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Image Credit: Mick O'Reilly


Like millions of others around the world, Gulf News Foreign Correspondent Mick O’Reilly is currently under Covid-19 lockdown. This is what life is like in social isolation in Ireland, where there are strict rules about who is allowed out, where, and under limited circumstances.


Friday. 3 April, 9am


10 days, 5 hours and 18 minutes



There seems to be a lot of debate now about masks, who should wear them, and just how effective they are in this current pandemic.

Having travelled from Bali last week through Jakarta and London, I’d say that roughly one-third of travellers wore face masks.

I did try to purchase some but at every pharmacist I went to, the masks were sold out.

The guidance from the World Health Organisation has been that only those with coronavirus should indeed wear a mask. Clearly, that’s not the case, otherwise one-third of the people I saw on my travels and sat on planes with were carriers of Covid-19.

If anything, people seem to be wearing masks as a precautionary measure lest they inhale droplets contaminated by the coronavirus.

In recent days, however, there seems to be a lot of discussion about masks and who should be wearing them now.

In Austria, for example, anyone entering any shop must wear a mask, and stores are handing them out before people enter.

In other jurisdictions, the use of masks in public is being introduced as mandatory during the current crisis.

The WHO stands by its guidelines that only those infect should wear masks, but there seems to be a growing body of support for the line of thought that suggests as many as possible ought cover their mouth and nose in some manner. Even a simple bandana, some suggest, will do the trick if a regular facemask isn’t available, some suggest.

It must be stressed, however, that the problem with wearing bandanas or making masks at home is that they are notoriously unreliable. If they don’t fit properly, for example, droplets can exit or enter from the sides, making them useless and giving a false sense of security at a time when everyone must be vigilant.

I’ve seen stories on television of women who are handy with sewing machines and the like, turning out mask by the thousands as they’re locked away in social isolation. That’s commendable no doubt, but masks that are used in hospital and other healthcare setting need to have a filtering element present – a piece of cloth alone just won’t do. And that, largely, is the crux.

Masks seem to offer a psychological support to those who need such as thing, I’m inclined to think. The danger is that these people might relax the other precautions that keep us all protected – and that’s in no one’s best interest.

The wearing of the masks, it needs to be stressed, compliments all of the guidelines and regulations that are in force when it comes to social distancing, staying two metres apart and avoiding groups of any more than two people. And, of course, keep washing your hands for at least 30 seconds at a time in hot water and lots of soap.

I’m still, however, inclined to trust the advice from WHO that there’s no need to wear a mask for now – but I will keep a close eye on how mask thinking develops in the coming days.


I curled up on the couch last night and turned on Netflix and watched one episode of Better Caul Saul. But I felt guilty at the prospect of wasting so much time on the small screen.

So I made a conscious effort to call people yesterday, just to say ‘hi’, just to keep in touch.

And that’s something that we all need to do right now.

Dear reader, I don’t know where you are reading this right now, but there’s every chance that you are confined to home and have very limited movements.

In the UAE, a number of restrictions of VOIP calls have been lifted for the duration of this crisis. Have you taken advantage of that to call friends who you haven’t spoken to in months, people that you wait to see only when you’re home on annual vacation, or extended family members that are also dealing with the fallout from this crisis.

I have checked my list of contacts, and there are almost 5,000 people listed there. Certainly, I cannot go through them all, but there are many who, when I see their name pop up, feel guilty for not speaking to them. And right now, we – and I – have no valid excuse.

So I called family across Ireland. And Spain. And Norway.

All are mostly doing fine. All are getting through this trying time. And all, if has to be said, are looking forward to one heck of a party once this pandemic is behind us all.

Economics speak of a severe downtown. I believe that once this is over, there will be a severe upturn. People will want to mix and mingle, hug and hold each other and reflect on a very strange time indeed. But this too shall pass.


He doesn’t wear a mask but he is helping save lives from coronavirus just the same. Meet Tommy, the robot nurse.

Tommy is one of six new robots helping flesh-and-blood doctors and nurses care for coronavirus patients at the Circolo Hospital in Varese, a city in the northern Lombardy region that is the epicentre of the outbreak in Italy.

“It’s like having another nurse without problems related to infection,” Doctor Francesco Dentali says. He’s the director of intensive care at the hospital.

The child-size robots with large blinking eyes are wheeled into rooms and left by a patient’s bedside so doctors can look after others who are in more serious conditions.

They monitor parameters from equipment in the room, relaying them to hospital staff. The robots have touch-screen faces that allow patients to record messages and send them to doctors.

Most importantly, Tommy and his high-tech teammates allow the hospital to limit the amount of direct contact doctors and nurses have with patients, thus reducing the risk of infection.

More than 4,000 Italian health workers have contracted the virus treating victims in Italy and 66 doctors have died.

