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 May 2, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
GROWING ANGER OVER CHELTENHAM RACE MEETING
If you read this blog regularly, you’ll like recall that my first cousin Frank died about a month ago from Covid-19. He passed away alone in a bed in a hospital in Cheltenham, the English town famous for its annual horse racing festival in early March.
Frank was at the races. And likely contracted the coronavirus there.
I spoke to his younger sister, Maura, and she is furious that the British government allowed the races to go ahead when lockdowns were being put in place everywhere else and the advice was not to allow large crowds to congregate. The rest of the wider family is angry too.
My twin sister too has told me of her neighbour who contracted coronavirus at Cheltenham.
Now comes word that Irish horse racing chief says the Cheltenham festival should probably not have taken place.
Brian Kavanagh said that, in hindsight, the festival should not have been held, but has sympathy with the British racing authorities over the issue.
The festival was staged without restriction from March 10 to 13, with calls to either cancel or move behind closed doors growing throughout the week as the virulence and impact of Covid-19 became more widely known across the UK and Ireland.
Roughly 250,000 people attended the festival across its four days, and that they were allowed to do so without restriction has been cited as an example of the UK government’s relative inaction in trying to curb the spread of Covid-19.
‘CAME BACK TO A DIFFERENT COUNTRY’
“It’s very interesting, that was the very week where the whole thing [Covid-19] ramped up”, said Kavanagh. “I went there for the first two days and it was remarkable: I came back to a different country on Wednesday night.
“On the Tuesday night the images from Italy began to come through in great detail, and by the end of that week we were racing behind closed doors in Ireland.
“With hindsight, people would recognise that Cheltenham would have been much better had it gone behind closed doors. That’s not a decision we had any control over, it’s entirely a matter for the British authorities and the British government.
“At the same time, and you’ve heard this before, there was a full set of Premier League matches that Saturday [beforehand] and a Champions League match on the Wednesday night in Liverpool. So social distancing, as we know it now, was not really that well-known at that time.”
“Should it have taken place? With hindsight, probably no. but everyone is wise after the event and the idea of saying in the middle of the festival, ‘We’re aborting after two days’, or we’re going behind closed doors, when your government is saying we’re happy for you not to, it’s not easy.”
Hindsight is one thing. Maybe the organisers should tell that to Frank’s three children, his grandchildren, family and many friends. And to everyone else who had relatives who passed away as a result of the gross stupidity in allowing the festival to go ahead.
I hope that when any inquiry is called into how this pandemic took hold, the chapter at Cheltenham is looked at. So too the European Champions game at Anfield Road between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid.
CHECK YOUR CAR FOR RATS IN THE ENGINE!
Over the past five weeks, I have used my car very little. I can’t remember when I put petrol in it last and it’s still three-quarters’ full.
So, I was surprised to see this warning on the New York Times telling readers to be aware that rates may have made their homes in car-engine compartments.
Rats like it in there, and while they could take up residence in a car engine at any time, anecdotal reports suggest the phenomenon may be occurring more frequently right now.
Personally, I haven’t seen a rat in a car engine. Only a cat, and thankfully it slinked off before there was serious damage done to both cat and car.
But Tuesday last was the first time in about a week that Kelsey Snell and her husband had attempted to drive their car. A clue that something was amiss came from the vehicle’s internal alert system.
“It gave us a really weird error message as we were driving away,” the Washington resident said.
The second clue was the rat fleeing their driveway.
“I’ve never seen rats in our driveway before,” she said, “and then we started driving a little bit further and the error message” — an alert about the car’s exhaust system — “got a little more insistent.”
Back in their driveway, they popped the bonnet, revealing, she said, “poop all over the engine,” as well as “a puddle of rat urine,” leaves, sticks and small bones.
“The dealership said we are the FIFTH people to call this week with this problem.”
‘ALL OF A SUDDEN SUPER COMMON’
Snell, who has never previously shared her car with a rat, confirmed by phone that an employee at her local service center told her that such incidents have become “all of a sudden super common” within “the past two or three weeks.”
Michael H. Parsons, a visiting research scholar at Fordham University who studies the city rats of New York, said that car engines evoked rats’ ancestral homes: dark, warm burrows with easy access to chewable roots. The common brown rat appears to have arrived in North America around 1775, perhaps when European ships docked at Manhattan’s South Street Seaport; the species is believed to have originated in Asia.
