Reasons to be cheerful during the coronavirus outbreak

There have been many examples of humans behaving badly recently – who would have predicted the panic buying phenomenon? Fortunately, there has also been an outpouring of creativity and genuinely heart-warming offers of help and support from all over the world.

In the UK, we’ve now been staying safe, protecting the NHS and saving lives for almost two weeks. According to a new study, by following social distancing measures, we have prevented 59,000 deaths in Europe. At the same time, the situation is improving in China: this week new coronavirus cases have dropped, and Wuhan had no new cases for six days.

It might be time to take in the view from the sunny side of the street…

Clever people are solving big problems

  • Italian engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli responded to a doctor’s idea of converting snorkelling equipment into essential breathing equipment. They designed a valve which connects a snorkelling mask to a breathing machine. The result is a “ventilation-assisted mask for hospitals in need of additional equipment”. Isinnova, the engineers’ 3D printing company, has applied for a patent for the design of the new component, but that it will be free and available to anyone who needs it.
  • A consortium of British companies is working together on the design and manufacture of ventilators and new breathing equipment. Christian Horner, Formula 1’s Red Bull team principal says they are involved in three work streams, and their chief technical officer, Pat Symonds is coordinating it. Engineers and manufacturing teams have jumped at the chance to get involved, despite having to work through the night in the rush to provide engineering solutions.
  • The Home Office has extended the visas of almost 3,000 migrant doctors, nurses and paramedics so that they and their families can stay in the UK for an extra year. Better still, it won’t cost these frontline workers a penny to renew their right to work papers and carry on their work for the NHS.

There’s a new emphasis on mental health

  • Experts have been quick to respond to the need for mental health advice under these circumstances. YoungMinds has great resources, for young people, and their parents, and universally useful. In particular, YoungMinds suggests giving your social media habits a spring clean to focus on positivity. Another idea is to limit your news and current affairs consumption in order to manage anxiety levels.
  • A former nuclear submarine captain echoes the need to take news-free downtime as he shares five crucial tips for coping with self-isolation. As someone who once spent 286 days underwater – with no view of the sky and managing a crew of 130 in a steel tube – he knows what he’s talking about.
  • In the US, the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo announced that 6,000 therapists and other mental health professionals were providing a new programme of support during the pandemic. Here in the UK, organisations such as The Samaritans, Cruse Bereavement Care and CALM are highly experienced at offering socially distant support to people having a difficult time.
  • The BBC has launched a virtual community noticeboard, Make a difference, which focuses on uplifting listening. Fully interactive, it can be accessed at any time of day, and serves a nationwide audience.

Creativity is thriving in isolation

  • Who would have thought a mountaineer could work from home? It might be hard to believe, but Peter Watson is giving it a try. He is planning to climb the highest mountains in the world – via his staircase. He thinks it will take 44,240 steps to replicate Everest’s 8,848m ascent.
  • Elton John invited us all into his living room when he hosted a ‘Mega Celbrity Quarantine Concert’. Billie Eilish, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey and others took part, and the concert was streamed on live TV in the US. It’s still available on YouTube.
  • David Hockney is celebrating the arrival of spring with new art. And the colours will cheer up any grey, drizzly March day. He shared the pictures, created on his iPad in socially distant Normandy, with the BBC’s Will Gompertz.
  • Worried about the state of your hair? Take the advice of GQ style and grooming director, Teo van den Broeke: “There’s no one to judge you at home, so why not remove one extra stressor – namely your hair?” Speaking to the Guardian earlier this week, he said this is a perfect opportunity to try something new and low maintenance – which is why buzz cuts are having a bit of a moment. There’s no shortage of evidence from actors to footballers and others. And some have certainly done a better job than others!

“Green shoots” are emerging

  • Today, according to the figures collated by Johns Hopkins University, 202,342 people across the globe have beaten the virus.
  • The BBC 1xtra DJ Ace is one of those people to have recovered from COVID-19. This is particularly noteworthy as the presenter is considered high risk – he’s a dialysis patient waiting for a kidney transplant.
  • Hong Kong microbiologists believe that hamsters may hold the key to reducing the viral load in coronavirus patients. They have given blood serum from hamsters who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection to non-infected hamsters. Results show that virus is up to 10 times weaker in the second set of hamsters, and that this could be replicated in humans.