These Celebs Will Perform a Coronavirus Relief Concert From Their Living Rooms

The World Health Organization and international community Global Citizen have teamed up to host an international coronavirus relief concert, which will raise funds for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. The star-studded event will take place on April 18, and is set to be streamed live across multiple TV stations and online platforms.

“We may have to be apart physically for a little while, but we can still come together virtually to enjoy great music,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the W.H.O. “The One World: Together at Home concert represents a powerful show of solidarity against a common threat.”

Pop star Lady Gaga has been tasked with curating the lineup, and has reached out to a range of musicians, athletes and actors who will make appearances throughout the event. Late night TV hosts Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert will host the concert, which will include performances by Billie Eilish, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Lizzo, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay frontman Chris Martin, Alanis Morissette, John Legend, Maluma, Kacey Musgraves, and Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong.

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Each of these celebs will be performing remotely, of course, Skyping in to do their sets while staying home and maintaining responsible social distancing. It’s a continuation of a trend which has seen a growing number of performers take to Instagram Live to entertain fans with “intimate” sessions filmed in their kitchens, living rooms and home studios.

While previous celeb-led efforts to boost morale during the pandemic have fallen a little flat in terms of actual impact (we’re looking at you, Gal Gadot), the One World: Together at Home event has already raised a huge amount of money. Over the last week, Gaga has raised more than $35 million from private companies all over the world in partnership with Global Citizen, while tech giant Apple has agreed to donate $10 million to the fund (in addition to streaming the concert on its TV service).

The live concert and huge fundraising efforts have drawn comparisons to Live Aid, the 1985 concert headlined by Queen. However, it is not a telethon: while businesses and philanthropists have been invited to donate, Gaga stated that when it comes to fans, she just wants them to enjoy the show.

One World: Together at Home will stream live from 8pm ET on ABC, Bell Media, NBC, ViacomCBS Networks and iHeartMedia, as well as online platforms Apple, Amazon Prime, Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, Twitter, and YouTube.

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A comprehensive guide to avoiding the grocery store and pharmacy

The coronavirus pandemic is beginning to impact our grocery shopping habits.

At Saturday’s White House briefing, the coronavirus task force warned against even going out to buy groceries or medication, as the pandemic is expected to hit its apex in the next two weeks.

“This is the moment not to be going to the grocery store, not going to the pharmacy, but doing everything you can to keep your family and your friends safe,” said response coordinator Deborah Birx.

While most pharmacies in New York City are able to deliver items such as prescriptions, getting a delivery of food is no small feat. Many grocery delivery services such as Fresh Direct, Peapod and Instacart are so over-subscribed at the moment, many people are having a hard time booking a slot.

As a result, the solution appears to be to adopt best practices when you visit the grocery store as a way of keeping yourself and others healthy.

“The problem is that people have to eat,” Manhattan epidemiologist Dr. Jiyoung Ahn tells The Post. “I agree with the White House directive to avoid going out shopping as much as you can, but in many cases, it is unavoidable.”

Here’s what Ahn and other experts say to do in order to grocery shop safely, and as infrequently as possible.

Few and far between

People should plan their once-every-10-days (or more) visit to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Gristedes or wherever with military precision, says Ahn, who is also the associate director of population science at the NYU Perlmutter Cancer Center.

Families should plan meals for their weeks so they can create a comprehensive shopping list of ingredients, and not have to visit the stores for last minute ingredients. At the store, they should practice social distancing, stick to the list of items they have drawn up and choose hours in the early morning or later at night, when the stores are less crowded.

This also may be a good time to start using all those beans and canned food you stocked up on.

Dress appropriately

People should also follow the CDC’s updated advice to wear masks and latex gloves and, according to Ahn, wash every item they buy in soapy water and then rinse them off with cold water the moment they arrive home.

“You also must be extremely cautious when you take off your gloves and remove them with one flip of the palm and wrist,” she says. “You need to copy the way you see surgeons do this on the TV.”

