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.
Tuesday April 14, 9am
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
ADAPT AND OVERCOME
I am old enough to remember that five decades ago this week, the focus of the world was firmly fixed on solving a crisis that was unfolding in elements far beyond our control.
It was a crisis who outcome would be life or death. There seemed to be limited tools to overcome it.
I am talking, of course, about the Apollo 13 mission that had to be aborted after an oxygen generator blew half-way to the Moon.
There was an excellent movie made of the events in the early years of the millennium starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon. But the actual event was far nerve-tingling than Hollywood screenwriters can compress into 90 minutes or so on the big screen.
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I couldn’t help but think of those events and how engineers from Nasa put together an oxygen scrubber from the limited items in the Apollo capsule – an oxygen scrubber that was needed to clean the limited air supplies the three crew members shared in trying to nurse their badly wounded spacecraft back to Earth.
Now, fifty years on, Jim Lovell and Fred Haise are still able to talk about the drama – the third crew member, Jack Swigert, died in 1982..
One of two oxygen tanks had burst in the spacecraft’s service module, and the tense words that followed are the stuff of space, and movie, fame.
“OK, Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” radioed Swigert, the command module pilot.
“This is Houston. Say again, please.”
“Houston, we’ve had a problem,” Lovell cut in.
Lovell reported a sudden voltage drop in one of the two main electrical circuits.
Within seconds, Houston’s Mission Control saw pressure readings for the damaged oxygen tank plunge to zero.
The blast also knocked out two electrical power-generating fuel cells and damaged the third.
As Lovell peered out the window and saw oxygen escaping into the black void, he knew his moon landing was also slipping away.
The astronauts were 300,000 kilometres from Earth.
Back in Houston and at every other Nasa facility, engineers worked to come up with a scubber – ever so much as a ventilator is today to those in intensive care united and in need of a life-saving device.
They succeeded, and the crew were brought home.
And so it is today, I thought, as I watched a recent report that Seat, the Spanish car-manufacturing company, has answered the urgent call for ventilators. They model, which they have rushed into production, is adapted from a simple wiper-arm motor, and three quarters of the materials used are components already in stock and previously in use in building their cars.
It is our ability to adapt and overcome which should us all cause for hope during this pandemic.
And right now, our actions of staying at home, staying away from other people, and washing our hands is as critical to the work of those who are caring for Covid-19 patients as the work done by all of Nasa’s ground staff. That is our role now.
PANNING THE PANDEMIC
BAGGAGE COLLECTION AND BED REST
I dearly want to visit Japan one day. But if I do, I’ll give the cardboard beds in Tokyo’s Narita Airport a pass.
The airport has prepared an impromptu hotel of cardboard beds and quilts in its baggage-claim area for passengers from overseas who might have to stay there while awaiting the results of tests for the novel coronavirus.
Though flights at Narita are down so sharply that the airport has closed one of its runways, planes are still landing with passengers arriving from countries including the United States and Italy who are required to undergo tests for the virus before they can head home.
Results can come as quickly as six hours, but delays now mean many take as long as one or two days, an official at the Health Ministry said, declining to give his name.
With passengers forbidden to take public transportation, those with nobody to pick them up have to wait – and the cardboard beds have been readied in case nearby facilities currently being used to house passengers are full, he added.
EGGS-ACTLY WHAT’S NEEDED IN LOCKDOWN
There are some 200 children and elderly folk who live in one rural west Kerry village in Ireland. And on Easter Sunday, they were visited by the local shopkeeper with surprise Easter eggs and boxes of chocolate.
One mystery man who wanted to remain anonymous donated €500 (Dh2000) with instructions that all of the children and seniors were to get Easter treats.
MEME OF THE DAY
This meme was shared on Twitter. If you know anything about pugs, then you’ll appreciate the humour in this in a breed that defies the ability to waddle.
THE LOCKDOWN DIET
Day 16 of Dr Joshi’s Holistic Detox: “21 days to a healthier slimmer you – for life.”