To rats, said Dr. Parsons, state of the art vehicular wiring systems are “surrogate roots.” Not because they provide the moisture or nutrient access of real roots, but because they somewhat resemble them and are chewable.
Rats “get a certain amount of comfort by just chewing,” said Michael Deutsch, an urban entomologist and the technical director of the Arrow Exterminating Company, headquartered on Long Island.
So, you have been warned! And I’ll be checking under my bonnet more often too.
DEBUNKED: A JAPANESE NOBEL PRIZE WINNER DIDN’T SAY CORONAVIRUS WAS MAN-MADE
The false WhatsApp and Facebook post has been shared multiple times. It’s bogus. Credit WhatsApp
As I’ve written here before – and I likely will until I’m blue in the face, don’t believe what you read on WhatsApp or Facebook. Only trust reliable news sources such as Gulf News.
A viral being shared on WhatsApp and Facebook quoting a Japanese Nobel Prize winner claiming that Covid-19 is unnatural and man-made is fake.
Bogus, Untrue. Without an iota of truth.
Any twit can share anything – think, why do you think ‘twit’ forms part of ‘Twitter’?
The message shared thousands of times across the social media platforms quotes Professor Tasuku Honjo of the Kyoto University Institute of Advanced Study as saying the disease was manufactured by China.
As well as being shared widely, it has also been promoted by a number of high-profile people.
Professor Tasuku Honjo, who won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine, did not say this. In fact, it is unclear where the message comes from.
A spokesperson for Kyoto University, where Professor Honjo is a researcher in molecular immunology, told a fact-checking organisation in Australia that the professor had not said any of the things in this message.
A statement from Professor Honjo posted to the Kyoto University website describes the message as “spreading false accusations and misinformation”.
SADDNESS AT FALSE ACCUSATIONS
The statement says: “In the wake of the pain, economic loss, and unprecedented global suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I am greatly saddened that my name and that of Kyoto University have been used to spread false accusations and misinformation”.
The false message says that Professor Hunjo worked for four years in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where Covid-19 was first discovered.
However, a biography of Professor Honjo on the website of Kyoto University says that he has only worked in Japan and the United States.
It is unclear where the text in the message comes from. A Twitter account which purported to belong to the professor, and which expressed similar sentiments has now been deleted.
It had only been created on 23 April, which is when the message began going viral..
Despite the message being completely false, the claim has continued to circulate.
The statement released on behalf of Professor Honjo ended by calling on people to work together on combatting Covid-19 rather than sharing false news stories.
“This is a time for all of us, especially those of us devoting our careers to the forefronts of scientific research, to work together to fight this common enemy. We cannot delay one moment in this effort to save the lives of our fellow humans. At this stage, when all of our energies are needed to treat the ill, prevent the further spread of sorrow, and plan for a new beginning, the broadcasting of unsubstantiated claims regarding the origins of the disease is dangerously distracting.”
I couldn’t agree more.
FRENCH WILL BE PAID TO CYCLE AFTER LOCKDOWN
This story gives a whole new meaning to peddling new political policies.
The French government is to contribute €50 (Dh405) per person towards bicycle repairs after its nationwide coronavirus lockdown ends on May 11, taking an innovative step to encourage cycling and keep cars off city roads.
Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne announced the plan on Thursday, promising €20 million for repairing bicycles, installing temporary bike parking spaces and financing cycling coaching sessions.
The government is keen to get more people cycling and reduce overcrowding in metros and buses, where it is hard to practice the social distancing required to prevent virus transmission.
Borne said the government will also accelerate a programme allowing employers to cover up to €400 of travel costs of staff who cycle to work.
“We want this period to be a new stage towards a cycling culture and we want the bicycle to be the queen of deconfinement,” Borne said on her Twitter feed.
WRITING THE CHEQUES
French cycling federation FUB, which will coordinate the bike repair programme, said the government has prepared 300,000 cheques worth €50 for the repair programme and said the scheme would be extended if it is a success.
“Cycling can contribute to preventing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic,” FUB’s president Olivier Schneider said.
Paris and other cities are also planning to create new bike lanes by taking space away from car lanes.
