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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 29

Monday April 27, 9am

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

MAKING THE MOST OF OUR LOCKDOWNS

So, into the fifth week of lockdown. And there is no immediate end in sight.

Here in Ireland, perhaps restrictions may be lifted ever so slight on May 5. But the lifting may indeed only be slight – and officials are warning that they may be re-imposed if cases increase as a result of the loosening.

No one wants to see any of the hard-won gains being lost.

Spain, of course, has been very hard hit by the pandemic. I live there for part of the year and have many friends who have only ventured outside under the strictest of circumstances since March 13.

Tanya – her husband has been stock in Bali since the middle of March too and won’t be back until late May at the earliest – hasn’t ventured out of her home at all. Neighbours do shopping for her. Her son, George, is a boxer who has just turned professional, and he too has limited his training to weights and skipping inside their garage.

From Monday, however, there is good news in that children will now be allowed outside to play for the first time in six weeks.

The government has also said that Spaniards will be allowed out to exercise alone from May 2 if the coronavirus toll continues to fall. People living together will be permitted to take short walks together.

Children will be allowed one hour of supervised outdoor activity per day between 9am and 9pm, staying within one kilometre of their home.

Adults can accompany up to three children, who will not be allowed to use playparks and must adhere to social distancing guidelines, remaining at least two metres from other people.

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SOCIAL DISTANCING THE NEW NORM

I also think it’s fair to say that none of us have ever had to live through lockdowns before for such a long time.

Sure, there have been occasional exceptional events that might have necessitated staying at home for a day or so – hurricanes and cyclones, blizzards, flooding, power failures or mass general strikes – bit never for so long and under such conditions.

And we have all changed.

Certainly, we’ve changed the way we socialize, the way we interact with people, the way we work and the way we live.

Our usual way of living, or rhythm of life, has been turned upside down as we adapt to the nature of this pandemic and the needed limits to out movements and freedoms.

I have used the first three weeks to go on a detox, losing more than six kilograms in the process and developing eating habits that I intend to continue.

So I was fascinated to hear the opinions of different different experts in fields like mental wellbeing, education and the environment to see what we should take forward when this is all over.

WHY STRUCTURE AND CONTEXT ARE IMPORTANT

On mental wellbeing, Judi James, a psychologist, and Mica Montana Gray, a poet and assistant psychologist both offered their insights to SkyNews. It does make for interesting reading.

Judi says contextualising our situation and structure are things we should take forward.

“We might be isolated, but we are much more aware of the global society and able to empathise,” she says. “One thing that people leading enclosed lives for any length of time seem to agree on is the need to create some daily structure to help feelings of mental wellbeing.” She adds that “When we lose all structure, it can be very hard to self-motivate.”

Meanwhile, Mica Montana Gray says we should think about limiting the amount of information we take in, to lessen anxieties, and that getting creative can be a great for self-care.

“I think that’s a really good practice to take out of lockdown so that our minds and our brains are not overwhelmed with the amount of information that we have access to a lot of the time,” she said.

“Journaling especially – people have started doing this because they’ve had so much time with their thoughts. It’s a great way to monitor your health post-lockdown!”

That’s certainly true, and perhaps I’m lucky in this daily blog does provide that outlet for me – and hopefully you in reading it daily too.

KEEP ACTIVITIES THAT KEEP FAMILIES TOGETHER

When it comes to education, Chris Dyson, the headteacher at Parklands Primary School in Leeds in the northeast of England, recommends we continue activities that bond families together.

“Making up five-minute exercise routines, creating and performing your own joke show, fingerprint art,” he suggests. He currently has fewer than 20 children who currently still need to be in school.

“They’re doing planting, they’re doing gardening, they’re doing painting, they’re doing art,” he says.” They’re really being nurtured and doing fun, practical, life-skill activities.”

It seems that before this pandemic changed our lives, we forgot – both as individuals and in our family settings – to be able to mix fun and learning together.

I think that’s a very important lesson for us all, no matter how old we are.

CLEANER AIR AND LESS DRIVING

I’ve tried to maintain good clean and green habits during this lockdown, making it a personal challenge not to waste anything given that there’s limited access to shopping.

And when it comes to the environment, green campaigner Amy Cameron says she too has enjoyed “cleaner air, quieter streets, bold wildlife taking advantage of our absence.”

