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.
Sunday 5. April, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
THE PAIN IN SPAIN
I was not surprised to learn that the Spanish government has continued the strict lockdown conditions there until the end of April.
The country is being hammered. Its coronavirus death toll rose to 11,744 on Saturday – the world’s second-highest after Italy.
If there is a glimmer of hope, it is that the toll of 809 people who died during the past 24 hours was below Friday’s 932 deaths – and also down from Thursday’s daily record of 950.
I have a home in Spain and live there for roughly half of the year.
- Going Viral: Day six under COVID-19 lockdown
- Going Viral: Day five under COVID-19 lockdown
- Coronavirus: Heading home on a wing and a prayer
- Turning the clock back on coronavirus
- Coronavirus: Reach out and show you care
- Coronavirus brings flight chaos and cancellations
- Coronavirus: Are you a giver or a taker?
I feel for my friend’s son, Tommy, who fulfilled his life-long dream and opened a marvelous little café in the surf town of Famara in Lanzarote in December.
Since early March he had to close it up and lay off all of his dozen or so staff.
Yes, the Spanish government is giving tax breaks and delaying filing times, but it’s still a very testing time for Tommy, who has to cover off monthly expenses of €4,000 for rent and insurance and some other stuff.
It’s going to take a long time for economies everywhere to recover from this.
It makes you appreciate what you have had up to the time this pandemic changed all of our lives forever.
Will be go back to the way it was? Will there ever be a sense of normalcy again? And while we all appeared to be comfortable in our way of life, the reality is that our lives came to a very sudden stop indeed these past weeks.
On Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the current lockdown was beginning to show results, but he warned that Saturday’s extension of the country’s state of emergency would not be the last.
“We are at the start of the decrease in the epidemic. We are stronger than we think but we have to endure. With sacrifice, resistance and the spirit of victory,” he said, adding that some economic restrictions would be lifted after Easter.
“We are not going to extend the standstill of economic activity,” he said. Shops, bars and restaurants will, however, remain closed.
Sanchez also reiterated his support for the launch of jointly issued debt by euro zone members as a way to counter the coronavirus economic impact, an idea championed by Spain and Italy but rejected by Germany and other northern EU members.
“Nobody should be mistaken, the Spanish government is going to work for and defend and will never renounce eurobonds because this is solidarity, this is Europe. The determination of the government is total and absolute,” he said.
Other European governments are equally determined to make sure that every measure is put in place to firstly combat the coronavirus and secondly take their respective economies out of this enforced hibernation.
If you pray, that ask that this end soon and that we can return to normal as quickly as possible.
MY ESSENTIAL VIEWING
Shussh. But don’t tell anyone. I spent last night not in front of the big screen but rather on my laptop.
Have you ever played SimCity?
The premise is that you start with a pristine piece of land and a limited budget and you build a city.
You plan roads, policing, fire departments, you zone land for housing, commercial or industrial, you deal with crises and you try and get it all to work and grow – just like a real city.
So I spent three hours of that, pretending to be Mayor Mick of Evertonia. I have it now with a population of 7,655 but I am running out of money.
If I raise taxes, growth slows. I’ve tried to keep it green but it is difficult. And I’m also running low on water.
The good news is that there is no coronavirus there. Yes, I have ensured it has a very good healthcare system.
THE GOOD NEWS
LOVE CONQUORS ALL
I love the Reuters story recently from Aventoft in German about two octogenarian lovers, one living in Denmark and the other in Germany, who are determined to keep meeting every day for a picnic and a chat on either side of the border, which has been shut to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Inga Rasmussen, 85, who lives in Gallehus on the Danish side, met Karsten Tuechsen Hansen, 89, two years ago. Both widowed, they quickly fell in love
Like many lovers around the world in this time of the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions on free movement, they face obstacles in meeting up but they are not easily deterred.
Rasmussen now drives to the border with deckchairs and he rides there on his bicycle. Then they sit on either side of the red-and-white barricade to munch biscuits and sip schnapps diluted with hot water from a thermos flask.
“There’s no two ways about it. Love goes on... It’s nice to see each other once a day like this. We can’t hug or kiss, but she’s here and we can talk about what’s new,” said Hansen.
“To love, to health and to long life,” he said, raising his cup in a toast.
Germany and Denmark introduced border controls as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus.
Doesn’t a story like that do your heart good? Maybe there’s a lesson there for us all, to love life, love each other, and make the most of things.
MEME OF THE DAY
Sorry, I’m a sucker for cute dog or cat photos. And this meme is cute. Thanks to my friend Mike, who shared with me all the way from Toronto on Facebook.
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 6 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
Ok, so today, this detox hit me like a ton of bricks.