Pierre Serne, who coordinates the government’s cycling plan, told local radio France Bleu that the region around Paris plans to create up to 750 kilometres of new bike lanes on departmental roads to make it easier for commuters to cycle in from towns outside the capital, notably on electric bikes for longer distances.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Twitter the city will create new bike lanes along busy metro lines 1, 4 and 13. She also said that major east-west thoroughfare Rue de Rivoli will be reserved for cycling, with only buses, taxis and emergency vehicles allowed on it.
HOW CORONAVIRUS HITS YOUR SKIN AND FEET
Doctors in Spain say coronavirus leads to chilblains, a painful condition in the toes and fingers. Credit Facebook and British Journal of Dermatology
I regularly suffer from gout. And no, it’s not a disease of the rich. It’s a build-up of uric acid in your system. Diet is a large factor. But this isn’t about gout – it’s about coronavirus.
Doctors in Spain are reporting that five skin conditions associated with coronavirus have been identified by dermatologists.
Research was carried out on 375 patients in Spain, in an effort to build a picture of how the disease might manifest in skin symptoms.
Through the Spanish Academy of Dermatology, all the country’s dermatologists were asked to help identify patients who had an unexplained skin “eruption” in the last fortnight and who had suspected or confirmed Covid-19. They were given a questionnaire, and photos were taken of skin conditions to detect patterns of the virus's potential effect on the skin.
But authors of the study, published in the British Journal of Dermatology, warned that in some cases it was hard to tell if skin conditions were directly caused by coronavirus or if they indicated complications.
Of course – this all comes with a warning not to try to self-diagnose Covid-19 based on skin symptoms, because rashes and lesions are common and hard to differentiate without medical expertise.
FIVE SKIN CONDITONS LIKELY LINKED TO CONTONAVIRUS
According to the reports collected by the Spanish Academy of Dermatology, here are the five conditions that may be linked to the coronavirus.
Chilblain-like symptoms: According to the study, 19 per cent of cases involved chilblain-like symptoms, described as “acral areas of erythema-edema with some vesicles or pustules”. It said these lesions affect the hands and feet and may resemble the small, itchy swellings of chilblains. They were described as small red or purple spots caused by bleeding under the skin and usually asymmetrical in appearance. The study said they were associated with younger patients, lasted for an average of 12.7 days, appeared later in the course of Covid-19 and were associated with less severe cases of the disease.
Vesicular eruptions: Described as outbreaks of small blisters, commonly itchy, that appeared on the trunk of the body, dermatologists identified “vesicular eruptions” in 9 per cent of cases. It said they may be filled with blood, could become larger or more spread out and could potentially affect people’s limbs. Associated with middle-aged patients, they lasted on average 10.4 days, appeared more commonly before other symptoms and were linked with intermediate severity of the disease.
Wheals: Identified in 19 per cent of cases, “urticarial lesions” consist of pink or white raised areas of skin and resemble a nettle rash. Commonly known as wheals, these are usually itchy and can be spread across the body, including in a few cases on the palms of hands. They were found to last an average of 6.8 days.
Other maculopapules: These were identified in 47 per cent of cases and described as small, flat and raised red bumps. They were distributed around hair follicles in some cases and had varying degrees of scaling. The study said the appearance was similar to pityriasis rosea, a common skin condition. It said blood spots under the skin might also be present, either as spots or dots or on larger areas. These conditions lasted 8.6 days on average. They usually appeared at the same time as other coronavirus symptoms, were associated with more severe cases, and itching was very common. Researchers stressed that maculopapules and urticarial lesions are common and can have many causes, meaning they may not be a helpful aide for diagnosing Covid-19.
Livedo or necrosis: Identified by dermatologists in 6 per cent of cases, livedo or necrosis occurs where circulation in the blood vessels of the skin is impaired, causing it to take on a blotchy red or blue appearance with a net-like pattern. Necrosis describes the premature death of skin tissue. Patients showed different degrees of lesions pointing to “occlusive vascular disease”, where a narrowing or blocking of arteries occurs, limiting blood flow to certain areas of the body. The study added that these conditions were associated with older patients with severe cases of Covid-19, although manifestations of the disease in this group varied. Livedoid and necrotic lesions are relatively rare, but the authors said it was difficult to know if they were directly caused by coronavirus, or simply indicated complications.
GOOD FOR WHAT AILS UK HEALTH STAFF
People are using milk containers and used bottles to collect the beer. Credit Facebook and Alnwick Brewery
Cheers to this brewery in northwest England who, instead of tipping their excess ale down the drain are donating it to raise funds for overworked staff caring for Covid-19 patients in UK hospitals.