The death toll in Italy, the world’s hardest hit country in terms of deaths, topped 13,000 earlier this week, more than a third of all global fatalities.

“Using my abilities, medical staff can be in touch with the patients without direct contact,” Tommy the robot, who was named after a son of one of the doctors, explained.

It takes a while for patients to realise that, given the enormity of the task of combating coronavirus and the toll it is taking on overworked medical staff, robots may be just what the doctor ordered.


This was shared with me on WhatsApp by my friend Mark in London. If you have a dog – or even a cat – you’ll get the humour in this. No pet likes have to wear the cone of shame.

Mick Meme
Image Credit: Courtesy: Mark/Via Mick O’Reilly


Day 5 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”

I’ve been reading more about this stuff and the Ayurveda thinking that goes into this diet. I won’t bore you with it, but I’ve been learning about dosha and all of that and trying to understand my dosha type. Just based on honestly answering a series of diagnostic questions, I am largely (very large, based on my actual body) kapha, and have few vata traits.

I started the day as usual with some lemon slices in hot water. I will admit that it’s not a bad way to get things going in the morning and, five days into it, has largely curbed my desire for caffeine first thing in the morning. It’s been five days since I had sugars, most carbohydrates, any dairy of note along with a lack of caffeine and all processed foods. I am feeling healthier and I think I’ve lost some weight, particularly around my chin and neck area. I am, however, resisting the temptation to step on the scales. All in good time.

Breakfast consisted of oatmeal porridge one more, heated with boiling water, nuked in the microwave for 30 seconds then topped with cinnamon, half a sliced banana, a drizzle of honey and a drop of almond milk.

Again, I have to admit that almond milk would never have crossed my lips if I hadn’t started this detox. I won’t say it’s my favourite but it is not unpleasant as I once would have imagined.

Lunch consisted of a bowl of leftover cauliflower and parsnip soup from the day before along with a rice cracker.

Supper was a treat I managed to find some fresh salmon in the shop. I prepared it in aluminium foil with olive oil, ginger, salt and pepper, a slice of lemon and some spinach. I placed it in the over for about 15 minutes, alongside some roasted cauliflower and fresh beetroots. I just cleaned those, kept the skin on, and roasted them in a drizzle of olive oil and some finely chopped shallots.

I will admit that I’m not finding the food element of this detox to be a challenge. If anything, the lockdown rules that limit to only an hour of exercise outside each day are a drawback. Hey, at least I have a roof over my head and I’m not sick. Always look on the positive!


So, I started out on Sunday evening pretending that I had £10,000 – about Dh45,000 – to invest in the stock market. The thinking is that stock markets around the world have been on a rollercoaster for the past month, and it’s just a fun way of testing my investment savvy – if I have any.

Initially, I bought two sets of shares in grocery stores in the UK. My thinking was that because people are staying at home and have stocked up on essentials, those grocery stores should be doing well.

On Monday and Tuesday I held my own, and was down a little on Wednesday, making me rethink my pretend investments.

This is how I stood at the end of Wednesday after cashing out and re-investing on some other stuff:


Ocado: 500 shares, £6647.50

Unilever: 75 shares, £2991.36

Cash on hand: £110.02

% Loss: -2.51%

£ Loss: -£251.12

The rules are simple. I won’t be calculating in brokerage fees and the deals can only be done when the market is shut. So, I’ll buy at the close of one, sell or not at the close of another. It will be interesting to see how my play portfolio ends up at the end of this lockdown in less than 11 days’ time.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ll be using those public traded on the FTSE500 – the London stock exchange.

So what happened on Thursday?

I had a good day, with both my stock choices finishing on the positive side.

Ocado closed at 1335p, meaning my 500 shares are worth £6675.00. And Unilever also traded upwards, closing at 4043p. That means my 75 shares are worth £3032.25.

My pretend portfolio now reads:

TODAY’S NET WORTH: £9,817.27

Ocado: 500 shares, £6675.00

Unilever: 75 shares, £3032.25

Cash on hand: £110.02

% Loss: -1.83%

£ Loss: -£182.73

I’m gradually creeping back into positive territory. Let’s hold these both for one more day and see what happens. I’ll review the week’s trades on Friday evening.


Some COVIDIOTS out there just don’t get it when it comes to the need to keep apart. The pastor of a Florida megachurch has been arrested and charged after he held services Sunday for hundreds of his flock.

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne turned himself in to cops and was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order.

He had vowed never to close his The River at Tampa Bay evangelical church.

The wacky pastor told the congregation: “They are trying to beat me up, you know, over having the church operational, but we are not non-essential.”

Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said: “Shame on this pastor, their legal staff and the leaders of this staff for forcing us to do our job. That’s not what we wanted to do during a declared state of emergency.”

Amen to that Sheriff. And thanks to Brad Hunter, a former colleague of mine in Toronto, who reported on the sinful behaviour of the pastor.


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. And stay safe.

Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe