Day Forty Four: Tuesday 28th April 2020

Daily Diary: Such a Badass Day!

 Such a badass day! It does not start well. Our house burglar alarm goes off in its intentionally jarring, “this is the company ship Nostromo and I’m about to blow myself, the Alien and all other living things, along with a lot of industrial hardware, up into thermonuclear oblivion,” way. By the time I get downstairs to switch it off it has already alerted our neighbour via the ADT call centre, who kindly comes around to see if everything’s okay.

It is okay, I tell her. No burglar. No attempted entry.

I check the control panel and find it’s the kitchen PIR that got triggered. It must have been a mouse. ADT ring the landline but I don’t get to it in time. Then the mobile …… that just happens to be charging in another room. I miss both You can’t call back on the same number, but I have ADT’s number on speed dial and I call them.

The sympathetic guy in the switchboard tells me he’s had mouse problems as well.

“How did you deal with it?” I asked.

“Smell. They really are sensitive. Barring getting a cat, it’s the only way.”

He talked about mopping the kitchen floor with peppermint oil in the water until the smell drove him to the edge of sanity, let alone any mouse.

“I even thought of borrowing my friend’s cat.”

“It works, I believe, I said. “We never had a mouse problem when we had cats.”

We talked about mice getting smarter and more trap-shy. Every time you remove a not particularly bright mouse from the gene pool mice as a whole become more intelligent. That’s evolution. Deal with it. They simply don’t respond to traps any more. It doesn’t matter what bait you use. The rodent terminator from Environ, when he came round, said that mice were neophobic. They didn’t trust anything that was unfamiliar and tended to give such things a wide berth.

“I’m just an old-fashioned mouse

In an old-fashioned house.

I might be small and squeaky,

But credit me with nous.”

If you’re very lucky you can catch mice singing this, although it might sound to human ears, that happen to exist in a somewhat different reality, like a lot of squeaking. But slow down the recording and you can be forgiven for thinking it’s Eartha Kitt (not a very mouselike surname) singing, “I’m just an old fashioned girl.”

But I digress.

The prospect of getting a cat any time soon is unlikely at a time of coronavirus, and the presence of a litter tray is not something either Vicky or I would welcome at the moment.

That leaves war.

Ironic, isn’t it, that we can keep a virus out of the house, but are struggling with a small mammal. It’s that boundary between humans and nature that is so problematic in so many ways. On the one hand, we can only exist at all because of the stark, even cruel and certainly unforgiving natural laws. Of likelihoods leading to outcomes in a ‘biased-random’ way we sometimes call luck.

Well, it’s effing unlucky we’ve got mice!

So the day sees me spraying deterrent spray into strategic locations. Let’s assault the little critters’ nostrils and drive them somewhere else. Having a habitat that’s human friendly but rodent hostile is challenging.

Then I try to get a prescription changed. Would I phone the pharmacy, Vicky asks. Mike, our dentist, did get back to Vicky yesterday and did fix up a prescription of antibiotics to address her toothache. Lockdown means containment in many ways. It means deferring the inevitable – in this case the treatment/repair/removal of a tooth – until safer days in a less dangerous future. I fear such days are still some months, maybe a year or more ahead when there’s an available working vaccine, a drug that mitigates the more severe symptoms of the disease, making a Covid-19 infection not only survivable but bearable, or a means of telling whether another person is ‘safe’ or not. In the meantime we hide behind closed doors and wait for it all to pass with an unknowing hope it will do so.

I head over to the pharmacy across the common. I have my camera with me and have photographed life on the common countless times. I had even thought of making a daily photo diary from January 1st to December 31st and putting it out on You Tube, but had never quite risen to such a commitment. There’s a family flying a kite, or at least trying to do so. It is an image that has a character worth catching a moment of. I had thought of local pics being part of the diary. There’s also an Asian guy kicking a ball around with his kid a good hundred metres away.

“Oi!” he shouts. “Don’t take pictures of my kid!”


