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 May 22, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? FILIPINO DAD DIES FROM COVID-19 AND IRELAND OPENS ITS HEARTS AND WALLETS TO THE FAMILY HE LEFT BEHIND
Here’s a heart-breaking story that underlines just how generous people are, regardless of race, creed of colour.
A GoFundMe page set up for four children who were left orphaned after their father died from COVID-19 has raised almost €160,000 (Dh645,000).
Miguel Plangca, who was originally from the Philippines, passed away from the virus last week in Ireland, leaving behind his children Mikee, Michael, John and Chekie.
The family have been living in the greater Dublin area for a number of years, and their mother died from cancer around six years ago.
Miguel’s death has left the children orphaned, and now they are in the care of their aunt Fely, friends, and members of the Filipino community in Kildare, who set up the fundraiser for them.
Although the initial funding target was €5,000, the page https://www.gofundme.com/f/kuya-miguel-plangca039s-funds-for-his-treasures has raised over €158,000 for the four children.
“We would like to appeal to you to continue pray for the children of Miguel Plangca, the second and hopefully the last Filipino who succumbs to COVID-19,” the page reads. “Please continue to pray for them and all those who are affected by the pandemic.”
FRANCE SHOULD SELL MONA LISA TO HELP RECOVERY, TECH TYCOON SAYS
Here’s a suggestion that could wipe the wry smile off Mona Lisa.
A leading French businessman has suggested France should sell the Mona Lisa for €50 billion (Dh202 billion) to help its cultural sector recover from the coronavirus.
Stephane Distinguin, founder and chief executive of tech company Fabernovel, says that selling the famous 16th century Leonardo da Vinci painting was a “crazy idea” he had “been chewing on ... for some time” as a way of helping French artists through the economic destruction brought by the virus pandemic.
Writing in French magazine Usbek & Rica, he implored France to “sell the old to make the new, heritage for creation”, adding: “It is the mark of a nation that believes in its future and its artists.”
He wrote: “I launched this hypothesis as a provocation but convinced of its moment and its naivety. Iconoclast in the full sense of the word. What if we sold the Mona Lisa? Day after day, we list the billions engulfed in this slump like children counting the fall of a stone into a well to measure its depth. We are still counting, and this crisis seems unfathomable.”
‘SELL OFF A VALUABLE ASSET AT THE HIGHEST PRICE POSSIBLE’
Distinguin says that “as an entrepreneur and a taxpayer, I know that these billions are not invented and that they will necessarily cost us. An obvious reflex is to sell off a valuable asset at the highest price possible, but one that is the least critical as possible to our future.
“A painting is easy to move and therefore to hand over. And we have a lot of paintings...In 2020, we have to get the money where it is. So, sell family jewellery. Otherwise, only the Googles, Apples, Facebooks, Amazons, Microsofts, Disneys, Netflixs, Alibabas and Tencents of this world will be able to contribute to the funding of culture.”
When asked how much the painting would fetch, he said: “The price is the crux of the matter and the main subject of controversy. The price has to be insane for the operation to make sense. I estimate that it would take no less than €50 billion to acquire the Mona Lisa. I was told that my estimate was very overvalued, even far-fetched, but each time without real arguments.”
Distinguin, 46, founded his company in 2003 and he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest order of merit, last year.
COVID-19 INFECTS DOCTORS, CAREHOME WORKERS, CHILDREN AND NURSES AT THE SAME RATE AS THE GENERAL POPULATION
There has been a lot of talk lately about whether children are less at risk than anyone else from contracting coronavirus. The thinking is that it’s safe to send children back to school because there’re less at risk than others.
Well, all of this needs a serious re-think if a study from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) in the United Kingdom is to be believed.
ONS reported on Thursday afternoon that doctors, nurses, care home workers and children have been testing positive for coronavirus at the same rate as the general population in England. It has estimated that 0.24 per cent of those looking after patients or residents, including doctors, nurses and carers, tested positive for coronavirus between May 4 and 17.
