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.
Monday June 15, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
ARE YOU A ‘DOOMSCROLLER’?
WE’RE HARDWIRED TO LIKE BAD NEWS
There used to be a saying in newspapers: If it bleeds, it leads.
In other words, bad news is good news. And that’s why a lot of psychologists and the like are worrying about ‘doomscrolling’ – constantly reading news and phones.
Although several countries progressively have started the “de-escalation” or “reopening” this COVID-19 quarantine has wreaked havoc on us in several ways, including, perhaps, the excessive use of online content as our primary source of information, entertainment, and interactions.
This need to consume content during most of the day takes a dark turn when most of the information circulating is negative news. From the coverage of the pandemic to the social problems and race issues whose boiling point has arrived, it is practically impossible that a vast majority of the content we receive as we tour our feed could not be negative, stressful or depressing.
However, due to our patterns of content consumption established before the pandemic and adding these events, we continue to move through this cluster of bad news.
WHAT IS DOOMSCROLLING?
In times of uncertainty like the one we find ourselves in now, information is one of our most basic defense mechanisms. Being informed makes us feel safe; it gives us the tools to know how to navigate a crisis. However, too much information about a negative situation can have adverse psychological effects, as Graham Davey, professor emeritus in Psychology at the University of Sussex sustains.
“Our studies also showed that this change in mood exacerbates the viewer’s own personal worries, even when those worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcast.”
Davey explains that the way information is presented and how users access it has changed significantly over the past 15 to 20 years. These changes have a detrimental effect on people's mental health. According to the professor, the news are more visual and impressionable and close at hand, thanks to the existence of mobile phones and tablets.
Being constantly exposed to this type of news can be an intense experience and cause symptoms such as stress, problems sleeping, volatile moods, aggressive behaviour, depression, or even post-traumatic stress.
“Our studies also showed that this change in mood exacerbates the viewer’s own personal worries, even when those worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcast,” affirms Davy.
The professor explains why it is so hard to stop navigating this ocean of negative news. In addition to being entertaining, the human brain is designed to pay attention to news that frightens or shakes us.
This principle is called “negative bias”. Loretta Breuning, former professor of Administration at California State University and author of the book, Habits of a Happy Brain, explains the cognitive tendency towards the consumption of negative content. “In nature, our survival depends on finding rewards and avoiding danger, but avoiding danger takes priority.”
Breuning argues that the human brain is naturally attracted to problematic information because it is programmed to detect threats, not ignore them.
This makes it challenging to ignore negative news and pause it to look for positive content. Our brains are predisposed, and the way we consume news reflects it.
TRY PUTTING DOWN YOUR PHONES
It was 1:36 a.m. on a Tuesday, about two weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, when Canadian journalist Karen Ho asked her Twitter followers to try putting down their phones.
“You can always keep doomscrolling tomorrow,” wrote Ho, a global finance and economics reporter for Quartz.
She’d seen the term used before, but she hadn’t seen it applied to the pandemic.
“It doesn’t require a lot of explanation, most people understand exactly what it means,” Ho says. “As soon as I saw it, it was full recognition of something I do and I’ve been struggling for a couple years with how to manage it.”
Since her first tweet, Ho has made a habit of encouraging her Twitter followers to stop doomscrolling on a nightly basis, usually after 10:30pm. Gradually, the term has grown in popular use, making its way into media reports and everyday lexicon as people grapple for ways to describe their obsessive online behaviour during the pandemic.
Merriam-Webster recently flagged doomscrolling as one of the words it is “watching” but hasn’t yet met its criteria for entry into the dictionary. The word has also appeared in stories in Business Insider, and its close cousin, “doomsurfing,” appeared in the New York Times.
‘HURRY-UP-AND WAIT’ INSTINCT
The irresistible draw of doomscrolling, Ho said, comes from a “hurry-up-and-wait” instinct to seek out information on the pandemic, even if that information is scarce or incomplete.
“Everybody is hungry for any kind of information to feel less uncertain and less chaotic right now,” she said.
That hunger for information in times of crisis is hardwired into our biology, according to Mary McNaughton-Cassill, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“We are hyper-vigilant for challenges or threats that evolved when the world was pretty simple and the only thing you had to check was right around you,” McNaughton-Cassill told CTV News.
“Out on the savannah, if you found signs of something that was dangerous, you wanted to notice it, remember it and avoid it in the future. And that kind of tendency is still working.”
