OMC (Omicron)

It’s now Monday November 29th. Kia ora!

This morning there’s no new bad news locally, but overseas, it’s a different story. The two covid 19 cases in Sydney, that flew in from South Africa, have been determined to have the new omicron variant of Covid 19.  Thirteen people who came off a flight in the Netherlands are determined to have it. This afternoon, it’s reported to have been detected in Canada (in Ontario, two cases, coning from Nigeria).  For pandemic times, that’s a lot of flying!  One doctor in South Africa reports mild symptoms – severe fatigue and a headache; the rest of the world watches nervously as we wait to see how serious this one will be. There’s a view that the wealthy nations should have chosen to vaccinate the poorer countries, i.e. African nations, where vaccination rates are low; widespread vaccination would have made it less likely for a variant like omicron to develop.

I have forced myself to learn more about this omicron variant. Dr John Campbell has explained it quite well: it seems there are 32 mutations on the spike protein.  There were much fewer on the delta variant.

I go to my last Tai Chi class for the year. Some have brought food; some have stayed away. I am the only person who keeps my mask on, and I don’t stay for the party afterwards.

Today there are 182 new cases of covid 19, and 93 people in hospital, including 10 in Intensive Care. The new community cases are in Auckland (167), Waikato (10), and Northland (5). There is a new case in Nelson, which will be included in tomorrow’s total.

There is a press conference at 4 pm, outlining the country’s move to the traffic light system from Friday December 3rd. The entire South Island will be in Orange. Auckland and a clutch of other regions in the North Island with lower vaccination rates will start at red. Those are: Northland, Taupō, Rotorua lakes districts, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts. Wellington and Waikato will be Orange.

Thankfully, health officials here are considering the potential impact of the omicron variant being diagnosed here in New Zealand, and whether the borders need to be strengthened as a result. Dr Bloomfield has announced that the Government’s approach was to “keep the virus out for as long as possible in order to learn more”. Changes made so far include limiting travel to New Zealand citizens travelling from nine countries in Southern Africa who then have to spend two weeks in MIQ isolation and quarantine and undergo five tests.

It’s now Tuesday November 30th.  Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…

This morning I learn that omicron is moving quickly.  There are six cases in Scotland, and a further two in Sydney. There are also cases in Spain and Sweden. In the US, Dr Fauci said two weeks were needed to assess its potential impact, and what changes should be made, if any. I suspect the cat will be well and truly out of the bag by that time, given the daily announcements of its spread.   Australia is now reconsidering its decision to open up its borders. Many countries have, and continue to impose, travel bans.  Here in New Zealand, as we move to the traffic light system, with some trepidation, the Hon. Grant Robertson has promised some financial relief to Auckland businesses, affected by lockdown since the middle of August.  Meanwhile, omicron is coming here – surely – and we’re still dealing with delta.  The situation changes every day.

In the US, of course, they’ve other fish to fry: Lauren Boebert has made another slur against Representative Ilhan Omar; Marjorie Taylor Greene has railed against Kevin McCarthy, and men are encouraged to be monsters, by Josh Hawley and Madison Cawthorn, whatever that means. Kyle Rittenhouse is being hailed by the right—wing as a hero (the teenager who shot two people dead and wounded a third).  On the animal channel, it’s claimed the Democrats caused omicron, which will somehow help them in next year’s mid-term elections.  Huh?

In New Zealand, two people are contending for leadership of the National Party: Simon Bridges (a previous leader), and Christopher Luxon, formerly CEO of Air NZ and member of an evangelical Church.  I dislike both of them.

In New Zealand, Hohepa is assessing its plans for the future on a daily basis: will some folk go home for Christmas?  How will they travel, and where will they stop on the way? How many staff will be needed – can leave plans be broken?  I know we’re done this before, but it has lost its novelty value.  The uncertainty is unsettling, to say the least.  We plan to go and see our daughter for her birthday – perhaps we should take our own refreshments, instead of stopping somewhere like we normally do. Every day, what is the news overseas? What are the latest numbers here? This Christmas will certainly be memorable. As prime Minister Ardern has said, it’s really hard to plan.

Today there are 134 new cases of Covid 19. There are two new cases in the Nelson area, but these will be included in tomorrow’s tally. Other than, that spread, there’s nothing too alarming here, apart from the number of people in hospital: 89, and 9 in Intensive Care. That’s a new high, I think – no, I’m wrong, Monday’s total was 93, and this is down from that. The new community cases are in Auckland (116), Waikato (eight), Bay of Plenty (nine) and Northland (one).  That total is rather lower than previously, which has to be good news.

This morning I packed a parcel to send overseas.  That’s quite a task, now!  It includes gifts and cards for Christmas, a birthday, and Chinese New Year. It’s reported that many food outlets (including McDonalds) require a vaccine pass to be shown, so I really must download mine – again!

The UK’s Guardian reports that omicron has been detected in “at least” a dozen countries: Portugal and Singapore should be added to the list. Japan has said that only Japanese citizens may enter the country; Israel has closed its border to visitors.  Almost everyone is on the edge of their seat, it seems. Omicron is certainly spreading fast – it won’t be delta for Christmas – it’ll be OMC (omicron). In the UK, masks are now mandatory in most situations.

The UK has shortened time for booster shots of the vaccine to three months after the second shot; here, in New Zealand, you can book a booster shot two months after your second jab – from yesterday, so that’s a relief.

It’s now Wednesday December 1st. There are still no Christmas carols playing, or none that I’ve heard, thus far.

Last night I heard that Japan had recorded its first case of Covid 19/omicron. This morning I learnt that in fact it was in the Netherlands before two South African doctors issued a warning about it.  The US President Biden is saying to be concerned, not alarmed, about it, but suffice to say we are all pretty alarmed already. Last Christmas, vaccines were coming – the great hope!  This Christmas, it’s not just delta we should be afraid of, it’s omicron too. What will its effects be? Who knows.  Most countries are reacting in serious ways to curb travel and movement, and increase vaccination percentages. Will the current vaccines be effective, or do they need tweaking? We don’t know yet.  In the last Sunday Star Times and in the Dompost n Monday Hawkes Bay was advertised as a great holiday destination.  I’m saying – don’t do this! Don’t go there!  What about vulnerable people like my daughter?

We were due to go to Hawkes Bay for my daughter’s birthday, having decided not to go there for Christmas this year, but anyone visiting now needs a negative Covid 19 test beforehand.  Accordingly, JD and I will be tested. He’s been tested once already, before we went to a funeral in Auckland in September last year, and after he’d had a cold.  This is frustrating for us and our family, but totally understandable in the present circumstances.

Today the government announced that children aged 5 to 11 can now be vaccinated from January. I’m sure that will come as a relief to many of us.  Today there are 145 new cases of Covid 19 in the community: There are new cases in Auckland (124), Waikato (14), Bay of Plenty (four) and one new case in Nelson-Tasman region.  A cluster is forming at a Bay of Plenty school, where everyone is a Covid 19 contact. There is a location of interest in Nelson: a brothel!  It’s called Secrets Gentlemen’s Club. I wonder who’d admit to going there.

Apparently Waitangi Day (February 6, 2022) celebrations have been cancelled because of Covid fears.  Evidently Christopher Luxon is anti—abortion., as well as belonging to an evangelical church, and owning 7 (!) properties. He thinks house prices should fall, but not too much.

In the US, there has been a shooting at a school in Detroit, leaving three dead and eight injured.  Mark Meadows, chief of staff to the former guy, is now said to be cooperating with the January 6 Select Committee. Chris Cuomo has been suspended indefinitely from CNN, on account of his involvement with his now disgraced brother, Andrew Cuomo, former Governor of New York, whose sex scandals finally caught up with him. There is great fear that the Supreme Court in the US will in effect overturn the Roe v Wade decision regarding a woman’s right to abortion. Are we going backwards, then?  I dislike abortion, but I think it should be safe and legal, if a woman wants to have one; In my view, anyone having one will have to answer to God; it’s surely a private matter, in which the state doesn’t play a part. I think that folk who are so anti-abortion should see to it that every child’s life (and its mother’s) is worth living. I just cannot understand how people can be anti-abortion and pro-guns. It seems that killing a potential child before birth is a great sin; shooting them afterwards is acceptable if you’re Kyle Rittenhouse. How is that fair or just? The senator from Connecticut, Chris Murphy, touched on this in speaking with frustration about this incident, yet another school shooting.

On that note, I’ll post this.  Talk again soon. Ngā mihi.

