UK medical worker
A medical worker tests a key worker for the novel coronavirus Covid-19 at a drive-in testing centre at Glasgow Airport on April 29, 2020, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Image Credit: AFP


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 56

Sunday May 24, 9am




The British government has ordered 14 days isolation for every traveler arriving into the UK from anywhere other than Ireland. And those who break the order pass a fine of £1,000 (Dh4,475) for the first offence.

Personally, I think the timing of this measure is simply too late. It’s like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. And given that the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to get the British economy back up and running again after more than two months of coronavirus hibernation, stopping travel seems like a bad misstep now.

And if there was a concern that COVID-19 was being spread from abroad, then the measure should have been in place a long time ago.

The measure means that people arriving in the UK must self-isolate for 14 days from 8 June to help slow the spread of coronavirus and travellers will need to tell the government where they will quarantine.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the measure would “reduce the risk of cases crossing our border”.

Lorry drivers, seasonal farm workers, and coronavirus medics will be exempt, as are those travelling from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.


If a person does not have suitable accommodation to go to, they will be required to stay in “facilities arranged by the government” at the person’s own expense, according to Border Force chief Paul Lincoln.

According to the Home Office, the new policy will be in place across the UK, although how it is enforced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be determined by the devolved administrations.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said discussions would take place with Police Scotland to work out how the policy will be implemented.

Patel said the measures were not the same as completely shutting the UK border to visitors.

“We are not shutting down completely. We are not closing our borders,” she said. And asked about the prospect of foreign holidays this summer, she added: “This is absolutely not about booking holidays. We want to avoid a second wave and that is absolutely vital.”

So-called “air bridges” – agreements with countries that have low infection rates allowing tourists to travel without quarantining – will not be in place initially, the government said. The new measure, previously announced by Prime Minister Johnson, will be reviewed every three weeks once it is introduced.


But airlines have said a quarantine requirement would effectively kill air travel, and one airport boss described the plans as a “blunt tool”.

Besides, what’s to stop air travelers flying to and from the Republic of Ireland – which has no such rules, and simply travelling back to the UK through the open and unchecked border with Northern Ireland, or flying from Ireland back to the UK?

The British government currently recommends international travel only when absolutely necessary, and nobody should travel if they display any coronavirus symptoms.

Victoria Bacon from ABTA, the travel industry trade body, told the BBC the government needs to come up with some “wider, more forward thinking” strategies for the industry.

“There’s a whole range of support, not just financial, that the government can put in place to start helping the sector and we've heard very little from them,” she said. “We really desperately need some help.”


Passengers arriving in the UK will be required to fill out an online locator contact form – providing details of where they will spend their 14 days in self-isolation.

The Home Office said the proposed accommodation will need to meet necessary requirements, such as a hotel or a private address with friends or family.

There will be a fine of £100 for failure to complete the form, and the Border Force will have the power to refuse entry to non-UK citizens who do not comply with the new regulations.

New arrivals will be told they may be contacted at any time during their quarantine and, in England, may be visited by public health authorities conducting spot checks.

They will be told to avoid public transport and travel to their accommodation by car "where possible", and not to go out to buy food or other essentials "where they can rely on others".

In England, a breach of self-isolation would be punishable by a £1,000 fixed penalty notice, or prosecution and an unlimited fine for persistent offenders.


The UK Home Office has published a full list of exemptions to the quarantine measures. It includes road haulage and freight workers, medical professionals travelling to fight COVID-19, and seasonal farm workers who will self-isolate where they are working.

The home secretary said the new measures aim to “keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave”.

“I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures,” Patel said. “But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said the party supported the new measures “but is clear they are no substitute for a long-term, well thought through approach.”

As far as I’m concerned, the timing is very much at odds with trying to restore a sense of normalcy.

Besides, when the plans were first outlined ten days ago, the French were supposed to be included in the exemptions. That hasn’t happened, with French officials fuming over being told one thing and another happening.

It just seems to me like this is a bad policy made up on the fly, as it were.


A Downing Street tweet telling people to remain “three fridges apart” this bank holiday weekend has been ridiculed by Twitter users.

Going Viral
Going Viral blog Image Credit: Supplied/Social media

Monday is a public holiday in the United Kingdom.

The tweet, published ahead of the bank holiday weekend, asks the public to keep “2 meters apart” from one another.

“That’s 1 bed, 2 benches, 3 fridges, 4 chairs,” it read with an animation of two people separated by a bed underneath.

The government shared the post ahead of the long weekend where it is expected that parks, beaches, and other common areas will be crowded with people lapping up the good weather.

