaces often, separate raw meat from other foods, cook to the right temperature and put food in the fridge as soon as you can.”
She said people should not wash or disinfect food packaging.
“It’s not necessary to sanitise the outside of food packaging as there is no current evidence that the virus can be transmitted in this way,” she said.
MAIN RISK IS TRANSMISSION FROM CLOSE CONTACTS
She stressed that the main risk of transmission remained from close contact with infected people. “Our advice is to maintain good hygiene habits and to wash your hands regularly and to follow current public health guidelines re social distancing.”
She also offered advice to consumers who may find themselves cooking more than they usually do.
“Typically, if there is food left over after a meal, get it into the fridge within two hours – you can help cool it more quickly by dividing it into smaller portions. However, remember that cooked rice is high-risk and must be cooled and put in the fridge within one hour. Any leftovers properly stored should be eaten within three days but if you’re in any doubt, throw it out.”
She said a significant increase in online food shopping had highlighted the importance of storing and handling food at home properly.
“As we would normally do, put away shopping as soon as you get it, especially perishable foods which must be stored in the fridge or freezer,” Dr Gordon said.
And always wash your hands after handling any food packaging and before you begin to prepare food. If you’re going food shopping for yourself or others, wash your hands before you go and, as soon as you come home and again after you unpack your shopping,” was her advice to readers of the Irish Times.
THE STOCK SHOCK
So after a positive day with my two stocks on Wednesday, they essentially gave back their ground on Thursday.
This is how portfolio now stands:
Net worth: £1,1134.48
Just East Takeaway, 100 shares: £7726.00
Morrisons, 1800 shares: £3,361.50
Cash in hand £26.98
% Gain + 11.3%
£ Gain +£1,134.48.
A reminder that this is all pretend, I started out with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 – I don’t pay for trades and I can any amount but only at the end of the a trading day.
I’m going to stand still on both these stocks for one more day to complete the trading week.
I’ll look at a number of options over the weekend and make a decision before trading on Monday as to what I will do.
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection of covidiots that serves as a reminder some people are as thick as they are tall.
ARSENAL QUARTET BREAK LOCKDOWN RULES
Just because they earn mega bucks playing football for English Premier League side Arsenal, it doesn’t make them smart.
According to the Sun, for players for the side have become the latest covidiots outed and shamed.
Nicholas Pepe, the club’s record signing, was filmed having a kickabout with a dozen pals in North London, with footage shared on WhatsApp.
Then striker Alexandre Lacazette got too close to a valeter who he asked to clean his car despite the lockdown.
And fellow Gunners David Luiz and Granit Xhaka were spotted having a get-together on parkland in Southgate.
“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” the club told the newspaper. “We’ll be speaking to our players. were concerned so we have spoken to Nicolas who shares a house with a number of relatives who were involved in this game.
“We have reminded him of the importance of everyone following the guidelines.”
The others have been warned too.
COUPLE TRIED TO CLAIM A MOUNTAIN
A British couple were caught defying lockdown rules by driving almost 400 kilometres to climb Snowdon mountain in Wales.
The pair from London were stopped in their car by police and reminded the region is closed to visitors.
Officers then reported the couple for offences under the new Covid-19 legislation in the UK before sending them on their way.
It comes a week after a group of walkers also attempted to climb the peak because they were “bored”.
ANOTHER SPITTER HELD
Some covidiots just don’t get it.
Irish police have arrested a man in his 30s on Wednesday after he allegedly spat at them while they were searching his home on other charges.
He’s been held behind bars.
Others held for similar offences have faced at least two months in the slammer for this act.
Let’s hope he gets the same. There’s no room for these morons.
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 and North American media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe