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.
Saturday. 4 April, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH
Under the terms of the national lockdown in force across Ireland, journalism is considered to be an essential service.
Yesterday, I did leave my home town and drove into Wexford, some 20 kilometres away. No sooner had I left my locality than I came across a police checkpoint manned by two officers.
“Good day, Sir,” the officer asked as I lowered the car window. “What’s the purpose of your journey today?”
I explained I was a journalist and showed him my press card. He examined it carefully, then allowed me to pass.
Other drivers were turned back. More than half the world’s population are under lockdown to combat the spread of this pandemic.
And the measures need to be taken seriously.
In most European countries, police agencies have been given extra powers during this coronavirus emergency. They are choosing, by and large, to exercise those newfound powers with a good degree of discretion, only escalating if and when particular situations arise.
In my local town, there is one hotel, purchased by new owners last autumn. They are obviously anxious for the new summer season to start – if it ever will. Of course, no one can say for certain.
But under the terms of the lockdown, all construction work is supposed to halt. Over the past five days, a work crew of six men has been hard at work building a new upstairs entrance, working on fencing, doing up heating and plumbing systems. It’s all contrary to the guidelines, flying in the face of regulations to cease all unnecessary work, stay at home and exercise social distancing by staying two metres apart.
The worksite has been closed down. And rightly so. People’s lives depend on the success of these measures whether you’re in Bombay, Bur Dubai, Berlin or Baltimore.
We need to do our part by staying apart.
The lives of people like Yvonne Kinsella depends on it. She is in hospital in Dublin with Covid 19.
She is a mother of two and a grandmother of two and she has a compromised immune system and asthma.
Earlier this week, Yvonne recorded a message that everyone who thinks this lockdown is some sort of joke or holiday needs to hear loud and clear.
“I got into hospital the other night and thought, ‘God, am I going to come back out?’”
“I asked my husband to find a will that we had in a drawer and I signed it. I just hated it and I told him to mind the kids. I didn’t think I would walk back out, I thought my heart was going to give up – the pain was unbearable.
“All I can do is hope that I turn a corner in a week or so and I will be okay again,” she said.
“Every time a doctor comes in you hope they’re not coming in to tell you bad news. When they told us the other night we were all [Covid 19] positive it was heartbreaking, grown men and women were crying,” she said.
“The staff are unbelievable, they have to go home to their own families but they’re still in looking after you they are unbelievable.”
“I’m just hoping now that I will turn a corner and I will get out and see my kids and my grandkids again. I’d say to people, don’t be fools. I don’t know how I got it, don’t risk your life, don’t risk your family’s life, you never know when it is going to change.”
One million people or so have this virus. The death toll is at 50,000 with few signs of slowing.
Imagine the toll this virus will wreak when it reaches centres of population where there are few medical resources and little ability to turn the tide.
Please stay locked down. Please listen to advice. Please do your part now. Many lives depend on it.
MY ESSENTIAL VIEWING
I spend an hour catching up on Better Call Saul, a spin-off from the Breaking Bad series. But there’s a lot of talk now about Tiger Kings. It’s on my list and my daughter says I have to watch it. It’s seems like it it’s pat reality TV, part documentary, part murder mystery. I’ll get to it over the weekend.
I also started to watch Broadchurch. No one does murder mysteries quite like the Brits. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the British Broadcasting Corporation, ITV, Channel 4 or any other outlet, there’s a richness to both the plot and the acting that is far superior to what you get in North American series.
Series one of Broadchurch centres on solving the murder of a young boy who lives in a seaside town on the southwest coast of England.
It’s about five years’ old but is well worth investing time and effort in.
Hinterlands, set in Wales, is equally dark and engaging. Stick with it too.
Both series feature police detectives who are emotionally and physically flawed working with teams who are out of their depth.
In the same vein, try The River too. And if you can, give some time to The Tunnel. There are several versions of this, which was originally a Scandi-noir series set on the bridge that links Sweden and Denmark. The Tunnel uses the same scenario on the link under the English Channel, while The Border sets in between El Paso and Juarez bordered the US and Mexico.