The proportion of people getting a positive result who did not work in such roles was also 0.24 per cent.
NO EVIDENCE OF HIGHTER INFECTION RATE IN MEN
It is a markedly different result to the one the ONS reported last week, when it said that 1.33 per cent of people in health and care roles had tested positive, compared with 0.22 per cent of those in different jobs, between April27 and May 10.
In its latest update, the ONS also said there is no evidence for a higher level of infection in men, who are more likely to die with COVID-19. It reported that 0.26 per cent of women and 0.21 per cent of men are estimated to have tested positive in England between 4 and 17 May.
Significantly, there is also no evidence of differences in the proportions testing positive between the age categories two to 11, 12 to 19, 20 to 49, 50 to 69 and 70 years and over. All of the figures refer to private household tests and exclude infections reported in “hospitals, care homes or other institutional settings”.
Data was taken from tests performed on 14,599 people in 7,054 homes.
1-in-400 IS COVID POSITIVE AT ANY TIME
The ONS estimated that at any given time in the latest study period, an average of 0.25 per cent of the community population had COVID-19. Again, that refers to private households. It equates to 137,000 people in England – down from last week’s estimate of 148,000.
“There were an estimated 61,000 new COVID-19 infections per week in England,” the ONS said. “The incidence rate per week was 0.11 new cases per 100 people.”
It is producing its survey in partnership with the University of Oxford, the University of Manchester, Public Health England and the Wellcome Trust. It is also running a larger, long-term study tracking the spread of COVID-19 in the general population, including up to 300,000 people. That analysis will include antibody testing to see how many people have had the virus.
LOOK, NO HANDS! THAI MALL PUTS PEDALS IN LIFTS TO KEEP CORONAVIRUS AT BAY
Here’s another way this coronavirus pandemic may change the way we live right down to simple little things that we never had to think about before.
A mall in Thailand has swapped lift buttons for foot pedals in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus as well as help restore normalcy and get shoppers spending again.
Customers at Bangkok’s Seacon Square were surprised and confused this week to find pedals in front of the elevators and inside, but they welcomed the new hands-free enhancement as a smart move to stay healthy.
“They did a good job in preparing this. I feel much safer because we use our hands to do various things all the time,” said a customer who disclosed only her first name, Watcharaporn.
“Now that we can use our foot to press the elevator, it’s really great.”
Thailand opened malls and department stores on Sunday for the first time since March, its second phase of relaxing measures as the number of new coronavirus cases slows.
Prote Sosothikul, vice-president of Seacon Development, which oversees the mall, said the foot pedals gave shoppers some peace of mind. “The easiest way to get infected is when you touch an object that has been contaminated,” he said.
“Eventually touch your face and the virus will go into your mouth, your eyes, or whatever. So, we came up with this idea of hand-free, foot-operated elevator.”
YOUNG BRITONS DEFY LOCKDOWN RULES REGULARLY, SURVEY FINDS
A survey finds that compliance to the United Kingdom’s measures has dropped since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced an easing on 10 May.
And confidence in the government in England has dropped since the lockdown was eased, with more than half of young adults no longer sticking strictly to the rules, according to a new survey.
Researchers questioned more than 90,000 adults and found those under 30 most dissatisfied.
They found less than 50 per cent of younger adults are “completely” complying with COVID-19 restrictions such as social distancing and staying at home.
The University College London survey looked at how adults are feeling about a range of issues during the pandemic. These included the 23 March lockdown itself, government advice, their overall well-being and mental health.
COMPLIANCE HAS BEEN FALLING OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS
The survey found that “complete” compliance to the measures has dropped in the past two weeks from an average of 70 per cent to under 60 per cent.
Lead author Dr Daisy Fancourt, of UCL’s epidemiology and health care unit, noted there had been “generally a very high” level of people sticking to the government’s lockdown advice.
The ongoing study also found that 95 per cent of all adults and 92 per cent of young people felt they are either “reasonable” or “good” at sticking to the measures.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on 10 May that people could spend longer outdoors and meet one person from another household, providing they were always two metres apart.