Covid 19 – the Prequel

Today is Thursday November 25th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning I learnt that Judith Collins, leader of the National Party, had demoted Simon Bridges (a former leader) on account of a complaint about sexual harassment 5 years ago.  I assumed that (a) she was wanting attention, and/or (b) she didn’t want to be leader any longer.

I went to singing in Khandallah. It was lovely, as always, but, although I’d practiced singing in the shower, I got the hiccups and had a frog in my throat, and struggled with the high notes.  There was quite a bit of discussion, along the lines of: why do we have to have a catered lunch for our end of year breakup – the rules are ridiculous! Ranging to why does the government appear to have abandoned the notion of protecting us?  You can’t have it both ways: you may consider different organisations’ rules to be ridiculous, but at least there are rules, and most people do not want to get Covid 19.

After singing, I learnt that Judith Collins has been rolled as leader of the National Party, and that Shane Reti is the interim leader. He was to address the nation.  One feels that the leadership is a poisoned chalice, that nobody really wants, at this point in time. Who’s left then, other than Christopher Luxton, Muller look-alike, waiting in the wings – he’s not yet ready to lead this mess.

There are fewer new Covid 19 community cases today: 178 and 77 in hospital.

It’s now Friday, November 26th.  Today there are 173 new cases of Covid 19, across 6 regions: there are new cases in Auckland (154), Waikato (15), Northland (one), Bay of Plenty (two), and Lakes (one). There is also a case in Christchurch, who could not be included in yesterday’s total, a close contact of an existing case who was already isolating. 78 people are in hospital and 7 in Intensive Care.

It seems to me now that the Government is concerned about protecting the health system, as its first priority, and I wonder where that leaves mentally disabled adults, and other vulnerable people. Hohepa have taken very good care of our daughter up until now; the traffic light approach leaves us all scratching our heads, and wondering just how it will affect us, and more to the point, our daughter.

Meanwhile, one is doing Christmas shopping, and changing priorities as one must in these challenging times. Even during the so-called Black Friday Sales, and a rush for some good bargains, there are not that many people about, and most are genuinely polite and thoughtful. Thankfully, we don’t have Christmas Carols playing in the shops just yet, although most have Christmas trees up.

In the US, three men have been found guilty in the case of the Ahmed Arboury killing. That comes as a huge relief to many.  In the US it is Thanksgiving time again. This, to me, is a somewhat crazy ritual, like their Halloween (pronounced Hollow-een), accompanied by some very scary parades and decorations.  I listened to a Bulwark podcast, but they always get on to why can’t the Democrats be more like Republicans, be less liberal, less progressive, and by the way, inflation is terrible. I have to turn this off, I can’t bear to listen. I do agree with Charlie Sykes – we can be grateful that Trump’s not president.  There are many guides about surviving Thanksgiving with people you disagree with: why invite them? Why eat with them? Why punish yourself? Why buy a turkey, and then do the whole thing again in one month’s time for Christmas? Why, indeed.

There’s a new variant out of covid 19/delta, that’s been discovered in South Africa. Should we be afraid? The Hon. Grant Robertson says no, but apparently South Africa is to be put on the UK’s “travel red list” for this.

It’s now Saturday November 27th.  It seems that the new variant of Covid 19, now named Omicron, first observed this month, is indeed something to be very afraid of. Even Sajid Javid the UK Health Secretary, is calling the alarm. It’s been unheard of to date for the Brits to take much notice! There is wide spread alarm about Omicron.  It originated earlier this month in South Africa, but has already been found in Israel, Hongkong, and in Belgium.  Vaccinated people are not immune. The World Health Organisation has met, and says not to limit flights, but many countries are doing just that. The stock market has fallen. Meanwhile, in the US, there are alarming surges of Covid 19/delta in many places: most seriously in Michigan, but also in New York. We don’t yet know what the US Thanksgiving surge will be; that there’ll be one, is pretty certain. One wonders again, why do so many Americans put themselves through this? You have the perfect excuse to avoid travel and large gatherings.

Dr John Campbell has broadcast again, saying that we all need to be proactive about facing this; it’s complicated, but the variant seems to have several spikes within it; it’s potentially very infectious, but we don’t yet know if it makes people really ill.  Perhaps the vaccines can be tweaked to address this variant, and delta, too.  We were alarmed about the spread of delta in New Zealand, as borders are to be reopened, the fateful MIQ reduced (although it has done a great job of keeping us safe); one of my daughter-in-law’s parents are thrilled to be able to return to New Zealand from Australia, where they have been marooned for far longer than they intended.  This relaxation of restrictions was going to be good for some people, but still pretty scary for people like my daughter. More walks, more swings, any one? Now, with the coming of omicron, all bets are off, I fear. Certainly, the coronavirus hasn’t finished with us yet.

In other news, the US networks have been very quiet over the Thanksgiving break. The stores are advertising Black Friday sales (which actually last for several days). In the English Channel, a perilous stretch of water (I know, I’ve sailed on it twice), a dinghy carrying several desperate refugees sailing to England from France capsized, and 27 people drowned, including children and pregnant women. In New Zealand, the Reserve Bank raised – by 0.25% – the OCR (Official Cash Rate) – it’s now 0.75%. The Guardian duly reported that in NZ the Reserve bank had hiked the cash rate. That is a gross exaggeration, like much of the talk of that other bogey man, inflation. Go on, hype it up, why don’t you? One can see how people get angry with the media.

Yesterday the Hon. Grant Robertson claimed there was no reason to be alarmed about omicron; today, he’s reported as calling it a “wake up call”. We’ve all been woken up, I think: this is potentially worse than what we’ve seen to date.  What about special needs folk? We’ve had coronavirus, Covid 19, the sequel (delta variant); now it looks like omicron, the prequel, is coming.

Today it was announced that there were 145 new community cases of Covid 19, and a further death.  There are still no further cases in Wellington or Hawkes Bay.

On Saturday afternoon we went to North City Shopping Centre, to buy a Christmas present for one of my granddaughters, and a new toasted sandwich maker – we wanted to take advantage of the Black Friday sale.  It was very busy there – that Food Court must have the potential to be a super-spreader location. They tried to enforce queueing, but I doubt that had much effect. In the Farmers department store, it was quite busy. I managed to find store attendant who looked unsuccessfully for what we wanted; in the meantime, of course, JD found other things to buy. There weren’t many toasted sandwich makers left, either – I suspect the advertised ones had gone, but we did get one, and I later bought the present I’d been seeking online. It was not a great experience, going to North City – I won’t repeat it for some time. Actually, like Queensgate Shopping Mall, it’s not enticing at the best of times. It’s a place you don’t want to be.

On Saturday evening I learnt that there is a case of Covid 19 in Kawerau, a town in the Bay of Plenty.  Many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have put in place some kinds of restrictions on passengers from South Africa and several African nations.  There are no direct flights here from Africa, so it’s a bit dicey to know just where people arriving her have come from.

It’s now Sunday, November 28th.  It is quite a bit cooler today, after being very warm yesterday.  This morning I learnt that two cases of Covid 19/omicron had been diagnosed in the UK. Cases have also been diagnosed in Germany and Italy.

This morning I went to Church. It’s the beginning of Advent, and a little girl was to light a purple candle for Hope. The candle wick failed to ignite at the first attempt, and then flickered hopefully (ha ha!) when it did ignite. That seemed appropriate, somehow.  In church, they’ve apparently taken my advice (!) to allow seating in every second row, but unlike in an Anglican church we went to, where it was quite clear where one could sit, they’ve marked rows with little stickers that aren’t that easy to read:  rows  where one can sit have a beautiful red floral decoration, and alternate rows have a small sticker saying Please don’t sit here. I sat down, well away from others, but people came and sat rather closer to me than I was comfortable with.

After church, I went grocery shopping; it was really quiet when I went there, but soon filled up with people.  I got raspberries! And some apricots. The summer fruit is starting to appear. I didn’t get coffee beans – my bad.

Before lunch I learnt that there is another case of Covid 19 in Hawkes Bay.  This person went to the ED at Hastings Hospital, and was diagnosed positive. There are several locations of interest, which are gradually being published. Napier Pak’N ’Save is one of them, but in the evening – I don’t think our guys would shop there in the evening. Nevertheless, it’s alarming.  Two people landed in Sydney from South Africa, and were diagnosed with Covid 19. It’s not known yet whether it’s omicron or not. Meanwhile, Covid 19/omicron has been diagnosed in several countries.