“Don’t take pictures of my kid! You’re taking pictures of my kid.”

He starts striding towards me.

“What’s your problem?” I ask. “I’m taking a picture of that family flying a kite.”

“You’re taking pictures of my kid.”

“No I’m not. I think you’ve got problems mate.”

“Don’t take pictures of my kid.”

I feel that sense of adrenaline rising and that visceral unease that naturally accompanies aggression and confrontation. It’s one of the ways being an adult is a welcome escape from the emotional state of being a boy in his mid-teens, and it’s not a sensation I relish returning to. But this guy – jeez, I think he’s got a screw loose. Or maybe five weeks of lockdown has made him really edgy. From over a hundred metres away with a pocket camera, FFS! But I’ve been infected with his edginess. His hypersensitivity. That it’s not possible to take a picture of daily life without causing offence. Point a camera in the general direction of anyone and somehow that’s twisted, nasty, paedophilic. And the fact that in some people’s minds that level of suspicion, of paranoia exists is not just troubling, it’s a heartbreaking revelation about our wider humanity. From ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to ‘The Green Mile’ that reality of misinterpretation of motive, of prejudiced perception is deeply troubling.

“Look,” I tell him firmly. “I’m keeping a diary of this lockdown. This is part of it. This is social history. I don’t know what your problem is but deal with it.”

I turn and walk to the chemists. He does not follow, there’s no Parthian blow of a final retort and the encounter ends. But the exchange troubled me. The implied suggestion he had made and what must have been going on in his head to make it was really creepy.


I get to the pharmacy. It’s two customers at a time, but there’s no queue. I put on my mask and a pair of disposable gloves and go in. There’s a line two metres from the counter, with an X where to park my feet. It looks more like a post office than a pharmacy, with the counter glazed off and the assistant wearing a mask and gloves. She has the prescription and I collect it, buying a couple of interdent brush packs as I do so. I notice some bottles of hand sanitiser on the counter. It’s the first I’ve seen for months. Looks like a 100 millilitre bottle. Maybe 120 millilitres. There are also some single use masks for sale at £1.25 each.

“How much is the hand sanitiser?” I ask.

“£8.25 a bottle,” the woman behind the counter tells me.

Volume for volume I can buy an 18 year old single malt for around that price.

I didn’t tell her that.

“I’ll stick to soap and water,” I said, remembering days not so long ago when I could pick up that much hand sanitiser for less than a quid.

I return home across the common. The angry man kicking a ball around with his son is no longer there. Nor is the family with the kite. I put the prescription bag, the interdent brushes and the mask I was wearing into my home made UV sterilisation chamber. Then I pass the medicines to Vicky. She doesn’t open them until much later. They’re pills. Vicky has trouble swallowing pills and antibiotics are the most unpleasant of all to chew and swallow, so she tells me.

I ring the pharmacy. The pharmacist tells me he cannot change the capsules for a suspension. That would need a fresh prescription.

“It’s the law,” he explains.

So Vicky rings Mike the dentist, who’s busy with another patient. It all works out in the end but it’s a long trek around the houses to get there.

The episode with the angry delivery driver with my stationery barely warrants a mention. He was frustrated that the plastic wrapping had split. The rain is pouring on him almost as hard as if he were taking a shower. It’s been much like that on and off all day, so I can figure out why he’s so pissed off at life. I tell him to put it in the ‘airlock’ of our front porch – there’s no problem with it being wet from my point of view, and thank you….

So when my paragliding friend Nigel rings me about Zoom and club business the poor guy gets the brunt of a frustrating morning. He’s saved by someone ringing his front doorbell.

If I were Nigel listening to me, I would have rung it myself!

The Bigger Picture: Pinning the Tale On the Butt End of Events

“It’s not much of a tail, but I’m sort of attached to it,” said Eeyore in ‘Winnie The Pooh.’

We’ve got the same problem with some of our leaders, who seem to be stuck to the ass-end of events, and we seem to be stuck with them. Despite serious errors of judgement and other flaws, some leading to innumerable deaths, politicians’ approval ratings are generally more positively than expected. It’s as if whole societies are capable of suffering from a collective Stockholm syndrome.

