General view of a statue in Dublin, Ireland. Image Credit: Reuters

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 68

Friday June 5, 9am




Here I go again, ranting about all of the false and simply bogus information that’s out there floating around on social media. It’s dangerous to believe. Quite frankly, it’s just grossly irresponsible how social media platforms are in sharing rumours and unsafe science – and this coronavirus pandemic has highlight social media flaws more than ever.

These platforms take no responsibility for what’s shared. Traditional news outlets and responsible news organisations had a legal requirement to be accurate. Social media platforms just money from news outlets and disseminate patently false and bogus information.

Here’s one of many.

There’s a posting on Facebook doing the rounds that Italy has “discovered” that COVID-19 “is not a virus, but a bacterium” – and of course it has been widely circulated on social media.

No. It’s bogus.

Italy has not made this discovery because it is untrue that the COVID-19 disease is caused by bacteria.

COVID-19 is a disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is a type of coronavirus.

Scientists have seen and analysed the virus and identified that COVID-19 is caused by a virus rather than bacteria.


One of the Facebook posts featuring this bogus claim. Image Credit: Facebook

This claim has been shared around the world in different posts with similar wording. This one example was shared over 1,500 times as of publication.

It reads: “Italy has allegedly discovered covid is not a virus, but a bacterium.

“It clots the blood and reduces the oxygen saturation from dispersing throughout the body.”

Bacterium is the singular word for bacteria. Bacteria are a type of tiny, single-celled organisms that can live in soil, the ocean and the human gut. Bacteria can cause diseases such as meningitis and food poisoning.

The post goes on to make claims about Italy’s use of autopsies and a World Health Organisation “law”.

There is a lot to unpack here, so we’ll break it down piece by piece.

Yes, COVID-19 is caused by a virus

“Italy has allegedly discovered covid is not a virus, but a bacterium.”

COVID-19 is not a virus, it’s a disease caused by a virus. COVID-19 is the shortened term for ‘coronavirus disease 2019′

Virologist and assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Kim Roberts, said that scientists have seen the virus and there is no suggestion that it is actually bacteria.

“It is a virus. We have seen it, we have sequenced it, we can isolate it and we can see it is a virus,” she said.

“The virus has been isolated from patient samples, we have looked at it under microscopes and electron microscopy.”


Roberts added that a complication of COVID-19 can be secondary bacterial infection, which is separate to the illness caused by the virus. She said this can happen with respiratory infections as the damage caused by the virus “makes it easier for bacterial infections to take hold”.

The post claims that COVID-19 “clots the blood and reduces oxygen saturation from dispersing throughout the body”.

Blood clotting has been seen among some COVID-19 patients and can contribute to death in some patients with the disease, according to a study led by the Royal College of surgeons in Ireland – this does not mean that it’s a bacterium, however, as the Facebook post seems to be suggesting.

“[Italy] went against the World Health Organisation’s “law” that no bodies receive autopsies”

There is no World Health Organisation (WHO) “law” about the bodies of people who have died with COVID-19 not receiving an autopsy.

In fact, the WHO has offered guidance about how to perform an autopsy on someone with COVID-19 who has died to prevent spread of infection.


In Italy, the Ministry for Health published guidelines for carrying out safe autopsies on patients who had died from COVID-19.

The guidelines, which were the subject of rumour and misinformation in Italy, said that the only times when autopsies should not be conducted were in cases where the cause of death was already known, according to Italian factchecking websites Facta and Open.

Italy is also not “demanding Bill Gates and the World Health Organisation be held accountable” for crimes against humanity for “misleading, misdirecting, and withholding life-saving information from the world” as I have posted in this blog recently.

There’s also a false claim that Italy wanted to charge Bill Gates with crimes against humanity. Social media posts with this claim were shared widely and found to be untrue.