Since May 10, when lockdown measures were rolled back, Britons have been able to meet at least one person they do not live with in a public area, so long as the two-metre social distancing rule is observed.

“We know the PM likes fridges but please don’t forget the 9 red squirrels and the two Swaledale sheep please,” notes one Tweep.

Ian Spittlehouse took aim at Boris Johnson hiding in a fridge during his 2019 election campaign: “What if one is inside one of the fridges hiding from someone who is asking tricky questions? Does this affect the distances or number of fridges needed?”

Joshua wrote: “How the hell am I supposed to carry 3 fridges around with me?”

Gilly Clarke told users the new rule would “be a hard slog”. “Gonna be a hard slog carrying 3 fridges to the park just to have a chat with my cousin,” she shared.

David Llewellyn said: “Does anyone think of fridges in width? First thing I thought of was fridges laid end to end, which in the case of our fridge-freezer would be closer to five metres.

“I don’t know who is responsible for your comms, but I’m beginning to think they might be an alien.”


This seems to be a case of ‘Do as I say, not do as I do’ to me.

Boris Johnson has backed his top aide Dominic Cummings after it emerged he travelled some 400 kilometres miles from London to Durham during lockdown.

The prime minister’s chief adviser, who played a big role in drawing up the UK’s lockdown rules, travelled from his London home with his wife and son to stay with his elderly parents – even after developing coronavirus symptoms.

Durham Police confirmed they spoke to the owners of a property on 31 – a week after the prime minister imposed the lockdown – after a call from someone reporting they had seen Cummings in the area.

But Downing Street says nobody related to Cummings was spoken to by police, and insisted his actions were reasonable.

“Owing to his wife being infected with suspected coronavirus and the high likelihood that he would himself become unwell, it was essential for Dominic Cummings to ensure his young child could be properly cared for,” Number 10 said in a statement.


“His sister and nieces had volunteered to help so he went to a house near to but separate from his extended family in case their help was needed. His sister shopped for the family and left everything outside,” the statement said. “At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported. His actions were in line with coronavirus guidelines. Mr Cummings believes he behaved reasonably and legally.”

Opposition parties have demanded a "swift explanation" from Downing Street, and said Cummings’ position is “untenable”.

Sir Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats, told Sky News: “He must go. He should either resign or the prime minister should sack him.

“When millions of people have sacrificed so much... it looks quite outrageous that the prime minister’s top adviser should breach the rules. The prime minister has got to make his position clear. I can’t see that this is anything other than a breach of the guidelines.”

He also questioned why Cummings would choose to self-isolate with his elderly parents, who are in the “vulnerable category”.

“I don’t think there can be one rule for everyone else and a different rule for the prime minister’s top team,” said Davey. “I can’t see how Dominic Cummings is going to wriggle out of this one.”


Breaches of lockdown restrictions have recently led to some high-profile resignations.

Scotland’s chief medical office Catherine Calderwood quit her post after it emerged she had twice visited a second home in Fife.

Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the government’s most high-profile scientific advisers, resigned from the committee advising the government on coronavirus after it emerged a woman from outside his household had visited his home on two occasions.

A Durham Constabulary spokesman said: “On Tuesday, March 31, our officers were made aware of reports that an individual had travelled from London to Durham and was present at an address in the city. Officers made contact with the owners of that address who confirmed that the individual in question was present and was self-isolating in part of the house.

"In line with national policing guidance, officers explained to the family the arrangements around self-isolation guidelines and reiterated the appropriate advice around essential travel.”

What I find annoying is that there’s a high degree of hypocrisy in Cummings’ actions. Besides, this whole affair is now dominating the news headlines in the UK when the focus should be on fighting this virus and getting the country back up and running.


Going Viral
Going Viral blog Image Credit: Supplied/Social media

A widely shared post on Facebook claims that the world has been trying to treat COVID-19 incorrectly and that patients are being misdiagnosed with pneumonia.

The post claims that many patients are actually suffering from disseminated intravascular coagulation – a rare but serious condition that causes blood clots – rather than pneumonia.

The post goes on to claim that new information from Italian pathologists show that ventilators and intensive care units weren’t needed to treat people and that deaths were caused primarily by pulmonary embolism – when a blood vessel in your lung is blocked.

Disseminated intravascular coagulation causes abnormal blood clotting and can lead to thrombosis and a clot in the person’s lungs.

The post states: “Thanks to 50 autopsies performed on patients who died of COVID-19, Italian pathologists have discovered that it is not pneumonia, strictly speaking, because the virus does not only kill pneumocytes of this type, but uses an inflammatory storm to create an endothelial vascular thrombosis.”