We have a government happy to cheerlead a public display of gratitude to frontline workers by clapping and pot-banging, along with calling for one minute’s silence for those who have died saving others but slow to extend the offer of a visa extension, while sacked hospitality workers sleep rough at the height of a pandemic. The need for foodbanks has skyrocketed, while some farmers don’t know what to do with the excess produce. If they can get workers to harvest it, that is.

It comes home to me via my local Nextdoor forum. 

“I have a government food package delivered to my flat in Naval House but I didn’t request it. Please let me know if you live in Naval House and ordered one. I will drop it off at your flat.”

To which another local resident replies:

“I live in Woolwich Dockyard. Please may I be considered? Thank you.”

Mobile phone data shows that poorer workers are likelier than rich ones to keep commuting. Most frontline work is lower income.

And the huge deal about working from home overshadows that stark fact. The better off steal the show. It pervades the whole of society. Even universities, bastions of educated liberalism are not exempt as Covid-19 shows up shameful employment practices, with 54 per cent of staff on insecure contracts.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announces that families of frontline NHS and social care staff who have died from Covid-19 will get a £60,000 payout. He also admitted there was ‘a lot of work’ to do to hit his target of 100,000 Covid-19 tests a day.

Frontline workers elsewhere receive no such compensation.

Boris Johnson is set to share his new lockdown plan as the country endures the crest of the first wave. He urges caution, as he comes down on the side of those in Cabinet and his party arguing about the importance of avoiding a second wave. He also pledged to include the opposition parties as much as possible in the debate over what comes next. In the fullness of time neither good intention comes to fruition, as the PM remains torn between his populist motivations and the need to be pragmatic.

The public are being led to believe that the Government is following ‘the science.’ It’s a useful foil for both good and bad decisions. There is a naïve belief being promoted that there is only one science, a virtuous body of knowledge, a universal truth to which the Government subscribes, and in doing so claims credibility and authority.

The reality is different. First, ‘the science’ is a massive endeavour involving thousands of scientists trying to answer fundamental, vital, and unprecedented questions. How fast does the virus spread if left unabated? How lethal is it? How many people have already had it? If so, are they now immune? What drugs can fight it? What can societies do to slow it? What happens when we selectively evolve and relax our public health interventions? Can we develop a vaccine to stop it? Should cloth masks become mandatory?

Second, data and analyses are shifting daily, honest disagreements among academic experts with different training, scientific backgrounds, and perspectives are both unavoidable and desirable. So when those disagreements are freely discussed and resolved they need to be influenced by scientific insights independent of political philosophies and party affiliations. What comes out of such discussions and resolutions is then taken on board by policymakers, academics, and interested members of the public to consider differing point of views and decide, at each moment, the best courses of action.

So when a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) said they felt Dominic Cummings’ interventions had sometimes inappropriately influenced what is supposed to be an impartial scientific process, the conduct of science becomes indistinguishable from politics.

This is not following ‘the science,’ but steering the science to be followed.

There is a similar process going on in the United States. Donald Trump also experiences the deep conflict between promoting a political agenda and pragmatic necessity. Following the embarrassing household cleaner and subcutaneous sunlight farce on the presidential podium Trump has openly expressed a reluctance to make further announcements to the nation. The White House briefing is on, then off, then on again.

He hates being the object of ridicule – that’s for other lesser beings to endure from him –  but he thrives on media exposure. Since March 9th, when in the US public consciousness, the virus outbreak began leading to widespread disruptions, Mr Trump has spoken 260,000 words about the virus. The New York Times analysed every word and has found self-congratulation to be the most common theme.

Then, to add horror upon horror we find we’ve got the Covid-19 death count wrong. For England it’s around forty per cent higher than previously reported, new figures show. The figures from the ONS giving details of the fatalities where Covid-19 was on the death certificate, show 21,284 deaths in England up to April 17th. The previously published figure for that date was 14,576. NHS England have started to report the number of patient deaths where there has been no COVID-19 positive test result, but where COVID-19 is documented as a direct or underlying cause of death on part 1 or part 2 of the death certification process.

