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 evolving rules about who is allowed out, where, and under what circumstances. The rules are slowly changing as the first wave of the crisis eases. This is his final daily blog on the COVID-19 crisis.
DAY 90: Saturday June 27, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
THANK YOU STICKING WITH ME AND KEEPING ME COMPANY DURING THIS PANDEMIC
It has been a long 90 days. There was a sameness about it that made the days go that little bit quicker. There is always to hope that better days will come. And yes, after 90 days, it’s time to step out into the wider world.
I will be taking the car ferry to the Britain on Monday, leaving Ireland behind, able to move beyond Wexford county which has been hope for me during this lockdown.
Over the past three months, since I returned to Ireland from a long-planned month’s break in Bali, my movements have been limited, my face-to-face contact with others restricted, and there are new norms of social distancing in place.
If anything, reviewing and reporting on all of the science that continues to emerge on this unprecedented pandemic, the need for social distancing has become more obvious than ever.
Masks and hygiene measures work too.
SOCIAL DISTANCE AND HYGIENE MEASURES
Clearly, given that some nations are seeing a second spike in infections after emerging from lockdown, social distancing and hygiene measures are with us to stay for the foreseeable future.
It’s vital to remember that these measures aren’t an attack on your personal freedoms, they are measures that are essential to help you and me protect others who are vulnerable to this terrible virus.
I have lost two members from my wider family circle over these past months – no funerals, no opportunity to say a last farewell.
But most are safe and well – and continue to listen to the advice from public health experts.
One of the things that has riled me up has been the sheer volume of stupid advice shared on social media.
There are absolute idiots out there who believe this virus is manmade, is somehow related to the rollout of 5G, or is the work of Bill Gates and others in some demonic plot.
That’s not the case.
I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing this lockdown with me. I have had fun writing it for you. Stay safe.
So, after 12 weeks more or less of trading, pretending that I had £10,000 – about Dh45,000 – to invest in the stock market in London, I ended up with a profit of £1,867.77, or 18.7 per cent.
The final day of trading saw all of stocks decrease once more, with Ryanair, Vodafone and J.D. Wetherspoon all down.
At one stage, I managed to get the portfolio up to just of the £14,000 mark – but that was not to be.
The idea was to show just how investing the stock markets can pay off – and my profit isn’t too shabby. I would have liked to break the £2,000 profit mark but declines over the past three days put an end to that.
Still, it was a worthwhile exercise. I hope you enjoyed in
MOST CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS WITH COVID-19 ONLY EXPERIENCE MILD SYMPTOMS
experience mild symptoms when diagnosed with COVID-19 and only a small number die from the disease, according to a new study published in the Lancet Journal.
The multinational study of 582 children and adolescents under the age of 18 noted there were only four deaths, less than 1 per cent of the sample taken.
While 8 per cent of those experienced severe symptoms from the disease and were admitted to ICU, researchers pointed out the study was hospital-based and therefore that figure may not accurately represent the impact of the disease on those under-18 in the wider community.
The study, which included children and adolescents aged from three days up to 18 years old found that fewer than one in ten patients required treatment in intensive care – 8 per cent or 48 patients.
Researchers note that their study only involved patients who had sought medical help and been tested for COVID-19, and so milder cases would not have been included.
However, they say their findings should be taken into consideration when planning for demand on intensive care services as the pandemic progresses.
EVIDENCE OF IMMUNITY IN CHILDREN
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has previously published summaries investigating the international evidence on immunity and the spread of the virus by children.
“An Australian study that examined potential spread from 18 confirmed (nine students and nine staff) cases to over 800 close contacts in 15 different schools found that no teacher or staff member contracted COVID-19 from any of the initial school cases,” Hiqa deputy chief executive and director of health technology assessment Dr Mairin Ryan said.
Dr Marc Tebruegge from the University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health in London, and lead author of the latest study said: “Our study provides the most comprehensive overview of COVID-19 in children and adolescents to date.
“We were reassured to observe that the case fatality rate in our cohort was very low and it is likely to be substantially lower still, given that many children with mild disease would not have been brought to medical attention and therefore not included in this study.
“Overall, the vast majority of children and young people experience only mild disease. Nevertheless, a notable number of children do develop severe disease and require intensive care support, and this should be accounted for when planning and prioritising healthcare resources as the pandemic progresses.”
The study was carried out over a 3.5 week period from 1 to 24 April 2020, during the initial peak of the European Covid-19 pandemic. It involved 82 specialist healthcare institutions across 25 European countries.