Basic facts just don’t matter to the covidiots who continue to share such hocus pocus slaptrap on social media. Please, please rely on credible news sources such as Gulf News and gulfnews.com and from governments and public health officials. Anything else might indeed be dangerous to your health.


Come June 15, anyone travelling on public transport in England, the UK government announced on Wednesday evening, becoming compulsory on anyone wanting to use the tube, bus or a train.

Travellers will be refused boarding if they are not wearing one, or told to get off.

The new rules will apply on trains, tubes, buses, ferries and planes. But people won’t have to wear them inside railway stations or bus terminals.

“I can announce that as of Monday 15 June, face coverings will become mandatory on public transport,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said on Wednesday evening. “The evidence suggests that wearing a face masks offers some, limited protection.

“You can be refused travel if you don’t comply and you could be fined. It’s a condition of travel. You cannot travel if you are not wearing a face covering.”

The new rules will come into place on the same day that non-essential shops will open again across the country, and when more secondary school pupils are expected to start having some contact time with teachers.


Shapps said that it would be an England-only rule, but he expects that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow suit.

A fresh nationwide advertising campaign across the UK will be launched in the coming days to let people know of the new rules. There will be exemptions for anyone with breathing difficulties and young children.

British Transport Police will be asked to enforce the rules, and staff in stations will have to wear them too.

Ministers think that as more people return to work, they want to limit the spread of the disease wherever possible, but it is understood that there has been no new scientific evidence to SAGE – the UK government’s group of scientific advisers.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she is considering making masks mandatory for Scots too in public spaces

The news came as she said Scotland is considering forcing people to wear masks in shops.

Speaking at her daily press conference, Sturgeon was asked if the Scottish Government could make wearing a face covering mandatory.

She replied: “Yes, it is under consideration. I said when I announced the policy some weeks back that we would keep this under review.”


Opps! So much for being caught with his trousers down! A European Union lawmaker on Tuesday was reminded of the perils of videoconferencing when he appeared to be wearing no trousers as he discussed policy matters with his peers.

The European Parliament’s official live broadcast showed Ireland’s Luke Ming Flanagan wearing a shirt and sitting on the edge of an unmade bed with his legs crossed, rubbing his thighs as he addressed an agriculture committee for two minutes.

Flanagan, of the left-wing Group of the European United Left faction, offered a sanguine explanation of the video call incident: “I was just back from a run so was in my shorts. Decided to put on a shirt to look kinda respectable! That didn’t work out very well!”

His light-hearted response won him sympathy on social media where many people shared their own struggles with video calls and working from home amid the pandemic.


Considering what happened to Luke Flanagan MEP in the previous item, this share from Instagram seems appropriate now.

Mick meme
Image Credit: Mick


I’ve been doing this blog now for 68 days’ straight and I was thinking of new ways that might make it a little more interesting. In the course of my research – I leave no stone uncovered for you, dear reader – I came across and interesting element on NBC where those under lockdown posted their one line confessions from lockdown. What they thought, what they did, their fears and other worries or concerns. The comments show that we’re pretty much the same the world over. I’ll run some more over the next few days too. You can always share yours to Readers@gulfnews.com and mark it for the Going Viral blog.

Here are 25 confessions:

1: I love working from home. Break time is with my kids instead of unhappy, helpless coworkers.

2: I am considered essential, I love my job but I am jealous that others stay at home with their family while I stress

3: I’m with my mom and my sister says it’s my job to keep her safe. I’m afraid I’ll have to return to work and I’ll bring it home.

4: I’ve been teaching my daughters valuable life skills in case something happens to me. Setting up so they are taken care of...

5: I’m doing everything right but my family is gonna get me sick anyway. Love having to self-isolate within my self-isolation.

6: I am self-employed, no benefits, no work, since March, but my heart goes to all families, who are weathering one heck of a storm.

7: I’m wishing for COVID-19 to take me because my “golden years” look that bleak…

8: I have finally had time to scan photos, wash windows, clean out the closet, add plants to the yard and “see” my huge family on line.