Just another day without sugar, caffeine, carbs, preservatives, artificial or processed foods. But I still miss caffeine.
Highlight of the day was a chicken curry made with chicken stock, a lot of onions, ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander and cumin.
And then a rice pilaf as well made with brown basmati and more chicken stock and a green chili. I added in a diced carrot and some asparagus as well.
WHAT ABOUT SOCIAL DISTANCING?
Baseball is a game that requires a lot of time and not much thought. I’ve been to a lot Blue Jays games when I lived in Toronto.
That’s why coronavirus may have solved the age-old issue of spending too much time watching the games.
Taiwan launched its baseball season, with mannequins and cardboard cutouts of fans wearing face masks, after spectators were banned from attending games during the coronavirus pandemic.
While other nations have cancelled sporting events for the foreseeable future due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the country has decided to buck the trend and hold games.
Photographs from Taoyuan International baseball stadium, in Taoyuan city, showed the mannequins and cardboard cutouts sat in seats where spectators normally cheer from.
They were dressed in the colours and merchandise of the home team Rakuten Monkeys, as well as surgical masks.
LIVING IN A BUBBLE
If you have children or babies, then life in lockdown must be really hard. That’s why I have great admiration for the father of a two-month-old infant in Shanghai who created a custom-built pod complete with an air purification system to keep his baby safe from the coronavirus outbreak.
Cao Junjie, 30, refashioned a cat carrier to make the sealable pod that includes an air-quality monitor displaying the concentration of carbon dioxide inside.
“Because of the epidemic, I spent a month making this baby safety pod for my kid … It can provide a safe and comfortable environment for the baby,” Cao said.
LOCKDOWN IN A REAL GHOST TOWN
I’ve just recently returned from three weeks in Bali just as Indonesia was beginning to get a grips on the spread of coronavirus. But I didn’t go to Kepuh village, which has been haunted by ghosts recently.
The village on Java island has deployed a cast of “ghosts” to patrol the streets, hoping that age-old superstition will keep people indoors and safely away from the coronavirus.
“We wanted to be different and create a deterrent effect because ‘pocong’ are spooky and scary,” said Anjar Pancaningtyas, head of a village youth group that coordinated with the police on the unconventional initiative to promote social distancing as the coronavirus spreads.
Known as “pocong”, the ghostly figures are typically wrapped in white shrouds with powdered faces and kohl-rimmed eyes. In Indonesian folklore they represent the trapped souls of the dead.
But when they first started appearing this month they had the opposite effect. Instead of keeping people in they bought them out to catch a glimpse of the apparitions.
WHO YOU GONNA CALL? GERMBUSTERS!
While many businesses are shutting up shop, one group of entrepreneurs has come up with a novel idea.
Daiichi Service Solutions Co Ltd in Tokyo is providing a new Virus Buster service for the specific purpose of disinfecting areas contaminated with the novel coronavirus.
If a person is infected, they’ll send over an emergency response crew. Work will be conducted discreetly and will look like normal cleaning services. If you request overnight work, it will be completed by morning so you can return to work the following day.
THE STOCK SHOCK
The markets open on Tuesday morning after the four-day Easter break. This is how my pretend portfolio of £10,000 (about Dh45,000) stands after two weeks of trading and playing the market.
Net worth: £10753.13
Just East Takeaway, 100 shares: £7502.00
Totally, 250 shares: £2793.00
Cash in hand £458.13
% Gain +7.53 per cent
£ Gain +£753.13
A gain of 7.53 per cent over two weeks makes me pretty proud. If only it were real money!
COVIDIOTS, YOBS AND GOONS
Here’s my daily collection of covidiots that serves as a reminder that Darwin’s theories on evolution do not necessary cover every species – most from the gene pool, these goons from a gene puddle.
