With the virus now having spread outside China, this is an illness that can now be described as a global concern. To date almost 200 have now died and there doesn't seem to be any signs of the illness abating, at least while the cold and 'flu season is with us.
But what is this killer virus, what does it do and how can you try to avoid it?
What is Coronavirus?
This latest strain is actually part of a much larger family of viruses that also includes the common cold and SARS.
It can be transmitted between people and animals, meaning of course that it is highly contagious as evidenced by its spread across the world.
Much like the other members of its family the coronavirus may start with cold-like symptoms of a fever, aching, a headache and so on. As the illness becomes more severe, it can attack the lungs and cause coughing that can become worse as the illness progresses. Naturally, those at either end of the age spectrum and anyone who already suffers with respiratory problems, including smokers, may be most at risk from complications.
Like the common cold this strain of the virus cannot be cured. Individual symptoms can be managed and more severe symptoms, such as pneumonia, treated with antibiotics. As with flu, prevention is the best of defence.
Wash your hands regularly, use hand sanitiser and yes, wear a surgical mask (as opposed to an an environmental pollution mask) to help stop the spread but make sure it fits correctly and discard carefully after use. Be careful what you touch in busy places like airports and don't touch your face after you've touched surfaces.
If you have recently travelled to or from mainland China and feel like you might be getting ill, try and avoid going into a surgery or A&E instead call your surgery for advice.
Fires continue to rip through Western Australian, as firefighters struggle to contain them. In New South Wales more than 100,000 hectares of bush had been destroyed by fire, taking with it six homes.
With the onset of storms due over the next few weeks, firefighters fear that the problems will escalated with unpredictable lightning strikes due to hit the region.
All residents in the areas have been evacuated and fear losing their homes. But despite this, several lives have so far been lost and many homes have been lost.
In the midst of the horror there have been many tales of communities coming together, helping those in need and providing shelter, clothes and food for those who have lost everything.
No End in Sight
In unprecedented times, fire chiefs have warned that fire season is likely to extend well into the summer as rains are not expected until January or February at the earliest.
Firefighters tackling fire
Third Culture or No Culture?
“When I went to uni in the country on my passport I looked and sounded like I belonged there, but I had zero shared reference points. We hadn’t grown up listening to the same music, watching the same cartoons or seeing the same movies.”
One of the biggest fears for parents who live a nomadic lifestyle is the damage they fear causing their children as they hop from country to country. The challenges of leaving new found friends aside, we worry about the long-term effects we’ll have on our sons and daughters whose passports bear witness to a life spent travelling around the world and back again when so many “normal” children barely leave their countries of birth.
Our babysitter Jessica, back in Singapore for the holidays, had just started her first year of university near where she had lived as a baby in south west America. Far from being thrown by the differences between her and the friends she had made, in typical Jess fashion she had turned these differences to her advantage. Confident and intelligent she was the girl to go for travel advice, who could guarantee a great holiday in exotic South East Asia and who spoke a handful of languages with practised ease.
Same But Not Same, Same
Third culture kids (TCK) as they’re known are not all the same of course. The third culture reference points to the fact that they are not resident in their own passport country, nor of their parents (if different) but instead live in a third culture. Famous TCKs include Barack Obama (who indeed appointed many other TCKs to positions of authority in his party), Uma Thurman, Kobe Bryant and Freddie Mercury.
But while not all the same, they do tend to share similar personality traits, good and bad, according to Dr Ruth Hill Useem, who first coined the TCK term.
Children raised across cultures gain an exceptionally complex understanding of the world very quickly. They learn the skills necessary to make friends and fit in. They aren’t phased by the unfamiliar or if they are, they quickly learn to adapt to it. They have experiences that other children, living in their birth countries, don’t have such as the chance to learn country-specific sports and a new language.
Later on in life they develop good negotiation skills and are naturally capable of building bridges and relationships. They are far more likely to go into jobs in the public or charitable sector and leave education with a bachelor’s degree at the very least. In short, they become full global citizens in every sense of the expression.
But of course, this is not the end of the story and there plenty of challenges to go alongside this. Tina L. Quick in her research on international parenting points to several key areas for potential problems.
She highlights the lack of control TCKs can feel over their own destiny and identity. This may not manifest itself until later, when older children can express their emotions with greater sophistication, but an angry pre-schooler is no small thing.
“For most TCKs the collection of significant losses and separations before the end of adolescence is often more than most people experience in a lifetime” – Pollock and Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing up Among Worlds, 2009.
Many parents hate seeing their children so unhappy and carry a sense of shame and guilt when it’s time to say goodbye, pack up and move on. Quick points out that this unhappiness, rather than being covered over with promises of new toys, great experiences and so on, should instead be recognised and sat with.
Encouraging children to express their grief, helps them deal with it better and makes them better prepared to move on knowing they’ve been heard, understood and of course, comforted. Failing to do so leaves an angry teen and an adult with a sense of disconnection and loss.
And what of the TCK when they become a TC adult? Well the likes of Obama and Thurman haven’t done too badly but fame and fortune aside the life of a TCK, like any child, is full of ups and downs. I’m biased but for me and my children, what they’ve learnt, what we’ve all learnt as a family, has been invaluable. The skills of making new friends, of letting go of things and valuing people so much more are lessons I treasure. The pure joy of old friends and the excitement of the new, are experiences that I, that we, wouldn’t trade for the world.
“It is my conviction that being a TCK is not a disease, something from which to recover. It is a life healthily enriched by this very TCK experience and blessed with significant opportunities for further enrichment.” Dave Pollock from Third Culture Kids: The Experience of Growing up Among Worlds.
After months of unrest in Hong Kong, the PLA (People’s Liberation Army) have now deployed to try and clear roadblocks left on the streets by protesters campaigning for democracy.
The PLA claimed that they had taken the initiative to get involved on their own volition and had not been sent by the Government.
When hundreds of pro-democracy protesters took to the streets since June, life in Hong Kong for expats and those not involved in the demonstrations, quickly became limited and, at times, worrying.
There have been reports of hundreds of injuries sustained by protesters and those accidentally caught up in the movement but those who stay confined to their homes remain safe. The violence has ramped up considerably with clashes between police and pro-democracy campaigners escalating considerably over the last few weeks.
Expat communities have worked together to stay in the loop but the situation is unpredictable and there is currently no clues as to when the protests will end. Anyone thinking of visiting the city is advised to check with the Foreign Office or those on the ground before travelling.
Hong Kong street scene,