A problem with measuring the pandemic is that the parameters of what we are measuring change as time passes, and our understanding of what’s happening evolves. The number of cases depends on the number of tests being carried out, that in turn depend on the availability of tests to the general public, and their access to them. Hospitalisations also have a lot of variables in the situations that lead to them occurring, and ICU patients is a subset of that. There is not yet a fully reliable measure of a death being attributable to Covid-19 in a number of cases. Meanwhile, asymptomatic cases lurk like submarines, embedded within the population and ready to re-emerge as restrictions become relaxed.

Many fear what the UK prime minister talked about on returning to work this morning – a second wave. If Britain eases restrictions too quickly it would be to “throw away all the effort and sacrifice.” He is right to be concerned. Throughout history, epidemics have battered us in waves. The first reported plague outbreak in Athens hit in 430 BCE, 429 BCE and 427 BCE to 426 BCE, bringing misery and death with it year after year. The same was true of the Black Death in the 14th century and Smallpox  in the 18th century. And also, notably, the so-called Spanish Flu a century ago, which hit Europe in the spring of 1918, before re-emerging later the same year and then in 1919. Worryingly, it was the second wave in the autumn and winter of 1918 that proved more deadly in some places. Most scientists think that there will be a second wave of the novel coronavirus most likely in the second half of this year.

Trying to establish how deeply embedded the virus is within the population we’re still learning to identify the disease. On Sunday the US CDC officially added these six symptoms to its list: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headaches, sore throat, new loss of taste or smell, in addition to previously known symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. The symptoms can appear within two to fourteen days after exposure to Covid-19, according to the guidelines. In addition, the CDC described a set of emergency warning signs that should warrant immediate medical attention, including trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure on the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, bluish lips or face.

Covid-19 is a disease with many different faces and a study finds that people’s genes determine how severely people get Covid-19.

It is also a cuckoo-condition, driving other conditions out of the nest. Health authorities in the UK are encouraging people to seek help if needed, amid fears that people may be letting cancer and other serious conditions go untreated, because they’re scared of contracting Covid-19 if they go to hospital. Public Health England said visits to hospital emergency departments had fallen by almost 50 per cent in April, compared with the same month last year.

It’s also unforgiving of misconceived policy decisions. The elderly are paying the price for Sweden’s no-testing, no-lockdown Covid-19 strategy. Critics say it will not be looked upon favourably by the rest of Europe. It might be true that different countries should follow different approaches to Covid-19 based on their socioeconomic circumstances but it’s becoming clear that the policy of one country has repercussions on others, especially when it comes to a contagious killer virus.

For now, all we can do is keep ourselves out of contact with others, through various degrees of isolation, social distancing and covering ourselves. In the UK, stockpile failures date back 11 years, with the last stockpile having been created in 2009. One in four doctors are having to reuse personal protective equipment as claims are made that the Government failed to stockpile gowns, visors, swabs and body bags. Protective clothing should only be worn once and then discarded. The son of a doctor who died after a PPE warning demands an apology from Matt Hancock. 

The wider public are moving increasingly to wearing facemasks, whether by government edict or not. Germany demands masks in public transport, while Saxony becomes the first German state to make masks mandatory. Rio puts facemasks on its public statues. Russia’s famous matryoshka dolls get a Covid-19 makeover – they’re now wearing masks.

With the disease so new, and with so much yet to understand about it, there is no bespoke medication. Drug after drug gets repurposed. Hopes are raised and often dashed.

