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.
Monday June 1, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
DUST OFF YOUR BRAINS AND PUT YOUR MIND TO WORK
50 TRIVIA QUESTIONS TO GET YOU THINKING ABOUT OTHER THINGS
1. What is Charlie’s surname in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
2. In which US State was Donald Trump born?
3. Europa, Ganymede and Callisto are moons of which planet?
4. The somoni is the currency of which central Asian country?
5. Which instant messaging service was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for USD$19.3 billion?
6. Who won Academy Award for Best Actor in 1966 for his role in Cat Ballou?
7. Runaround Sue was a 1961 hit for which artist?
8. Which disease affects the nerve cells in the brain that produce dopamine?
9. The Soviet-Afghan War ended in February 1989 but in which year did it begin?
10. What capital city is located near the Popocatepetl volcano?
11. What number is associated with a Baker’s Dozen?
12. What is the upper limit of our atmosphere called?
13. Herbert Walker are the middle names of which former US President?
14. In which year did the Vietnam War officially end with the withdrawal of US troops from Saigon?
15. Which actress was born Norma Jeane Mortenson in 1926?
16. Pompeii was an ancient Roman town-city near which modern-day Italian City?
17. What is the square root of 484?
18. Penicillin was discovered in 1928 by which Scottish scientist?
19. What name is given to the second of the four operas constituting Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen?
20. Rhodesia is the former name of which country?
21. Name the dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic?
22. In which city was the United States Declaration of Independence adopted?
23. Charlie Chaplin and Adolf Hitler were born in the same month. But what was the year?
24. What is the bird on the planet?
25. Which colour appears at the bottom of every rainbow?
26. The deepest underwater location is which Pacific Ocean ‘Trench?
27. The basket under a hot-air balloon is officially known as what?
28. Which popular children’s TV show was conceived in 1966 during discussions between television producer Joan Ganz Cooney and Carnegie Foundation vice-president Lloyd Morrisett?
29. The Battle of Waterloo was fought in which year?
30. The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English by whom?
31. Linen is a textile made from the fibers of which plant?
32. Astigmatism is a condition affecting which part of the body?
33. JRR Tolkien likened his discovery of which language to “A wine cellar filled with bottles of amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me”?
34 In 2006, Zinedine Zedane was sent off during the FIFA World Cup Final for headbutting which player?
35: In what year was the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formed?
36. What name is given to the lowest level of the atmosphere?
37. The pot-bellied pig is a breed of domesticated pig originating in which Asian country?
38. Which African country joined the United Nations on 14 July 2011?
39. How many boroughs does New York City have?
40. What chemical compound has the formula SO2?
41. What is the Mexican food Gazpacho?
42. Tallinn is the capital of which country?
43. Which Native American leader surrendered to General Nelson A. Miles in Skeleton Canyon in Arizona on September 4, 1886?
44. The US the District of Columbia is commonly referred to as what?
45. College of New Jersey is the former name for which famous US university?
46. George Best Airport is located in which city?
47. What Einstein formula describes the law of physics that says energy cannot be destroyed nor created but converted from one form to another?
48. Equus quagga is the Latin name for what African animal?
49. An air crash outside Paris on July 25, 2000 effectively grounded what aircraft type?
50. The Kerguelen Plateau is a continent of volcanic origins that lies beneath which ocean?
SUPERMARKET-STYLE QUEUES AND ONE-WAY CORRIDORS AS PRIMARY SCHOOLS IN ENGLAND PREPARE TO REOPEN FROM MONDAY
I’m sure many parents across England will be more than a little worried as schools are supposed to re-open for classes today up and down England. But there’s a lot of uncertainty about the move from parents and teachers.
The UK government has given the green light for reception, year one and year six pupils to return to school from Monday after the five key tests required for easing the lockdown were met.
Schools in England are preparing to welcome back children, but a series of new measures will be implemented to ensure social distancing is adhered to in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Some schools will introduce new rules for parents to drop children off and will implement one-way systems in corridors.
Pupils won’t be allowed to sit next to each other and desks will be taped off to ensure two metres separates each pupil.
Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire is taking a “phased approach” by reopening to 100 more pupils over successive days from June 8.
Headteacher Simon Kidwell said parents will queue at drop-off and pick-up times, classroom windows will be open to ensure good ventilation, extra cleaners have been employed and water fountains, as “hotspots for transmission”, have been removed.
CHILDREN WILL BE KEPT IN SOCIAL DISTANCING ‘BUBBLES’
“Social distancing for adults is going to be stringent, with a dropping-off system where parents will have to queue a bit like at the supermarket,” he said. “The children will be kept in ‘bubbles’ of 15 to ensure social distancing between each other by using cones in the playground.
Bryony Baynes, headteacher at Kempsey Primary School in Worcester, said similar measures would be in place at her school, adding that corridors will have one-way systems and staff will be allowed to wear face masks if they want to.
“Realistically, as I have said to parents, I can’t promise you that the little ones will be two metres apart at all times – they are four and five years old,” she said.
“If a child falls over, we are still going to pick them up and cuddle them.”
She added: “It will initially seem very strange to them, however, children are very resilient and as long as the staff greet them with smiles and they are with some of their friends, I think they will adapt to the new normal.”
Schools, colleges and other education facilities have been closed for more than nine weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak, with schools only remaining open for vulnerable children and those of key workers.
DECISION SPARKS FURIOUS ROW BETWEEN GOVERNMENT AND TEACHERS
The decision to reopen schools has sparked a furious row between the government, teaching unions and parents as debate continues about whether it is safe for schools to reopen. A poll by British broadcaster ITV found that more than half of parents would not send their pupils back to school despite them reopening.
Other research has found that local authorities of more than a dozen councils are advising schools not to open to more pupils from Monday.
Jackie Schneider, a music teacher in Merton, south-west London, said her school had taken the decision not to return until June 18 because of insufficient space for social distancing.
As I’ve mentioned here before, my sister-in-law Julie is very reluctant to let her daughter return to the classroom just yet. Personally, I think that the school vacation is about 6 weeks away so it doesn’t make much sense getting them back now in England. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are waiting until late August. That makes more sense to me.
COMPETITIVE SPORT TO RETURN BEHIND CLOSED DOORS IN UK
Professional sport has also received the green light to kick off again – albeit behind closed doors – from Monday.
The British government issued safety guidelines under stage three of its plan to take sport out of the COVID-19 lockdown, after athletes were recently allowed to resume close-contact training.
Premier League football – Come on Everton! – is set to follow on 17 June, with the English Football League following later in the month if it receives enough club votes and approval from police and safety bodies.
That start date became more likely on Saturday as the Premier League revealed none of the 1,130 players and club personnel tested positive in its fourth round of COVID-19 testing. It had previously confirmed 12 positive cases.
Sport Secretary Oliver Dowden called the decision to reopen sport doors a “significant moment” and said “the wait is over”.
“This guidance provides the safe framework for sports to resume competitions behind closed doors,” he said. “It is now up to individual sports to confirm they can meet these protocols and decide when it's right for them to restart.”
PREMIER LEAGUE HOPEFULLY KICKING OFF ON JUNE 17
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters welcomed the government’s announcement but said plans to restart the Premier League on 17 June were “provisional” as there was still work to be done regarding safety.
“If all goes well, we will be thrilled to resume the 2019-20 season in just over two weeks’ time,” he said.
No spectators will be allowed at any events.
British Horse Racing chief executive Nick Rust said the return of Newcastle racing on Monday was a financial lifeline and would help “lift the mood of the nation”.
Racecourses across the country have adapted new rules.
At Lingfield Park, where racing starts on Friday, there will be no hospitality, no betting and no fans.
In the changing rooms, plastic partitions have been erected to keep jockeys more than 2 metres apart. Catering facilities, showers and saunas will stay closed. The parade ring has been sprayed with white paint as a reminder of social distancing.
PACKED STANDS AT CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL
Racing was among the last sports to shut down and images of the packed grandstands at the Cheltenham Festival in March haunt those who defended the decision to have the race meeting.
As I’ve written here before, I lost a first cousin, Frank Clarke, to COVID-19 and he attended the Cheltenham meeting. My family believes he contracted the virus there.