9: I have been one of the lucky ones that have been able to stay home and still receive my full paycheque.

10: I always have at least 6 months’ worth of toilet paper on hand. Stock up during sales. It won’t go bad. Doubt it’ll be on sale anytime soon.

11: I’m equal parts grateful I have a job in Healthcare and won't be furloughed but terrified I could be an asymptomatic carrier.

12: I’m unemployed and worried I’ll never work again. I’m 55, and with more people chasing fewer jobs, I won’t be a desirable hire.

13: Just got rid of the flat mate from hell the week before the lockdown. Thanking my lucky stars!

15: I love our children's school. Such a good school. I never want them to go back, just stay home with me, my sweet babies!

16: I consider myself a moderate-level ‘prepper’. People used to hear me talk and laugh. They aren’t laughing at me any longer.

17: My wife is an ER nurse and I am scared she’ll bring the virus home to our 3 kids and me. Not enough PPE and testing for everyone!

18: I’m middle schooler who was happy when I found out school was being cancelled. E-school is bad, with not enough work. I hate this.

19: Partner maybe dying of cancer. Old pet suddenly won't eat or drink. Child won’t do online school.

20: Political polarisation makes US more vulnerable to every threat. I was hoping we would fix that before one came along.

21: Hard to help frail parents as before. Can’t risk giving COVID-10. Would never forgive myself if I did.

22: I truly miss my family and friends. I hate not being able to give hugs. Social distancing is just tough.

23: My anxiety has caused me to hoard cash for the past decade, so I could easily live for three plus years without working.

24: I love having my kids home. I'm going to miss them when school opens back up.

25: My husband is working from home. Love it.


In the race to find an effective, low-cost treatment for COVID-19, a powerful molecule that has long captured the attention of medical researchers is gaining popularity.

Nitric oxide, a two-part nanomolecule made in the cells that line the blood vessels, is being examined as an experimental treatment for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Studies show it plays a role in helping to relax blood vessels and open the airways in the lung – critical in treating those with advanced cases.

Among the companies vying to harness this naturally produced gas is a Canadian firm that is experimenting with using nitric oxide nasal spray or mouth gargles that may help those at a high risk of becoming infected from contracting COVID-19 in the first place.

SaNOtize Research has been given a $400,000 grant from Canada’s National Research Council and is now conducting phase two of a clinical trial on people at high risk for contracting COVID-19, including front-line workers, and those with mild symptoms of the disease.

The trial, which started in British Columbia, expanded to participants in Quebec come June 1, with talk of an Ontario-based study in the near future.

“It’s really important we get this trial done as soon as possible and then we can work with regulatory authority, then we can turn it around in three to four months,” Chris Miller, SaNOtize Chief Scientific Officer, told CTV News.


Nitric Oxide has many properties – it’s produced by cells that line our blood vessels to helps control blood pressure and open the airways in the lung, allowing more oxygen to be absorbed.

But researchers have also found nitric oxide has an antibacterial and antiviral effect.

SaNOtize’s nasal spray is designed to “disinfect” your upper airway using nitric oxide. Initial tests of the company’s product suggest that the spray inactivated more than 99.9 per cent of SARs-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, within two minutes during laboratory tests.

“You’re using a hand sanitiser to disinfect your hands. It’s a similar idea, but instead of a hand sanitiser, it’s a nasal spray to disinfect your upper airway,” SaNOtize CEO Gilly Regev said.

With no confirmed therapeutic treatment for COVID-19, researchers around the world have turned their attention to the molecule once dubbed “molecule of the year.”

Discovered in the 1980s, nitric oxide is already approved for use in helping improve oxygen levels in premature babies and is used in some cardiac procedures and drugs for erectile dysfunction.


One of the studies suggesting it may have potential as a tool against COVID-19 is a report by Dr. Roham Zamanian, a pulmonologist at Stanford Health Care in California. His team gave nitric oxide to a woman suffering from pulmonary arterial hypertension who had also developed COVID-19.