There appear to be three main avenues down which these repurposed drugs are set to treat hospitalised Covid-19 patients. The first is to attack the capacity of the virus to replicate itself. The hottest contender here is Remdesivir, manufactured by Gilead Pharmaceuticals and repurposed from being used to treat Hepatitis C, Ebola and Marburg. Remdesivir interrupts the replication of viral RNA by replacing one of its code components, adenosine. The molecule then behaves like a damaged zip fastener and the enzyme RNA polymerase can’t function in replicating it. A less successful medicine, Lopinavir, also known as Kaletra, repurposed from treating HIV and HPV, inhibits the assembly of viral proteins.

The second is to suppress an extreme immune response from the patient to the virus known as a ‘cytokine storm,’ in which small proteins called cytokines are released in overwhelming quantities and gunk up body processes, especially in the lungs, heart, liver and kidneys, but also elsewhere. Kevzara, aka Sarilumab, from Regeneron and Sanofi, has a track record as an anti-rheumatic dealing with auto-immune disorders.

Associated with suppressing an extreme immune response has been the observation that 75 per cent of Covid-19 patients needing ICU treatment have been adult males, who are also much more likely to die from the disease. Women’s immune systems have been known to be much more robust than men’s and a key element of that is believed to be the different balance of sex hormones between the sexes. The question is being asked and explored: can oestrogen help men survive Covid-19?

The third way is to swamp the body with bespoke antibodies before the virus can get a full hold. Actemra, from Roche, also known as Tocilizumab, from a background of treating autoimmune diseases is the most promising, although monoclonal antibodies remain very expensive.

There is a real urgency here, sending jitters through stockmarkets with each twist and turn in the saga as it reveals itself. With the pandemic being such a recent phenomenon, trials are small-scale, often without the rigour you’d expect in non-pandemic times, and with small sample sizes. Sometimes it’s simply been a lack of availability of the drugs to be trialled. Outcomes often contradict each other – when it came to Remdesivir clinical trials, positive results from Chicago were at odds with results from China where there was no difference between test and control groups. Sometimes there have been issues with ethics or the absence of a placebo group. 

But as George D. Yancopoulos, Regeneron’s founder and chief scientific officer, put it:

“When you try everything under the kitchen sink, most of the time it’s not going to deliver the results that you want, no matter what the small 20 or 30 patient studies say.”

At other times there would be the luxury of time.

It’s a commodity in short supply .

With a head start, Oxford scientists say their vaccine could be available by September. If it works. In Montana, six monkeys were injected with the Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine last month and have remained healthy despite exposure to the virus, unlike other unvaccinated monkeys in the lab. It’s a grisly reminder that to save our lives, other sentient beings without the capacity to object pay the ultimate price.

Meanwhile, the pressure group, Global Citizen, reminds us it’s Immunisation Week.

There is a whole world out there to vaccinate before we’re through with this plague.

It won’t be easy.

Nor is it easy to make sense of the pandemic’s economic fallout.  From the turmoil come winners, such as the speculator Carl Icahn, who bought oil when it was at a rock-bottom price earlier this month, knowing the price will rise back to pre-pandemic levels, is now taking a multibillion short position against the commercial real estate market, which he has predicted, will ‘blow up’ in a similar fashion to the 2008 financial crisis and banking on changes to post-pandemic working structures and practices.

There are losers, such as the customers of a number of airlines, both in the UK and EU, who have refused to provide refunds to customers whose flights were cancelled due to Covid-19, in contravention of UK and EU regulations. This comes despite massive bailouts to airlines by national governments.

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant comes to mind. For those who thumb their bibles it’s Matthew 18: 21-35.

Try cutting and paste the reference into Google, if you’re sitting comfortably at your screen and can’t be bothered to go over to your Zoom bookshelf.

There are knock-on effects from the harsh effects on air travel from lockdown. Airbus warns it is ion an existential crisis, as it furloughs 3,000 staff in Wales after warning it is ‘bleeding cash.’

In the United States, the government isn’t disclosing which companies received aid under a troubled $349 billion loan programme that was part of the rescue package signed into law last month. That makes a full accounting of the Paycheck Protection Program impossible. Things are hard among working Americans as measures introduced to put one in every seven mortgages on a payment holiday.