But BHA chief executive Nick Rust says it’s unfair that criticism has mostly been aimed at Cheltenham.
“The week that the Cheltenham festival was on, there were still 3 million people travelling on the Tube in London, we had Crufts, we had European football, we had international rugby,” he said. “All of those were listening to government advice and it’s unfortunate that it’s being focused on Cheltenham.”
I am nine weeks into my lockdown and, at least with sports returning, at least there’s more worthwhile watching on the television.
DEBUNKED: NO, ANTHONY FAUCI DID NOT SAY A COVID-19 VACCINE MUST BE DELIVERED TO PEOPLE WITHOUT ‘PROPER STUDIES’
I have nothing but respect for Dr Anthony Fauci and I think he is in a man who is trying to do his best under very difficult conditions. I would hate to be walking in his shoes.
A social media post has falsely claimed that Dr Fauci said full studies on a COVID-19 vaccine can be done after people are injected with it. This post from Facebook page features an image of Fauci along with the co-founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, who is not mentioned elsewhere in the post.
Dr Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States. The post claims that Dr Fauci said the following:
“Just because thousands of independent doctors are saying Hydroxychloroquine cures all COCID-19 patients, it is not valid until we have a major study done.
“As soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is manufactured it must be immediately delivered to health care professionals worldwide for immediate human injection. Proper studies can be performed later.”
This post was published on 25 May and has been shared and liked by hundreds of people. A different image with the same quotes has been shared thousands of times by people on Facebook in the US over the past month.
There is no evidence Dr Fauci said these exact quotes at any time.
BREAKING DOWN THESE TWO FLASE CLAIMS INDIVIDUALLY
“Just because thousands of independent doctors are saying Hydroxychloroquine cures all COVID-19 patients, it is not valid until we have a major study done.”
This first quote seems to be closely linked to an interview Dr Fauci did with Fox and Friends on April 3.
In this, he is asked about a report from Sermo, a data collection company and online social network for doctors.
This study from April 2 of over 6,000 doctors in 30 countries found that one-third of doctors surveyed said they prescribed hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. In Spain, this figure was 72 per cent.
“We don’t operate on how you feel, we operate on what evidence is and data is. So, although there is some suggestion with the [Sermo] study that was just mentioned… I think we have got to be careful that we don’t make that majestic leap to assume that this is a knockout drug,” Dr Fauci said on the show.
“We still need to do the kinds of studies that definitively prove whether any intervention, not just this one, is truly safe and effective.
“But when you don’t have that information it is understandable why people may want to take something with even the slightest hint of it being effective, and I have no problem with that.”
He added that doctors can prescribe Hydroxychloroquine to patients ‘off-label’, which means prescribing a drug that has been approved by the FDA to treat a different condition than your own.
QUOTE ISN’T DIRECTLY FROM DR. FAUCI
This first quote is not directly from Dr Fauci. It does, however, echo his sentiment in this interview that further studies are needed before definitively saying any drug is a treatment or ‘cure’ for COVID-19.
Dr Fauci said earlier on March 16 that any “anecdotal evidence” of COVID-19treatments still needs validation in randomised clinical trials.
“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority,” Dr Fauci said.
Despite President Donald Trump claiming he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for weeks, concerns have been raised about its use for treating COVID-19.
Last week, the World Health Organisation suspended clinical trials of the drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19 after a study published in the Lancet medical journal suggested it could increase the risk of death among Covid patients.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the executive group of the trial, in which hundreds of hospitals across the world have tested several possible treatments for COVID-19 patients, had suspended trials using hydroxychloroquine as a precaution.
Some countries, including Brazil and India, have continued to back the drug as a treatment for COVID-19while France has told doctors to no longer prescribe it to patients with COVID-19.
VACCINE INJECTED BEFORE PROPER STUDY
“As soon as the COVID-19 vaccine is manufactured it must be immediately delivered to health care professionals worldwide for immediate human injection. Proper studies can be performed later.”
A search of interviews, social media, factchecks from several other organisation, US news websites and news wire services shows nothing to back up the claim that Dr Fauci has ever said this.