This means, according to the post, that patients should be treated with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anti-coagulants.

The medical understanding of COVID-19 and the virus that causes the disease is still very limited. However, in recent months there has been an unprecedented focus on trying to study and better understand it.

It is clear, from evidence around the world, that patients with COVID-19 do suffer from pneumonia.


Since the start of the outbreak, a number of studies have also looked at links between COVID-19 and thrombosis. There have been studies between the disease and disseminated intravascular coagulation. One study, published in the British Journal of Haematology, notes that “emerging evidence shows that severe COVID-19 can be complicated with … disseminated intravascular coagulation”.

However, it is wrong to state that patients have been misdiagnosed on a global scale. It is an accepted fact that patients with severe COVID-19 often develop pneumonia.

Additionally, antibiotics should not be used to treat COVID-19, which is caused by a virus. Antibiotics can only be used against bacterial infections.

Pneumonia is a swelling of the tissue in one or both lungs. It has been widely linked to COVID-19, with patients in severe cases developing pneumonia.. This isn’t to say that patients who are severely ill from COVID-19 only develop pneumonia. Some research has shown that some patients can develop both pneumonia and Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation.

However, it would be wrong to suggest that treatments for thrombosis alone can help cure COVID-19. A lot is still not known about the virus and there are so far no treatments or antivirals that have been widely recognised as effective against COVID-19.


Patients with COVID-19 can develop blood clotting complications. In April, a study by scientists at the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland found that abnormal blood clotting occurs in patients with severe COVID-19 infection. It also found that patients with higher levels of blood clotting had a worse prognosis and were more likely to require admission to intensive care units.

Patients, the study found, developed blood clots alongside pneumonia.

There is also evidence to suggest that treatment with anticoagulants, which treat blood clots, should be used to treatment COVID-19 patients. However, the same study that advocates for such treatment also stresses that significant questions remain about the best approach to anti-coagulation therapy for hospitalised patients.


The post is wrong to suggest that there has been a misdiagnosis of patients. Pneumonia has been widely linked to COVID-19, according to a large number of scientific studies from around the world.

As one study in the respected journal The Lancet makes clear, patients with COVID-19 can be at high risk of venous thromboembolism – where a blood clot forms in veins. Another article also looked at the connections between COVID-19 pneumonia and blood clotting.

It is clear that pneumonia and thrombosis are not distinct illnesses experienced by patients with COVID-19 – patients do not suffer one or the other and such illnesses can manifest in the same patients at the same time.

While we don’t know a lot about the virus and treatments are still being developed, it’s wrong to say that COVID-19 patients have been wrongly diagnosed with pneumonia.

In other words, it’s all part of the scaremongering what’s all to widespread out there on social media now. Listen to advice from proven experts and public health officials only.


There is a relatively new global ranking, where the UK is a world leader and Ireland comes in at number three. Unfortunately, it’s the number of arson attacks on 5G telecommunications towers in recent months, the Irish Times is reporting. According to Belgian industry association Agoria almost 70 per cent of reported incidents across Europe can be attributed to the UK with a further 23 per cent in the Netherlands and roughly 3 per cent in Ireland.

Driving these acts of vandalism are the various conspiracy theories linking 5G technology to the coronavirus. The claims begin with a conviction that 5G radio waves are dangerous to our health: 5G weakens the immune system and this is why COVID-19 has been so devastating. Then we get into more shady territory: some believe 5G radio waves actually cause COVID-19.

The most extreme claim is that governments and powerful entities around the world orchestrated the COVID -19 pandemic: it was introduced as a man-made virus to distract from the installation of 5G towers around the world, or, depending on what flavour of conspiracy you prefer, Bill Gates, the founder of Mircosoft, created the coronavirus and is spreading it via 5G so that he can make money on a vaccine.


Leaving aside for now the multitude of bizarre and implausible claims contained within these conspiracy theories, one wonders how it spread from online fringe groups to real-life arson attacks. Social media is playing a significant role in the spread of this misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Social media researcher Dr Wasim Ahmed recently led a study on Twitter activity around the #5Gcoronavirus hashtag and found that despite the volume of tweets, only 35 per cent expressed views explicitly linking COVID-19 to 5G technology. Interestingly, 32 per cent of tweets using this hashtag were actually denouncing the conspiracy theory but it may be counterproductive.

“As soon as #5Gcoronavirus became popular on social media, a lot of people started to join in, using the hashtag to ridicule, retweet and share these conspiracy theories. But this had the effect of extending the reach of the overall topic,” Ahmed explains.