Cart carefully

Meanwhile, food scientist Kimberly Baker, food systems and safety program director at Clemson University in South Carolina, explains that wiping down your cart with sanitizing wipes — or paper towels soaked in hand-sanitizer — goes a long way in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“A lot of stores have run out of their own supplies of wipes, so bring your own,” says Baker.

Prep safely

One of Baker’s biggest concerns is people not properly handling the abnormally large amount of groceries they are buying — particularly meat. She warns that foodborne illnesses such as salmonella could land consumers in the hospital. “That’s a place you really want to avoid at the moment,” she adds.

The answer is to freeze as much food as possible that you are not going to eat over the following days, and then defrost items correctly in the refrigerator, not on the kitchen counter.

“If you don’t do it in the fridge, then the next best thing is to run the items under cold, running water,” she says. “You can defrost it in the microwave, but then you get those uneven hot spots, so you need to double-check it has been defrosted all the way through.”

Dr. Ahn is more of a fan of the microwave, insisting that it can be a lifesaver if you heat foods to between 140 and 150 degrees Fahrenheit, as that will kill COVID-19.

Order in

If you are ordering in, Ahn says to never eat the takeout out of the packaging it came in. “Instead, place the food on a plate or into a bowl and get rid of the boxes or containers,” she says.

Farm-fresh options

Both experts recommended people shop at open-air farmers’ markets or use Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs), as long as they practice caution with social distancing.

Baker even went so far as to suggest that would-be green thumbs start planting their own provisions.

“Buy the seedlings now for things like peas, cucumbers and squash and you will reap the benefits in a couple of months,” she adds. “If you’re in a New York City apartment, consider growing your own herb garden in a pot or window box.”

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Great B2G1 Free Blu-Ray Sale At Amazon: Star Wars, Studio Ghibli, And More

You can count on Amazon to match any and all of Target’s buy two, get one free sales. Last week, Amazon followed in Target’s footsteps with its games-focused sale, and this week Amazon is joining Target with a more broad B2G1 free sale on movies, books, electronics, and more. The Blu-ray deals in particular are worth looking into, especially considering we’re all spending more time at home than usual.

Several of last year’s best movies are featured in Amazon’s B2G1 free sale. Rian Johnson’s phenomenal whodunit Knives Out is discounted to $19.96, and DC’s thought-provoking Joker, one of GameSpot’s favorite movies of 2019, is down to $15. If you’re looking for wholesome content that will make you smile, the Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is $15. For something completely different, check out the rigorously-paced Uncut Gems starring Adam Sandler.

Every mainline Star Wars movie and the pair of recent spin-offs–Rogue One and Solo–are in Amazon’s B2G1 free sale, and most of them are 4K UHD Blu-ray editions.

Anime fans can pick up the Avatar & Legend of Korra Complete Series Collection on Blu-ray for $58.14. DVDs for both of the complete series are also eligible for B2G1 free (Avatar: $25, Legend of Korra: $20). A bunch of Studio Ghibli films, including the classics Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke, are up for grabs, too.

Amazon doesn’t list end dates on most of its sales, but you can expect its latest B2G1 free sale to wrap up on April 12 when Target’s ends. You can check out the full sale at Amazon and take a peek at our picks below.

Amazon B2G1 free Blu-ray sale best deals

  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — $15 ($19.96)
  • Avatar – The Last Airbender: The Complete Series (DVD) — $25
  • Avatar & Legend of Korra Complete Series Collection — $58.14 ($100)
  • Avengers: Endgame — $19.39
  • Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection — $47 ($100)
  • Joker — $15 ($36)
  • Knives Out — $19.96 ($40)
  • The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series (DVD) — $20
  • Princess Mononoke Collector’s Edition — $35
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $30 ($40)
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $27.50 ($40)
  • Spirited Away — $15
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $29.96 ($40)
  • Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $28.50 ($40)
  • Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $28.50 ($40)
  • Star Wars: A New Hope (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $30 ($40)
  • Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (DVD) — $18 ($30)
  • Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $30 ($40)
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens (4K UHD Blu-ray) — $30 ($40)
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi (DVD) — $20 ($30)
  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (DVD) — $19.96 ($30)
  • Uncut Gems — $19.96

Best Deals This Week

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  • Amazon Just Launched A Big Sale On PS4, Switch, And Xbox One Games
  • PS Plus Drops To $40 In Limited-Time PS4 Deal
  • Where To Buy A Nintendo Switch Right Now
  • Fantastic Sale On Steam Games Includes Pre-Order Discounts On Resident Evil 3, Trials Of Mana

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What To Do If You’re Anxious About Sex, According To A Psychologist & A Sex Educator

In this week’s Sex IDK column, Emma McGowan, certified sex educator and writer, answers your questions about how to deal with sex and anxiety.