But it shouldn’t be a time to celebrate.

“Tackling the climate crisis should improve our physical and economic wellbeing, not destroy it,” she cautions. “Post-pandemic, could we reclaim some of our streets for people rather than cars? Could more of us swap commutes for time with families? Could we protect more of the green space that’s giving us so much solace?” she asks.

All valid points and certainly provides us all for food for thought when things begin to return to our new normal – whatever that may be.

MEME OF THE DAY

Thanks to Craig for sharing this with me on Facebook. He’s a data base administrator so I guess he’s enthused by the shift to digital. Sadly, for many organisations, there’s an element of truth in this

Meme
Image Credit:

THE STOCK SHOCK

When this blog began last month, one of the ideas was to see how far I could go by pretending I had £10,000 – about Dh45,000 – to invest on the London Stock Market. I don’t pay for trades and I can any amount but only at the end of the a trading day.

Initially, I invested in food stores that delivered at a time when everyone was under lockdown in the United Kingdom.

More importantly, I managed to avoid the carnage that resulted from oil’s spectacular decline in price. And that initial £10,000 grew to £11,113.38 which isn’t a bad return even if I say so myself.

I decided after trading on Friday that I would completely revamp my portfolio. I’ve been doing a bit of reading and still think that for now, I do need to avoid oil and the volatility it brings. If anything, I need to look at companies that provide services that are essential now during this lockdown that is likely to continue in Britain for a couple more weeks at least.

I was thinking that broadband and broadband providers must be looking at this lockdown in a positive light. Our social isolation has shown that now, more than ever, we need good, reliable broadband.

There are also reports that as a result of the lockdown, people are drinking more at home as a form of stress reliever. And they are eating more at home too, which means more deliveries.

Putting these all together, this is how I’m going to spread my portfolio for the next week.

I’m buying 100 shares in Diageo, the beverage company and brewer of some of the UK’s most popular brands. That’s costing me £2686.00.

I’m going back to invest in Ocado, a delivery company that has cornered a large portion of the food supply market. I’m taking 100 shares, costing me £1595.50, leaving me £6831.88 to invest in broadband or similar.

Because I don’t have to worry about a minimum investment, I’m taking 50 shares in British Telecom at £115.16 each for a total of £5,758.00.

That leaves me with £1,073.88 to play with.

And with this, I’m going to play a very cheap stock in PowerHouse, a green energy supplier. Oil is low because demand is being met in part by alternative energy sources. It’s 87 pence a share, allowing me to buy 1200 shares for £1044, leaving me with £29.88 cash in hand.

So, this is how my new portfolio looks now.

Net worth £11,113.38

Diageo, 100 shares: £2686.00

Ocado, 100 shares: £1595.50

BT, 50 shares: £5758.00

PowerHouse 1,200 shares: £1044.00

Cash in hand:£29.88

% Gain: 11.3 per cent

£ Gain: £1,113.38

COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS

Here’s my daily collection of covidiots that serves as a reminder apples don’t fall far from trees – but there are worms everywhere.

AN EVERTON DODO

I am an Everton football fan. Have been since I was eight years old. And I think that when I was eight years old, I had more sense than underwhelming striker Moise Kean.

Everton have labelled Kean’s actions “unacceptable” after he flouted coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The striker filmed himself partying at home with guests in a breach of social distancing regulations during the coronavirus pandemic. Kean, who joined from Juventus for a reported £24 million last summer, is likely to face disciplinary action.

Better still, get rid of him, I say.

A club statement read: “Everton Football Club was appalled to learn of an incident in which a first team player ignored Government guidance and club policy in relation to the coronavirus crisis. The club has strongly expressed its disappointment to the player and made it clear that such actions are completely unacceptable.

“Everton has regularly stressed the importance of following all the Government guidelines – including rules and advice for inside and outside of the home – through a series of official communications to all staff members, including players. The amazing people in the NHS deserve the utmost respect for their hard work and sacrifice. The best way to show them respect is by doing everything we can to protect them.”

Kean is the latest Premier League player to flout the rules after Jack Grealish and Kyle Walker were forced to apologise for breaching the restrictions.

The 20-year-old Kean has failed to impress in his debut season in England, scoring just once in 26 games for Everton.