THE GOOD NEWS
SELLING LIKE HOT CAKES
I love the story out of Germany about a baker who is wiping the floor with competitors after the roll out of a popular new product – toilet paper cakes.
Tim Kortuem initially posted them to social media as a satirical poke at the panic-buying of toilet roll during the coronavirus lockdowns.
Kortuem and his team in Dortmund began by making eight of them a day, later upping production to 80. Now they are up to 800.
“When I posted it on Instagram and Facebook we had so many requests and we started to make 80,” he said. “And they sold so quickly that we started baking them all day long.”
Kortuem added that “people are prying them out of our hands just like real toilet paper.”
He said the coronavirus lockdown meant he was faced with reducing the hours of his staff. But that has all now changed amid the spike in demand. Good for him.
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was again sent to me by Craig, my neighbour from my house in Spain. He’s retired and usually spends a lot of his time on long road trips on his motorbike. He’s obviously filling his spare time sharing material on WhatsApp.
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 6 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
It’s hard to believe that in the past week I have not had any red meat, no sugar, no juices, no carbs other than a couple of portions of brown rice, no caffeine, no fruit other than an occasional half-banana with some breakfasts, and little to no dairy.
I haven’t weighed myself and won’t do until the three weeks are up.
And as I’ve said here before, I do miss coffee – but maybe it’s the routine of having it first thing over breakfast and reading news sites and catching up on all the day’s happenings around the world and across Europe.
This weekend I do have to put together a liver-cleansing drink which requires a couple of hours rest to take full effect. I’m a little apprehensive about that.
Breakfast yesterday consisted of some polenta – which is corn meal – made with chicken stock. It starts off as a powder but when stirred into the simmering chicken stock quickly forms a gloop-like porridge. Add in some salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella cheese – it comes in individual balls in bring in a package. You don’t use the brine. Serve a bowl of that up with some fresh chives and it’s an great, health breakfast – just what Dr Joshi ordered up.
Lunch was a bowl of parsnip and cauliflower soup that was left over from the day before. There was a bit of a background taste that wasn’t quite right when I tasted it in the saucepan, but I grated in some fresh nutmeg and that was the perfect fix. And a rice cracker for lunch as well. Why is it that I can’t help thinking that rice crackers are polystyrene packing material that has been recycled into foodstuffs? Just a very strange texture, I find. Bizarre.
Supper? A small fillet of fresh cod baked in the oven with some sliced shallots, ginger, olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic. And it was accompanied by a sliced steamed carrot, some steamed green beans and some steamed broccoli. I drizzled some olive oil across the top too, just for a bit of extra flavour.
This video clip is from a nearby castle that stands on Lady’s Island. The castle was built in the 1230s. During times of invasion or warfare, women and children were sent to Lady’s Island, in the middle of the lake where the castle stood. It was their sanctuary. We all need a safe place now, and home is the safest place to be. Stay in and stay safe.
THE STOCK SHOCK
I began this past trading week with an imaginary £10,000 – about Dh45,000 – to invest in shares of companies trading on the London Stock Exchange. And it has been an interesting week.
Here’s a quick reminder of the rules of this game of trading: I won’t be calculating in brokerage fees and the deals can only be done when the market is shut. So, buy at the close of one, sell or not at the close of another.
The thinking is that stock markets around the world losing about one-third to one-quarter of their values over this past month, how can I do with my limited investment savvy.
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.
I had a good day on Thursday, 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 on Thursday reads:
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
And then there was Friday – and there is good news.
My 500 shares in the online grocery delivery chain Ocado had a good day yesterday, closing
At 1365.42p (£13.6542), meaning they are worth £6827.10.
And I hold 75 shares in Unilever, which closed down at £40.27, worth in total £3020.25. Of course, in real life, there’s a minimum number of shares you can trade, so I could never have just bought 75 shares – it is pretend after all. I still have some cash in hand. So, after five days of trading, one week down, here’s how that initial £10,000 investment stacks up:
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’s no trading on Saturday and Sunday in London, so lots of time then to decide what I’m going to do.