Alnwick Brewery was left with excess stock after pubs shut down under the lockdown restrictions imposed six weeks ago in the UK.
In an offer that seems too good to be true, the company in Northumberland has decided it’s better than pouring it away.
Sales director Jannick Genouw says they were stuck with the beer when the lockdown began and because it was in casks there was not much that could be done with it.
“So there were two options,” he told SkyNews. “We can either put it down the drain, or actually come up with a plan of distributing it to the local community.”
WHO’LL BE AFRAID OF NEEDLES WHEN A VACCINE COMES ALONG?
There are many delivery systems that can be used – patches that release a vaccine slowly though your skin; a tablet to be swallowed, one that’s dissolved on the tongue, or, yes, with a needle. Credit Facebook
I smile every time I think of my good friend Jim, from Dublin, who has been living in the Toronto area for the past 33 years. He’s a strong, stoic type but has an absolute fear of needles.
He needed shots for regular vaccinations and literally faints in the doctor’s office at the mere sight of a needle. Dump. Down on the floor. Out cold. Just at the sight of a needle.
The ironic thing is that his daughter, Fiona, is training to be a nurse – and nurses practice their needle skills on oranges and the like.
I have visions of Jim being crumpled up on the kitchen floor while Fi pokes and prods her fruit for clinical practise.
But what happens to people like Jim when there’s a vaccine for coronavirus? Will we all have to go to our doctor’s surgeries for a jab. Will there be vaccine stations set up at malls and on streets, allowing us all to get a shot of the vaccine?
Well, first off, there’s no vaccine yet – so it’s premature to talk of one – but the world’s best researchers are feverously at working trying to develop one.
The good news is that there are many delivery systems that can be used – patches that release a vaccine slowly though your skin; a tablet to be swallowed, one that’s dissolved on the tongue, or, yes Jim, with a needle.
SO, HOW CLOSE ARE WE TO A VACCINE?
It’s interesting to read that scientists are dusting off some decades-old vaccines against other germs to see if they could provide a little stopgap protection against Covid-19 until a more precise jab is developed in the world’s research laboratories.
The odd thing is that all vaccines are designed to target a specific disease rather than a general set. And because this coronavirus is able to change, it makes finding a specific vaccine all that more difficult.
Vaccines made using live strains of bacteria or viruses seem to boost the immune system’s first line of defence, a more general way to guard against germs. And history books show that sometimes translates into at least some cross-protection against other, completely different bugs.
There’s no evidence yet that the approach would rev up the immune system enough to matter against the new coronavirus. But given that a brand-new vaccine is expected to take 12 to 18 months, some researchers say it’s time to put this approach to a faster test, starting with a tuberculosis vaccine.
“This is still a hypothesis,” said Dr. Mihai Netea of Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. But if it works, “it could be a very important tool to bridge this dangerous period until we have on the market a proper, specific vaccine.”
WHO ISSUES WARNINGS ON VACCINE TRIALS
Naturally, researchers need to balance the risk between hurting and curing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a warning not to use the TB vaccine against Covid-19, unless and until studies prove it works.
That hasn’t stopped some 1,500 Dutch health workers rolling up their sleeves that Netea’s team is leading. It uses that TB vaccine, named BCG, which is made of a live but weakened bacterial cousin of the TB germ.
Down under, in Australia, researched are enrolling some 4,000 hospital workers to test BCG, too, and 700 already have received either the TB vaccine or a dummy shot. Similar research is being planned in other countries, including the US.
So, what about other vaccines we already have? Can they be used to treat Covid-19? It’s a proposition that medical researchers have considered and are looking at the entire arsenal of vaccines to see if one already available might do the trick against this nasty killer bug.
JUST A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR…
As a young child in school, I had a polio vaccine delivered to me at school. It was a drop of vaccine liquid put on a sugar cube which I then dissolved on my tongue. The nurse made sure you let it dissolve fully before I was free to go. And we were all warned not to chomp on it like it was a treat or sweet.
But medical researchers are looking at the oral polio vaccine– drops made of live but weakened polio viruses – as a way of fighting Covid-19.
According to AP, the Baltimore-based Global Virus Network hopes to begin similar studies with that vaccine and is in talks with health authorities, network co-founder Dr. Robert Gallo said.