FEVER IS THE MOST COMMON SYMPTOM
Researchers found that the most common symptom reported was fever – 65 per cent or 379 patients reported fever.
Around half of the patients had signs of upper respiratory tract infection – 54 per cent or 313 patients.
A quarter had evidence of pneumonia – 25 per cent, or 143. Gastrointestinal symptoms were also reported in around a quarter of the children – 22 per cent or 128 and some 40 of those did not have any COVID-19 case, had no symptoms at all – 16 per cent of all patients in the study.
Dr Florian Gotzinger, from Wilhelminenspital in Vienna, Austria, said: “Although COVID-19 affects children less severely than adults overall, our study shows that there are severe cases in all age groups. Those who have pre-existing health issues and children under one month of age were more likely to be admitted to intensive care.”
Four patients died during the study period, two of whom had pre-existing medical conditions. All of the patients who died were older than 10 years of age. However, the overwhelming majority of patients were alive when the study closed.
MEME OF THE DAY
After more than three months where beauty salons, barbers and others similar outlets have been closed, there’s more than an element of truth to this meme. One of the first things I’ll do when I can is get my haircut. It hasn’t been this long since I was in university four decades ago.
SOCIAL DISTANCING TO BE REDUCED TO ONE METRE IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Social distancing requirements are to be reduced from two metres to one in a bid to save thousands of companies in Northern Ireland.
Restaurant owners and hoteliers preparing to reopen on July 3 said the reduction was Stormont’s most significant step yet to protect jobs.
The country’s rate of coronavirus spread remains below one and powersharing ministers are coaxing the economy out of a deep freeze.
First Minister Arlene Foster said: “A minimum one-metre distance between individuals can be considered acceptable in circumstances where appropriate mitigations are made.”
She said the relaxations had been made through the efforts of people to drive down the rate of infection.
Hospitality Ulster chief executive Colin Neill said: “This is the most significant news since the announcement we were closed at the beginning of this crisis.”
This makes the difference between a sustainable business and a business that would open and go broke or not open at all and it means we can save jobs.
Pub and restaurant owners have said they would be unviable if they had to adhere to two-metre social distancing to reduce the spread of disease.
COVID-19 MAY CAUSE BRAIN COMPLICATIONS IN SOME, SAY DOCTORS
Brain complications, including stroke and psychosis, have been linked to COVID-19 in a study that raises concerns about the potentially extensive impact of the disease in some patients.
The study is small and based on doctors’ observations, so cannot provide a clear overall picture about the rate of such complications. However, medical experts say the findings highlight the need to investigate the possible effects of COVID-19 in the brain and studies to explore potential treatments.
“There have been growing reports of an association between COVID-19 infection and possible neurological or psychiatric complications, but until now these have typically been limited to studies of 10 patients or fewer,” said Benedict Michael, the lead author of the study, from the University of Liverpool. “Ours is the first nationwide study of neurological complications associated with COVID-19, but it is important to note that it is focused on cases that are severe enough to require hospitalisation.”
IMPORTANT SNAPSHOP OF POTENTIAL COMPLICATIONS
Scientists said the findings were an important snapshot of potential complications, but should be treated with caution as it is not possible to draw any conclusions from the data about the prevalence of such complications.
The study, published in the journal Lancet Psychiatry, focused on patients treated in UK hospitals during the exponential phase of the COVID-19 pandemic in April. Michael and colleagues asked specialist doctors to report clinical details of COVID-19 patients, who were experiencing a range of neurological and psychiatric complications that were potentially linked to the disease, Guardian News and Media reports.
Of the 125 cases reported in detail, the most common brain complication observed was stroke, which was reported in 77 patients. Of these, 57 patients had a stroke caused by a blood clot in the brain, known as an ischaemic stroke, nine patients had a stroke caused by a brain haemorrhage, and one patient had a stroke caused by inflammation in the blood vessels of the brain. Previously, COVID-19 has been found, in some patients, to cause severe inflammation and blood clots in the lungs and elsewhere in the body.
SIGNS OF CONFUSION AND CHANGES IN BEHAVIOUR
A further 39 patients showed signs of confusion or changes in behaviour reflecting an altered mental state, with seven of these having inflammation of the brain, medically termed encephalitis. The remaining 23 patients with an altered mental state were diagnosed with psychiatric conditions, including psychosis, a dementia-like syndrome and mood disorders. Although most psychiatric diagnoses were recorded as new, the researchers say they cannot exclude the possibility that these were undiagnosed before the patient developed COVID-19.
