Covid and Corona Insight Sport

Saudis launch first women’s professional golf tournament. Is this a breath of fresh air or a ‘sportswash’?

The first Arab professional on the Ladies’ European Tour says Saudi Arabia is making “improvements” as it prepares to host its first women’s golf events.

The Saudi Ladies International starts today (November 17 2020) with a separate team event set to take place from 17 November.

Professional women’s golf has never taken place before in the kingdom, which has faced widespread criticism for its human rights record.

“To me it’s huge improvement,” said Moroccan professional Maha Haddioui.

“To be part of something so huge, a moment in history, to me it’s a new Saudi when it comes to a lot of things and to be part of that is really big.”

A prize find of $1m (£750,000) is in place for the this week’s singles tournament at Royal Greens Golf Club.

Saudi Arabia, which recently announced it will host its first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2021, has come under scrutiny in recent years for its staging of major sporting events, with human rights organisations such as Amnesty International saying the country is seeking to ‘sportswash’ its reputation, the BBC reports.

Amnesty’s head of campaigns has said sporting fixtures such as moor racing’s Formula One events offer the Saudis “a means of rebranding their severely tarnished reputation”.

The Saudi Ladies International was due to take place in March until the coronavirus pandemic forced a postponement. At the time England’s Meghan MacLaren had said she would boycott the event for the ‘sportswashing’ reasons mentioned by Amnesty and others.

Until 2018 women were not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and, although a number of reforms have taken place in recent years, one activist who campaigned for the right for women to drive is currently refusing to eat in protest at the conditions in detention. Her family allege she has been offered freedom if she agrees to say she has not been tortured.

“No matter where you go you can look at flaws or what’s improving,” said Haddioui. “By looking at what’s improving, this is where you keep improving. To me the glass is half full; Saudi is making huge improvements.”

The 32-year-old joined the Ladies’ European Tour as a professional in 2012 and has played over 100 events in it.

She says professional sport is not yet viewed as a viable career path for women in the region but feels the staging of landmark events will offer aspiring sportswomen a vision of what they could achieve.

“It will motivate a lot of young girls to take up the game,” she added. “I think in the coming years there will be a lot more Arab female professional golfers.

“The game changed my life. I travel the world doing what I love. I wish the same for every woman in the Arab world – to pursue these opportunities.”

Analysis Covid and Corona Insight

With these sorts of restrictions, it may be better for university students to go home and study remotely, say many experts.

Analysis Covid and Corona

The row over exam results — another entirely unnecessary result of misunderstanding the covid virus situation.

The brouhaha around Britain about the difficulties of assessing high school students’ exam results is an entirely unnecessary and could have been avoided – by a more proactive approach.

There was no reason not to allow the pupils to write the exams in a socially distanced way.

As for venues where they could have written exams, most of the schools were either empty or were catering to only a minority of pupils. In all schools there was also a huge amount of non-use of buildings, and public libraries were also devoid of users so they could have been accessed for exams.

Pupils writing these important entrance exams in any case had a couple of months when they did not need to go into school and could have prepared for exams by studying at home – or, for those pupils whose home environment was not conducive, special large rooms at schools could have been prepared.

Covid and Corona Latest News

People coming in from three major countries must still spend 14 days in quarantine when they enter Britain.

Citizens from most European Union countries, or anyone flying from these countries, can come to England without the need to go into a 14-day quarantine. The lifting of the restriction was valid from Friday July 10 2020.

The British government still demands the quarantine from people traveling from the USA, Portugal and Sweden.

The full list of countries for which quarantine does not apply to people arriving in England:

  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba
  • Croatia
  • Curaçao
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominica
  • Faroe Islands
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • French Polynesia
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Macau
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Réunion
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • St Barthélemy
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Pierre and Miquelon
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turkey
  • Vatican City
  • Vietnam

Covid and Corona Rhymes Going Viral

Another (and less serious) Poem for a Pandemic.

Based on a little song or rhyme, this was contributed tongue-in-cheek (or face-in-mask) in a travel column for The Telegraph.

The Face-mask Hokey-cokey

Covid and Corona Insight

Normal schooling is way overdue. Most restrictions were unnecessary and the government and unions knew this at least a month ago.

By Paul Martin.

The reluctance of parents to send their children to school, for fear the environment there exposes them to a greater risk of catching Coronavirus, is illogical and damaging to their own children.  However do not blame the parents.  Blame the scientists who advise the government. And the teaching unions.  And of course the government, and the Opposition.

Analysis Covid and Corona Insight

What could go wrong? The significance of unexpected events in history.

Analysis Covid and Corona Eyewitness Insight

A breath of fresh air. A top child infectious diseases consultant says children do not pass Covid-19 to their parents or grandparents. So why are they not back at school in full force right now?

By Dr Karyn Moshal, Paediatric infectious Diseases Consultant, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

Let’s bring you some good news. 