However, there has been criticism of guidance, with some saying it was confusing and others concerned it would lead to an increase in the infection rate. The hot weather this week has led to crowded beaches and parks, which has also worried some experts.
COLOMBIAN POLICE USE DRONES TO DETECT HIGH BODY TEMPERATURES
Here’s a story from Colombia that makes you feel as if you’re living in a real-life SciFi movie.
Aircraft humming in the skies above Colombia’s capital Bogota are instead police drones that are meant to detect people with high temperatures or those violating the country’s coronavirus quarantine.
If a drone detects someone with a potential fever it sends the location to a medical team that seeks out the person to determine if they have coronavirus symptoms, officials say.
“It facilitates the location of groups of people day or night,” says Captain Jorge Humberto Caceres, head of the police drone unit, as he monitored an area of northern Bogota with a thermal camera-equipped drone.
“It gives us an approximate body temperature and directs the case to a national system so it can be attended to.”
The drones only detect temperatures or groupings of people who are out on the street, the police said, and do not penetrate into houses or apartments. The country has been in a coronavirus lockdown for nearly two months.
GIVES POLICE A WINDER RANGE TO CONTROL AND PATROL
Each drone can fly for up to 30 minutes at a height of 500 metres and can get as far as 5 kilometres from the vehicle that serves as its control centre.
Bogota – home to some 8 million people – has more than a third of Colombia’s nearly 17,000 coronavirus cases. The city’s mayor, Claudia Lopez, has placed a dozen areas with high infection rates under special restrictions, tightening rules for outings even as other parts of the country have begun re-opening.
The Mazuren neighbourhood in the Suba district, where the drone was flying on Wednesday, is one such zone.
“Without a doubt the use of these technologies from the national police has been very useful in these orange alerts areas,” Julian Moreno, the district mayor for the Suba district, told Reuters.
Suba is the city’s most populous district, with 1.4 million residents, and has its second-highest infection rate.
'HERE'S YOUR SCAN CODE FOR TONIGHT': ITALY EATERY RIPS UP PAPER MENUS
I have spent a bit of time in Italy – not as much as I would like to, unfortunately. But one of the great pleasures is relaxing for several hours over really good food in small restaurants of trattorias.
Italy, as you’re aware, has been really hard hit by this pandemic and now life is starting to resume again. But not life as Italians knew and loved it.
They’ll be saying “arrivederci” – “goodbye” to paper menus.
As Italian restaurants reopen after a business-bruising coronavirus lockdown, owners are turning to safe eating practices to entice customers back.
“Finally, after two-and-a-half-months of imprisonment, I’ve managed to come out, not just to go to the supermarket but to a restaurant. It’s great satisfaction and if you eat well, it is even better,” Stefano Prati says.
The 53-year-old local had just finished eating a plate of “pasta alla carbonara” a Roman specialty, on Wednesday at Da Enzo, a restaurant tucked away in the Trastevere neighbourhood.
Restaurateurs, who reopened on Monday, have bent over backwards to give clients a safe dining experience.
ORDERING FROM A QR CODE INSTEAD OF A TRADITIONAL MENU
At Da Enzo’s, that means no paper menus. Instead, a waiter holds up a QR scan code. Customers point their smart phones at it and a menu comes up on their screen with the day’s specialties.
Customers, even older ones, are adapting.
“They’re a bit surprised at first, some fear they won’t be able to use it, but then they realise it’s very easy and they’re happy,” says owner Maria Chiara Di Felice, 37.
Chefs wear masks, gloves and safety goggles as they fry “carciofi alla Romana,” or artichokes Roman style, to perfection.
Tables have been reduced by almost half and re-arranged to be at least one metre apart, with stickers of the restaurant’s logo dotted in rectangles on the floor to keep them there.
After patrons leave, staff disinfect tables and chairs.
The neighbourhood doesn’t bustle with tourists like before the outbreak but Di Felici is optimistic.
