0810 Katy Watson: Brazil and coronavirus

While the USA might be the current epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, another country headed by a strongman leader is grappling with its effects too. Brazil has had nearly 30,000 cases of the virus and close to 2,000 fatalities to date.

The country's president Jair Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the outbreak- even alienating the political allies who got him into power- and government inaction has led to vigilante quarantine rules enforced by gang leaders in favelas around the country.

Katy Watson is the BBC's South America correspondent, and joins us to discuss the situation and the potential fallout.

An image of Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro wearing a protective face mask and the phrase “Hysteria Damages the Economy" is projected on the wall of a building as a protest against the president regarding his handling of the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 21, 2020.

Photo: AFP

0830 Philippe Sands: The Ratline 

Law professor and barrister Philippe Sands has appeared in some high profile international human rights trials involving the likes of Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet, and the wars and genocides in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Sands is the author of 16 books about international law including Lawless World: America and the Making and Breaking of Global Rules (2005), Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values (2008) and East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes against Humanity (2016).

In his latest book The Ratline he traces the story of a senior Nazi, Baron Otto Gustav von Wächter, who presided over the killing of hundreds of thousands of Jews in Galicia (including some of Sands' relatives) before disappearing after the Second World War, and dying in mysterious circumstances in Italy.

And it’s a story with a New Zealand dimension too. Sands was to appear at the Auckland Writers’ Festival (now cancelled) next month, and hopes to attend next year’s festival.

Philippe Sands

Philippe Sands Photo: Hachette

0905 Ann Patchett: The Dutch House author

The Dutch House, a new novel by Ann Patchett

The Dutch House, a new novel by Ann Patchett Photo: Supplied/Heidi Ross

The US novelist Ann Patchett received the 2002 PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction for her novel Bel Canto. She’s also writes non-fiction and the latest of her eight novels, The Dutch House, was released last year. 

It revolves around siblings Danny and Maeve’s obsession with their family home, after they are dispossessed of it by their (wicked?) stepmother.

Patchett is currently locked down in Tennessee, and is keeping the independent bookshop she co-owns in Nashville operating through these turbulent times.

Author Ann Patchett

Author Ann Patchett Photo: Supplied/Heidi Ross



0935 Chris Smith: virologist on latest Covid-19 science

As New Zealand chafes under what could be last few days of its Level 4 lockdown, Dr Chris Smith returns to digest the week’s scientific happenings.

A consultant clinical virologist at Cambridge University, and one of BBC Radio 5 Live's Naked Scientists, he has the latest on the hunt for a vaccine, what we do and don’t know about our immunity post infection, and the winding path to a fully functional antibody test to work out who’s had the virus and who hasn’t.

Also on the agenda, the US decision to cut funding for the World Health Organisation, and how this could affect the battle not just against Covid-19, but also against diseases including polio in the developing world.

An employee wearing protective clothing does testings for the coronavirus at a laboratory as the spread of the disease continues, in Arkhangelsk, Russia.

Photo: AFP


1010 Peter de Jager: overcoming the Y2K crisis

Covid-19 isn't the first time the world has needed to rally together to mitigate a potential global catastrophe.

Twenty years ago armies of computer programmers worked for years to prevent vital computer systems infrastructure falling over on January 1, 2000, due to the Y2K problem. This was a technical issue, abstract to most, the result of computer programs using two digits to represent a four-digit year, which when 1999 ended would cause computers to think it was 1900.

Author and tech worker Peter de Jager was one of the first in the industry to draw attention to the issue, back in the early 1990s.

When the dawn of January 1, 2000 passed without serious incident it led many to the view that the threat had been overstated. Now Peter has created a podcast Y2K- an autobiography where he interviews those involved in identifying and solving the problem, and explaining how the threat was real.

Peter de Jager

Peter de Jager Photo: supplied


1035 Andrew Solomon: depression, anxiety and the virus 

 "It’s not that an antidepressant will make people unafraid of this mysterious and awful virus, nor that a single hug will mitigate their profound aloneness, but they can help."

Writer, journalist and psychology professor Andrew Solomon is the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression.

The book won the 2001 National Book Award, was a finalist for the 2002 Pulitzer Prize, and was included in The Times' list of the 100 best books of the decade.

His other books include Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity (2012) and Far and Away: Reporting from the Brink of Change (2016).

Having lived with long term depression himself, he is concerned at the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on people’s mental health.

Writer and lecturer Andrew Solomon

Writer and lecturer Andrew Solomon Photo: Supplied/Annie Leibovitz


1105 Johanna Knox: lockdown food foraging

Woodland warrior and seasoned forager Johanna Knox has been taking some value added walks around her neighbourhood in the lockdown.

Her daily exercise with benefits means finding an array of wild, fresh and free ingredients to embellish even the most mundane store cupboard.

Her book A Forager’s Treasury introduced more people to the pleasures of finding and using wild plants - and she keeps up the good work on her blog too.

Now she’s seeing a resurgence in interest in foraging through the lockdown both here and overseas.

She’ll tell us what food you might see on a walk at the moment, and what you can do with all the things you find: from dandelion to pine, from chickweed to fennel (used in her homemade chai tea).

Spoiler alert: she hasn’t found an easy and reliable source for foraged flour yet though!

An edible auricularia fungus

An edible auricularia fungus Photo: Supplied/Alison Stringer


1125 Dale Fisher : Australian working on Singapore’s Covid-19 offensive

Australian Dale Fisher is one of those leading Singapore’s response to tackling Covid-19.

Professor Fisher is chair of Infection Control at the National University Hospital in Singapore, and also heads the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network for the World Health Organization.

He’s also been sharing health messages and fighting fake news about the Covid-19 crisis in a comic series entitled The Covid-19 Chronicles.

He arrived in Singapore in 2003 when it was dealing with the SARS outbreak,  but he says this experience means that Singapore is now far more prepared to face the current crisis.

An aggressive testing and quarantine strategy for anyone testing positive, coupled with a high tech approach to contact tracing, saw Singapore held up as a role model for handling Covid-19.

But there’s been a recent resurgence in cases, raising fears of disease breakouts after lockdown restrictions are relaxed.

Armed military and police personnel patrol at Changi international airport terminal in Singapore on 30 January 2020.

Armed military and police personnel patrol at Changi international airport terminal in Singapore on 30 January 2020. Photo: AFP


1145 Craig Potton: conservationist and publisher’s lockdown life

The landscape photographer, conservationist, traveller and publisher Craig Potton is finding a prolonged period of social isolation strangely productive.

Ensconced in a bubble in Nelson with two daughters and two dogs he’s suspended all surfing activities, but is instead working on a book about pilgrimages in the Himalayas. 

Craig Potton

Craig Potton Photo: John-Paul Pochin


Music Played

0810: The Cure- 'Close To Me'

0825: The Mountain Goats- 'Aulon Raid' from the album Songs for Pierre Chuvin (Merge Records) 

0930: Bob Dylan- 'I Contain Multitudes'

1005: Kevin Morby- 'Beautiful Strangers' from the album Beautiful Strangers (2016)

1030: Nouvelle Vague- 'Dancing With Myself'

1150: Dance of the Blessed Spirits composed by Christoph Gluck