Q: I’d love to be able to talk to someone about sex and anxiety. For me they are very related and I’ve never felt comfortable talking about it because I feel like the only person who doesn’t "love" sex.

Sex is an intimate, messy, emotional, physical, intense act. In fact, I’d venture a guess that most people have had anxiety about sex at some point. But if you’re having anxiety all the time, then that’s an opportunity for some growth and exploration.

"Many of us do whatever is possible in daily life to shield ourselves from being vulnerable, so it is no wonder that sex and anxiety often go hand in hand," Jennifer Mann, a psychotherapist in New York with Alma, a community for mental health professionals. "Sex involves taking layers off physically and emotionally and engaging in a different kind of connection. Not to mention there is an unavoidable internal and external pressure of performance involved."

One reason someone might feel anxious about sex is because they don’t have much experience; they’re concerned about what will happen, how to do it, and how to do it “right.” If inexperience is what’s keeping you back, remember that we’ve all been there. Everyone who is currently sexually active was once not sexually active. Everyone you interact with sexually has some memory of feeling anxious or inexperienced about sex. Everyone!

With that in mind, it’s worth it to own — and own up to — your anxiety. Sometimes naming it loud is the best way to get over it. For example, if you’re getting intimate with someone you can say something like, “Oh man, I really like you so much but I get a little anxious about sex!” that can lead to a conversation about how you’re feeling and, hopefully, to some of that anxiety easing.

If the thought of saying that out loud makes you worry about the person’s reaction, consider that moment to be a gift. The way they react tells you everything you need to know about them. If they’re compassionate and listen to you and care about your feelings, score! And if they laugh or get defensive or give you some other negative response, then that’s a good sign that they’re not the right person for you.

"Talking with a trusted partner may help to get your anxieties out of your head and into the room," Mann says. "Connecting more deeply with your partner can help you feel safe when anxiety peaks. Open communication, moving slowly both physically, opening up emotionally, and deep breaths can help you ground yourself to let your anxiety move through you."

You also mention that you feel like “the only person who doesn’t ‘love’ sex.” That’s a common experience for people who end up identifying as asexual. According to the Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN), an asexual person doesn’t experience sexual attraction, although they might be interested in romantic relationships. (People who are interested in neither are asexual and aromantic.) Around 1% of people identify as asexual in some way.

If any of that resonates with you, you might want to do a little exploring about asexuality. But if that’s not the case — if you definitely feel sexual attraction, but get too anxious to really enjoy sex — then consider finding a sex positive therapist or even a sex therapist, if you don’t have one already. (The American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists is a great resource, as is Psychology Today.) Talking through this with a mental health professional can help you get over your anxiety about sex and anything else that’s bothering you.

Read more from Bustle’s ‘Sex IDK’ column:

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A Source Says Prince Harry "Misses His Family" After Move Away from England

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are officially living in Los Angeles after stepping down as senior working royals—which, yeah, means they’re no longer chilling out with Prince Harry’s fam over in England. And while Harry and Meghan seem content about their major decision to leave royal life, apparently Harry misses his family a lot.

A source tells Entertainment Tonight that Harry has been “staying in touch with his father and loves his grandmother,” and that the Prince “misses his family.”

Sooooo, what about Harry and William? According to a source that spoke to Us Weekly a few days back, “They speak, but it’s awkward,” and William is slightly upset that Harry didn’t fly back to London to support the royal family during the coronavirus crisis (reminder: Prince Charles recently recovered from being sick, while The Queen is self-isolating). Per a source who spoke with the mag, “[William’s] hurt that Harry isn’t in London to support the family amid the coronavirus outbreak.”