“My hopes are probably those shared by everyone - which is that even if very gradually, I hope that we can come back to living, in some way at least, the life we lived before. Nothing more than this,” she says.
DINING IN CANDLES AND ROMANCE MIGHT BE A THING OF THE PAST
Remember how dining out used to be — the dim light, the flickering candle, the cozy corner of the restaurant, the romance?
All of that may be things of the pre-pandemic past, restaurant owners think. Post-pandemic, dining out, that quintessentially intimate experience, just isn’t going to be the same again. As restaurateurs seek to attract customers, the use of enticing words such as “intimate,” “cozy” and maybe even “atmospheric” may fall by the wayside.
They’ll likely be replaced by words such as “bright,” “clean,” “spacious” and – who knows? – maybe even “sterile.” Not the most romantic of words – but there are lives at stake.
At least one restaurant is planning to host diners under individual greenhouses. Others will put hand sanitiser on each table, along with individually wrapped silverware.
Diners have always been concerned about safety but now they will want clear indications that the space is germ-free, says Alex Susskind, a professor and associate dean at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration.
SURFACE CLEANING AND A CONTACTLESS EXPERIENCE
There were regulations that, in the past, restaurateurs followed discreetly. Now, diners will want the cleanliness protocols, like surface cleaning and an emphasis on a contactless experience, to be entirely visible.
“If they can’t verify it with their own eyes, they’ll be a little hesitant,” Susskind says. “They want to see the masks, they want to see the gloves, they want to see all that stuff in the past would’ve been invisible.”
Restaurateur Francesca Chaney is totally re-imagining her Brooklyn café as she contemplates the post-pandemic era. Chaney has had to transform her business model to ensure that Sol Sips, her vegan restaurant, continues to attract customers.
For one thing, the restaurant only seats eight people — and rather snugly at that.
“It gives me a little bit of anxiety just thinking about having so many people in here at once,” she says. – something she does not plan to allow in the foreseeable future. Instead, she plans to install a takeout window and run a curbside pickup and delivery operation for at least a year.
“The only saving grace for the business is restaurateurs are incredibly savvy and really good at adjusting,” Susskind says. “They have a fight in them.”
They are going to need it.
PPE WILL BE A HUGE EXPENSE FOR OWNERS
Nine out of 10 restaurateurs who are thinking about reopening listed health and safety as their No. 1 concern, according to a new James Beard Foundation survey. Restaurateurs listed personal protective equipment as one of their top five expenses and some cited a need to spend up to $50,000 (Dh183,600) beyond what they are currently spending in order to reopen.
After much anticipation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published guidelines for restaurants on re-opening safely including socially distant tables and masks. The US states that have begun to ease their lockdown restrictions are pulling back the curtain on what the future of dining out might look like.
One Houston restaurateur now offers outdoor seating only. Coltivare has bottles of hand sanitiser and silverware vacuum-sealed in plastic at each table. Diners wait in their cars until their tables are ready. Waiters clad in masks and gloves take orders for drinks, appetisers and main courses all at once.
McDonald’s released its COVID-19 safety standards last week. The guidelines include reducing the number of tables, increasing the cleaning of surfaces and requiring staff to wear masks and gloves.
Cincinnati is one of a handful of cities that will shut down traffic on some roads so restaurants can expand their outdoor dining spaces and can keep tables spread apart.
OUT-OF-THE BOX SOLUTIONS TO ADHERE TO EMERGING ADVICE
Some owners are introducing out-of-the box solutions to adhere to emerging advice. The Inn at Little Washington, a Michelin three-star restaurant in Virginia, plants to sit mannequins at empty tables when it reopens May 29. In the Netherlands, restaurant owner Willem Velthoven, who runs Mediamatic ETEN, is hosting diners in individual glass greenhouses. Waiters serve food on a plank that fits through a sliding door on the greenhouse.
“It has a really nice intimacy to sit in a confined space that’s transparent,” Velthoven says. “You feel safe and at the same time you have a good overview of your surroundings.”