President Trump claimed earlier this month that the US will have a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of this year, but Dr Fauci has said it would take “a year to a year and a half” at least before any vaccine would be safe for human injection.
Previous vaccines have taken years to develop and approve and although the process will be accelerated for COVID-19, there is no evidence to suggest any vaccine would not undergo rigorous clinical testing before being made available to the public.
Vaccines need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in European countries.
The EMA said a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready in one year in an “optimistic” scenario based on trials underway at the moment.
“We can see the possibility if everything goes as planned that some of them [vaccines] could be ready for approval in a year from now,” Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccines strategy, said on May 14.
The EMA has sped up the process for authorising vaccines due to COVID-19, a process that usually takes between 10 and 15 years.
There is no evidence Dr Fauci said a vaccine could be distributed without proper study beforehand, and this would also not be allowed by the FDA or the EMA.
TROLL FARMS FROM NORTH MACEDONIA AND THE PHILIPPINES PUSH CORONAVIRUS DISINFORMATION ON FACEBOOK
One of the largest publishers of coronavirus disinformation on Facebook has been banned from the platform for using content farms from North Macedonia and the Philippines, Facebook said on Friday.
The publisher, Natural News, was one of the most prolific pushers of the viral “Plandemic” conspiracy video, which falsely claimed that the coronavirus is part of an elaborate government plot to control the populace through vaccines, and erroneously claimed that wearing a mask increases the risk of catching the coronavirus.
Facebook said that it had found foreign trolls repeatedly posted content from Natural News, an anti-vaccination news site that frequently posts false coronavirus conspiracy theories about 5G towers and Bill Gates. They also posted content from Natural News’ sister websites, NewsTarget and Brighteon, in an effort to artificially inflate their reach.
“We removed these Pages for spammy and abusive behavior, not the content they posted. They misled people about the popularity of their posts and relied on content farms in North Macedonia and the Philippines,” Facebook said in a statement.
ROUTINE ENFORECEMENT AGAINST SPAM NETWORKS
Facebook said the actions came as part of its routine enforcement against spam networks. Among other irregular behaviors, Natural News posted its content at an unusually high frequency, attempting to evade rate limits, which effectively tripped Facebook’s spam alarms, the company said.
Natural News’ official Facebook page was banned from Facebook last year, but the site evaded the ban by posting content on Natural News-branded disinformation groups titled “Amazing Cures” and “GMO Dangers,” which had hundreds of thousands of followers.
After Facebook’s discovery of foreign platform manipulation, the company banned all users from posting links to Natural News and its sister sites across the entirety of the site on May 19.
Natural News is a website owned and operated by Mike Adams, a dietary supplement purveyor who goes by the moniker “The Health Ranger.” Adam's operation is by far the worst spreader of health misinformation online, according to an analysis by NBC News.
Last year, the website hosted the most engaged-with article about cancer on the internet. The April article, “Cancer industry not looking for a cure; they’re too busy making money,” which promoted the baseless conspiracy theory that “Big Pharma” is hiding a known cure for cancer to keep people sick, garnered 5.4 million shares, comments and reactions, mostly on Facebook, according to data compiled through BuzzSumo, a social media analytics company.
PROMOTING FAKE CURES AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES
Over its 25 years of operation, Natural News has hosted thousands of articles that reject scientific consensus, promote fake cures and spread conspiracy theories. Its articles have also targeted scientists and doctors for harassment and violence. In April, the site had 3.5 million unique viewers, according to the internet analytics company SimilarWeb.
Natural News was banned by Facebook in June 2019 for using “misleading or inaccurate information” to attract engagement, according to a statement from Facebook. Natural News had nearly 3 million followers at the time.
“It’s long overdue,” said David Gorski, an oncologist at Wayne State University who writes about health misinformation and pseudoscience at the website Science Based Medicine. “Natural News and Mike Adams have been as harmful to public discourse on science, medicine, and also politics as Alex Jones, whom he very much resembles.”
Adams did not respond to a request for comment, but addressed the ban on his website on Tuesday, calling it “digital book burning” and urging readers to complain to Facebook and file a civil rights complaint with the Department of Justice.