THE IDIOTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
I have no time for so-called influencers. They are wannabe celebrities who simply plug products for the sake of making a name for themselves. They are but chaff in the wind. And that’s why I take great delight in this piece from the New York Post and its famous Page Six column about Arielle Charnas, the influencer who sparked outrage after using her hookups to get tested for Covid 19. She posted a weepy video to her Instagram stories Thursday of herself apologising through tears for the faux pas — while claiming her family has received death threats.
“Just wanted to come on here and say I’m sorry,” Charnas, 32, said while wiping a tear with the back of her hand. “Um, I never in a million years wanted to hurt anyone and, um, we’re not bad people.”
However, the Something Navy blogger’s decision to uproot her family after the positive diagnosis has the internet seething, with some reaching out to Nordstrom, the retailer she had a splashy collaboration with last year.
“Our partnership with Arielle Charnas ended in 2019, and we have no foreseeable collaborations,” Nordstrom tweeted to an angry fan Wednesday. The brand also told others the relationship has since ended.
Charnas first started documenting her illness to her 1.3 million followers on March 16 and announced in her stories that she had tested positive for the coronavirus, thanks to her friend Dr. Jake Deutsch providing the test.
Critics slammed the New York City-based blogger for using her “privilege” to obtain on of the treasured tests – even after she had said she didn’t meet the criteria.
“I’m sorry for anyone I’ve offended or hurt over the last couple of weeks,” Charnas continued in the latest video. “We’re just trying to navigate through this difficult time as I’m sure so many people are. And, um, I’m just sorry I let down my community in any way.”
Charnas said that she’s trying to focus on her family, claiming, “We’ve been receiving horrible threats and I just felt like it was time for me to share my truth, which I did.”
Wearing a red, white and blue Champion jacket, Charnas tells her fans that she made “every effort to do the right thing through this process.”
“I hope you all can see that despite the mistakes I made,” she said. “Anyway I’m thinking of you all and I hope everyone stays safe and healthy.”
The tearful video come hours after Charnas posted a lengthy letter to her fans on Instagram.
“I am not writing this to make excuses and I am not searching for validation; I want to share the truth behind the story and above all else, express my sincerest remorse,” Charnas wrote.
Charnas says in the letter that news headlines made her “experience the same fear, panic and worry the entire country has been feeling ever since.”
“You’ve likely read stories about my recent life choices in the media and other social channels over the past few weeks. And I get it,” she wrote. “I’m in the public eye and I’ve built my career on letting people into basically every part of my life.”
After Charnas tested positive, the social media star posted a picture of herself outdoors in front of a pool in the Hamptons with the caption “fresh air.” She also attended her 4-year-old daughter’s preschool classroom days before testing positive, reporter Sophie Ross tweeted.
“Critics’ voices have been very loud, hurtful and largely misinformed,” she wrote. “I’ve been accused of falsifying my own test results which is unequivocally untrue. I’ve also been receiving death threats against my entire family including my two young daughters.”
Charnas continues her letter to explain what led to her decisions, including giving her fans descriptions of the symptoms for their own benefits.
“When I started to share my personal health updates, it was done with the intention to keep a sense of normalcy during a time where everything felt upside down,” she wrote.
Charnas said that she first began tracking her symptoms on March 13 and spoke with her pediatrician on March 19, who reportedly told Charnas that the symptoms sounded like the flu.
“Being the anxious mother I am, I wasn’t comfortable with a single opinion,” she wrote. “In desperation, I reached out to a doctor I had previously met to ask his advice”
The influencer added that since she tested positive, her husband and her childrens’ nanny have since tested positive as well. Her nanny has chosen to quarantine with the family instead of return home.
“We count ourselves incredibly fortunate to have had such prompt access to medical care and understand that is far from the reality for the vast majority of people in this country,” Charnas wrote.
Sorry, but I can’t help smiling, and she deserves everything she gets.
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