“Twitter users with a large number of followers were quoting these tweets and exposing them to even more people. If we removed those 32 per cent of tweets that were criticising or ridiculing the 5G conspiracy theories, maybe the topic would not have been trending the way it was.”

A better way to fight this kind of disinformation would be to report these tweets rather than giving them a platform and the exposure they desire, advises Ahmed.


“Twitter itself has been careful about this. They have left some 5G-coronavirus content on the platform because of freedom of speech, but they have been removing anything inciting violence or encouraging people to damage 5G masts. Maybe they could have been a bit faster to remove that content and possibly have a more streamlined ability for users to report certain tweets,” Ahmed adds.

Although 5G may be an emerging technology, conspiracy theories are nothing new. There has always been an appetite to believe that powerful entities are covering up something or other. A 2013 poll from US survey company Public Policy Polling came up with some interesting numbers: 12 million Americans believe lizard people run the country, almost 22 million are convinced the moon landing was faked, 47 million believe the medical industry purposely manufactures diseases, and 116 million believe global warming is a hoax.

“There are two competing theories on why people buy into conspiracies,” Dr Ciara Greene, associate professor in the School of Psychology at University College Dublin told the Irish Times. “One is the idea of motivated reasoning: people tend to fall for something that confirms what they already believe. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t trust the government, you will be drawn to stories that echo this.

“This holds true for political leaning. If you read about a scandal within a political party you dislike, you are more likely to believe this than a similar story about the party you do support.”


There is also new research on the psychology of conspiracy theories, which suggests that motivated reasoning doesn’t fully explain why people believe the things they do. This research looks at the correlation between engaging in critical thinking or analytical reasoning and disregarding conspiracy theories.

“People who are more likely to think things through are less likely to accept misinformation at face value,” Dr Greene says. “They are more likely to stop and think: ‘Wait, what is the source and is it reliable, does this fit with what I already know’.

“It is linked to intelligence but it is more about a cognitive style. There is a lot of research around hot and cold thinking; whether someone reacts immediately to something or slows down to consider the information they have been given.”


Falling for the notion that 5G is somehow causing or exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 is in part, down to a failure to stop and assess whether something is true just because it feels true. But why 5G in particular? Why didn’t we see this kind of fear of and opposition to 4G or other technological innovations?

Resistance to 5G and fears of side effects are nothing new. This has always happened with the advent of new technologies. It might be far into the rear view but when mobile phones were introduced in the early 1980s there were concerns that they could cause cancer and early models came with warning labels. It persisted into the noughties: in 2001 media across Europe were still debating the safety of mobile phones and advising minors to hold these devices away from their head when dialling or texting.

“I’ve been involved in this issue for about 30 years; I first got involved in the transition from 1G to 2G. We’ve seen similar claims all the way along,” says Dr Jack Crowley from the Advocacy Department of the GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications).

Speaking at a recent digital symposium organised by European Commission aimed at addressing public queries and concerns around 5G technology, Crowley said he can remember concern groups saying 3G deployment was unsafe while simultaneously feeling 2G was fine.

“There are many features of the technology that people don’t understand,” he says. “The fact that radio waves are invisible and their strength can’t be seen or heard makes it mysterious and therefore prey to sensational claims.”

The only difference this time around, says Crowley, is that social media has played a significant role in the amplification of such fears: “In the past it was a local or national issue and now it’s an international one.”


Perhaps a key part to understanding why 5G towers are being attacked Luddite-style in 2020 is economic fallout being triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. This, ultimately, is the basis of most conspiracy theories: the rich and powerful are in control and the rest of us are being hoodwinked.

“There have been genuine, serious cover-ups in the past, which helps lend a sense of credibility to these spurious claims,” points out Paul O’Donoghue, adjunct assistant professor in the school of psychology, University College Dublin, and a founder member of the Irish Skeptics Society.

“For example the tobacco industry [covering up the link between smoking and lung cancer], big pharma – this is in reference to profiteering off the back of dubious clinical trials and not a conspiracy to create diseases – and car manufacturers [and the diesel emissions scandal]. If they have done it, why can’t many others?

“But I think the reason the 5G connection has taken root in particular may be because publicity concerning this pretty much coincided with the pandemic outbreak. Correlation is often confounded with causation,” he explains.

Some individuals have made a link between the arrival of COVID-19 and the installation of 5G towers. In particular, they connect the fact that the virus originated in Wuhan to the installation of 5G masts in that city.

“Needless to say, no fact checking has been carried out by these conspiracy theorists around COVID-19 outbreaks in countries where no 5G masts have been installed,” adds O’Donoghue.