TWISTING FACTS ABOUT COUNTRY SINGER’S DEATH

Conspiracy theorists are twisting facts online about country singer Joe Diffie’s death from Covid-19 complications in an effort to promote their claims that health officials are exaggerating the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

Diffie, who topped the charts in the 1990s with several honky-tonk singles including died in Nashville, Tennesse on March 29 after he tested positive for the virus. He was 61.

In the days following his death, Facebook and Twitter users posing as internet sleuths falsely claimed media reports hid that he had lung cancer. He did not. The untrue claims appear to have stemmed from an obituary posted online for Diffie’s father, Joe Diffie Sr., who passed away in November 2018 from cancer.

The inaccurate claim about Diffie is one of many from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube users seeking to sow doubt about the impact of coronavirus.

CONSPIRACY THEORISTS SAY VIRUS THREAT IS OVERBLOWN

Many of them claim that health officials, government leaders and media outlets have overblown the danger of the virus, millions being infected with it worldwide.

Diffie’s widow, Tara Terpening Diffie, pleaded on Instagram for people to stop sharing the misinformation about her husband. In a statement, she said she hoped to set the record straight about her husband’s death so that their family can focus on grieving for Diffie and celebrating the Grand Ole Opry member’s legacy.

“There have been some untrue statements about my late husband that are false and hurtful,” Tara Terpening Diffie said. “Joe did not have lung cancer and was a healthy, loving father, husband and friend. He also kept a very busy touring schedule and loved his fans who’ve supported him all these years.”

Diffie, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, died just days after announcing he had contracted the coronavirus. He is survived by his wife, and seven children from four marriages.

BOGUS BIDEN PHOTOS DATE BACK TO 2018

Americans head to the polls to elect a news president on Tuesday, 3 November. And right now, the focus of that campaign will be on how the current administration of President Donald Trump has handled the pandemic and the economic recovery that will follow.

That’s why a series of photos that purportedly show Democratic contender Joe Biden and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer both violating social distancing rules on April 9 are being circulated.

The facts?

The photos date to September 2018, when Biden was campaigning in Michigan for Whitmer.

A post circulating on Facebook features two photos from the visit. One shows Whitmer and former Vice-President Biden posing side by side; in the other, Biden is walking across a parking lot with Whitmer and her running mate, Garlin Gilchrist, now Michigan’s lieutenant governor.

A Facebook user posted the photos, stating: “Keep this going. This is Governor Whitmer with Joe Biden last Thursday April 9, 2020 in Lexington. See how well she practices social distancing?”

WEARING THE SAME CLOTHES

The photo of Biden, Whitmer and Gilchrist was published on September 12, 2018, by the Detroit Free Press. It was taken by Kathleen Galligan. In the posed picture of Biden and Whitmer, they are wearing clothing identical to what they have on in the photos taken by the Detroit Free Press during the campaign visit. Her office confirmed the photo was taken during the 2018 Biden visit.

Whitmer tweeted the photo on March 5, 2020, when she announced she was endorsing Biden and would serve as co-chair of his campaign.

This month, President Trump unleashed tweets attacking Whitmer for her coronavirus response. Michigan has some of the nation’s strictest stay at home orders in response to the pandemic.

Critics began falsely accusing the governor of violating her own social distancing rules when a Detroit TV station paired a bill signing that established a fine for social distancing violations with footage from a 2019 bill signing where Whitmer was surrounded by people.

BOGUS CLAIM ABOUT THE VIRUS AND A VACCINE

There’s a theory being circulated on social media – where else – that says that any virus that originated from nature has its remedy and cure from nature.

And by extension, it implies that only viruses made in laboratories require vaccines.

It’s all an attempt to somehow imply that Covid-19 was created in a laboratory – some posts say in Wuhan, China, where the virus was first detected.

But it’s wrong. And had no basis in truth. Or science.

Vaccination has been used to protect against viruses that have originated from nature for years.

When the Continental Army of George Washington widely used the practice of inoculation on his orders in 1775 to overcome an outbreak of smallpox.

But despite that link going back two and half centuries, widely shared posts online today are making false statements about viruses.

The Facebook and Instagram posts, which have been shared thousands of times, are attempting to sow doubt around the coronavirus as researchers rush to develop a vaccine against it.