With COVID-19, a big part of the problem is that the news is covering a rolling disaster rather than a one-off event. Unlike a hurricane or an act of terrorism, the pandemic has no borders and can feel inescapable at times.
INABILITY TO RESPOND
“The problem with the news is also that oftentimes we are seeing really bad things that are happening, but there is no way for us as individuals to make a difference. And that’s very different than the history of humans,” McNaughton-Cassill said.
“It has to do with technology and the media, because there has always been pandemics and riots and disasters, but you only knew about the ones that were in your purview where you might actually be able to do something to respond.”
As protests emerged in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police and news coverage shifted away from the pandemic, Ho considered stopping her nightly doomscrolling reminders. But then she heard from followers who said they’d come to rely on her.
“I got a lot of feedback that it was helping some people on a nightly basis to stop scrolling,” she said.
For those who struggle with the onslaught of bad news — and the journalists who cover that bad news — Ho said it’s important to set boundaries and, when you need to, take time to log off.
“I always say, ‘Sometimes it’s OK to take a break and get some rest’.”
WHO BOUGHT ALL THE TOILET PAPER?
Do you remember back in the early days of all of this when the world went crazy buying toilet paper?
It seems like so long ago now– this is Day 78 of my lockdown.
In mid-March, as coronavirus cases started their sharp climb in the United States, many Americans appeared to have one thing in mind before hunkering down: Buy toilet paper. Lots of it.
But not everyone grabbed every roll in sight, and research published Friday in the journal Plos One offers insights into why some people scrambled for toilet paper while others held back.
The study looked at whether different personality traits were associated with toilet paper hoarding, and found stockpilers tended to be more anxious and fearful about the coming health threat compared with those who didn’t load up on the product.
Researchers from Germany surveyed 966 volunteers from 22 countries, including the US. The participants were asked to fill out a psychological questionnaire, to supply demographic information — and to provide details on their toilet paper purchases and consumption during the last week of March.
What most surprised the researchers was the similarity in responses no matter which country people came from, said study co-author Theo Toppe, a doctoral student and research associate at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Toppe and his colleagues don’t know exactly why people hoarded — that question wasn’t asked on the survey. What they do know is which personality traits were most common amongst those who stockpiled.
When the researchers analysed their data, they found that people were more likely to hoard if they were especially frightened by COVID-19. They also were likely to stockpile if they scored high in emotionality — that is, they tended to be more fearful, anxious, dependent and sentimental — and/or high in conscientiousness — folks who are organised, diligent, perfectionistic and prudent.
STOCKPILING OTHER PRODUCTS
While the study only focused on toilet paper purchases, stockpiling likely wasn’t limited to that, Toppe said in an email. “From our point of view, it seems plausible that our pattern of results — more threat goes along with more stockpiling — exists for other commodities,” he said.
Psychologist Neda Gould wasn’t surprised by the findings.
“This study tells us what we may have thought intuitively,” said Gould, a clinical psychologist and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“People who felt threatened by COVID-19 were more likely to hoard and people who tend to be more conscientious, that is those who are future-oriented and orderly, also tend to stockpile,” Gould said. “It’s likely that anxious individuals were hoarding because it gave them a sense of control when so much was out of control.”
The anxious among us might also have been more likely to wear masks and to stay a good distance from others when outside — that is, if they went outside their homes at all, Gould said.
While the hoarding behaviour may seem especially selfish, you have to remember that anxiety can be a powerful force, Gould said. “If you’re super anxious, your brain can be hijacked by that fear, so you don’t think about the societal impact” she added.
Gould says we shouldn’t get too upset with the hoarders.
“Our first reaction might be anger,” she said. “But if you take a step back and see that this behaviour is coming from a place of fear and distress, maybe some of that frustration could be shifted to empathy.”
MEME OF THE DAY
This was shared with me on Facebook by my friend, Pat, in Dublin.
UK MIGHT MOVE FROM 2 METRES TO 1
The top money minister in the United Kingdom has said the two-metre social distancing rule is under "urgent" consultation by the government.
Rishi Sunak said “everything is kept under review” with scientists and economists as the coronavirus pandemic evolves.
But Sunak warned while he recognised concerns from businesses about not being able to operate under social distancing laws, health and safety was still the number one priority.
Speaking on Sky News, he told Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “The prime minister has put in place a comprehensive review of the two-metre rule. Now we have made good progress in suppressing the virus, we're at a different stage of the epidemic than we were at the beginning, and that enables us to take a fresh look at this.