Michael Sharpe, a professor of psychological medicine at the University of Oxford, said: “This report describes often striking cases of neurological and psychiatric illness as being sometimes associated with severe COVID-19 in hospitalised patients. It reminds us that COVID-19 is more than a respiratory infection and that we need to consider its link to a variety of other illnesses.”
ARE ASSOCIATED ILLNESSES AS RESULT OR A CAUSE?
Further research was needed to rule out the possibility that the illnesses were simply co-occurring with COVID-19 rather than caused by it, Michael said.
“At present people in the general population should not worry too much about these possibly associated illnesses as they are probably relatively rare in those who become infected with this coronavirus,” he said.
Dame prof Til Wykes, vice dean psychology and systems sciences at King’s College London, said that there was an awareness that there have been mental health problems associated with the pandemic, due to indirect impacts of the virus. “We thought that these problems would just be increases in anxiety and depression but clearly there is a possibility that a small number of people may experience a first episode of psychosis following hospitalisation with severe COVID-19 – 8 per cent of the total cases reported in this paper,” she said.
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my last look at the idiots out there who still don’t get it that this pandemic is a matter of life and death.
COVIDIOTS ARE STILL OUT THERE, THRONGING TO BEACHES IN SUNNY WEATHER
A major incident was declared after tens of thousands of covidiots defied pleas to stay away and descended in their droves on beaches in Bournemouth and other stretches of the Dorset coast in south west England.
The local authority, BCP council – covering Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole – said it was forced to instigate a multi-agency emergency response to tackle issues ranging from overcrowding on the beaches, traffic gridlock and violence. Security guards had to be used to protect refuse collection teams.
Matt Hancock, the UK’s health secretary, said on TalkRadio that he had the power to close the beaches if people did not respect social-distancing rules, Press Association and others reported.
He said he was “reluctant” to go down that route as “people have had a pretty tough lockdown”. But he added that if there was a spike in the number of coronavirus cases “then we will take action”.
COUNCILS IN COVIDIOT CRISIS
The Bournemouth East MP, Tobias Ellwood, said half a million people had flocked to the beaches and said the situation was so overwhelming that the UK government should step in to help the council deal with the crisis.
He said: “A lot of people have chosen to be not just irresponsible but dangerous. We’ve made such progress tackling this pandemic. I’d hate to see Bournemouth be the one place in Britain that gets that second spike.”
The council leader, Vikki Slade, said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks in neighbouring Poole.
“The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.
“The numbers of people descending down here are like those seen on a bank holiday. We are not in a position to welcome visitors in these numbers now. Please do not come.”
COVIDIOTS COMPLETELY OVERSTRETCH SERVICES
The council said services were left “completely overstretched” as visitors arrived in huge volumes resulting in widespread illegal parking, gridlock on roads, excessive waste, antisocial behaviour including excessive drinking and fights and prohibited overnight camping.
The health secretary, Matt Hancock, threatened to close beaches if physical distancing laws were not adhered to.
“We do have that power,’ he told Talk Radio. “I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown and I want everybody to be able to enjoy the sunshine.
“But the key is to do it with respect for the rules – stay with your household, stay a good distance from other households.
“But we do have those powers and if we see a spike in the number of cases then we will take action.”
The chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, urged people to follow physical distancing rules in the hot weather or risk causing a spike in coronavirus.
He wrote on Twitter: “If we do not follow social distancing guidance then cases will rise again. Naturally people will want to enjoy the sun but we need to do so in a way that is safe for all.”
FULL CAR PARKS AND LONG QUEUES
Some motorists had to queue for two hours to get into Bournemouth and car parks were full by 9am on Thursday. BCP council issued 558 parking enforcement fines within a few hours – the highest ever. Families had travelled from as far afield as London and Birmingham to the beaches in Dorset.
People queued for 30 minutes at ice-cream vans and refreshment stalls on the promenade as a police helicopter hovered overhead. At one point a dozen police officers and security guards stepped in as tempers briefly flared between two sets of teenagers.
Phil Horton, 57, from Bournemouth, who works in the timber trade, said: “The number of people here makes me very nervous, and there’s absolutely no respect for social distancing. It seems like everyone has forgotten we are living in a pandemic.
“What can the police do about it? There’s thousands and thousands of people here so they’re massively outnumbered. Good luck telling them to go home.”
OVER AND OUT…
That’s it for now.. 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