Analysis Covid and Corona Insight Latest News

Social distancing for young children at school. It’s being enforced in Britain – but the Netherlands is taking a much closer route.

By Paul Martin.

In Dutch schools, there is no government requirement for social distancing between the children. In Britain, where Reception Classes and Year Six Classes began this week (June 11), there is.

Have the Dutch have got it right, and the British got it wrong?

Because the evidence is starkly clear: children under the age of ten have never been shown in any scientific study to have passed on coronavirus to any adult. And therefore the risk that little children catch the virus, then show no symptoms, then go home and infect their parents or older siblings, is extremely remote.

Against this tiny risk, there is the need for decent and proper schooling for small children. My granddaughter went back to school yesterday. How on earth is it educative for her to sit two metres from all her friends? Does this not amount to a form of abuse or at least an unnecessary restriction of the younger children? It certainly creates, literally, a barrier to interaction and the kind of learning that younger children in particular need.

Does it not, as an educational psychotherapist told, tend to make them, in essence, afraid of being – children?

Our granddaughter is, after all, 5.

Dutch schools reopened to all pupils on 11 May. (That country’s proportional rate and and its timing of Covid-19 infection and its Covid-19 virus rate of death per size of population are not much different from those in the UK.)

Linda van Druijten leads De Boomhut and OBS De Klaproos, a primary school and special educational needs school in Arnhem. She explains:

Schools have been “open” here in the Netherlands since 11 May. We are allowed half groups – our classes have between 28 and 32 pupils, so on a given day we can have groups of 15 children in each class.

Unlike in the UK, the Dutch government told us that the children do not have to socially distance from each other, as we can see the rates of infections for under-12s are so low – there is such a small risk in them being in contact with each other.

So the children can play and touch each other; they can have normal friendships. We have a Group A and a Group B – half our pupils are in school and the other half continue remote learning, and they rotate across the week, one day on, one day off.

But the children do have to be 1.5 metres from the adults when in school, and the adults have to be 1.5 metres from each other. This is not always easy.

Those over 7 years old understand it all, and are pretty good at it. And we have very little reason to break that distance. But with the younger children? It’s not always possible.

At the beginning, my teachers said to me, if a child fell down and cuts [his or her] knee, we would have to call an ambulance so people in proper protective equipment could assist that child. But we thought about it very long and hard, and we agreed we would pick up the child, and break the social distance.

And if a child cries, you can’t explain why you cannot comfort them – we decided we would comfort that child.

The risks in both instances are so very low that we felt as a staff group that this was something we were willing to do.

It was the same with masks. At first, many staff members wanted to wear masks. But we discussed it over three or four weeks and we decided that we actually didn’t want to do that. If we wear masks, the children cannot see our expressions and none of us wanted to teach like that.

For all these things, we have a word for it in Dutch that means “safe but not safe”. Yes, the precautions are advisable, but they do not really keep us fully safe.

We have had no substantial absence problems. Less than 1 per cent of the children did not come in, so almost all our parents brought their children back into school.

We did have some teachers who were anxious. They were worried about their vulnerable relatives, for example. For some of our anxious staff who had vulnerable family members, we reduced their pupil groups – we explained to parents that this was better than no teacher at all. We did this in our special education school.

As for the life of the school, learning is happening and the children are adapting. We started with very thorough routines. Handwashing, disinfectant, constant cleaning of door handles and toilets. After the first week, though, we relaxed. It is important that we are aware, but not to get too paralysed by the anxiety. We take it seriously, we remain watchful of symptoms, but we get on with our job; we are teachers and we want to teach!

The Dutch government has now said that all children will be able to come back on 8 June. There is some anxiety again about this, but we will get through that the way we did before, by talking it through and agreeing on how to manage it as a staff.

What is clear is that all the teachers are happy to be back. They say that they don’t feel like teachers unless they are in the classroom with their pupils. That we can now do that is the most important thing – like the bubbles, it helps us to focus and gets our mind away from the fact that things are still not quite normal.”

Analysis Covid and Corona

Essays on a Pandemic

It’s fascinating to see thinking from all over the world and how the pandemic is affecting our moral and physical status.

Here’s an essay by an Egyptian who stood alongside his country’s president as he launched a war in 1973. Gohar was then a young cameraman and went on to become the main television conduit through which the world saw the dramatic changes in Egypt by Anwar Sadat from 1977 to 1981, when the Egyptian president was assassinated.

He’s been living with a Latin American tribe for the last few years… so has changed many of his life patterns.

Mohamed Gohar very rarely writes, but this these are his reflections now.

Dear Virus,
With my camera in hand, I’ve covered the most viciously destructive fourteen wars, yet I haven’t seen anything in them that compares to the fighting I see now in the world. Our enemy hides death in layers of its kisses. It conceals itself like a snake in the grass, rattling and startling history to stop in its path.

Everyone is targeted. After people become separated and isolated, the enemy showers them with drops of pain and loss of the ones we love. The aggression of the storm is destroying the years of culture we have harvested. Sports, arts, social gatherings and more are no longer.