“It is important we look at it comprehensively in the round and that is what we will do urgently.”
Sunak said he recognised the importance of reducing the rule ahead of non-essential businesses reopening their doors for the first time in three months on Monday.
GETTING PEOPLE BACK TO WORK
“I can very much understand the positive impact it will have on businesses' ability to open and thereby maintain the jobs that they have, and make sure all the people that work for them can come back to those jobs,” Sunak said. “That's really important to me."
But he added it must be “safe to do so” as the virus is still continuing to move through the country.
It comes after The Mail On Sunday said Boris Johnson had ordered a comprehensive review of the two-metre rule amid calls for it to be scrapped.
Easing the restriction is seen as vital if businesses such as restaurants and pubs are to be able to reopen sustainably.
Bodies such as the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have been urging ministers to reduce the two-metre distance rule to one metre, adding that only a third of the UK’s pubs will be able to reopen later on this year.
On Monday, non-essential stores will be able to reopen for the first time in three months despite rules around social distancing still being in place.
TEST BEFORE EASING RESTRICTIONS
But Sunak added it was safe to go shopping next week as the five tests, which is the government's measure to see if restrictions can be eased, had been met.
The five tests involve making sure the UK’s National Health Service can cope with the demand, to see a sustained and consistent fall in daily death rates, having reliable data from SAGE which shows the rate of infection is decreasing to manageable levels, being “confident” that challenges such as testing capacity and personal protective equipment are in hand, and making sure that the adjustment will not lead to a second peak of the virus.
“People will see tomorrow it's a slightly different experience,” he said. “Obviously there’s social distancing, a new process for returns. There might be one-way systems, there will be screens up everywhere and staff will be able to provide advice and help. It is a safe environment and we should be able to go out knowing that, we should be able to shop in confidence, knowing that it's safe, I know that shops up and down the country are ready to welcome us back and get our high streets springing back to life again.”
On Sunday afternoon, British PM Boris Johnson said no decision would be made on changing the social distance until later in June.
KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE
In Germany, the rule is a distance of 1.5 metres apart, one metre in Sweden.
Since March, people in the UK have been told to maintain social distancing when around others from outside their own household.
This has meant trying to keep two metres apart from others when outside, at work and in shops and supermarkets.
Government guidance acknowledges that “this will not always be possible”, but adds that the risk of infection increases the closer you are to someone with the virus.
“Public Health England recommends trying to keep two metres away from people as a precaution,” the guidance states.
“However, this is not a rule and the science is complex. The key thing is to not be too close to people for more than a short period of time, as much as you can.”
In enclosed spaces where social distancing is more difficult, the government says face coverings “can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease”.
WHY ARE THERE CALLS FOR IT TO BE CHANGED?
As the UK continues to come out of the lockdown introduced towards the end of March to try and slow the spread of COVID-19 more aspects of day-to-day life are beginning to return to a semblance of normality.
But adhering to the two-metre restriction is proving to be easier for some than others.
Schools, for example, have been advised to limit class sizes to 15 pupils. They argue this limits their scope for welcoming back more pupils.
As well as allowing more children to return to education, supporters of a change argue it would allow more businesses, like pubs, restaurants and smaller shops, to reopen.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has said reducing it to one metre is the “number one and single most important priority to unlock the economy”.
“The hospitality sector simply can't make a living at two metres,” he told the Daily Mail.
Certain, in Ireland, where the two metre rule apples, it’s estimated that reducing it to one metre would allow 80,000 more staff to return to work in the hospitality sector.
IS THERE MORE OF A RISK IF THE DISTANCE IS REDUCED?
The simple argument against reducing the two metre restriction is that it would increase the risk of people catching COVID-19.
For some, especially those who have lost loved ones to the virus, relaxing it may seem like a reckless move while people continue to die from it.
A recent study in the Lancet suggested physical distancing of at least one metre lowers the risk of coronavirus transmission, but distances of two metres could be more effective.
It found that the risk of infection when people stand more than a metre away from the infected individual was 3 per cent, and 13 per cent if within a metre.
Modelling suggests that for every extra metre further away up to three metres, the risk of infection or transmission may halve.
But like so much of the response to the coronavirus, ministers have to make a risk assessment and attempt a balancing act.
In a sense, introducing lockdown and telling people to stay at home was the easy part. The message was unequivocal.
LOCKDOWNS CAN’T CONTINUE
But lockdown cannot continue forever – and in the absence of a vaccine – coming out of that will involve an element of risk.