“Like any household right now, there are ups and downs,” another source added. “To his credit, he [Harry] tries to shield Meghan from his stress. So he’ll confide to friends in the UK over the phone.”

The good news is that Meghan reportedly thinks Harry and William will “patch things up eventually,” so at least there’s that!


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Who Wants To Be A Millionaire duped out of £5m by dodgy quiz gang

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire duped out of £5million by dodgy quiz gang: How a consortium secretly provided contestants with the answers and played the system to plant their members on to the ITV show

  • Applicants who paid a fee would be slipped the answers to the questions 
  • Producers believe the gang netted ‘at least’ 10 per cent of the £50m prize money
  • Dedicated quizzers would also be on hand for the ‘Phone A Friend’ lifeline 

The makers of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? last night admitted they were hoodwinked by a syndicate of quiz cheats who netted at least £5 million in prize money.

In a highly organised operation, the consortium secretly provided contestants with answers and played the system to plant their members on to the ITV show.

Applicants who paid a fee, thought to be around £500, would be slipped the answers to the questions that researchers used to pick who would be invited into the studio. And if they made it to the hot seat opposite host Chris Tarrant, the player could call on the syndicate to get help using the ‘Phone A Friend’ lifeline.

Producers believe the gang netted ‘at least’ ten per cent of the £50 million prize money paid out on the show from 2002 to 2007.

In a highly organised operation, the consortium secretly provided contestants with answers and played the system to plant their members on to the ITV show

Paul Smith, the boss of production company Celador, became aware of the scale of the operation as a new drama was being put together about the ‘coughing major’ scandal, in which Charles Ingram cheated his way to the £1 million jackpot.

While James Graham, the writer of Quiz, was working on that storyline, Smith met up with the kingpin of the operation, Paddy Spooner, a former contestant on three versions of the show in the UK, Ireland and Australia, who told him about their scheme

Smith, who devised the Millionaire format, admitted last night: ‘We were naive. We believed people would play the game in the spirit it was intended, but serious quizzers began to realise the massive potential. What they began to do was find ways of penetrating the system to get into the studio by completely, totally ignoring the rules.’

Graham said: ‘Paul became re-intrigued by the story and wanted to find out more about the syndicate. He was shocked to realise that one in every ten pounds he gave away went to this cheating operation. We are revealing this for the first time as Paul only uncovered the truth while we were preparing the series.’

Producers believe the gang netted ‘at least’ ten per cent of the £50 million prize money paid out on the show from 2002 to 2007

The three-part drama, which is to be screened on ITV from Easter Monday, shows Spooner telling Smith: ‘It is not illegal what we do. There were weaknesses. They were vulnerabilities that you left in your own system.’

It also shows how the syndicate worked out that producers used the Office for National Statistics database for the questions they asked would-be contestants over the phone. 

Spooner spent two months studying that information so he could provide paid-up syndicate members with the correct answer on another phone line when they were contacted by the show’s researchers. 

Dedicated quizzers would also be on hand for the ‘Phone A Friend’ lifeline during the recording of the shows. If the expert posing as the friend was sure of the answer, he would signal so by saying: ‘I am 90 per cent certain.’

It is believed that the participants also agreed to share their winnings with the consortium.

The activities of the syndicate are a key plotline in Quiz, which explores how Major Ingram, played by Matthew Macfadyen, and his wife Diana, portrayed by Fleabag’s Sian Clifford, cheated their way to the show’s top prize in 2001.

It later emerged that Ingram had been helped by an accomplice in the audience, Tecwen Whittock, who would cough when a correct answer was read out.

In 2003, all three were found guilty and were given suspended prison sentences.

The drama – which Spooner watched in a previous stage incarnation – shows the meeting between Smith and Spooner happening in a pub at the time of the Ingrams scandal, though it actually took place at the end of last year.

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Tyler Cameron Claps Back at a Fan Who Says He's Not "the Perfect Guy" for Hannah Brown

So you know how just yesterday, Tyler Cameron crashed a Zoom call to give everyone an update on his relationship with Hannah Brown and called her “a good friend”? Well, as per usual, it looks like these two might be more than friends, cause Tyler got pretty defense on Instagram when a fan said that he wasn’t the “perfect guy” for Hannah.