Doctors treated her at home, adding the gas to her oxygen supply.

Over the course of 11 days, the patient improved and didn’t need hospital care.

“We saw an improvement in her symptoms, we saw an improvement in her ability to walk distances over six minutes, which is our usual test of cardiopulmonary reserve,” Zamanian told CTV News.

“We were able to document that she was feeling better and better as we provided her with the nitric oxide, until day 15, 16 where we want to begin to wean the medication off.”

Her recovery encouraged Zamanian so much that his centre is now launching a study of inhaled nitric oxide in hospitalised patients and those recovering at home

Another study is underway at the University Health Network in Toronto to see whether high dose inhaled nitric oxide given in hospital can reduce levels of the virus and improve breathing in COVID-19 patients on ventilators.


Scientists in Boston and Louisiana are also giving several hundred severely ill patients nitric oxide, with preliminary results expected in the coming weeks. Several devices that produce nitric oxide have also been given the green light for testing in the US

Researchers say side effects from the gas are minimal and they hope to have more data on the various approaches later this year, before the expected second wave of the disease.

Meanwhile, watching from the sidelines, is one of the three Nobel Prize winning scientists responsible for discovering the molecule some two decades ago.

“There’s every reason to believe that the nitric oxide will work in the present coronavirus situation,” American pharmacologist Lou Ignarro said.

“That’s going to be worth much more than the Nobel Prize I will be so happy. You know I’m 79-years-old and this would just be the, the most fantastic thing I could hear.”


The more scientists study SARS-CoV-2, the more we learn about the novel coronavirus and its paths of infection. That is fundamentally good, because it means the pandemic can be handled in a far more targeted manner. But at the same time, that means we may come to question numerous measures that were implemented at the start of the pandemic and which now may appear to have been the opposite: untargeted or perhaps even unnecessary.

Some of the research on “superspreaders” and “superspreader events,” for instance, may well lead to such discussions. People may ask: What was helpful, what worked, and what measures will work in the future?

Epidemiologists describe superspreaders as people who infect a significantly high number of other people. That’s not strictly a superspreader’s fault — anyone can become a superspreader if they happen to come into contact with a lot of people at the wrong time.

And the timing is important. A person can be infectious before they see the first symptoms. That’s when, it seems, the viral load is especially high in a person's nose and throat.


But many people have few or no symptoms at all. They often don't realize that they are infected and, as a result, that they are infectious.

In addition, it seems that some people spread more of a virus — and that for a longer period of time — than other people. That may have something to do with their individual immune systems, or the distribution of virus receptors in their bodies.

If a highly infectious superspreader comes into contact with lots of other people, it is possible that they will infect a higher than average number of people in a short amount of time, in a closed area.

As a rule, it’s been possible to trace such “infection clusters” around the world.

In Germany, news agency DPA reports that recent superspreader events include an explosive rise in infection cases after large family gatherings in Gottingen, church services in Frankfurt, and carnival celebrations in Heinsburg.

Similar cases have emerged in clubs, a dance schools in Seoul, South Korea, a bar for skiers in Ischgl, Austria, cruise ships and slaughterhouses.


Studies of superspreader events have shown that particular factors increase the chance of an event taking place. For instance, the risk of infection is significantly higher in closed spaces than outdoors. And the more the people, the greater the risk.

So, why is that? Increasingly, the indications suggest that this aggressive SARS-CoV-2 virus is not only transmitted via droplets and surfaces, but also by airborne transmission — the virus can linger in small and badly ventilated spaces in aerosol form.

The studies so far have also shown that the aerosol is quickly distributed via loud talking or shouting — such as you might hear at a bar, club or a sports event. The same is true for singing in church services or in choirs. And some people release more aerosol than others.

It’s usually the number of new infections that determine what measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus are implemented and to what extent.