Rapid studies are needed to tell if there could be “long-ranging effects for any second wave of this,” said Gallo, who directs the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
At the US National Institutes of Health, researchers are in early discussions about proposals to study the TB and polio vaccines as a possible Covid-19 defense, said agency spokeswoman Jennifer Routh.
But there is a very big caution. Live vaccines are risky for people with weakened immune systems, and shouldn’t be tried against COVID-19 outside of a research trial, said Dr. Denise Faustman, immunobiology chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, who is planning a TB vaccine study.
“You can’t just roll it out,” she stressed. But, “it’s kind of an amazing opportunity to prove or disprove this off-target effect.”
THE FIRST CLUES
There’s more good news too in that some researchers think the oral polio vaccine holds clues for its potential. Credit Twitter
Years ago, scientists began noticing with several live vaccines what Dr. Victor Nizet, an immune expert at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, calls “an important curiosity that people have been interested in trying to harness.”
BCG is given mostly to newborns in developing countries, and it offers only partial protection against TB, a bacterial infection. But observational studies showed during childhood, the vaccinated tots had better overall survival, including from respiratory viruses.
In 2018, Netea’s team published a more direct test. They showed BCG stimulates initial immune defenses enough that it at least partly blocked another virus given experimentally a month later.
There’s more good news too in that some researchers think the oral polio vaccine holds clues to its potential, and those clues emerged first from the former Soviet Union, said Konstantin Chumakov, a vaccine specialist at the US Food and Drug Administration, who stressed he was not speaking on behalf of the FDA.
His mother was a Soviet scientist who in the 1970s published research showing flu cases dropped markedly after oral polio vaccination.
HINTS OF CROSS PROTECTION
In 2015, Danish researchers also found some hints of cross-protection after oral polio vaccinations. The oral drops still are used in developing countries while the US and other areas that have eliminated polio use the inactivated shot for routine childhood vaccines.
There are overlapping types of immune defences. The usual goal of a vaccine is to prime the body to recognise a specific health threat and make antibodies able to fight back when that particular bug comes along.
But that takes time. So, at the first sign of infection, a first line of foot soldiers — white blood cells — springs into action to fend off the invader in other ways, what’s called innate immunity. If they fail, then the body creates its more targeted special forces to join the fight.
BCG appears to be reprogramming innate immune cells so they can more readily eliminate the germ up front, said Netea, the Dutch researcher.
The message from all of this seems to be that developing a new vaccine, even testing current ones, or somehow adapting older ones to fight Covid-19 will take time. There’s no quick fix.
But in the meantime we all have a responsibility to play by keeping our distance, following the advice of medical professionals and staying apart whenever we can. And literally, our lives might depend on it.
MEME OF THE DAY
Thanks to my former neighbour Dave for supplying this meme with me through WhatsApp. It likely applies to him, knowing his delicate domestic situation as I do…
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
If there is good news this trading week, it is that I managed to finish the five trading days on the plus side – up some £300 on the week. But the reality is that Friday was a bad day – not just for me but for most investors too.
A reminder, this is all pretend, and I set out at the beginning of my lockdown with £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. All play money.
Since last Sunday, I bought into drinks manufacturers Diageo, high-street food delivery company Ocado, British Telecom and a green energy company.
PowerHouse ended remained unchanged at 115p a share, where it stood on trading on Tuesday. It had reached 120p but considering I bought 1,200 shares on Sunday for 87p each, it has done well during the week.
My 100 Diageo shares gained £15 in total
Delivery company Ocado started the day to 1604.5p (£16.045) on Friday, but managed to edge forward ever so slightly, closing at 1615p (£16.50).
I bought 50 British Telecom shares on Sunday at £115.16 each. Earlier in the week they got past the £120 mark but slipped on Friday down to £112.90.
This is my net worth after the week’s trading:
Net worth £11,434.88
Diageo, 100 shares: £2765.00
Ocado, 100 shares: £1615.00
BT, 50 shares: £5645.00.
PowerHouse 1,200 shares: £1,380.00
Cash in hand:£29.88
% Gain: 11.4 per cent
£ Gain: £1,434.38
Time to look at it all and see how I’ll tackle next week, which has four trading days because of a public bank holiday next Friday to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe towards the end of the Second World War.
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection of covidiots that serves as a reminder some people are as thick as two short planks.
