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.
Tuesday June 23, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
THE SAD REALITY OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE UNDER COVID-19 CONDITIONS
MURDER OF DUBLIN WOMAN UNDERSCORES INCREASE IN VIOLENCE
I pen these few paragraphs with a heavy heart and will share with you the very sad case of Jean Eagers.
She is 57 and the mother of one of my daughter’s friends in the Dublin suburb or Blanchardstown.
She was brutally killed on Sunday morning by a man well known to her in her family home, and attacked her with a samurai sword – yes, you read it right – a samurai sword and a meat cleaver. And yes, you read that right, a mean cleaver.
Her 19-year-old son witnessed the start of the attack and ran for help.
Police has to use force to get into the home and the suspect had to be taken down by armed police.
My daughter and her circle of friends are heartbroken by this attack.
The sad thing too is that police in the United Kingdom and Ireland report that domestic violence has increased by 30 per cent across the board.
VICTIMS HAVE TO LIVE IN CLOSE PROMIMITY WITH ABUSERS
The true spike in domestic attacks is likely much higher because many victims are now in lockdown at home in such close proximity with their abusers they have lost the opportunity to reach out for help.
In Ireland, Women’s Aid said it had also experienced an increase in calls to its services and urged people who suspected somebody was being beaten or abused in the home to take steps to help them, including contacting them or even calling the.
Garda sources told The Irish Times that reports of domestic violence had increased by almost 25 per cent since the coronavirus lockdown period began in March, with higher spikes in some areas.
“What we are seeing is that some people who would have normally gone out to drink in pubs or nightclubs have switched that to the home setting and that’s a major aggravating factor,” said one senior officer.
The same source said the Garda had examined changing crime trends in other European countries where lockdown had been introduced first and domestic violence had spiked as other crime types decreased.
CORONAVIRUS DOES NOT SPREAD EASILY FROM TOUCHING SURFACES, CDC NOW SAYS
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have updated their guidance to note that the coronavirus “does not spread easily” from touching surfaces or objects — but experts say people should remain vigilant about washing their hands. It's unclear exactly when the CDC updated its guidance.
“I think what it means is that we can go ahead and not be as concerned about that,” Dr John Torres said. “We still need to be a little bit concerned and still do the things we need to do to stay safe, and that means mainly washing your hands.”
He added that the focus should be “more on washing our hands than on taking care of every container we have or washing every piece or food or vegetable because now what the CDC is saying, which research bears out, is that it’s not spread as easily through contact.”
The CDC lists touching surfaces and objects as one of three paths that do not easily spread the virus. The other two are from animals to people and people to animals.
SURFACE CONTACT IS NOT THE MAIN METHOD OF HOW VIRUS SPREADS
The US federal agency notes that people can get COVID-19 by touching an infected surface and then touching their mouth, nose or eyes, but it's not the main way the virus spreads.
“In other words, we don't touch something, then touch our faces and get it as easily, although we can still get it that way,” Torres said. “The main focus needs to be on social distancing, wearing masks, because getting it through respiratory droplets ... is the No. 1 way we get it.”
He continued: “It doesn't mean you can't get it from touching something else. It just means that we don’t need to be as concerned with that as we do with the respiratory droplets and ... social distancing. That needs to be the main emphasis. But still clean things, still wash your hands, get your children to do the same thing, but again make sure we focus on the social distancing. That's priority No. 1.”
MEME OF THE DAY
This was shared with me on WhatsApp by my former neighbour, Dave Cooper.
SUMMER IS HERE, AND YOUR MASK IS SWEATY. HERE'S WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT
It’s hot. You’re sweaty. And you’re wearing a mask a coronavirus conscious.
You may have the impulse to forgo a face mask. Don’t, says Anne Rimoin, professor of epidemiology at UCLA and director of the university's Centre for Global and Immigrant Health.
“It's important to wear a mask and maintain social distancing,” says said, referencing a study published earlier this month that found both strategies are the most effective ways to prevent coronavirus transmission. “All of these layers are measures of protection.”
It's especially important to keep doing both of those right now – many regions have seen surges in coronavirus cases as of late.
So if you have trouble breathing through your mask or the beads of sweat running down your cheeks make it uncomfortable
to wear, read on -- you can survive the summer heat and stave off coronavirus.
WHY YOUR MASK MAY BE MAKING YOU HOTTER
If you feel suffocated beneath your mask, that's probably because it's trapping heat inside, said Dr. Richard Wenzel, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.
"A key issue is that when we breathe, we cool off, so wearing a mask that (gets) quickly hot can lead to an elevated temperature in extreme heat, especially if accompanied by humidity," Wenzel said.
In other words, if you can’t breathe easily through your mask and you're wearing it outside, you could overheat.
If you feel yourself struggling to breathe, take your mask off – just make sure you can keep at least two metres distance from others -- sit in the shade and drink some water, Wenzel suggested – as long a regulations where you are allow it.
If you feel dizzy or your heart is racing, you need to remove the mask, get out of the heat and seek medical attention, he said -- those could be signs of heat exhaustion.
Continue to wear masks while you navigate crowds, hydrate frequently, and take a break from the heat when you can. It helps to put a cold, wet towel on your face and neck periodically, he said.
AVOID EXTREME HEAT IF POSSIBLE
If your trip outside can wait until it's cooler, it should, Rimoin said.
"If you must go outside, you might want to avoid going out when it's really hot," she said.
In extreme heat and humidity, it can be harder to breathe through your mask. Rimoin suggests if you've got to get outside, go first thing in the morning or later in the evening before the heavy heat sticks around. If it can wait, choose to venture out on a day when it's cooler.