One decisive factor is the reproduction rate, R — that’s the number of people an infected person infects on average. A rate of two means that an infected person infects a further two people. So, the aim of social distancing, for instance, is to get the rate as low as possible, and keep it there, down below one.

Next to the reproduction rate, however, is the so-called dispersion factor K. That number indicates how often an illness occurs and where potential clusters appear. As with the rate of R, it’s better to have a low value for K. That would indicate that the potential for distribution is small and the infection can be traced back to a few people or even a single person.

But scientists have yet to work out the dispersion factor K or the novel coronavirus.

In one well-read study, researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) — Akira Endo, Adam Kucharski and Sebastian Funk — conclude that the k-rate of the coronavirus could be 0.1, which would suggest that 10 per cent of infected people are responsible for 80 per cent of all infections.


The LSHTM study is a “preprint” and has yet to be peer-reviewed by the scientific community — it needs to be verified and checked. But its results do coincide with those from other studies, including research led by Christian Drosten, head virologist at The Charite, a university hospital in Berlin. Drosten’s research suggests that 20 per cent of infectious people may be responsible for 80 per cent of infections.

When the novel coronavirus broke out, scientists around the world came under growing pressure to gather together all the available information. And based on what the scientists said, politicians around the world came under just as much pressure to decide how they could or should best protect people from the pandemic.

The debate about face masks, which were derided before they became compulsory, is one example of a policy that may have to be adapted as new knowledge is won — even if not everyone understands or wants to understand why.

Research into superspreaders so far shows that most infected people infect only few other people, but that a few infected people have the potential to infect many more people. That is good news as it suggests the measures to contain the pandemic can be targeted better than before.


While it’s remains difficult to identify and isolate superspreaders, because many superspreaders have few or no symptoms, it is possible to monitor the sorts of circumstances that can create a superspreading event.

It may be possible to contain the further spread of the virus with ongoing bans on large gatherings, especially in closed environments, and if people follow the other hygiene and distancing rules.

If that works, whole cities won’t necessarily have to be closed or locked down, with all the associated economic and social fears that come with that. Perhaps distancing rules could be relaxed step-by-step to allow a relatively normal situation for businesses, schools and kindergartens until a medicinal drug or a vaccine are developed.

Politicians and other decision makers could easily continue to ban large gatherings, communal singing, and place restrictions on restaurants and cafes.

But it all comes down to how we behavior as individuals. As soon as the weather turns again, and all those parties or meetings outdoors get moved back indoors, there will be plenty of situations, where we will fail to observe those distancing and hygiene rules. And if there's a single superspreader in your gathering, you could have a superspreader event on your hands.

If that happens, it will be very important to find the new cluster without delay and to immediately isolate everyone who had contact in that situation. Only once that’s done, should those contact people be tested — experts say that strategy helps limit the spread of the virus and saves valuable time.


What I find fascinating about this whole COVID-19 pandemic is that many people who have coronavirus are asymptomatic – showing no signs at all.

China said, for example, that 300 symptomless carriers of the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic, had not been found to be infectious, in a bid to reassure people as countries ease restrictions. But some experts say asymptomatic infections are common, presenting a huge challenge in the control of the disease.

The World Health Organisation defines asymptomatic cases as those who don’t show symptoms but have been confirmed infected through a lab test. WHO notes there are few reports of truly asymptomatic cases.

The incubation period, or the time a person takes to show symptoms after getting infected, is the pre-symptomatic phase, the WHO says. Carriers can infect others during this period.

Health experts are not yet sure whether asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic cases are infectious. Some say data so far suggests those cases are probably equally likely to be able to spread infection.

The WHO agrees that pre-symptomatic carriers are infectious and adds that there is also a possibility – although little evidence so far – that people who are asymptomatic may also transmit the virus. The WHO had said in early April that there had been no documented asymptomatic transmissions.


China has reported around 83,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. It does not include asymptomatic cases in that total official count but began reporting them separately on a daily basis on March 31.