9,000 COVIDIOTS FINED IN IN THE UK
Police in Britain have issued 9,000 fines to covidiots since the lockdown began six weeks ago. Credit Twitter
You can tax idiocy – at least covidiocy.
So far, British police have issued more than 9,000 fines issued to people flouting lockdown rules. And at least 400 of repeat offenders. Which goes to prove that you can’t teach some covidiots new tricks.
One absolute premium class covidiot has been fined six times.
The vast majority of offenders – 80 per cent – were men, AND most of them under 35, according to the National Police Chiefs Council.
Fines were given to a man who went to a friend’s house in Cumbria northwest England to dye their hair – and claimed he was unaware of any lockdown – And another from Manchester who drove for around two hours to Keswick for a 20-minute walk.
Four young men were stopped travelling from Manchester to Yorkshire to get a burger.
One person has been given six fines, while 343 people have been fined twice for having no “reasonable excuse” to be away from their home.
“Sometimes you get to the point where fines just don’t work and all you can do is make an arrest,” says Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen of the NPCC.
Officers have been given powers to hand out a £60 penalty – reduced to £30 if paid within two weeks –for breaches of the lockdown rules.
SCAMMERS ARE PEDDLING COUNTERFEIT VACCINES
Scammers will do anything to make quick cash. Whatever the consequences.
Europol, the European police agency, have issued a warning: Don’t be conned by swindlers selling fake vaccines.
Organised criminals are likely to invest heavily in manufacturing and selling counterfeit coronavirus vaccines as the pandemic goes on, the Europol report warns.
The Euro cops say cons have already adapted to the health crisis and will continue to exploit the pandemic as states begin to lift their lockdowns and the EU heads into sharp recession.
And because musical concerts and festivals have been cancelled, there are less places for criminals to peddle their filthy drugs.
And they’re short of cash.
That’s one reason why the trafficking of cannabis, cocaine and heroin has continued through the pandemic – but at lower levels.
Once the crisis ends, regular supply will resume “with little or no mid- or long-term impact”.
Europol says that fluctuations in the price of some illegal drugs during the pandemic will stabilise when users and mid-level dealers are assured of a stable supply.
PEDDLING AND SCAMMING HEALTH EQUIPMENT
Europol said one of the most significant changes in the criminal landscape has been fraud involving medical and personal protective equipment
Europol warns that, as some countries move towards making face masks mandatory, criminals may increase the supply of counterfeit PPE.
Scammers are already offering vaccines for coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, online despite a real vaccine likely being at least a year away. Europol warns that when the development of a genuine vaccine is announced “it is expected that counterfeiters and fraudsters will invest heavily in offering ineffective counterfeits of this vaccine especially online via different platforms and on social media”.
Regarding financial crime, many organised crime gangs have been impacted by the closure of restaurants and casinos, both favoured means of laundering money. This combined with the “diminishing relevance of cash as a payment medium during the crisis” means criminals will likely have to find new means of laundering ill-gotten gains.
SEX TRAFFICKING AND COUNTERFEIT GOODS
Europe also warns the expected global recession will provide organised crime with many new opportunities to make ill-gotten gains.
For example, “a recession may further stimulate demand for cheaper daily consumer goods, which may be met by [gangs] offering counterfeit or substandard alternatives.”
It will also increase irregular migration from developing countries, creating new opportunities for people smugglers and sex traffickers.
The vastly increased number of people working from home means people are spending far more time online, which creates new opportunities for cyber-criminals, Europol says. Children are also spending more time online socialising and e-learning. Europol believes this may increase the risk of online child exploitation.
It also suggests the lifting of lockdown measures will lead to a spike in burglaries as workers return to work and criminals target newly empty houses.
And it believes there may also be an increase in reports of child abuse as abuse which occurred during lockdown is discovered.
COVIDIOTS AND ROCKET’S RED FLARE
Police and emergency services in Cornwall in the southwest of England scrambled to respond to multiple emergency calls when people spotted red flares shooting into the sky – a distress signal used by mariners.
But the emergency serves soon stood down when they realised the red flares were fired by one covidiot who thought it was an appropriate wat to join in the weekly communal cheers for Britain’s National Health Service workers.
The weekly cheer is meant to show support for the embattled healthcare staff in hospitals and care homes during the coronavirus pandemic.
The covidiots clearly don’t understand the difference between cheering and firing off an emergency red flare signal…
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, AP, SkyNews, 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