The 1 pm briefing tells that today’s total of Covid 19 cases is 144; there has been another death in Auckland, this time of a woman in her 80’s. A child in Canterbury has been diagnosed positive: this child seems to have flown alone, and then caught a flight from Auckland to Christchurch; this is being regarded as a border case. Of the 144 new cases in New Zealand there are cases in Auckland (127), Northland (two), Waikato (nine), Bay of Plenty (four), Hawke’s Bay (one). There are 82 people in hospital, including 8 in Intensive Care.

There is still so much that we just don’t know about this virus. It seems that omicron has different symptoms, from the Covid 19 we’ve become used to, that it’s very infectious, and that young people catch it easily; other than that, we just don’t know how much of a threat it represents. We struggle on, trying not to take unnecessary risks, but feeling more than ever that we’re stumbling through a maze. There’s a lot of prayer; and I’m ashamed to say rather more fear than peace. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

Living with Delta

Today is Friday November 19th, 2021. Kia ora!

Things aren’t looking good.  I learnt this morning (last night?) that there is a new case of Covid 19 at Epsom Girls’ Grammar School. Today, leading up to the 1 om Ministry of Health release, there is talk of a case in the Wellington area, thought to be a construction worker, with locations of interest in Porirua and Lower Hutt.

It turns out that this case is a weak-positive: the person is asymptomatic, and has been vaccinated, which begs the question why get tested?  He must have been in contact with someone else who diagnosed positive.

Today there are 189 new community cases of Covid 19, across 6 regions, including 152 new cases in Tamaki Makaurau. So that’s pretty scary.  There are 76 people in hospital including 6 in Intensive Care.

It’s now Saturday November 20th. There’s a nice map in this morning’s paper showing where the cases are.  There’s another protest (the 4th!) in the Auckland Domain, and the Auckland Museum has closed its doors. Vaccination rates are inching upwards, much more slowly now, but it seems a vocal minority are objecting to vaccines, while the rest of us are more than grateful to have some level of protection. Overseas, it seems that Covid 19 is just ploughing on, finding vaccinated and unvaccinated. Germany is in a bad way; the UK situation is still distressing, although not as serious as it was this time last year; some European countries are considering lockdowns again. It certainly won’t be much of a Christmas for many. It looks to be even more poignant than last year’s Christmas.

There’s unrest in many places, and some very sad situations, such as the one in Belarus, where the dictator there seems to be using refugees as political pawns.  The bad guys, i.e. illiberal would-be dictators, are in power in many places, and they club together. It’s not always clear what they do stand for, apart from muzzling the press,  imprisoning any opposition, and usually keeping women under some kind of male domination; and, of course, they’re not accountable. In the US we see people defying legal subpoenas to testify to Congress’s January 6th Select Committee. In the US, the Republican Party management will only censure someone if they stand up against Donald Trump. Anything else goes unpunished, including threats of death and violence.  This contagion, like the coronavirus, has spread around the world. In Victoria, Dan Andrews has tried to protect Milburnians and other residents of Victoria from the worst ravages off Covid 19. There have been deadly protests in Melbourne, against such measures.

I wrote earlier about the government’s intention to open up Auckland boundaries on 15th December.  To leave Auckland, you have to have either been vaccinated, or had a negative Covid test.  So there are some loopholes there, and no doubt some will avoid/evade whatever regulations are in place, as they have tended to do to date. Should we be afraid?  Probably in Wellington we’re safer than in other places.

We await the 1 pm report of today’s numbers of new cases.  Meanwhile, it’s noted that a Wellington Countdown supermarket (the one next to Cable Car Lane ) is now a location of interest. I walked past it yesterday, but I seldom shop at Countdown.

Today there are 172 new cases of Covid 19 across 6 districts, including a confirmed case in Wellington. There are 148 in Auckland, 12 in Waikato, 4 in Northland, 4 in the Lakes District, 3 in the Bay of Plenty, and the Wellington case.  Residents of the East Cape are warning holiday-makers not to come there! There are 70 people in hospital, with five requiring Intensive Care.

In the US, teenager Kyle Rittenhouse has been exonerated of shooting at three people, killing two of them. He took an AR15, a firearm he wasn’t old enough to own, into Wisconsin’s Kenosha, and was hailed by some on the right wing for his vigilante justice, and for “helping the FBI” (I think that’s what he said). By anyone’s account, he shouldn’t have had the gun, and he shouldn’t have shot at anyone, and he certainly shouldn’t have killed two people (The third victim was wounded).  That is manslaughter, if not murder.  Some people are saying that now you’ll be able to shoot at protesters (as Trump wanted to do), assuming the law will be on your side. The trial of the people who killed Ahmed Arboury continues, but objections have been raised to black pastors’ being there to support Ahmed’s family.  Michael Moore made the point that whatever one’s frustrations with the Democrats, they won’t shoot protesters.

It’s now Sunday November 21st.

Last night I learnt that there is a positive case of Covid 19 in Hawkes Bay. This person had travelled from Auckland, having obtained permission to travel, and then tested positive for Covid 19. This morning I went to church. It was lovely, but there wasn’t a great crowd there.  There seemed to be more than usual tuning in on zoom.  Now that Covid 19 is in Wellington and Hawkes Bay, it seems that here people are being more careful. We also went to visit a friend in Titahi Bay – another treat. Having seen her house I don’t feel so bad about unhung pictures at my house.

Today we are warned about another protest – by farmers, I think. It seems an Extinction Rebellion climate protest initially attempted to halt the farm (and other) vehicles. Then it rained on the parade – in Wellington, at any rate. It seems to me that the climate crisis and the covid crisis are impossible to ignore, and one wonders why people fail to see the obvious.  It also seems that the protest was hijacked by “professional” protesters, resulting in mixed messages.  The (not so mighty) All Blacks were defeated by France (40 – 25), after being trounced by Ireland recently.  My brother in law always send a message “Go the ABs” from Broome, often at wildly inappropriate times. When the ABs are playing in the middle of the night, I must remember to put my phone on airline mode.

The numbers today are not so bad. There are 149 new cases of Covid 19, and 83 people in hospital.

It’s now Monday November 22nd, and today there are – shock – 205 new cases of Covid 19. A man in his 40’s has died at Middlemore Hospital. That is by far the youngest death to date: previously it was a man in his 60’s. There are no new cases reported in Wellington or Hawkes Bay. 85 people are in hospital, and of these 6 are in Intensive Care. Of the new cases, 175 are in Auckland, 20 in Waikato, 5 in the Bay of Plenty, 4 are in Northland and 1 in the Lakes DHB are. I’m told the Wellington case was a worker who was double-vaccinated and asymptomatic, but underwent regular testing. 

There is a press conference at 4 pm, fronted by Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield. It’s announced that the whole country is expected to transition to the traffic light system from 3 December. Auckland will move into Red, the rest of the country into Orange. No area is expected to be Green for the time being.  In Auckland, hair salons and barbers will be allowed to operate, but not hospitality. Hair salons and barbers will be expected to use vaccine passes, and take bookings only – no walk-ins.

It’s now Tuesday November 23rd, a busy day. This morning I met one of my sons and a granddaughter, and we went to Oriental Bay. It was really warm this morning, but quite windy at the beach. Afterwards we had coffee.

In the afternoon I met a friend for coffee, and we had a good chat. It was lovely to catch up. Afterwards I went to Whitcoulls, but I didn’t find what I was looking for.

Today and yesterday have been eventful, marked by the use of a vehicle as a weapon in the US state of Wisconsin. The SUV drove into a Christmas Parade, killing 5 people and injuring at least 40 (the next day it was reported that a sixth person has died).  Today, more subpoenas have been issued by the Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack, including to two high profile people: Roger Stone and Alex Jones.

Today New Zealand broke records for new community cases of Covid 19 with 215 new cases across six regions, and another death – another man, this time in his 50’s.  As yet, there are no new cases in Wellington or Hawkes Bay. In Melbourne the NZ Breakers team is rocked by 4 positive tests.  They had all been double-vaccinated. The new cases are in Auckland (196), Waikato (11), Northland (four), Lakes (two), Bay of Plenty (one) and one in MidCentral, the latter of which was announced on Monday.

It’s now Wednesday November 24th.  I had hymn-singing this morning – always good. We finished with on a high with the beautiful Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending to the tune of Helmsley.  We discussed the Covid 19 situation, which is getting worse in Europe, and what the Auckland border opening scheduled for 16 December may mean for activities in the new year.