Hannah/Tyler ship account @tahhler captured the interaction, in which a user wrote, “Move on people .. Hannah will choose the perfect guy for her one day it’s not Tyler .. and the crew is boring without her , her and Ryan and Matt were the best 💗💗.” Tyler’s response? “How many cats do you have?” Which, *eye roll*, not only are cats the best, but also, how does that even apply here?

It’s not clear if Tyler was more upset about the person dissing the Quarantine Crew without Hannah or that the commenter didn’t think that he and Hannah were perfect together, but by the single shame-y tone of his reply, I’d guess the latter.

And while we still don’t have a clear answer on what’s going on between Hannah and Tyler (they were apparently sharing a bed in Florida despite his “friend” comment), back in March a source told Us Weekly, “They have a lot of love for each other. They’re great friends and have a lot of fun together. It’s as simple as that…Guys and girls can be friends without it being romantic. Could something happen down the line? Sure.”

So, in conclusion: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


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Make a protective mask at home with just a bandana and two hair bobbles

The US government advised people in the country to wear protective masks every time they leave their home to curb the spread of COVID-19.

People wearing masks in the street have been a regular sight for the last few weeks, as well as websites hiking up prices of the protective gear, or even selling out completely.

As a result, some are taking matters into their own hands making their own masks with items they have around the house.

One particular tutorial currently going viral uses a bandana and two hair ties to create a simple cloth mask you can put on before you head out for your daily essentials.

One tweet from user fakerapper has garnered over 51,000 likes and 15,000 retweets.

  • Fold the bandana horizontally to about the size of four fingers.
  • Place the hair ties over the folded bandana. One should be around either side, at the general width of your face.
  • Fold either side of the bandana over the hairbands and into the middle, tucking one side into the other.
  • Place the ‘mask’ over your face with the hair bobbles over your ears to secure.
  • Adjust to make sure it fits over your full nose and mouth.

There has been some debate over whether these makeshift masks can actually protect you from the coronavirus.

While there are various theories – and for medical staff there will be much more stringent measures in place in terms of what constitutes proper PPE.

For the general public, however, Dr Jen Gunter wrote on Twitter that wearing a cloth maskI ‘likely reduces spread to others.’

She continues: ‘Universal masking is not about protecting yourself, rather reducing the risk of transmission. It catches large droplets and probably smaller ones.

‘The bigger issue is they need to be washed after each wearing, dried appropriately etc. so we really don’t know what we don’t know. There are theoretical pros and theoretical cons. I think the current belief is pros > cons.’

So, if you do decide to get crafty and make your own in lieu of a specifically-designed surgical mask, make sure you wash it on a hot wash and dry it properly before every use (which shouldn’t be for very long – ie while it’s still dry and not moist from your breath).

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Share your views in the comments below.

Coronavirus latest news and updates

  • Visit our live blog for the latest updates: Coronavirus news live
  • Read all new and breaking stories on our Covid-19 news page
  • Coronavirus symptoms explained
  • Find out the latest on which shops can stay open in a lockdown
  • Who needs to go to work, who needs to stay at home and who is classed as a key worker?

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Do I get a council tax reduction because of coronavirus? – The Sun

COUNCIL tax bills will be reduced by £150 each for millions of hard-up Brits thanks to the council tax hardship fund.

On March 24 ministers revealed that working-age people who get council tax support will be able to get an extra helping hand with their bill because of the coronavirus crisis.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

The government expects the fund to support 2.3million vulnerable Brits by slashing their council tax bills.

So how do you know if you're eligible and how do you apply? Below's all you need to know.

What is the council tax hardship fund?

The hardship fund, which is worth £500million, was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Budget earlier this month.

It will provide council tax relief to vulnerable people and households to help those affected most by coronavirus.

Councils will also be able to use the funding to provide extra support to vulnerable people through other support arrangements such as Local Welfare Schemes.

Am I eligible?

The hardship fund is available to Brits of working age who receive council tax support, also known as a council tax reduction.