Reducing the two-metre restriction is a risk, but the Prime Minister may come to the conclusion that it is a calculated one that is worth taking.
Proponents of moving to one metre argue that the risk of people losing their jobs, businesses closing their doors permanently
France, Denmark and Singapore are among the nations that have a one metre rule.
The World Health Organisation also recommends maintaining a distance of “at least” one metre.
But it should be stressed that the UK is not an international outlier when it comes to advocating two metres.
Canada and Spain also have a two-metre restriction in place.
And certainly, face masks help if there’s any doubt. I have two packs of surgical masks in my car, along with a box of gloves and two bottles of hand sanitiser.
FRANCE HAS MILLIONS OF UNSOLD FACE MASKS
Did we ever think we’d see a day when there were too many masks? That’s what the French are wondering now.
They praised the altruism of their prized textile and luxury goods companies when production facilities got diverted from churning out the latest fashions to making cloth masks designed to protect the general public from the coronavirus.
Now, the companies that helped France avoid a feared shortage of virus-filtering face wear for everyday use say they need help unloading a surplus of 20 million masks. They asked the French government for assistance promoting and finding buyers for the unsold output of the industry’s national effort.
Hundreds of textile and clothing manufacturers answered the government’s call for millions of masks superior to homemade versions. President Emmanuel Macron last month sported a military-tested model embroidered with the tri-color national flag to advertise the “Made in France” masks.
Yet within weeks, demand dried up for the domestically produced masks that sold for a few euros at supermarkets and pharmacies or were available in bulk for free distribution by businesses and local governments.
CHEAPER OPTIONS FROM ASIA
Manufacturers and the government acknowledged that many suppliers and consumers still opted for cheaper disposable face masks from Asia.
“We are faced with a lot of competition” from countries with lower labour costs, said Thomas Delise, owner of Chanteclair, the knitwear manufacturer behind the mask Macron flashed during a school visit last month.
In an interview at his factory southeast of Paris, he called for trade barriers to large imports, and coordination within Europe to buy Europe-made masks.
Guillaume Gibault, founder of trendy underwear brand Le Slip Francais – The French Brief – sees the slump as a marketing and distribution problem. The washable, specially engineered masks produced by his company and others saw “a very strong and immediate demand” before the excess accessories piled up in warehouses and factories.
“Not everyone necessarily knew about what was available around them, and the public didn’t necessarily know where or what to buy,” he told French public radio service RFI.
FILTERING OUT SMALL PARTICLES
Some textile companies complained that the French government was slow to validate their masks as effective in filtering out small particles, which slowed their ability to get to market before people were allowed to start emerging from their homes and needed masks in stores or on public transportation.
A group of industry representatives got time with two junior government ministers this week to discuss the surplus masks, as well as broader concerns about the health of fashion, textiles and luxury goods makers amid the economic fallout of the pandemic and in the long term.
After the meeting, the ministers pledged the government’s help to spread the word to distributors, local governments and other potential customers about the environmental and employment benefits of the French masks and finding buyers at home and abroad for the surplus stock.
Agnes Pannier-Runacher, state secretary to France’s economy minister, told French broadcaster RTL that the government’s objective “is to convince large buyers to switch from single-use masks to reusable washable textile masks.” Gibault and French Textile Industry Union President Yves Dubief agreed to lead the mission.
“In a few weeks, the French textile industry has managed to mobilise and redirect its productive apparatus on our territory in order to provide the French durable textile masks with guaranteed filtration in sufficient quantities,” Pannier-Runacher said. “This impressive effort is to be commended. It must now be long-term and be given support.”
The French Textile Industry Union was the first to sound the alarm in early June on this problem of surplus.
“The demand was such that no one had anticipated such a brutal halt. But in the textile industry, once launched, production does not stop with a snap of the fingers,” Dubief told French magazine Challenges.
Some French companies were disgruntled because it was the French government that urged many of them to get into mask-making and to increase capacity so the country would produce 5 million masks a day that could be sold or given to the general public, local governments and corporations by mid-May.
LAWSUITS OVER MASK SHORTAGES
The mask surplus is especially painful because France was so short of any kind of masks early in the pandemic that some nursing home and medical staff had no face protection at all. Those mask shortages are central to several lawsuits against the government of a country that has seen nearly 30,000 virus deaths.
The French government said this week that part of the joint industry-government mission will be to help cloth mask-makers adjust “production capacities to collective needs in masks over the next few months.”