After that I went to town and bought Christmas presents, checking out Lego and books.  There seems to be a dearth of good books for my very advanced 9 year old granddaughter, but I got a selection of stories by Katharine Mansfield. So many “iconic” New Zealand books, thinking here of Man Alone by John Mulgan, The Story of a New Zealand River by Jane Mander, or The God Boy by Ian Cross, are very dark, too grim I think for a 9 year old. I expect she’ll have plenty of time to contemplate humanity’s darker, as well as its lighter, side. I made my way to Toyworld – always a rather dangerous spot – and back to Whitcoulls, where I bought Lego for one of my grandsons and a great-nephew. Then, exhausted, I caught a bus home.

I decided during the night that perhaps we should go to Hawkes’ Bay for my daughter’s birthday (which is before Auckland borders are to open), but not for Christmas. I suspect some Aucklanders will go to Hawkes’ Bay – indeed, why wouldn’t they?  It seems now that in New Zealand we have a different approach to Covid 19/delta: we have to live with it, and continue to try to protect the more and the most vulnerable.  Vaccination is being seen as the doorway back or forward to some kind of “normality”; in this situation, I can choose my exposures, but for my daughter, who cannot really choose – what kind of life will she have? She loves to go to cafés; I guess in the hot Hawkes’ Bay summer you can sit outside mostly, but it’s still a tricky situation, where rather than playing by the rules, perhaps we have to use a bit more discrimination in choosing just where to go and what to do.

Today there are 215 new community cases of Covid 19 – but still no new ones in Wellington or Hawkes Bay, so that’s a relief.  There are 181 cases in Auckland, 18 in Waikato, 12 in the Bay of Plenty, 3 in Northland, and one in Canterbury – a historical case, no longer considered infectious.  A strip club in Mount Maunganui is a location of interest. There are 87 people in hospital, including 8 in Intensive Care. So that’s that, I guess: could be better; could be worse. MIQ rules are to be relaxed, and international borders to be opened – gradually. I haven’t gone into the details yet. Some are thinking we’re all doomed to get Covid 19. I certainly don’t want to get it, and I don’t want any of my children or grandchildren to get it either. That’s it for today. Ngā mihi.

Why is this happening?

Today is Saturday November 13th, 2021. Kia ora.

This was a quiet day, recovering from Friday, and knowing Sunday would be a busy one. There were 175 new cases of Covid-19 in the community today. 159 of the cases were in Auckland, eight in Waikato, five in Taranaki, two in Northland and one in Taupo. Later I learned that there were 4 cases in Taupo, one of whom had been in the Wairarapa. There were also suggestions that a sex parlour was involved.

There were more protests today. In Auckland and Wellington, there were plans to cause traffic “gridlock”. These plans may have been foiled by the bad weather, including heavy rain. Phil Goff, Mayor of Auckland, called the protest behaviour “stupid”. In Christchurch, there was a march on foot. It’s suspected that the Destiny Church is behind this unrest, but I suspect that others have been involved too.  These protests command media attention, but I expect that amongst the confusion, many continue to support Prime Minister Ardern and her Labour Government.

We have been watching a series called The Borgias on Netflix.  I don’t really enjoy it, but there isn’t much to watch at present. There was a rather good film of Great Expectations on Maori Television, but I couldn’t bear to watch that again.

It’s now Sunday November 15th. I went to church in the morning – always a treat. My friend Malcom played the organ and we sang “Immortal, invisible”. After that, things were pretty busy. We had a late lunch at Urban Eatery in Tawa (they didn’t close till 4:30 pm). I had a very nice vegetarian quiche with spinach, courgette, mushrooms and tomatoes, and my second coffee for the day. I brought my passionfruit doughnut home to share later.

This morning I learnt there were four new cases of Covid 19 in what was called Tararua and the Lakes districts.  This included someone who went to the Emergency Department at Rotorua Hospital, and was found to have Covid 19. So Covid 19/delta is inching ever closer, and we’re warned that it’s coming to Wellington, but actually it was here, back in August – and then died out.

The official briefing at 1 pm (more like 1:40 pm most days) tells there are 207  community cases – the highest daily total yet. Sadly, there has been a death, at North Shore Hospital, of a woman in her 90’s who lived at the Edmonton Retirement Home in Henderson. Evidently she had other health conditions, and it was not suitable for her to be on a ventilator. Of the new cases, two are in Rotorua, and consequently 12 police are isolating), two in Tararua, seven in Waikato, and two in Northland. The rest are all in Auckland. 90 people are in hospital.

Locations of interest have been published in the Wairarapa and Tararua, which includes Woodville.

It’s now Monday November 15th. There weren’t any horror stories last night, but this morning I learnt that journalist Duncan Garner thinks he has Covid 19. Today there are 173 new community cases of Covid 19, again with most in Auckland but there are cases in 7 in Waikato, 2 in Northland and one in the Rotorua Lakes District. including one in Masterton (a first for Masterton, and probably the furthest south so far). There are 90 patients in hospital, and 7 of these are in Intensive Care.

This morning I went to Tai Chi. There are two more classes scheduled this year, and they want to have a shared meal at the last class, and reconvene on Monday January 31, 2022 (Monday February 7th is a Public Holiday for Waitangi Day). I don’t feel comfortable about this, so I won’t stay. At my singing session on Thursdays we are addressing the same problem. My feeling is that if you have catered food, it all comes from an inspected premises, there will be rules around food preparation, there are annual inspections, and you know where the food has come from. I think it’s all a matter of what one feels comfortable with.

At 4 pm there’s a press conference with Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield. I am pleased to know that you can book booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine from November 29, providing it is 6 months since your second jab. Waikato will move to level 2 from midnight on Thursday. Auckland’s situation is to be reviewed by Cabinet on Wednesday. From today, anyone involved in education must have had their first dose of vaccine. Health workers are to follow.

Monday was a bad day for me. I was very tired. We had pizza for dinner, followed by a trumpet for pudding. For some reason, I was really hungry.

t’s now Tuesday, November 16. I spent time with one of my sons and a granddaughter this morning. We went to Te Awe in town, and had a lovely time. She is almost two and quite active. Fortunately, the Brandon St door was closed – that can be a relief! She was quite delightful and made lots of friends.

In the afternoon I saw an orthoptist.  They were ultra-careful about Covid 19, and where to sit, and I had to keep my mask on, but they did not have pay-wave!  I paid by credit card, but because it’s a chip card, I had to key in my PIN number. I much prefer pay-wave, or using a mag-stripe card where you can use the card to press the key-pad, and not touch it. Never mind. Afterwards we struggled to find a café that was still open to have a late lunch.

Today there are 222 community cases of Covid 19. That’s the biggest number yet. Today’s total was released close to 1 pm. There has been a further death – a man in his 70’s in Auckland City Hospital.  Of the new cases, 197 are in Auckland, 20 are in Waikato, one is in Northland, two are in Wairarapa, and two are in the Lakes District Health Board area. Duncan Garner has been diagnosed positive, as has a teacher at Auckland’s Baradene College. So this is not good.  While I respect the unvaccinated, I would not want anyone unvaccinated to be teaching my grandchildren or caring for my daughter. A poll released today shows that 74% of those polled support the vaccine mandates, i.e. that you cannot continue to work in health or education without being vaccinated. Despite the protests, a significant majority support vaccination.

In he US, the political violence and threats of violence are truly terrifying. Steve Bannon surrenders to the FBI.  The former guy told Jonathan Karl that he didn’t care about the threats to hang Mike Pence, his Vice President; the former guy’s followers erected a noose; the threats were very real. And shocking. Alex Jones has to pay parents of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. That’s almost 9 years ago! The judge has summed up in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. Will he be acquitted? Who knows.

On Wednesday I had an early start with hymn singing at 9:15am. It was lovely, as always. After that I had morning tea and caught a bus into town.  I managed to buy a book for my grandson that he has already! I really should keep a list of the presents. One thinks one will always remember, but it rapidly becomes a blur. I’m hoping to change the book.

On Wednesday there were 194 new community cases of Covid 19. There was a new case in Christchurch, and it was reported that three children of a woman who tested positive were taken into MIQ there. Evidently a gang party – a patching ceremony in the Wairarapa – is thought to have caused more infections.

It’s now Thursday November 18th.  This morning I had my larger singing group. It was lovely, as always, although the distancing is hard. We are planning to have a catered light lunch at the final session for the year. We’re permitted to do this, but catering is preferred, rather than “bring a plate” of food to share. In my view, that’s a safer approach.  In terms of my daughter’s birthday and Christmas, that’s up in the air as we monitor the situation.