This a benefit to help people who are on a low income or claiming certain benefits to pay their council tax bill.

Each local council is responsible for operating their own council tax support scheme so the amounts of support given across the country may vary.

The amount of council tax support you will get depends on many factors, including:

  • Which benefits you receive
  • Your age
  • Your income
  • Your savings
  • Who you live with
  • How much council tax you pay
  • You may get more Council Tax Support if you receive a disability or carers benefit

If you receive the Guarantee Credit Part of Pension Credit you may even get your council tax paid in full.

If you don’t get Guarantee Credit but you have a low income and less than £16,000 in savings, you may still get some help.

Pensioners still need to pay council tax, but may get a discount if they live alone, or depending on their situation be entitled to council tax support.

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How do I apply?

If you're eligible for the hardship fund for the 2020/2021 tax year, you should get a new council tax bill in the coming weeks.

Or if you have a bill of less than £150, you likely won't pay council tax at all.

Should you not receive a revised bill, it's worth contacting your council to ask whether you're eligible.

Or if you're not yet receiving council tax support, you'll need to apply for this too.

To apply, simply go to the GOV.UK website, put in your postcode and follow the instructions.

These are the energy firms giving coronavirus-hit customers extra help with bills.

Meanwhile, we've explained how to get help with your other bills if you're struggling.

Plus, here's how to apply for three month mortgage payment holiday.

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TOM UTLEY: A drink was good enough for Churchill in the war

TOM UTLEY: If a drink was good enough for Churchill in the war, who am I to turn down the bottle in tough times?

A technical officer at the World Health Organisation warns us that drinking alcohol is an ‘unhelpful coping strategy’ during the lockdown. 

Well, I know that in these grim times we’re all expected to defer to the experts. But where this particular piece of advice is concerned, I fear I must beg to differ.

What’s more, I know that a great many readers will agree with me — although, obviously, countless others won’t — when I say that I’ve found knocking back a glass or two of intoxicating liquor an extremely helpful strategy for preserving fragile sanity through these days of terrible worry and uncertainty.

Indeed, in my experience, it’s only when the clock creeps round to the sacred hour of wine o’clock (which, for me, gets earlier every day) that the world begins to take on a rosier hue and the horrors of our predicament start to fade into a fuzzy blur.

Would Sir Winston Churchill (pictured in 1943) have mustered the mental resilience to defeat the teetotaller Hitler if he hadn’t been half sozzled throughout the war? I doubt it, writes Tom Utley

Yes, yes, I can already hear the shrieks of outrage from a host of pressure groups, asking if I’m unaware that alcohol is responsible for untold domestic abuse, carnage on the roads and a huge proportion of violent crime, or that treating the illnesses it causes costs the NHS billions every year. And, of course, they’re right.

Crisis

But as drinkers through the ages will testify, wines, spirits, cider and beer can also be wonderful anaesthetics to numb mental pain. And if you’re anything like me, you will never have felt the need for a pick-me-up more than now.

Unlike Alexander Lukashenko, the bonkers president of Belarus, I don’t claim for one moment that a shot of vodka every day will help ward off the killer virus (his other prescriptions for remaining healthy include regular trips to the sauna, working in the fields and having breakfast on time).

But I do say that for those of us who can be of little practical use during this crisis, beyond staying at home to limit the spread of the disease, a cheering glass of something stronger than tea can be a tremendous comfort.

A technical officer at the World Health Organisation warns us that drinking alcohol is an ‘unhelpful coping strategy’ during the lockdown, writes Tom Utley (stock image) 

How else are we to endure the constant litany of bad news, that begins first thing in the morning and carries on throughout the day: the delays in mass testing, the shortages of protective equipment for health workers, the business collapses, the millions thrown out of work, the ever-mounting debt and the ever-tighter restrictions on our freedom?

Then there are worries about ourselves and our families. In my case, I fear for my 97-year-old mother-in-law in Oxfordshire; my brother, whose poor health puts him among those rated ‘extremely vulnerable’; my daughter-in-law, who is expecting our second grandchild in the summer; two sons who have lost their jobs and a third who is locked down for God-knows-how-long in Bogota, Colombia, where he has been teaching English.