At his textile factory, Delise said: “We don’t know how the pandemic will evolve. We don’t know which instructions the government will give, we don’t know what kind of equipment the professionals will want. So today, yes, we have a surplus stock of 600,000 masks and it obviously has an impact on my company.”
PARISIANS HOPE FOR RETURN OF TOURISTS
People walking their dogs or sitting on a terrace in a quaint, quiet square, the scene could be anywhere in rural France, but it is Place des Abbesses in the Montmartre area of Paris, near the Sacre Coeur basilica and normally heaving with tourists.
Before the coronavirus crisis, Paris and the Ile-de-France region around it received around 50 million tourists per year. Since the end of lockdown a month ago, Parisians have had their city to themselves.
Are they enjoying a break from the crowds? Most of the Parisians spoken to on an early evening in June said they missed the tourists.
“It is much less busy than before the lockdown ... But the tourists have to come back quickly, we miss them, they are essential for the capital,” said Sandy Four, sitting on a bench in the square.
Eating a pancake at a terrace, Nadia Kadri, 36, agreed.
“Tourists are part and parcel of Paris. I like it when there are tourists, especially in Montmartre, it is a melting pot where all cultures meet,” she said.
On the vast expanse of lawn around Les Invalides, the former military hospital where Napoleon is buried, groups of young people were enjoying a picnic, and many said they would welcome the tourists back.
Thomas Michon, 25, who lives in a central district with many holiday rental flats, said he had enjoyed the post-lockdown calm but added that some areas of the city belonged to tourists, while others like the Buttes-Chaumont and La Villette parks in eastern Paris got virtually no foreign visitors.
Marie Merlin, 24, said Paris belonged to Parisians right now, even if it was not by choice, but said she hoped the tourists would return.
“This city is meant to be open and to offer its treasures to the whole world,” she said.
GREECE READY TO OPEN TO TOURISTS
The safety of tourists is a top priority for Greece as it opens its airports to foreign visitors, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday on a visit to the popular holiday island of Santorini.
International flights to and from the country’s main airports will resume on Monday, after a nearly three-month lockdown. Accounting for about 20 per cent of Greece’s economic output, tourism is vital for the Mediterranean nation, which emerged from a decade-long debt crisis in 2018.
“It is a great pleasure to be here in Santorini... to send a message: Greece is ready to welcome tourists this summer by putting their safety and their health as a number one priority,” Mitsotakis said.
Famous for its sunsets and black sandy beaches, the volcanic island draws millions of tourists each year.
BOOSTING NUMBERS TO GREEK ISLANDS
Greece has boosted numbers of medical staff on its popular islands. Mitsotakis, wearing a surgical mask, also visited health facilities and doctors on Santorini.
The country will conduct coronavirus tests on all visitors arriving from airports deemed high-risk by the European Union’s aviation safety agency EASA from Monday. Visitors will be quarantined up to 14 days, depending on the test result.
Passengers arriving from all other airports will be randomly tested.
About 33 million tourists visited Greece last year, generating revenues of €19 billion.
Restrictions on movement imposed in March helped Greece contain the spread of COVID-19 infections to just above 3,000 cases, a relatively low number compared with elsewhere in the European Union. But it brought its business and tourism sector to a virtual standstill and the country now expects its economy to shrink by up to 13 per cent this year.
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
By all accounts, last week was the worst on most markets since the pandemic hit some four months ago, and my portfolio declined by a little more than £1,000 on the five days of trading.
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.
That £1,000 loss was roughly in line with the overall declines suffered on London, with a loss of 7 per cent of portfolio.
I have cashed in grocery delivery chain Ocado and drinks distiller Diageo and, along with £288 cash in hand, I now have £4971.88 to invest.
So what to do?
Oil and energy stocks seem a little risky – even if I hold 1,200 shares in PowerHouse that have done very well for me. They quadrupled in value and I’m keeping them for now as they have a lot of leeway built in now and I’m sentimental on them. Yes, I know, experts would say don’t be sentimental – but I’m no expert. And this is all pretend.
I hold 350 shares in Ryanair and remain convinced that they will grow given that they’re the biggest budget airline in Europe and the continent is getting to normal slowly if surely.
But the weather in the UK is improving, shops are opening up, and people are gathering and are cycling. That’s why I’m going to buy Halfords, at £1.768 each. I’m signing up for a total of 1,500 shares for £2,652.
Now, because of the high death toll in the UK, I think funeral homes might be a good buy. That’s why I’m buying 700 shares in Dignity at £2.90 each, which is £2030.00.