So the desire to lift lockdown and return to normality is strong, not just among politicians and business leaders but the wider population too.

Green shoots are beginning to show:

  • New Zealanders queued for coffee and takeaways today as a month-long lockdown was eased. About 400,000 people returned to work after PM Jacinda Ardern shifted the country’s alert level down a notch. How New Zealand will ease lockdown rules after reporting five new cases of Covid-19. Some businesses will be allowed to reopen but the country’s borders will remain shut.
  • Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam said today most civil servants will gradually return to work from May 4th, although the government has not yet decided whether to ease travel and social distancing restrictions that are due to expire next week. Hong Kong reported no new infections for a second day yesterday. It has recorded 1,038 cases and four deaths since the outbreak began in January.
  • The UK boss of McDonald’s has said that the restaurant chain is carrying out its tests behind closed doors this week in preparation for reopening sites.
  • In America, Georgia diners are set to reopen, and the restaurant chain, Waffle House, braces for a slow recovery.
  • Iran, which has had one of the world’s worst outbreaks, will begin reopening mosques.
  • India eases Covid-19 restrictions.
  • Bangladesh’s factories, a pillar of its economy, reopen, but workers fear infection.
  • Switzerland eases lockdown, as Austria loosens its lockdown further, allowing events of up to ten people.
  • Italy’s plans to ease Europe’s longest lockdown get a cool welcome.
  • While in France, a reopening plan spurs controversy even before it is unveiled. Many believe it has been rushed.

Like in France, not everyone is confident. With some justification. Many US states are far short of Covid-19 testing levels needed for safe reopening, a new analysis shows.

Some countries are still cautious:

  • President Erdogan announces that Turkey will keep Covid-19 rules in place through May.
  • It is too early to consider lifting Japan’s state of emergency over the coronavirus, the head of a powerful physicians’ lobby said on Tuesday, adding that Tokyo would find it tough to host next year’s Olympics without an effective vaccine.

While locally, less cautious citizens are ending their own lockdowns themselves. Someone from my neck of the woods complains:

Has the lockdown ended? Gallions Park on Warepoint Drive resembles a Butlins Holiday Camp! Has anyone seen the police?

I didn’t see an answer.

But through a combination of strict rules, soft enforcement and in the case of a noticeable minority limited compliance a ‘new normal’ is taking shape:

Some find it harsh:

“Families are really struggling:” London foodbank sees a five-fold surge. “This kind of thing, a crisis like this, it impacts the poorest people the hardest. It always does.”

Some find it unbearable:

Calls to domestic abuse hotline in the UK have increased by 49 per cent and killings doubled in the three weeks after lockdown restrictions began. Researchers at the Counting Dead Women Project told British MPs 14 women and two children had been killed in the first three weeks of lockdown – the highest number in a three week period for 11 years and double the average rate.

Some find it unfair:

FC Utrecht is preparing to challenge the decision by the Dutch Football Association to call off the football season, after the prime minister, Mark Rutte announced that all major events would be cancelled until September. The team was three points away from a place in the UEFA Football League, with one game to play and a superior goal difference.

Some find it unsettling:

The pandemic is found to even infecting people’s dreams as it sabotages sleep worldwide.

Some find it frustrating:

Julian Assange, Elizabeth Holmes and other high profile people have had their court cases postponed due to the pandemic.

Some find it heartbreaking:

A woman shares the final text from her fiancée who died with Covid-19.

“Once I am asleep, I am in God’s hands”

This one simple story is a haunting reminder of the horror of the pandemic. Perhaps it’s its simplicity. Perhaps it is the imagery it conjures. But I find myself, above all other stories, unable to forget it.

Not all is bad, but I see it as the silver linings to towering dark thunderclouds:

Some find it inspirational:

Tom Moore smashes Guinness World Records. Captain Tom Moore, 99 year old World War 2 veteran has achieved the record title for the most money raised for charity by an individual, raising more than £28 million.