AN EPIDEMIC OF CYBER CRIME
Criminals and conmen will do anything to make quick cash. Now there’s growing evidence that that cyber criminals are working together to develop ways to exploit the coronavirus pandemic.
Criminals have used Dark Web forums to share ways that consumers’ efforts to stay safe could be used against them, according to Raluca Saceanu, the general manager of Smarttech247, a cybersecurity company based in Ireland.
She said her company had recorded “a significant increase in targeted malicious activity” in recent days. “Many consumers are moving money onto bank card accounts to cut down on using cash at the moment,” she said.
“As a result, posters on the forum were chatting about how it’s a good time to run ‘carding’ scams, and even offering discounts on the technology used for these crimes,” she said. Carding is a form of credit card fraud in which a stolen credit card is used to charge prepaid cards.
PREYING ON GULLIBLE GIVERS
In another example highlighted by the general manager of Smarttech247, a workplace email scam falsely claimed to have originated at the World Health Organisation asked recipients to click on a link to access safety measures regarding the spreading of coronavirus. When the link was clicked it activated malware to infect devices.
And that malware then allows access to banking and financial apps used on the devices.
A SABOTEUR OF THE WORST ORDER
A homeless man has been jailed for six months after assaulting a doctor.
Gareth Rudge, 34, attacked the emergency worker outside the A&E at Royal Gwent Hospital, Newport, at around 12.50am on 10 April.
The doctor suffered injuries to their head and face but went on working after the incident.
Rudge pleaded guilty to assault by beating of an emergency worker after appearing at Newport Magistrates Court.
THROW AWAY THE KEY
A man in his early 20s was arrested by Irish police has been arrested for coughing on a police officer and saying he had coronavirus. He also faces a number of other public order incidents. I hope they throw away the key.
YOBS IN A PARK
Young men drinking beer in a park near London swore at a nurse after being told to move along and act sensibly.
Louise Ann, a mother of two from Basingstoke, was told to “[expletive] off” by the group, who were lounging around in the sunshine surrounded by their bikes – going against the current lockdown rules due to the pandemic.
Filming the encounter, she told them: “My husband is not getting paid. I have to go in and do overtime, all the time. I've got two kids in there.”
One of them sniggered after she said: “I have to go to work every day fearing I’m going to bring it home to my family because of people like you. You are absolute idiots.”
COWBOYS ARE COVIDIOTS
I can’t understand how American footballers can play an entire career and never actually have to touch a football. I think it’s a moronic game. And now there’s proof that morons play it.
Texas is among the 45 states with statewide stay-at-home orders to limit the spread of the pandemic.
According to a report from TMZ, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott skirted those rules with a large party at Prescott's house in Prosper, Texas.
The TMZ report — which included video and photos — claimed that at least 30 guests were at Prescott’s house for a birthday party on Friday night. Though the number of people in attendance wasn’t clear from the photos, social distancing guidelines did not appear to be followed.
According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Prosper Police responded to reports of the party on Friday, but the officers could not verify that CDC guidelines were being violated. The paper also quoted a Prescott source who denied that the Cowboys quarterback violated social distancing rules.
HIKERS HIT A HITCH
Four people have been issued with fixed penalty notices after getting stuck on Cramond Island in Scotland.
Three men and a woman had to be rescued from the island on Saturday after being cut off by the tide.
A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “Around 3pm on Saturday, 11 April, 2020 police received a report of concern for people who were stuck on Cramond Island, Edinburgh.
“Three men, aged 26, 31 and 32, and a 28-year-old woman were issued with fixed penalty notices under the Coronavirus Act 2020. Police attended the incident along with colleagues from the coastguard and RNLI.”
Edinburgh City Council has since taken the decision to shut Cramond Island to the public indefinitely.
But that didn’t stop these covidiots from going there. Serves them right.
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, the BBC and other media outlets in today’s blog. And remember to stay safe.
Mick O’Reilly is the Gulf News Foreign Correspondent based in Europe.