That leaves me with £289.88.
With that, I’m going to increase my Ryanair holdings by 25 shares, costing me £281, and leaving me then with £8.88 cash in hand.
This is how things stand:
Net worth £12,985.88
Dignity, 700 shares: £2030.00
Halfords, 1500 shares: £2652.00
PowerHouse, 1200 shares: £4080.00
Ryanair, 375 shares: £4219.00
Cash in hand: £8.88
£ loss on last trading day: £60.
% gain overall: 29.8 per cent
£ Gain overall: £2985.88
COVIDIOTS YOBS AND GOONS
An occasional reminder that some people are just plain dumb – one of the side effects of covidiocy
6,000 ATTEND ILLEGAL RAVES IN MANCHESTER
Just when you thought it was safe to go back out again…some 6,000 people attended two illegal raves in Manchester where an 18-year-old woman was allegedly raped, a man died of a suspected drugs overdose and three people were stabbed.
Police said they were met with violence and pelted with objects when they tried to shut down one of the mass gatherings on Saturday night.
Chris Sykes, an assistant chief constable at Greater Manchester police, said: “These raves were illegal and I condemn them taking place – they were clearly a breach of coronavirus legislation and guidelines, and have had tragic consequences.”
The force said it was investigating the alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman at one illegal rave in Carrington, Trafford, where 2,000 people had gathered. It said three man were stabbed at the event, including an 18-year-old who was left with life-threatening injuries.
POSSING OFFENSIVE WEAPON
A 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possessing an offensive weapon and enquiries are continuing to locate the suspects involved in these incidents, police said.
At a separate rave in Ashton-under-Lyne in Tameside, police said a 20-year-old man died from a suspected drugs overdose at an event attended by about 4,000 people at its peak. Footage showed a huge crowd dancing around a “Quarantine rave” banner in Daisy Nook park.
It came as police forces across Britain faced one of their busiest weekends since the lockdown began in March. Police were called to similar mass gatherings in Leeds and Staffordshire on Saturday night, while many forces dealt with confrontations between anti-racism protesters and the far right during the day. A demonstration by the rightwing group Democratic Football Lads Alliance turned violent in London.
Skyes said specialist officers were providing support to the family of the man who died and the victim of the suspected rape.
HUGE INCREASE IN EMERGENCY CALLS
He said Greater Manchester police had recorded a 60 per cent increase in 999 emergency calls on Saturday night – to more than 1,500 calls – while the number of people calling 101 nearly doubled.
People had been drawn to outdoor spaces as the weather improved at the weekend although many appeared to flout lockdown restrictions, which prohibit meetings of more than six people from different households.
Sykes added: “Our top priority will always be the safety of the public, who we are here to serve and protect. We hope the public can recognise the challenges we are facing at the moment and our communities join together in doing the right thing by following the government guidelines.
“Coronavirus is still a threat and we will continue to engage with people to encourage them to take some personal responsibility and do the right thing.”
VOLUNTEERING AT A LOCAL CHARITY
Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, who was volunteering for a local charity that was called to the rave in Oldham, described the partygoers as “completely irresponsible” and said they were putting themselves and their loved ones at risk.
She tweeted: “A lot of effort went into online events this weekend across Greater Manchester to stop this sort of stupidity. Those who attended should be ashamed of themselves. My local area now has to deal with the aftermath. Our public servants including our police and NHS staff are putting themselves on the frontline of fighting COVID and keeping us safe. These raves also increased the risk to them and their families.
“Our rate of infection in the north-west is still of great concern. We all have a responsibility to our community to observe the rules and protect the most vulnerable. I urge people to observe social distancing and the current government advice on COVID.”
DOZENS AT MUSIC EVENT
Staffordshire police said its officers shut down an outdoor music event after a 999 call reported dozens of people in attendance in the village of Whittington, near Lichfield, on Saturday night.
BirminghamLive reported 500 people had attended the rave, some from as far away as Manchester. Police said one of its officers was attacked and a partygoer was arrested for drug-driving. Pictures showed beer bottles and nitrous oxide canisters strewn over the usually picturesque woodland.
In Leeds, police were called to an illegal gathering where hundreds of people in cars had gathered around a supermarket car park in the suburb of Alwoodley.
Residents complained to West Yorkshire police after roads became blocked with cars trying to get into the Sainsbury’s supermarket car park in Moor Allerton centre on Saturday night.
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. 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.