That has raised concerns about Beijing’s commitment to transparency, and some experts say it could also paint a misleading picture of how the virus spreads.

“If you watch asymptomatic cases really closely, you would see something ... that probably fits with a more realistic mild disease than a complete asymptomatic,” Ian Mackay, a virologist at the University of Queensland said.

“But the term is around now and it’s going to stick. It’s a nice piece of theatre, but I don’t think it’s going to give useful information.”

Asymptomatic cases under medical observation in China dropped to 357 as of Tuesday from 1,541 as of March 30.

Wuhan has tested almost its entire population of 11 million and found no new COVID-19 cases.

Wuhan’s low rate of symptomless carriers is in line with China’s previous reporting, said Zhong Nanshan, the government’s senior medical adviser, adding that the result showed that the country didn’t cover up the epidemic as some US politicians claimed.


Some countries in Asia include asymptomatic carriers in their total confirmed cases.

In Vietnam, which has just over 300 COVID-19 cases, almost 37 per cent were symptomless, according to health ministry data.

Researchers concluded that asymptomatic infection was common and found two asymptomatic patients had infected at least four other people.

South Korea, which had early success in taming the outbreak through aggressive testing, said between 20 and 30 per cent were asymptomatic. A senior health official said the virus could be widely transmitted during the incubation period, but asymptomatic patients were less likely to transmit it.

Singapore, which has the highest number of cases in Southeast Asia, does not give data on asymptomatic cases but has said an overwhelming majority of positive cases in its crowded migrant workers’ dormitories show mild or no symptoms.

The Philippines said about 13 per cent of its nearly 19,000 cases were asymptomatic. In India, some 28 per cent of 40,184 people who tested positive between Jan. 22 and April 30 were asymptomatic, according to a study.



With one day left in the trading week, my portfolio again headed north and returned a profit of £140 on Wednesday’s close. And, as my late father would say, that’s better than a kick in the pants.

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.

Avast, a software maker, appears to a bit of a dog right now, and I’ve lost some £300 on it in the past two weeks. I will hold on to it for one more day, and I’ll stand pay too on Ocado, Diageo and PowerHouse.

When the shakeup comes this weekend, Avast will go, so too Ocado, a grocery delivery service. With businesses and shops opening up again across the UK, it’s makes sense to retire from Ocado when I review everything on Saturday or Sunday.

This is how things stand after Thursday’s trading:

Net worth £13,879.38

Ocado, 100 shares: £2136.00

Diageo, 100 shares: £2882.00

Avast, 1,000 shares: £4822.00

PowerHouse, 1200 shares: £3984.00

Cash in hand: £55.38

£ gain on last trading day: £140.00

% Gain overall: 38.8 per cent

£ Gain overall: £3,879.38


Here’s my daily collection that proves where there’s one covidiot, there are many more...


Hundreds of covidiots have been filmed crowding together for a street party in in London in a dramatic breach of lockdown rules.

Fireworks were set off as Brent Police officers tried to break up the unlicensed music event in Harlesden, northwest London, on Tuesday night.

Officers were first called to a block party of around 60 people at 6.45pm on Tuesday evening, but as the gathering broke up a much larger one, thought to be around 500 people, formed nearby. It went on until 3.40am.

Videos shared online showed hundreds of people dancing and holding plastic cups as they defied lockdown restrictions.

A spokesman confirmed 11 officers were left with minor injuries as they tried to disperse covidiots.

Up to 500 people gathered for the late-night street party, in clear defiance of lockdown restrictions

Five arrests were made – three for assault on police, one for affray and one for attempted grievous bodily harm and dangerous driving, The Mail Online reports

Under the latest rules groups of up to six, including mixed households, are allowed to meet in outside spaces – but social distancing must be strictly followed.

But clips taken at the block party show covidiots grouped closely together with some walking through the crowd paying little heed to the risk of spreading coronavirus.


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