This makes it difficult – and frustrating – for scientists to explain why 5G is a safe technology. Added to this is the pseudoscientific language often used by conspiracy theorists.

“Many surveys have shown that the general level of scientific literacy across many countries is very low. The ‘scientific’ sounding words from conspiracy theorists lend credibility to nonsense,” O’Donoghue explains.

“One member of the public, for example, was pointing out that it has been demonstrated that 5G lines deplete oxygen in the atmosphere. This may sound plausible, especially when it is claimed that it has been demonstrated by scientists. So [belief in conspiracy theories] may in fact reflect naive trust in science rather than distrust.”

In addition to the vandalism or destruction of private property, these 5G conspiracy theories could also be damaging to innovation, perhaps causing enough public alarm to stunt roll-out of fast and energy-efficient connectivity that many businesses and individuals would benefit from.

“We know that unfortunately it can be destructive for policy. We have heard policymakers around Europe voicing concerns related to this disinformation around 5G. It might even delay the deployment of 5G,” said Dr Lukasz Porwol speaking at the European Commission symposium.


This was shared with me on Facebook by my friend Beatrice who lives in Dublin. We must know each other 45 years since her brother and I were kicking footballs in Fairview Park.

Going Viral
Meme of the day



There’s no trading again on the London Stock Exchange until Tuesday morning. It’s the Whit bank holiday weekend in the UK. I’ll review my portfolio on Monday, with my Drax shares going for sure.

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.

This is how things stand:

Net worth: £12,140.38

Diageo, 100 shares: £2834.00

Ocado, 100 shares: £2083.00

Drax, 2,600 shares: £5110.40

PowerHouse 1,200 shares: £1,998.00

Cash in hand: £14.98

£ loss on last trading day: £91.40

% Gain overall: 21.4 per cent

£ Gain overall: £2,140.38


Here’s my daily collection that serves as a reminder covidiots were held back repeatedly at kindergarten


A cab driver died with COVID-19 after being spat at by a fare dodger who claimed to have the disease, according to his partner who has written to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to highlight the incident.

Trevor Belle, 61, died in hospital last month after testing positive for coronavirus. Weeks earlier, his family say, he was spat at by a passenger who refused to pay £9 (Dh40) and told him: “I’ve got the coronavirus – and now you’ve got it, too.”

Belle’s partner of 28 years, Kelly Esqulant, with whom he had three children, intends to provide a statement to the police so they can investigate. Esqulant, 50, a patient transport liaison officer at Newham hospital in London has also written to the prime minister.

An online fundraiser for Belle, who was described by a friend as an ardent Arsenal fan who would “always find a way to get a smile on your face”, has raised more than £8,000. (Dh35,700)

Esqulant paid tribute to her partner and praised hospital workers who tried to save his life.

“He wasn’t a grandad for very long but he would have been a brilliant grandad,” she said of Belle. “He was a very inspirational dad. He always taught the kids right from wrong.”

She said he often worked in excess of 60 hours a week to provide for the family.

“He was very strong-minded and very truthful. Everyone knew if you wanted the truth, go to Trevor; if you couldn’t handle the truth, don’t go to Trevor. He just said it how it is.”


Esqulant acknowledged the family would probably never know whether the spitting incident led to Belle contracting coronavirus.

She said she had written to Johnson after he spoke about a separate incident in which a rail worker, Belly Mujinga, died from COVID-19 after being spat at by a man who said he had the virus.

“I don’t even know if he [Johnson] would have received it, but I’ve sent an email explaining what happened to Trevor,” Esqulant said.

She said she had pleaded with her partner to be careful while working and ensure he wore gloves and masks, which he would change between fares.

She said the spitting incident, first reported in the Daily Telegraph happened at around 12.30pm on 22 March on West Ham Lane in Stratford, east London.

Belle told Esqulant the perpetrator was white with an Irish accent, and said he ran off after spitting at him. Belle flagged down a nearby police van and reported the incident, Esqulant says, but he was informed the matter was not worth pursuing for a £9 fare.

Esqulant says her partner fell ill with flu-like symptoms four days later and he was hospitalised on 31 March after waking up struggling to breathe. On 18 April, the family were told Belle had died.

Coughing or spitting could be charged as an assault on an emergency worker – punishable with up to 12 months in prison – or common assault if used against others, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.


Union leaders in London have condemned a “disgusting and frightening” spitting incident at a London Underground station on Thursday.

A man approached staff at Mile End underground station and demanded they open the gate as he did not have a ticket for the barriers, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association said.

Staff asked him to step back to a safe distance away, and he became aggressive and swore at an older female customer who had intervened, and spat at her, the union said.


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

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