He tells us by WhatsApp that he’s driven half mad by the trainee opera singers in the flat next door, who spend all day practising their scales.

I never thought I’d hear myself say it, after experiencing the joys of an empty nest for so many months, but how I wish the whole lot of them were with us now.

Most distressing of all is the daily incantation of the death toll over the previous 24 hours — every figure representing hundreds of heartbroken families, condemned to grieve alone, unable even to attend the funerals of their loved ones.

Certainly, I can see why it’s felt necessary to keep reminding us of the gravity of the threat we face. I understand, too, why so much stress is laid on the youngest victims of this vicious virus, so as to persuade my sons’ generation that they are at risk, too, and should therefore comply with official instructions (and never mind that the average age of those who have died after testing positive in Italy has been 79.5 years).

Resilience

But I know I’m not alone in reflecting that even before Covid-19 came along, some 600,000 people died in the UK each year — an average of more than 1,600 per day. Imagine how depressed we’d be if, throughout our lives, every news broadcast had led on the number of our fellow citizens who had died the day before. We’d all be raving alcoholics by now.

It’s no surprise, then, that so many of us in lockdown are seeking solace in the bottle — a trusted refuge from life’s tribulations ever since Noah became the first recorded drunk (and self-isolator) in history.

A commuter wears a face mask as he walks at Lambeth North station to a Bakerloo line train on the London Underground today

Pictured: A man is helped out of an ambulance at St Thomas’ Hospital in London this week 

Would Sir Winston Churchill have mustered the mental resilience to defeat the teetotaller Hitler if he hadn’t been half sozzled throughout the war? I doubt it. And how would the downtrodden millions of the Soviet Bloc have survived the miseries of Communism, without recourse to copious supplies of cheap vodka?

Indeed, I give the Government high marks for decreeing that off-licences may remain open during this emergency — although, alas, my own local wine merchant has shut up shop for the duration (of which more later).

Mind you, the anti-booze brigade has been banging its drums like crazy this week, urging us to steer clear of the demon drink, no matter how strong our temptation to indulge.

First came a strange warning from scientists at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, on the dangers of driverless cars. By significantly improving road safety, they said, the advance in automotive science would encourage more than a third of adults to increase their alcohol consumption.

Yet in my book, one of the greatest blessings of the new technology is that we’ll be able to go out to the pub — if we’re ever allowed to again — without having to worry about staying sober at the wheel on the way home.

Next came a stern lecture from scientists at University College London, who said that drinking too much alcohol into middle age can add nearly two inches to our waistlines, increasing our chances of strokes and high blood pressure.

Pleasure

Then to cap it all, a study reported in yesterday’s paper suggests that graphic medical images of seven types of cancer, heart and liver disease should be printed on bottles of alcohol and packs of chocolate to dissuade people from over-indulging.

Oh, for heaven’s sake. If there’s one thing of which this crisis reminds us every day, it’s that sooner or later we’re all going to die of something or other.

Should we really shun life’s guiltier indulgences, just for the sake of prolonging our time on Earth?

On that point, I stand four-square behind the novelist Kingsley Amis when he declared: ‘No pleasure is worth giving up for the sake of two more years in a geriatric home in Weston-Super-Mare.’

So, no, I have no plans to cut down on the booze — least of all at this moment, when we all need something to take our minds off the dire news pouring in from all over the world.

My only question is where to get hold of the stuff, with the local off-licence shut, online retailers quoting weeks for delivery — and supermarket shelves, after a 20 per cent surge in alcohol sales, stripped bare of all but the priciest bottles?

How many like me, I wonder, have been reduced to groping in the back of the drinks cupboard for those strangely shaped bottles of exotic liqueurs, brought back by friends from their travels, which once I considered too disgusting even for this old soak to drink?

Oh, for a good old pint of bitter or a bottle of Cotes du Rhone!

But I see that the clock is at last inching its way round to wine o’clock. Now, where did I put that dust-encrusted bottle of Ukrainian peach brandy, which someone gave me in 1993? 

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