SPAMMING WITH HEALTH DISINFORMATION
Avaaz, an activist organisation that campaigns against disinformation online, released a study on Friday claiming that Natural News reached new heights after its initial ban last year by creating informal subgroups that spammed the social media network with health disinformation.
“Since the takedown has happened, Natural News has reached hundreds of millions of people by utilising an entire universe of pages that are pushing this disinformation,” said Luca Nicotra, a researcher and senior campaigner at Avaaz.
Avaaz’s research found that Natural News’ content had more engagement on Facebook than links to the WHO and CDC combined over the last year.
Nicotra called Facebook’s move to ban links to Natural News “a very bold move, and something usually reserved for spammers.” He said he’s “happy” with Facebook’s major step to crack down on what he called a “serial misinformer,” while adding that more work needed to be done to keep users safe.
“What’s needed is a major detox, a systemic solution to quarantine serial health misinformers. If they don’t, their lies and conspiracies could contaminate millions more and threaten the global response to COVID-19,” Nicotra said.
MEME OF THE DAY
This was shared with me on WhatsApp by Craig, my neighbour in Lanzarote. For many Brits, the visit to the local is what they miss most during lockdown… The mother-in-law? Well, maybe not so much!.
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
So, the London market is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, with trading resuming on Monday.
I’ve had a very positive week, increasing the value of my portfolio by roughly £1,000 in just four days of trading. I don’t see any reason to alter for now, but Diageo, the drinks distiller, is starting to slip and I may cut if loose if it falls significantly again on Monday.
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 trades 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 after last week’s trading:
Net worth £14,422.88
Ocado, 100 shares: £2191.00
Diageo, 100 shares: £2790.50
Avast, 1,000 shares: £5030.00
PowerHouse, 1200 shares: £4356.00
Cash in hand: £55.38
£ gain on last trading day: £977.50
% Gain overall: 44.2 per cent
£ Gain overall: £4,422.88
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection that proves covidiots will not be eliminated even when a vaccine is found…
POLICE OFFICER ‘KICKED IN THE FACE’ WHILE CLEARING CROWD FROM BEACH
Police were attacked while dispersing a large crowd from a popular beach in Northern Ireland on Friday night.
Four youths were arrested after officers were called to clear a gathering of around 200 from Ballyholme beach near Bangor.
A statement from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said one police officer was injured after she was kicked in the face.
A 17-year-old youth has been charged with offences including assault on police and is expected to appear at a local court later in June.
Two others, a woman aged 18 and a 16-year-old boy, have been released to be reported to the prosecutors, while a 15-year-old boy remains in custody.
Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “I understand that as time goes on, and with the current spell of good weather, some people may be tempted to get out and about and make the most of the sunshine. However, as a police service, our key role is to support our public health colleagues and the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure we all play our part in stopping the spread of the virus and help save lives.”
ROUND 1: 1 Bucket; 2 New York 3 Jupiter; 4 Tajikistan; 5 WhatsApp; 6 Lee Marvin; 7 Dion; 8 Parkinson’s; 9 1979 (December); 10 Mexico City;
ROUND 2: 11 13; 12 Exosphere; 13 George Bush Senior; 14 1975; 15 Marlyn Monroe; 16 Naples; 17 22; 18 Alexander Fleming; 19 Ride of the Valkyries; 20 Zimbabwe;
ROUND 3: 21 Hummous; 22 Philadelphia; 23 1889; 24 Peregrine falcon; 25 Violet; 26 Mariana; 27 Gondola; 28 Sesame Street; 29 1815;30 Geoffrey Chaucer;
ROUND 4: 31 Flax; 32 Eye; 33 Finnish; 34 Marco Materazzi; 35 1949; 36 Troposphere; 37 Vietnam; 38 South Sudan; 39 5; 40 Sulphur dioxide;
ROUND 5: 41 Cold soup; 42 Estonia; 43 Geronimo; 44 Washington DC; 45 Princeton; 46 Belfast; 47 E=mc2(squared); 48 Zebra 49 Concorde; 50 The Indian Ocean
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