Susskind says consumers crave human connection when they dine out and the more extreme solutions are disruptive. He said extravagant answers can be expensive and may not be viable for many restaurants.
“If we get to the point where you have to be in glass bubbles, I think we’re in a way worse situation than we are now,” he says.
While he thinks people will eventually patronise restaurants again, Susskind says the transition to safe and comfortable in-house dining will be slow. He said takeout and delivery will become a larger part of the dining-out experience. Eateries need to consistently deliver high quality takeout orders by updating their menus with dishes that travel well.
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
MEME OF THE DAY
This was shared with me by my friend Sandy who lives in Whitby on the outskirts of Toronto. She and her late husband, Bob, have been family friends for years, and we first me at a Halloween party – he was a double for Ozzie Osbourne from Deep Purple.
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
There’s one more day left in the trading week before a long bank holiday weekend and, so far, I am doing rather well this week.
A reminder that this is all pretend, I started out in lockdown with £10,000 – about Dh45,000 to invest on the London Stock Exchange, I don’t pay for trade and I can only buy or sell when the market is closed. There’s no minimum on the amount of stocks I can buy, just as long as I can afford them.
I regained some of the ground I lost in trading on Wednesday, finishing up Thursday £104.20 ahead of then. This is how things stand:
Net worth: £12,231.78
Diageo, 100 shares: £2827.00
Ocado, 100 shares: £2059.00
Drax, 2,600 shares: £5350.80
PowerHouse 1,200 shares: £1,980.00
Cash in hand: £14.98
£ gain on last trading day: £104.20
% Gain overall: 22.3 per cent
£ Gain overall: £2,231.78
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection that serves as a reminder that covidiots are a few potatoes short of a roast.
COVIDIOTS GATHER IN DROVES AT DRUNKEN PARTIES
Covidiot revellers enjoying a 24th birthday party in Manchester have sparked outrage after they were filmed drinking, dancing and inhaling balloons in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
At least 20 people are thought to have attended a party in the back garden of a home on Saturday night, despite the public being told not to visit other people's homes, the Daily Mail reports.
Sharing the video on Twitter, one shocked viewer wrote: “I actually can’t believe what I’m seeing how are people doing this AND posting it all over social media like it’s fine,” adding: “Honestly speechless.”
Another Twitter user said: “Honestly ridiculous they just don’t care and don’t take no notice ... pure ignorance ... it only takes one of them to have it then it will become a cluster and yes they will want to rely on the NHS.”
The group were called “clowns”, “morons” and “totally irresponsible” by other people as the video gained nearly 340,000 views.
Since the video was shared on Saturday, similar footage has emerged from Tower Hamlets in East London.
A group of more than 20 people were seen dancing, drinking and having a barbecue in an outdoor basketball court on Monday evening. Footage from the scene showed the group defying the government guidelines by congregating inside the outdoor space and holding a party.
THERE’S NO SHORTAGE OF SPITTERS IN IRELAND
Police in Ireland have reported six spitting attacks in just one week as they continue to monitor adherence to social distancing guidelines.
A new report says that from 8 April to 16 May, police were intentionally spat or coughed at by members of the public 70 times, with six of those attacks happening in just one week from May 9 to 16.
“Regrettably, these reprehensible spitting and coughing attacks on our personnel continue,” Garda Commissioner Drew Harris says. “These are a significant health and safety risk to our members in the current environment. We must protect them from such attacks.”
Police have been supplied with up to 16,000 spit-hoods to protect them from such attacks, but have stated that they are used only as a last resort where there is clear evidence of spitting now or where a member believes there is a clear and tangible threat of spitting posed by the public.
They have assured the public that the use of spit-hoods by police is a temporary measure which will last only until the threat from the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
While Garda Commissioner Harris has praised the majority of the Irish public for the continued “high level of compliance with the public health guidelines to date,” he acknowledged that further warnings and arrests had been made with regards to people who refused to adhere to social distancing and travel restrictions.
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, DW, Sky News, 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