Part of your breathing problems could be due to your mask material.
"How well you can breathe through a material is as important as how well it stops the spread of disease," Rimoin said.
Cotton masks are preferred by many for their "breathability" and comfort, she said. Masks with cotton outer layers and flannel inner layers also work well.
The ideal cloth face mask should fit "snugly but comfortably" against your face, and you should be able to wash and dry it without damaging its shape, she said.
MAKE SURE YOUR MASK IS ON CORRECTLY
If you're having trouble breathing through your mask, confirm you're wearing it correctly before ditching it entirely.
Your mask should cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of your face but loosely on the inside so your breathing isn't obstructed, Rimoin said.
If you need to take off the mask, only do so when you're at least six feet away from others, she said.
A wet mask can stick to your face and obstruct your breathing in a different way. If you find yourself sweating through your mask, bring extras.
Wenzel said he suggests subbing in a spare mask you carry in a plastic sandwich bag. There's a better chance it'll stay relatively clean if you carry it that way.
WEAR A MASK WHEN IT'S NECCESSARY
The risk of coronavirus is generally lower outdoors, where wind can blow the virus away and you can (hopefully) maintain distance from others.
Pools and beaches are generally safe too, since water isn't thought to harbour the virus. Just keep your distance from others in and out of the water, since respiratory droplets can still travel when you're outside.
It's not practical to wear a mask in the water, but they should still be worn when you get out of it, especially if you can't get the necessary distance between you and others, Rimoin said.
If the heat weren't enough, respiratory issues can impede your breathing too. If you have asthma, chronic lung disease or another respiratory illness, be mindful of how your breathing ability changes in the heat, Wenzel said. If it gets worse, stay out of the heat as much as possible.
HOW I’M PRETENDING TO GROW £10,000 IN PLAY MONEY
Better. My portfolio saw an increase of £144.40 on the day, reversing basically two weeks of pretty poor results.
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 shares I can buy.
JD Wetherspoon is a large operator of pubs and restaurants in Britain and Ireland for the budget conscious. My gut feeling that it would do well – supported by the fact that the UK government will likely allow for a reduction in social distancing and allow pubs to open – proved inspired as it more than offset losses by Ryanair.
Vodafone was up marginally too. And any day you make a profit is better than a kick in the pasts. I’m smiling Monday.
I’m buying 500 shares at £10.63
This is how my portfolio stands now:
Net worth £12759.78
Ryanair, 500 shares: £5650.00
JD Wetherspoon, 500 shares: £5570.00
Vodaphone, 970 shares: £1537.55
Cash in hand: £2.33
£ gain on last trading day: £144.40
% gain overall: 27.6 per cent
£ Gain overall: £2,729.78
PEACEKEEPERS RETURN FROM LEBANON TO BE WITH THEIR FAMILIES
More than peacekeeping troops have arrived back in Ireland from Lebanon.
The troops were originally due to return home in May, but the date was pushed back after the UN Secretary General in April directed that all rotations be suspended until 30 June to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The UN has allowed some Irish troops to return home Monday, and the rest will follow suit next month.
Around 300 members of the Irish Defence Forces have been serving in the 115th Infantry Battalion since last November as part of a United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) deployment.
115 personnel landed in Dublin Airport Monday, and the remaining 170 are due to arrive on 1 or 2 July.
Paul Kehoe, Minister with Responsibility for Defence, welcomed home the troops and thanked them for their work.
“I know this homecoming will be an emotional occasion for both personnel and their families.
“Due to the impact of COVID-19, this deployment was extended beyond the scheduled six-month term which has been particularly challenging for Defence Forces personnel and their loved ones waiting at home for their safe return,” he said.
Kehoe added that the personnel have “maintained the outstanding reputation of the Irish Defence Forces as committed, conscientious, professional and humane peacekeepers”.
'NO-SWAB' SALIVA TEST FOR CORONAVIRUS PILOTED IN BRITAIN
A weekly coronavirus testing regime using a “no-swab” saliva test is being trialled in southern England and could result in a simpler and quicker way to detect outbreaks of the virus, the British government said on Monday.
“Saliva testing could potentially make it even easier for people to take coronavirus tests at home, without having to use swabs,” said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
“This trial will also help us learn if routine, at-home testing could pick up cases of the virus earlier.”
The tests do not use the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method, which experts say can miss cases because of errors in collecting samples from the back of the throat using a long nasopharyngeal swab.
Instead a different technique, called RT-Lamp, is used in the trial’s saliva test, which the government said had already be shown to be highly promising.
The pilot programme will involve further validation of the technique against PCR nasal swabs, it said.
More than 14,000 doctors and health workers, other essential workers and university staff and their households in the city of Southampton will participate in the trial, which uses a test developed by British firm Optigene, the government said.
RESULTS WITHIN 48 HOURS
Rather than taking a swab, which some people find uncomfortable, participants will spit into a pot. Test results will be received within 48 hours, the government said.
The pilot will be jointly led by Southampton City Council, the University of Southampton, and the state-run health service, alongside a wider network of public services in Hampshire.
Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of at-home saliva tests to detect the virus in the United States.
The British government said it was also exploring the potential of other no-swab saliva based coronavirus tests with companies including Chronomics, Avacta, MAP Science and Oxford Nanoimaging (ONI).
It said it was also working with suppliers including DNA Genotek, International Scientific Supplies Ltd, Isohelix and other leading manufacturers, to develop bespoke saliva collection kits and scale up manufacturing for products that can be used with existing PCR tests.
The pilot will run for up to four weeks, testing people on a weekly basis, the government said, resulting in a total of 33,000 – 40,000 tests in the programme.
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.