Today there are 167 new cases, and there’ve been two deaths (two elderly people in Auckland). There are 85 people in hospital, including 6 in Intensive Care. Of the new cases, 142 are in Auckland, 17 are in Waikato, five are in Northland, one is in Bay of Plenty DHB, one is in Lakes DHB, and one is in Canterbury. Before lunch it was reported that there was a case in Palmerston North (in the suburb of Ashurst – now I didn’t know Ashurst was a suburb of Palmy); and that Covid 19 had been detected in Wellington’s waste water.  Evidently there’s two cases in Woodville (in the Tararua district). Now it’s been reported that there’s a case in Levin, and one in Tauranga. There’s evidently a case in Thames. There’s a second case in Christchurch. We are having ongoing discussions with Hohepa about what it may be appropriate to do later this year.

There’s a traffic light system due to be introduced here later in November. I’ve been trying to get to grips with what this means, but I can’t see that it has much, if any, direct bearing on me.  It seems to matter most to event organisers, how many folk they can have, indoors or outdoors, and whether people must be vaccinated. It seems you can download a vaccine passport or verification on your mobile phone, but I haven’t gone there yet. The Auckland borders are to open from December 15th, but there are rules around that too. Will that make it less safe for the rest of us? Who knows. Let them go to their summer homes in the Coromandel for Christmas and New Year,

It seems that in many places you need to be vaccinated to be able to do things, or go anywhere. In Austria, the unvaccinated have to be in lockdown, and are only allowed to leave the house to buy food, I’ve heard.

This morning the Dompost published three corrections. It’s good to see they’re being held accountable: it’s very frustrating when they get things wrong, especially as one’s often reminded of how many stories one’s read online recently, and asked for money. I already subscribe for daily delivery, and the costs just went up, again. It’s very annoying when I’ve supported the daily newspaper for much of my life.  A recent story claimed that we face a bad season of flu and Covid 19. Well, excuse me, but the flu tends to be prevalent in the winter here, not the summer. That just doesn’t make sense.

Talking of corrections, I listened to the TRMS podcast yesterday, and some items I’m sure I’ve heard before: the sizable crowd in Dallas waiting on the “grassy knoll” for the resurrection of John F Kennedy (jnr), and the person who voted in his dead wife’s name  (sadly, she’d died of breast cancer); he then lied about this, calling it fraudulent behaviour, when he in fact had caused the fraud. Consequently the law caught up with him, and he was prosecuted. I felt sure this was an old story, but then there was some bizarre new information about Gina Haskel, Trump’s Head of the CIA, needing to be rescued out of Germany. The situation around the 2020 US Presidential Election, and the former guy’s determination to hang onto power, just gets worse and worse, with the revelations from Jonathan Karl’s book, and other revelations. I know many in the US are concerned about this, but, hey, we in the rest of the world are too! We’re all affected by whoever’s in charge there; we’re all deeply affected. Covid, climate change, the Constitution – they’re all vitally important. If Trump gets re-elected and withdraws from the Paris Climate Accord again, as seems ever more possible, what hope can there be for any of us?  It’s all very well for Peter Thiel to have a beautiful bolt-hole in Wanaka; we’re all vitally dependant on what happens in our neighbour Australia, in China, in the Pacific, and everywhere else. The world is a small place when it comes to dealing with climate change, international alliances, and environmental issues. No matter how much money you have, we all have to breathe.

I’ve been listening to another  podcast in The Rest is History series, this one about the oil crisis in 1973-74, which led to the Three-Day Week in Britain – ironically, when we made out first trip overseas, arriving and taking off from London’s Heathrow Airport.  I found this very illuminating, but was rather surprised that they didn’t mention the terrorism at that very scary time, when an airliner was blown up at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, the Red Brigades were at large, Italy was about to elect a communist government, and so on and so on. We almost cancelled our trip – thank goodness we didn’t.

In many countries, Covid 19 is still causing degrees of chaos. We are by no means free of this scourge just yet. Still, where in the world would you rather be? There’s still much to be thankful for.  That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

The End of the Golden Weather

Today is Saturday November 6th, 2021. Kia ora!

Yesterday in the early evening the NZ Herald reported that traces of Covid 19 were found in wastewater samples in Gisborne and Napier.  So that’s not good.

Today there was a record number of new cases – 206. Of these, 4 cases are in Waikato and two in Northland (in Kaitaia, I think). There are 73 patients in hospital.  This afternoon the NZ Herald reports a new case of Covid 19 in Northland.

This afternoon we went to see the annual watercolour exhibition at the Fine Arts Gallery.  Usually this is a treat, and I take photos of several paintings, and rate my favourites (1st, 2nd and 3rd), and my next best – including my wished-for Christmas present. This time, however, I had no favourites. I found many of the paintings very dark, and I wondered if the Covid 19 presence and lock downs had influenced the artists, in a negative way. We also went to the shop, and bought nothing there. We need to buy a gift, but we didn’t today, although we went to the Wellington Museum shop and the Te Papa shop. Then we visited Toi Art: always a treat. (Note: it seems the annual water colour exhibition was cancelled, but the  pottery one, Ceramicus, went ahead).

It’s now Sunday November 7th. This morning I went to church – always a treat. I enjoyed the organ playing, again. This afternoon we went to Pataka and had afternoon tea and a look at the lovely shop there.  It turned into a beautiful, calm, sunny day – so much so that JD was brave enough to sit outside at the Kaizen Café. I missed out on the rhubarb shortcake: I was going to order it, but the customer before me bought the last piece, so I had a very nice muffin instead.

Today there are 113 new community cases of Covid 19. That’s over 100, but a lot less than yesterday’s 206. Of today’s new cases, there are 3 in Waikato, and one in Northland – the rest are in Auckland.  74 cases are in hospital, and 7 in Intensive Care.  Auckland has almost reached its goal of 90% having had their first vaccine jab.

It’s now Monday November 8th, another beautiful fine, calm, warm day in the capital city.  This morning I had a Tai Chi class, and then went in to Johnsonville. Today there are 190 new community cases of Covid 19, including one in Northland, seven in Waikato, and the rest in Auckland. Apparently there are a further four cases in Northland, which will be added to tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) tally. There are 81 people in hospital, (up from 74 on Sunday), including 7 in Intensive Care. Evidently someone with Covid 19 has died in MIQ at the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Auckland, and a patient at Auckland City Hospital who tested positive for Covid 19 died in Saturday night. It has not yet been determined whether his death was due to Covid 19. There is to be a press conference at 4 pm today with Prime Minster Ardern and Dr Bloomfield to announce what changes, if any, there are to be in alert levels. A Destiny Church member who has been charged with organising an anti-lock down protest has tested positive for Covid 19.

The press conference announced that restrictions are to be eased in Auckland. Meanwhile, a pupil at Mt Albert Grammar School has tested positive, and the college has decided to close for the rest of the year. This seems early, but if they only have seniors attending, they were probably due to close soon for the year anyway. In the Edmonton Rest Home in Henderson, 20 residents have tested positive, and four staff members. Seven residents are in hospital. The first case was fully vaccinated. All the staff are vaccinated.

I asked my doctor about booster shots of the vaccine. Evidently, according to current wisdom, you have to be six months out from the second jab of the vaccine. That would put us out to February 2022. There’s no shortage of the vaccine now, thankfully.

It’s now Tuesday November 9th, another fine day, although not quite as nice as yesterday.  I have discovered some recordings of John Le Carré (and other) novels on Youtube. I’ve listened to part of A Perfect Spy and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. There’re very good recordings. In addition to The Rest is History Podcast, I have plenty of good recordings to listen to.

Today there are 125 new community cases of Covid 19. There are 79 in hospital, and Covid 19 has been detected in a resident of another rest home, in Avondale.  Of the 125, most are in Auckland, but 5 are in Northland and 2 in Waikato.

Today there was a big anti-lockdown protest in Wellington. Why, one wonders? We’re pretty free here. There have been protests by teachers who refuse to be vaccinated. What are they teaching their pupils, I wonder?

The six-week old baby who was in Whangarei Hospital with Covid 19 has now gone home.

At midnight tonight Auckland moves to level 3.2, or step 2 within the level 3 framework as outlined previously by Prime Minister Ardern. I do feel very sorry for her with the Wellington protest: why? One wonders, again. We’re not doing it hard here. She said the protest outside Parliament was not representative of the bulk of New Zealanders.

It seems to be a season of protests, though, against vaccine so-called mandates, and against the media. Looking at the protests, it seems crowds have been brought in to enhance the resentment. I am reminded of a James Dean film (before his tragic early death), when he was asked what he was unhappy about. The answer was “What have you got?” There are certainly mixed messages, with some gangs and some iwi leaders urging vaccination, and other like Destiny Church members railing against it. The media does make mistakes from time to time.

It’s now Thursday November 11th.