I’ve had muscle aches and a headache most of the day, and the book warned me that sooner or later I would pass through this wall. It’s a sign that the toxins in my body are moving and are beginning to be expelled. I'm finding it hard to focus my eyes too – they feel like lead.
That’s what five days of clean food, no salt, no caffeine, no dairy, no red meat and lots of vegetables and simple, clean eating will do to you.
The secret to drink lots of water. I’m trying to get two litres a day into me, plus some green teas, always starting the day with hot water and a couple of slices of fresh lemon.
And I’m grumpy. But it will wear off.
I was supposed to make up a drink that would detox my liver. I don’t feel up to it and will leave it to later Sunday to do. As long as I do it three times spaced apart over the course of this 21-day detox, I’m still good.
Yesterday, breakfast was the remainder of the polenta I made previously with cornmeal, chicken stock and buffalo milk mozzarella.
Lunch was just some vegetable slices and two rice crackers.
For supper, I had some pan fried salmon which I topped with sesame seeds, along with a medley of sautéed vegetables.
Here’s a photo of how it turned out. And yes, it tasted just as good as it looked.
THE STOCK SHOCK
Suppose you had £10,000 – about Dh45,000 – to invest in the stock market. Just pretend. Have fun.
That’s exactly what I’m doing. I am not an expert but I would like to think that I’m a little savvy.
Starting last Monday, I pretended to buy shares and trade in a series of companies, mostly concentrating on the grocery sector – because people are stuck at home and are stockpiling.
I’m down £42.63 on the week.
This is how my imaginary portfolio stands:
FRIDAY’S NET WORTH £9957.37
Ocado: 500 shares, £6827.10
Unilever: 75 shares, £3020.25
Cash in hand: £110.02
% Loss: -0.43%
£ Loss: -£42.63
There was no trading on Saturday and none on Sunday in London.
I will decide Sunday evening how I’m going to continue for the next week. I will avoid airline stocks or anything to do with travel or leisure. Obviously, industrial activity is just ticking over, while financials and insurance companies are bound to be taking a hit. Pharmaceuticals would be a risk as no one knows what stage anyone is at when it comes to developing a virus. And the oils and gas industry is volatile although I do feel that it might pick up in the coming week. Oil can’t be low for a long time, can it?
Sunday evening is decision time. Stay tuned and see what I’ll do.
THE IDIOTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Someone somewhere has a lot to answer for. And it’s ridiculous what some people will actually believe.
In Britain, telecommunication engineers are facing verbal and physical threats during the lockdown because of a baseless conspiracy theory that links the roll out of 5G to the spread of coronavirus.
The conspiracy theory is being propagated by celebrities such as Amanda Holden prompting members of the public to abuse those maintaining vital mobile phone and broadband networks.
Facebook has removed one anti-5G group in which users were being encouraged to supply footage of them destroying mobile phone equipment, with some contributors seemingly under the misguided belief that it may stop the spread of coronavirus and some running leaderboards of where equipment had been targeted.
Video footage of a 20-metre telephone mast on fire in Birmingham this week has also circulated widely alongside claims it was targeted by anti-5G protesters.
The problem has become so bad that engineers working for BT Openreach, which provides home broadband services, have also taken to posting public pleas on anti-5G Facebook groups asking to be spared the on-street abuse as they are not involved in maintaining mobile networks.
Industry lobby group Mobile UK said the incidents were affecting efforts to maintain networks that are supporting home working and providing critical connectivity to the emergency services, vulnerable consumers and hospitals.
Telecommunications engineers are considered key workers under the British government’s guidelines.
In one widely circulated video that has attracted millions of views on Twitter alone, individuals working for the broadband company Community Fibre are abused by a woman who claimed without any evidence that they were installing 5G as part of a plot to kill the population.
“You know when they turn this on, it’s going to kill everyone, and that’s why they’re building the hospitals,” she tells the baffled engineers on a London street. “Do you have children, do you have parents? When they turn that switch on, bye bye momma. Are they paying you well enough to kill people?”
A spokesperson for the company said it does not use 5G anywhere in its network and praised the calm response of its staff.
Other variants on the baseless theory suggest the virus has instead been invented as cover for deaths caused by 5G rollout, while groups that previously claimed the mobile signal caused cancer or brain damage are now suggesting it is also responsible for a respiratory disease.
Social media posts from celebrities such as singer Anne Marie have helped spread the theory, while Holden, a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, shared a link to a popular Change.org petition promoting the rumour that the symptoms of coronavirus are in reality due to residing near a 5G mast.
If all there indeed true, then home come coronavirus thrives in place like Iran where there is no 5G network.
Enough of this drivel, please!
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. And stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe.