How world leaders are living through COVID-19

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Emmanuel Macron arrives at the site of a field hospital set up, to treat coronanvirus patients, by the French army in the parking lot of an existing hospital in Mulhouse. (AFP screengrab)
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Angela Merkel doing her shopping, including four bottles of wine and a pack of toilet paper, during the coronavirus crisis. (Twitter photo)
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Updated 03 April 2020

How world leaders are living through COVID-19

  • Macron regularly goes out to meet care workers, researchers and workers without wearing a mask, except in hospitals
  • Russian President Putin is working remotely from his country residence at Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow

PARIS: World leaders in voluntary or enforced isolation have, like billions of people around the globe, been forced to change their lifestyles during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is a snapshot:
The German chancellor on Friday emerged from 14-days quarantine in her Berlin home and returned to her offices where she will continue to run the country via video and audio conference.
She had gone into isolation after meeting a doctor who was infected, but was negative in a series of tests.
During the crisis she has been photographed in a supermarket, pushing a trolley containing four bottles of wine and a pack of toilet paper, something she had criticized some Germans for massively stockpiling.
British Prime Minister Johnson has been confined to Downing Street since testing positive on March 27, after suffering mild symptoms.
He said on Friday he would continue his self-isolation as “alas, I still have one of the minor symptoms... a temperature.” His partner, Carrie Symonds, who is pregnant, has not been living with him during his isolation.
He has led a cabinet meeting by videoconference and has put self-filmed videos of himself on Twitter, seeking to “reassure” the nation that he is in “constant touch” with his ministers and the health authorities in the fight against the coronavirus.
The Canadian Prime Minister has led his country from isolation in his official Rideau Cottage residence in Ottawa, since his wife Sophie Gregoire was diagnosed positive on March 12.
Every morning he goes onto the lawn to give a news conference, at which he announces the new measures adopted that day and gives news of his family. He has stressed that he has no symptoms and has canceled all travel.
Officially cured on March 28, his wife has since taken their three children to the prime minister’s summer residence.
The US president, who has tested negative twice, has canceled several campaign meetings across the country as he seeks re-election in November. Except for a flying visit to a Virginia naval base, he has remained in Washington, mainly at the White House.
He hold a daily press conference, followed live by millions of television viewers. He also tweets and gives frequent interviews on Fox News.
Russian President Putin is working remotely from his country residence at Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow. He is being tested regularly for the virus as are the people in his entourage and is fine so far, the Kremlin said.
Concerns over his health emerged after he was shown on television shaking hands, without protective clothing, with the chief doctor of Moscow’s main hospital, who then tested positive.
On Wednesday, Putin was shown on television having his first video conference with the prime minister and the cabinet.
Macron has not been tested, according to his entourage, because he has no symptoms. Nine-tenths of workers at his Elysee palace have been sent home and the press has reported that some people in his entourage have tested positive.
While France is in confinement, he regularly goes out to meet care workers, researchers and workers without wearing a mask, except in hospital, in line with an official French position that masks are only useful for the infected and care workers.
He greets people in an Indian way, with his hands joined. The official photographer has tweeted a photo of him washing his hands.
The Japanese prime minister has been very visible during the crisis addressing parliament several times a day and giving televised press conferences most weekends.
Since the crisis began in the country hit the hardest, Italy’s Prime Minister Conte has been a frequent presence on television, cutting into evening programming to announce new security measures from Palazzo Chigi, his official residence.
Conte has been photographed working at his desk, participating in meetings over videoconference and taking calls.
Conte told La Repubblica daily in March that he had tested negative for the coronavirus, saying his doctors “follow me closely.
The Chinese leader kept a low profile at the beginning of the epidemic which first broke out in China in December, appearing only in mid-February wearing, like the vast majority of Chinese, a mask as COVID-19 raged.
Also the number one of the Chinese Communist Party, he has mainly remained in Beijing during the epidemic, except for a visit to the epicenter Wuhan in central China as the situation started to improve there. He only leaves the capital to encourage the resumption of economic activity.
Reports about him are shown every evening on the television news showing him with or without a mask: uncovered when he addresses a giant videoconference with hundreds of provincial officials or with leaders of the G20, but covered during this week’s visit to provincial factories and farms.
He continues to preside meetings, to publish articles in the official press and give major speeches, cementing his role as the head of the fight against the new coronavirus.
It is not known if he has been tested.


When coronavirus robs you of your sense of smell

Updated 06 July 2020

When coronavirus robs you of your sense of smell

  • “Anosmia cuts you off from the smells of life, it’s a torture.” — Jean-Michel Maillard, president of anosmie.org

PARIS: “What I miss most is the smell of my son when I kiss him, the smell of my wife’s body,” says Jean-Michel Maillard.
Anosmia — the loss of one’s sense of smell — may be an invisible handicap, but is psychologically difficult to live with and has no real treatment, he says.
And it is the price that an increasing number of people are paying after surviving a brush with the coronavirus, with some facing a seemingly long-term inability to smell.
“Anosmia cuts you off from the smells of life, it’s a torture,” says Maillard, president of anosmie.org, a French group designed to help sufferers.
If you have the condition you can no longer breathe in the smell of your first morning coffee, smell the cut grass of a freshly mown lawn or even “the reassuring smell of soap on your skin when you’re preparing for a meeting,” he says.
You only truly become aware of your sense of smell when you lose it, says Maillard, who lost his own following an accident.
And it is not just the olfactory pleasures you lose. He points out that people with anosmia are unable to smell smoke from a fire, gas from a leak, or a poorly washed dustbin.
Eating is a completely different experience too, as so much of what we appreciate in food is what we can smell, says Alain Corre, an ear, nose and throat specialist at the Hopital-Fondation Rothschild in Paris.

“There are dozens of causes of anosmia,” he says, including nasal polyps, chronic rhinitis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Now the new coronavirus has been added to that list, says Corre — with the symptom alone allowing a diagnosis of COVID-19 in some cases.
“When people lose their sense of smell and don’t get it back, we note a real change in the quality of life and a level of depression that is not insignificant,” he adds.
The problem is when the condition persists, he says.
“To be deprived of your sense of smell for a month, it’s not serious,” says Maillard. “Two months, it starts to become a problem. But after six months, you’re all alone under a bell jar.
“There’s a psychological aspect to this which is very difficult to live with,” he insists. “You need to get help.”

CovidORL study
There is no specific treatment for the condition.
You have to address the cause, says Corre, but “the problem of the anosmias linked to the virus is that often, the treatment of the viral infection has no effect on your smell.
“According to the first numbers, around 80 percent of patients suffering from COVID-19 recover spontaneously in less than a month and often even faster, in eight to 10 days.”
For others, however, it could be that the disease has destroyed their olfactory neurons — the ones that detect smells. The good news is that these neurons, at the back of the nose, are able to regenerate.
Two Paris hospitals, Rothschild and Lariboisiere, have launched a “CovidORL” study to investigate the phenomenon, testing how well different nose washes can cure anosmia.
One cortisone-based treatment has proved effective in treating post-cold instances of anosmia and offers some hope, says Corre.
Another way to approach the condition is through olfactory re-education, to try to stimulate the associations that specific smells have in your memory, he says.
His advice is to choose five smells in your kitchen that are special to you, that you really like: cinnamon say, or thyme. Breathe them in twice a day for five to 10 minutes while looking at what it is you are inhaling.
Anosmie.org has even put together a re-education program using essential oils, working with Hirac Gurden, director of neuroscience research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). It is based on the work of Dresden-based researcher Thomas Hummel.
“As early as March, we got several hundred phone calls, emails from people who had COVID and who were calling for help because they couldn’t smell anything any more,” says Gurden.
Maillard meanwhile finished his re-education program last winter, using four smells.
“Today, I have 10 of them,” he says, including fish, cigarettes and rose essential oil. “I’ve even found a perfume that I can smell!” he declares.