Yesterday was quite a busy day, with an early start – hymn singing. After that, I had morning tea in town, did some other stuff, and visited a friend in the afternoon. It was again a fine, warm, still day; I found it quite muggy.

Yesterday there were 147 new community cases of Covid 19. Of these, 14 were in Waikato, 2 in Northland and the rest in Auckland..

Today there are 185 community cases of Covid 19, in Auckland, Waikato and Northland, and an additional death in Auckland (this is the subject of a police investigation, and there’s no further comment at the moment). Of the new cases, 8 are in Northland, 25 in Waikato, and 152 in Auckland.  The three suspects in the Grey Lynn Motel shooting case earlier this week all have Covid 19, and are in isolation. Consequently the police who arrested them are having to isolate as well.   Last night it was reported that there’s a new case in the Northland town of Kaitaia.  There are 84 people in hospital. In Auckland, the shops are open again. No doubt they will have their own rules about mask-wearing, numbers of customers, entry and exit routines, and card/cash protocols. I hope there are rules – at least those in charge will have thought about protecting their customers, if not their staff,

It’s now Friday November 12th.  Lots of things are happening, most of them not good. Last night I heard that there were 6 cases of Covid 19 in Stratford, and one of them in hospital. Stratford is a nice town, I’ve been there several times. They have a beautiful craft shop there, and it is near Mt Taranaki. You can sit down at the library, it’s a welcoming place, as libraries should be. So Covid 19 is edging closer. It’s reported that these folk did not want to get tested. That’s understandable, but other people need too know.

Overnight, there’s more sad news. I listened to a podcast about Remembrance Day, and read the story by Rudyard Kipling, The Gardener. It is just so sad.

Then I read the Guardian website: the dictator of Belarus is threatening to close of the gas supply to EU countries, if his country is sanctioned over the migrant crisis between Poland and Belarus. This is just such a sad situation. I don’t believe anyone leaves their home unless they think they have to.  The Guardian reports that Prime Minister Ardern’s support is slipping – according to two recent polls. There’ve been protests here about vaccine mandates – actually, you don’t have to have the vaccine, but you won’t be able to work in certain places (like health, caring and education) if you aren’t vaccinated. Many countries are introducing such requirements. This is not unusual. There’s lots of talk about freedoms, but surely many of us expect our government to protect us too: if you really care about freedoms, how about living in China, Hong Kong, or a communist country? We enjoy plenty of freedoms here, in my view. We’re pleased to have been looked after so well. I’m sure everyone, including the government, is frustrated by the current situation with Covid 19. We all are. But I ask again, where would you rather be?   There are still few deaths and hospitalisations so far.

In terms of climate change, the world (some people) is trying to restrict global warming to 1.5 degrees. It’s heavy going. The Chinese Communist Party has applauded Chairman Xi. In the US, there are extreme death threats and threats of political violence – it seems that it’s being normalised. I think violence is never all right!  But the Republican congresspeople who voted for Biden’s Infrastructure Bill are being attacked and receiving death threats, for themselves and their families!  This is outrageous! How come infrastructure spending is bad for anyone?  Inflation is rising, and there are shortages, of various things. It’s a war, people; it’s only been going just under two years, so far. It’s so ironic that the US, which has suffered a huge number of deaths (759,000), still has people against the vaccine – their potential life-saver.  We are all so over Covid 19, but hey, it’s a war, and we don’t have to fear bombings, or nuclear radiation. In the main, we don’t have Covid 19 sufferers bleeding or vomiting. Some day, it will not be such a crisis as it is now.  Where is the patience?

This afternoon we went to our Art Group.  That was nice. I was very tired, and we had trouble parking, but it was wonderful to see everyone again. There was a big turnout – 12, I think. JD had to go off to an appointment, but came to pick me up afterwards (from a café).  We had a good discussion, but there is huge frustration with the Covid and vaccination situation.  I think most organisations are trying to keep everyone safe, but their move sometimes misfire, and may be misinterpreted. I think you should be vaccinated unless you have a medical reason not to do so, and rather than a denial of freedom, it’s an act of love and respect to be vaccinated. My daughter is in care, and while I respect those who don’t want to be vaccinated, I want everyone caring for her to be vaccinated, just as I would hope my grandchildren’s teachers would all be vaccinated.

Today there are 201 new community cases of Covid 19, and traces of Covid have been found in the wastewater systems of Taupo. Taupo! That’s quite close to home. I know people who were looking forward to going there. I know people who live there.

Of the 201 cases, there are 181 in Auckland, 4 in Northland, 15 in Waikato, and one in Taranaki. The other 5 cases in Stratford will be included in tomorrow’s total.  All cases in Taranaki are linked, and there’s a link to an Auckland cluster. There are 85 people in hospital.  It’s been suggested that Taranaki go back to Level 3, but this is unlikely.

In other news, not noted already, it transpires that the Tory government in the UK is again enmired in sleaze; Meghan Markle has admitted lying about her input to the book Finding Freedom, and an Appeals Court has temporarily granted Trump the right to withhold documents from the January 6th Select Committee. So none of that is good. Much of it is not surprising, but it’s still not good. The Kyle Rittenhouse trial is proceeding; it’s feared he will be acquitted, despite killing two people and wounding another. The Ahmed Arboury trial is proceeding in Georgia, long after he was killed. It seems that accountability in the US is a rare commodity. Sadly, there are suggestions of book-burning in the US.

That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

Waiting for Delta

Sir Ian McKellen in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot

My apologies to Samuel Beckett. I have seen this play in London, and also in New Zealand, at the St James Theatre, where I have to say the New Zealand audience really enjoyed the play, and responded with enthusiasm. I’ve also seen a wonderful film at the French Film Festival where a French actor staged this play with a group of prison inmates.

Today is Saturday October 30th, 2021. Kia ora!

Last night I heard that there were two new cases of Covid 19 in Northland, and that now Tonga has its first case, from someone who flew there from Christchurch. This person had a negative test before departing, and was fully vaccinated.

At 1 pm we are told there are 160 new cases, including a new case in Christchurch, who had recently returned from overseas, was fully vaccinated, and had returned negative tests while in MIQ. There are seven new cases in Waikato, one in Northland (two were reported yesterday – people do get around!), and the rest in Auckland. Now seven residents and a staff member at the Henderson Rest Home (where a resident was reported as having tested positive yesterday) have tested positive.  It seems the case that flew to Tonga had several close contacts, who are now isolating, including two who flew to Wellington. That’s just great. Poor Tamaki Makaurau!  The good news it that fewer than expected numbers of cases are in hospital. I put this down to increased vaccination – which does seem to reduce the likelihood of serious disease.

This morning I listened to part of the Beg to Differ podcast, where the guest Jonathan Chait, endeavoured to explain the appeal of Joe Biden and the Progressive Caucus’s “socialistic” ideas that are commonplace in many societies, and are extremely popular.  He was a lone voice amongst the howls of why don’t the Dems just settle for less, runaway inflation, financial irresponsibility, the dreadfulness of Bernie Sanders and AOC, and so on. And, by the way, shouldn’t they be safeguarding democracy while they’re at it? And, goodness me, they can’t agree on taxing the rich!

Yes, it’s all very frustrating. It’s a shame that Joe Biden’s poll numbers are falling; it’s a shame that Terry McAuliffe isn’t perceived as being a better candidate for Governor of Virginia. There’s a great deal for Democrats to do. But I think, on the whole, they’re doing a good job. I too wish they’d do more.

It’s now Sunday, October 31st. Yesterday JD and I went for a walk in Wilton’s Bush. How it has changed since I was a child, and often used to come here! It was a good walk, and there were quite a few people there. The pathway, although muddy was quite even.

This morning I went to church. It was lovely, as always, and nice to be there. In his sermon the minister spoke about showing Christian love towards those who don’t believe in vaccines; not writing them off, but keeping the conversation going. That can be quite a challenge, but the vaccination rates are inching up, here in New  Zealand.

Today there are 143 new community cases of Covid 19, and no new cases in Christchurch.  There are six cases in Waikato, two in Northland, and the rest in Auckland.

It’s now Monday November 1st.

I heard that there was a case of Covid 19 in Ngaruawahia (a town in the Waikato), a pupil at Mt Albert Grammar had tested positive, and a staff member at MacLeans College. The total community cases today is 162, the highest yet. Of these, one is in Northland, five in Waikato (including two more in Otorohanga) and the rest in Auckland. There is to be a press conference at 4 pm.  There are no new cases in Christchurch, but Covid 19 has been detected in wastewater samples in the southern and eastern parts of Christchurch.