MEASLES AND POLIO VACCINES

Human viruses like measles and polio have originated in nature and require vaccines, said Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University. “To say that any virus that originated from nature has its remedy in nature, ignores the fact that all human viruses came from nature, and that we have made vaccines for many of them,” he said in an email.

“I am unaware of any remedy from nature that prevents infection with any human virus.”

The vaccine for yellow fever has been around since the 1930s, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The virus, which is found in the tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America, is transmitted to humans through bites from infected mosquitoes. “We have science and medicine to thank for the protection we have against many virus infections,” Rancaniello said.

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO BETWEEN JOURNALISTS SAYS COVID-19 IS A HOAX

Oh this is a real gem!

There’s a widely circulating online claim that a caught an exchange between Fox News and New York Times journalists revealing they believe the coronavirus is a “hoax.”

Not true.

A video feed that was actively recording the White House briefing room on Monday captured an exchange between Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts and New York Times photographer Doug Mills, saying Ccovid-19 was a “hoax” and “we’ve all been vaccinated,” but the comments were taken out of context. Roberts told the AP the comments were made in jest.

Speaking before the White House coronavirus task force briefing, Roberts told Mills about a newly released study from the University of Southern California and Los Angeles County. According to the study, the coronavirus outbreak in Los Angeles County was much more widespread than initially reported, meaning there would be a lower death rate.

‘EVERYONE HERE’S BEEN VACCINATED ANYWAY’

In the video, Mills greets Roberts. “What do you know, buddy?” Mills asks Roberts, who responds, “You can take off the mask, the case fatality rate is 0.1 to 0.3, according to USC.”

“Really? That’s reassuring,” Mills remarks. “Everyone here’s been vaccinated anyway.”

The study conducted April 10-11 by the county and USC estimated that approximately 4.1 per cent of the county’s adult population of eight million has antibodies to the virus.

When adjusted for margin of error, the infection rate ranged from 2.8 to 5.6 per cent, or about 220,000 to 440,000 adults.

On Tuesday, a video clip of the conversation between Roberts and Mills circulated widely on social media posts suggesting it revealed the virus was a hoax and that the media was in on it.

“The same media that tells you the world needs to be shut down but behind the scenes, they really don’t believe what they tell you,” one post stated.

One post had nearly one million views, falsely identifying Mills as a “tech.”

The post falsely claimed: “Very Interesting exchange Caught on (GST HOT MIC) between FAKE NEWS @FoxNews @johnrobertsFox and a FAKE NEWS Tech at Todays White House Press Briefing!”

Roberts told the AP in a phone interview that the comments were “sardonic gallows humour.”

He said that he and Mills are friends and that Mills wears a mask every day.

Roberts also stressed that both he and Mills are treating the virus seriously, and do not believe in conspiracy theories around the virus.

Mills told the AP in an email that there is no vaccine, and the conversation was a “total joke.”

AND NO, THERE ARE NO FREE GROCERIES

There’s another online claim that’s making the rounds – that Trader Joe’s has announced that it is giving away free groceries worth $250 (Dh900) to everyone due to “Corona Pandemic.”

No such thing is happening.

Fake coupons circulating on Facebook are suggesting that stores like Trader Joe’s and Walmart are giving away $250 worth of groceries to shoppers due to the pandemic.

Trader Joe’s, a national supermarket chain in the US, does not offer any coupons, discounts or gift cards online.

“When alerted to the existence of misleading promotions of this nature, we actively attempt to get our name removed,” the company said in an online statement April 15.

Social media users shared the scam telling users to “Hurry up! Collect your FREE voucher here” and click on the link.

After you click on the link, you are taken to a website where you are asked to fill out a survey about Trader Joe’s.

The website says you will receive your voucher for the fake coupon within two hours. A similar post was shared last week in Mexico.

UPLOADING MALWARE

By posting fake coupons online, scammers can gather traffic to a website, upload malware to your device, or steal your personal information or even money, according to Katherine R. Hutt, national spokesperson for the International Association of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.

Hutt said scams like the Trader Joe’s fake coupon are often recycled online and then tied to the latest breaking news event like coronavirus to hook people.

She encourages social media users to be skeptical of the information they see online. “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she said. “In the midst of a pandemic, is Trader Joe’s really going to be giving away $250?”

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