In its first battle, the enemy conquered globalization and opened the door to death, assassinating elements of the lifestyle that we had chosen. 

Dear virus, I come bearing news. A single heartbeat radiating from a loving human can easily destroy and kill you, on the condition that this heart carries an overwhelming desire to win, and refuses to lose hope.

Every battle must come to an end, but for now we must put in place the plans that will implement peace in the future. The first of these plans is Faith. A loving heart has to know that victory is not a choice, it is essential, and the one to bring the victory must be you, must be us.

Soldiers in white, the scientists leading us, are the ones to have faith in, and not the words of somebody else, not even governments that isolated themselves with extreme uses of authority, while disregarding community in their scramble. 

The enemy is active in the polluted air, which we created ourselves. The first steps of our march towards healing must be taken to clean the air around us. Look at yourself. Look at how you withdraw from your own land, leaving it clear for the enemy’s overtaking.

Look how the whole planet is suffering over our consumer needs. The virus is not new; it has existed for thousands of years. What has changed is its ability to overpower us. By us not respecting the ecological and natural forces of the world, we create an instability that grows the strength of the virus and its ability to kill us. Look and see how to improve the pollution in the air around you. Imagine an environment where you substitute your car for a walk or a bike ride.

Picture how much more greenery we’d surround ourselves with if each one of us planted a tree, or even a flower in the window. When I was younger, we’d sew together bags to bring to the market, that we entrust to carryout our daily chores with. Why not bring back these sorts of practices, and leave plastic bags in the past?

No act of cleansing resistance is too small. We must stop instilling values that favor expanding our hyper consumerist-focused economy at the expense of our individual and planet’s wellbeing, asking us to sacrifice personal happiness for capital gain. 

The enemy forces us into isolation. A few days ago, a friend of mine wrote to me that the most painful experience of her life was when her grandchildren were stopped from hugging her. Some of us are called out to and told to not approach our loved ones, especially when they get sick.

They even ask some not to bury them after they die, in fear of getting too close to a body they believe to be contagious. In the battlefield, when a soldier falls down, his colleagues accept nothing but to carry his body, no matter how high the flames, or how much shellings pierce the air around them. Though temporarily social distancing is beneficial, the separation of the human spirit is not the answer. Why do we continue instilling concepts such as race as a force that divides us?

This one is rich, and that one is poor, this one is young and that one is elderly, here is a Muslim and there is a Jew. He eats what we don’t eat, and we do what he doesn’t do.

We keep living a false social life, judging one another instead of caring for each other. Meanwhile, the enemy aligns us all on the same line, not differentiating on whom it will target next time. The enemy keeps the distance between death and us all the same, assuming that we always fear death, regardless of the social categories defining us.

How much can we fear death before we no longer carry the real power in our souls? This immortal power is carried in a temporary vessel, the body, a structure collapsing from the moment of its birth that can cry high just from a mosquito bite.

How much fear is required until it takes from humans all their will and capabilities, locking them between four walls, leaving them with nothing? The enemy paved the road for death so that when death begins to walk, there is no one in its way.

But let me remind you, that faith is stronger than death. Accepting death is much more honorable than releasing your faith and giving yourself to the evils caused by the sickness. Victory relies on our capacity to train ourselves and know how to properly use our weapons.

This time, our weapons are hope and patience, which we must reassemble. Everybody is in a hurry to return to their old way of life, everyone wonders when we will return to how it was before. But we must admit that we cannot return to what was before, as it is what led us to where we are now. Would it not be a better idea to make the compromises we need that will create a better future for us?

There are too many other weapons we misuse, which if used correctly, would be able to force the enemy to withdraw. Weapons such as unity, friendship, community, knowledge, music and love to the people widespread, regardless of socially instilled divisions.

Some voices we’ve been hearing today have not been telling us the truth, and have stopped us from enjoying the sunrays. It is up to us to stand up and say ‘Thank you, but I don’t want to go backwards to how it was before’. It is undeniable that each and every one of us is part of nature, and therefore part of its ecosystem. When given the opportunity to sit down under the nurturing shade of a tree on a clear day, you realize it is much better than owning and running the whole farm.

In this, we must realize that the greed rooting itself in extreme consumerism needs to be expelled, and we must focus on what we need instead of what we want. Ecosystems would flourish if each of us took the time to realign our consumer needs so that it does not disrupt nature, which would also take down our entire system with her if she collapses seeing as we rely on her resources. The tragedy here is that to find our enemy, we must look in a mirror.

The disease manifests itself in our consumerist nature, making our insatiable wanting the root of destruction. The tunnel is long, and when we reach the end, our goal is to celebrate life and find love. Love yourself and love the beauty you see around you, the beauty of our planet, which breathes and lets us breathe with her.

The challenge before us is huge. We have to discover new capabilities, agree to disagree, and choose our path wisely so that we may break our enemy’s narcissism and conquer him.