News today tells that President Biden’s lovely press secretary, Jen Psaki, has tested positive for Covid 19; the Cop26 climate conference opening in Glasgow has been plagued by stormy weather – oh, the irony! And New Zealand’s commitment to reduce harmful emissions looks pretty pathetic, too. 

It’s fine and warm here, but it was quite cold this morning. I was in town for several hours, but am now totally exhausted, and a bit cynical. 

There was a press conference at 4 pm, and I think that restrictions were to be eased somewhat in Waikato, and in Auckland.

It’s now Tuesday November 2nd.

I read on the stuff website that there are 18 (!) new cases in Otorohanga.  The NZ Herald says 4 new cases in Waikato, and one in Kaitaia. Apparently the NZ Herald is now reporting this too.

At 1 pm we learn that there are 126 new cases today, including18 in Waikato, one in Northland and the rest in Auckland. The Prime Minister visited Tai Tokerau in Northland, to encourage vaccination, and was heckled, leading to a shut down of the press conference. Later this afternoon we were told that Chris Hipkins was to hold a press conference at 5:30 pm.  He was supposed to be on leave, but instead announced that the far North (i.e. the northern part of Northland) would go into level 3 from midnight tonight. A barrier will be put in place. The reason for this is that an earlier case of Covid 19 cannot be linked to existing cases.

It’s now Wednesday November 3rd.

Yesterday I had an eye test. I always find this very tiring, but it didn’t seem so bad this time, until the optometrist put eye drops in to dilate my pupils. She did this when the appointment was almost finished. Afterwards, I found it really difficult to see, especially with regard to depth perception. It was cold and windy, and after closing time for most cafés. I was very relieved when JD picked me up. He then suggested we go to the New World Supermarket in Thorndon. That’s usually a big treat for me, but I couldn’t see very well!  Anyway, JD packed the shopping into my reusable shopping bags  – a first!   I bought donuts for afternoon tea, and more salads.

This morning hymn singing resumed, masked and distanced. It was still really nice to have it, though.  We sang some beautiful Welsh hymn tunes, and Sing Aloud to God our Strength (my favourite hymn for the latest lockdown). Afterwards I had morning tea: a cup of coffee, and a cheese and spinach scone, then caught a bus back to Johnsonville. I spoke to two friends, both of whom expressed concern about what may happen next, and if there’s a sudden lock down again, where one would prefer to be (assuming one had a choice, between one’s regular house, and one’s beach house).  We just don’t know what may happen next.

I had Tai Chi at midday. This was lovely, too, although it’s very different from my “old” Tai Chi classes. The moves are the same, though, and the principles are the same, as is the theory of shifting one’s weight from one side to the other, as one moves one’s feet. we did some good eye exercises.

Today there are 100 new community cases of Covid 19 – 97 in Auckland, and 3 in Waikato. There are 58 people in hospital, and 3 in Intensive care. Now, fifteen residents of the Henderson Retirement Home have tested positive, and four staff members. As I said earlier, vaccination rates are slowly lifting.

It’s now Thursday November 4th. This morning I went to singing, and it was lovely. We could have morning tea, today. Those of us who wear glasses are frustrated to have them fog up when we wear a mask. Despite various solutions, this remains a problem.  There was a good turnout, including several people who hadn’t been for a long time. It was good to see them again. There was someone new, too!

Today there are 139 new community cases of Covid 19; there are two in Waikato, one in Northland and the rest in Auckland. Wastewater testing in Christchurch has failed to detect Covid 19.

It is still very boring here. Everyone is nervous, and there is a lot of anger and frustration; few are prepared to be calm about the situation we’re in, and that it’s really nobody’s fault. Delta has come, it’s staying a while in Tamaki Makaurau, and, outside of Auckland, where would you rather be?  We don’t know what’s ahead. Wellingtonians fear a bigger outbreak of delta here, but it’s already been here, in the middle of August.

In other news: the four year old girl who went missing in Western Australia has been found, alive and well; in the US the Democrats lost the Virginia gubernatorial election, and Glenn Youngkin was elected rather than Terry McAuliffe; in New Jersey Democrat Phil Murphy narrowly won re-election as Governor. The Cop26 Climate Conference in Glasgow is coming to an end; here, Gisborne is experiencing heavy rain, a state of emergency has been declared, and there have been some evacuations. In England, some people cannot get vaccination booster shots because there aren’t enough truck drivers to deliver the doses. Here in New Zealand a New Lynn primary school student has tested positive for Covid 19, and in South Auckland a person died last night who was isolating for Covid 19. I’m not sure if he was isolating at home because he had Covid 19, or had been in contact with someone infected with the virus. It hasn’t been announced yet whether he died from Covid 19, or there was another cause. Today it was announced that 57 people were in hospital, and four in Intensive Care (I think).  And – it’s very sad news – that a former All Black has been diagnosed with dementia, at the tender age of 41. 

It’s sow Friday November 5th, Guy Fawkes Day, for those who think it’s a good idea to light fireworks – around where I live, people light fireworks at any time until New Year’s Eve.

This morning it was revealed that Covid 19 has been detected in the wastewater of Stratford, a township in Taranaki close to Mt Egmont. So far, no cases of Covid 19 have been detected there.  A second person with Covid 19, who was isolating at home, has died. It’s reported that he discharged himself from hospital.  Today there are 163 community cases of Covid 19, with four in Waikato and the rest all in Auckland.  It seems (it was reported yesterday?) that 89.6% of the eligible population have had their first dose of the vaccine. That is quite amazing.  Meanwhile, we carry on, with care…getting slightly braver about doing the things we love.

In other news, there have been significant changes in the leadership of Hohepa. These changes, although not voted on by all stakeholders, look good. With regard to the recent US elections, it either spelt doom for the Democrats, to lose the gubernatorial election in Virginia, or perhaps, it didn’t. As usual, it depends on whom you listen to. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

Just get the jolly Vaccine!

Just get the vaccine, why don’t you? Then the rest of us can get on with booking our booster shots. Supply doesn’t seem to be a problem at the moment.

It is now Thursday October 28th, 2021. Kia ora.

This morning I heard there are 2 new cases of Covid 19 in Christchurch. One of them had flown from Auckland (why? I wonder), and was unvaccinated. The other case is their household contact. There is also a new case in Otorohanga.

The NZ Herald has a not-so helpful headline: How will our ICUs cope now delta is free? Well, it’s not free. A snap lockdown is being considered for Christchurch; Auckland and the Waikato remain at level 3, and the rest of New Zealand is at level 2. Someone was just asking why the South Island still has restrictions?  I guess we know now. The words used are so important. 

This morning I had singing, and this time we all sang together – sopranos, altos and men. It was so nice to sing together again. We did not have morning tea. It was fine, and we had doors open to the outside. We sang Joni Mitchell’s beautiful “Circle Game”, and I always think, when we sing it, of the carousel I gave one of my granddaughters one Christmas. “The painted ponies go up and down”.  We finished with the beautiful “Hine e hine”. What a treat. We are all nervous as to what the future holds, for ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Each session is precious.

Today there are 89 new community cases of Covid 19: two in Christchurch, 4 in Waikato and the rest (83) in Auckland.  OF the two cases in Christchurch, the one that flew from Auckland had permission to fly home, and had not been vaccinated. They had had a negative Covid 19 test before flying south. The other case in Christchurch is their only other household contact.  Accordingly, Christchurch will remain at level 2.  One of the persons infected is a truck-driver, who may have been infected for several days without knowing it. Neither person was vaccinated. Evidently they were loth to scan locations where they’d been, too.

The Hon. Chris Hipkins fronted a press conference today, where he was asked by a female journalist if he felt guilty about not keeping the people of Christchurch safe!  Well, really, would someone ask Judith Collins that question? He reiterated that vaccination is a key to safety. I would say perceptions of safety, but it seems that it’s certainly key to fewer hospitalisations and deaths.

He also announced that MIQ stays are to be halved from next month for vaccinated arrivals from overseas, who have had a negative Covid 19 test before leaving. They’re expected to isolate for a further week before they’re good to go. That should free up more MIQ rooms, but presently they’re being used for Covid 19 cases to isolate, where it is unsuitable for them to do so at home.

There is great widespread anger at current developments. As usual, the government should have acted earlier/more decisively/been harsher/been less harsh. Everyone should be vaccinated/it’s an infringement of their rights to force vaccination on them. No one is forcing vaccines on anyone, but you may finder it much harder to work or go places if you have not been vaccinated. I expect that the government, like the rest of us, just wish this would all go away, and we could look forward to a new reality where things aren’t scarce, we can come and go as we wish, house and rent prices are reasonable, and mental health isn’t such a big issue; there’s also child poverty and climate change. Well. there has to be something, always, but it would be nice to think that New Zealand’s on the right track (for most of us!).