Former state school pupils are inspiring younger generations in their careers. For ten years FutureFirst has been giving state school pupils an alumni network, and that’s continuing under lockdown.

Some find it strangely futuristic:

SoftBank-backed robotics firm Brain raises $36 million for expansion beyond autonomous scrubbers during the coronavirus crisis. “You always hear about sexy robots. I always say a sexy robot is lousy business. We want boring robots that actually solve problems and now it’s becoming more important because of Covid-19,” Eugene Izhikevich, Brain’s co-founder and CEO tells Forbes. “Robots don’t sneeze, they don’t cough and they don’t have fevers.”

Some find it eye-opening:

15 virtual classes to learn skills from around the world. Video classes to take you from Australia to Marrakech, have you cooking Thai food, yodelling in the hills and painting like Andy Warhol.

And some find it raises hopes and possibilities in times to come:

Residents of Istanbul have been treated to the rare sight of dolphins in the Bosphorus Strait. Much of the country is in ,lockdown with people confined to their homes for a firm day curfew over the weekend, but for dolphins there have been new and exciting worlds to explore.

There are other stories too from around the world:

  • San Marino is currently the world’s worst country in terms of Covid-19 related deaths per capita. The microstate has decided to take a more aggressive approach to battling the pandemic through intense tracking, a two-test strategy (a molecular and a serology test), medical home visits and generous relief packages.
  • France has severely controlled the sale of nicotine products after a study suggested smokers may be less likely to contract Covid-19. The measures aim to “prevent the health risk linked to the excessive consumption or misuse of nicotine products by people hoping to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus and to ‘guarantee the continuous supply for people requiring medications to stop smoking,’ the decree states.
  • The small southern Italian town of Castellino del Biferno is minting money to help the local community cope with the pressures of the pandemic. “However small this economy may be, there are three or four businesses still open, without considering bars and pubs,” town mayor, Enrico Fratangelo, said. He received €5,500 from the government to issue food vouchers to vulnerable families. The town council added its savings and distributed “Ducati” banknotes to 200 local families.
  • Argentina has banned all internal and international commercial flights until September 1st. The country closed its borders last month and imposed a strict lockdown, which has been credited with helping to keep confined cases to about 4,000, with just 200 deaths.
  • More than 2,200 Indonesians have died with acute Covid-19 symptoms but were not recorded as victims, a Reuters review of data from 16 of the country’s 34 provinces has shown. The figures indicate the national death toll is likely to be far higher than the official figure of 765, medical experts said.
  • Extremists compound the threat of Covid-19 in Burkina-Faso.
  • Covid-19 is spreading rapidly across Latin America, with fears that relatively weak health infrastructures could be easily overwhelmed. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is under fire for his crisis management, Ecuadorian authorities are digging mass graves at cemeteries and Cuba is dispatching doctors to South Africa.
  • Killing in Mogadishu, Somalia: An officer has been arrested and people have taken to the streets after at least one person was shot dead by police enforcing the country’s lockdown.
  • Kenya has demoted a top scientist in charge of overseeing the country’s Covid-19 testing, raising concerns about prompting criticism of the government’s directive. Dr Joel Lutomiah, the deputy director of the Centre for Virus Research at the Kenya Medical Research Institute was dismissed from the role after test results were delayed, according to news reports. Scientists at the Institute, however, said that he was fired for standing up to government officials and demanding more funding during this crucial period.
  • The Mexican government has almost entirely emptied its network of migrant detention centres, deporting people in them, to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among detainees, the authorities announced.
  • Afghanistan is set to release 60 per cent of prisoners as Covid-19 spreads.
  • Health care workers in Mexico, India and other countries are facing attacks. Ignorance, superstition and misinformation take a cruel toll.

Finally, a notice from my local council:

The Royal Borough of Greenwich Community Hub is here for you. If you are self-isolating and have not got a family member, friend or neighbour who can help, please get in touch with the community hub on 0800-470-4831, 7 days a week, between 8.30 am and 6 pm.

Good to know. There are people out there trying to do their best.

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