People I spoke to this morning are scared, apprehensive, philosophical, and happy to be together again. Next week, we can have morning tea, as long as we get our own drink separately, and then take it outside..  For all of us, our thoughts are for our precious children and grandchildren, as well as ourselves – we need to stay strong and cheerful for them, as well as ourselves.

In the US, things seem to get a little crazier.  The lawyer John Eastman, who wrote a legal memo for Trump to declare himself the winner of the 2020 presidential election, and then denied it, was caught on video being interviewed by Lauren Windsor saying he had written it (despite earlier denying it), and that Mike Pence was the blockage to Trump’s electoral win.  An article in Rolling Stone Magazine claimed that several leading Republicans were instrumental in planning the January 6 insurrection. The US Congress has voted to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from the congressional committee formed to investigate the January 6 insurrection; we all await a further response from the Department of Justice, and specifically Attorney-General Merrick Garland, to see what will happen next.

Meantime, Trump has endorsed the leader of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. In Brazil people are begging for him to be impeached, for his reckless handling of the coronavirus outbreak there. Trump claimed at one of his recent rallies that he was impeached twice, “and I got worse” he bragged. For once, he spoke the truth.

The New Yorker has let me read another article about Peter Thiel, by Anna Wiener.  It was interesting, but I’m thinking enough already about Peter Thiel. The less said about him, the better. I find his ideas not only selfish, but seriously weird.

It’s now Friday October 29th.  There is a new case of Covid 19 in Kawhia. A chemist in Tawa has predicted that delta will be in Wellington by November. Well it was here, in mid-August and September, nobody died, people have recovered, and so far it has not reared its ugly head again. No-one knows what will happen, including the government and their health advisors. All authorities are treading a fine line between taking wise steps to restrict contact and thus the spread of the virus, and allowing small businesses like hospitality to still operate, albeit safely, and with fewer numbers. What reassurance is there? None, really.

This morning’s newspaper published a good diagram showing how close the DHB’s are to meeting the 90% vaccination target. Wellington (Capital and Coast) is right up there, next to Auckland. It should be noted that Auckland has three DHBs.

This morning I listened to podcasts featuring Michael Moore, and Charlie Sykes talking to Tom Nichols. I haven’t been listening to Bulwark podcasts lately, I just get so cross. But with both these podcasts, everyone is angry with the Democrats. It seems that with the latest compromise, paid parental leave is likely to be scrapped. How crazy is that?  The US is truly first in many things – including many awful things. Why vote Democrat? Because they’re not Republican. But if they can’t actually deliver much in the way of benefits, which would be quite normal in most western and civilised countries.  Yet again, it looks as though many Americans will swallow Trump’s Kool-Aid, and believe his empty promises.  The Democrats hold, not without difficulty, the White House, the Congress and the Senate (tightly!)  It seems ironic that they have difficulty delivering basic benefits (parental paid leave, drinkable water, a health system that works better) to their voters and supporters.  There are just so many faults with American democracy, and then many of them don’t even value what they have!  By the way, in terms of awfulness, Michael Flynn has been comparing the much respected Dr Anthony Fauci with the Nazis’ Dr Josef Mengele. One tries to ignore the awfulness, but every now and again I am forced to take notice. The one from the televangelist pastor about God not being able to hear us pray through a mask, is still my “favourite”.  I figured once that many of us must be praying at any one time, yet I feel as though it’s my individual voice speaking to the Lord. He knows many languages, too!

I have been listening to podcasts about Australia and climate change.  The Australian government has agreed, not without difficulty, to limit methane emissions by 30% by 2030. Actually they haven’t agreed that. Their climate spokesman claims Australia is a great place to invest in “gas, hydrogen and new energy technologies” (whatever they may be). This is their commitment to the upcoming Cop26 Climate Conference in Glasgow. In trying to verify just what they have agreed, I looked up ABC News on my phone, but there’s no mention of it there. Have they no shame?  It seems really hard to get any kind of commitment out of them that will benefit our planet in good time. Meanwhile, they endure terrible fires, and floods.

There has been much discussion of Facebook’s recent exposure through a whistle blower, and the Facebook papers. Many agree that although we all knew FB’s (and other social media’s) influence was pernicious, we did not realise quite how awful it was.  The pandemic has given many people more free time, and thus more time to spend on social media., where they can soak up anti-vax propaganda, conspiracy theories, and catastrophic fears. Some have likened FB’s influence to that of tobacco, when companies making cigarettes continued marketing them and advertising their benefits, long after they knew that they are addictive and cause great physical harm.  Now, thankfully, the days of smoke-filled bars are over, and most public places don’t allow smoking.  I remember our first trip overseas in 1973, when you could specify a seat in the smoking or non-smoking section of the plane! Thankfully, that is a thing of the past, although it can be disappointing to see young people smoking.  Smoking is quite prevalent in some television series.

Today there are 125 community cases of Covid 19 – one in Northland, four in Waikato, another two in Christchurch (close contacts of existing cases), and the rest in Auckland. The new case in Kawhia is included in the Waikato number. Some folk, after being tested, drove to Auckland. What kind of madness is this? Sadly, someone in a retirement home in Henderson in Auckland has tested positive for Covid 19.

That’s it for today. Nga mihi.

The Race

Who will get here first? Santa Claus or Delta?

Today is Monday October 25th   2021, Labour Day. Kia ora.

Yesterday I heard there were two new cases of Covid 19 in Otorohanga. This is a town on State Highway 3, between Te Awamutu and Te Kuiti, still in the Waikato area. It used to have the distinction of being one of he main stops on the Main Trunk Line, where people would rush into the Railway Station for a cup of tea, which they then took back on the train. I remember the think white cups and saucers.  I believe it’s much more civilised now!

Today there are 109 new community cases of Covid 19, with two in Northland, four in Waikato, and the rest in Auckland. There are 35 people in hospital, and 5 in ICU.  The national nightmare continues, then; there’s no relief coming any time soon. Meanwhile, delta edges closer, being found in Blenheim, near the top of the South Island, and in Otorohanga – the southernmost location to date in the North Island. What kind of Christmas will we have?

It’s now Tuesday October 26th. Today there were 79 new community cases of Covid 19, that comprising 75 in Auckland and 4 in Waikato. There’s to be a Press Conference with Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield at 4 pm. We learnt earlier today that two of the new cases are at a college in Waiuku.

It seems that more than 300 people were diagnosed with Covid 19 over the long Labour Day weekend; sadly, the weekend’s road toll includes 8 deaths. Of course, that doesn’t include the injuries and the dreadful trauma of those involved and their loved ones, to say nothing of those bereaved. Here, many have been deeply affected by the sudden death of Sean Wainui (aged 25, a promising rugby league player), from a car crash.  Although he was recently married, with a beautiful wife and two young children, his death is now being regarded as a suicide.  That is enormously sad.  It’s one thing to be depressed, but this seems to be a devastating mental illness that makes someone blind to the desperate hurt their actions will have on others, while seemingly stopping their own pain.  This young man appeared to have everything going for him. It’s tragic that he failed to see a promising future ahead.

This morning we got a cream doughnut from Nada in Tawa. It was simply amazing! Better than any others I’ve tried (to date). 

The world’s a funny old place. In the US, Alec Baldwin, an actor with a troubled past, has shot dead a woman on set and wounded another, using a gun that was not supposed to be loaded with live ammunition.  I don’t know how you live that down; what a terrible thing to happen. She was married with two young children. There are all kinds of rumours about industrial action by Hollywood gofers, by what practices you should use on any set, about careless people, and so on.  Whatever the causes, it’s a dreadful thing to have to try and live down. This will always be associated with Baldwin, despite his rather good impersonations of the former guy on SNL.

Here, it seems, Covid 10/delta is here to stay for a while; for summer, at least. We simply don’t know what’s to come. At least, Christmas can be pretty low-key here; we don’t get too carried away on the whole, unlike the British and the Americans.  There’s no snow, it’s usually warm, and many people have a barbecue instead of a formal Christmas dinner.

The delta thing is devastating, however. We don’t know whether we’ll be able to travel, or just what we’ll be able to do. Let’s hope we don’t catch this virus. I feel JD and I are now due for our booster vaccine jabs, but, of course, we don’t qualify for that here.

It’s been a big change here, the way delta has changed everything.  It’s spread in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as in Auckland, and that lockdowns don’t work, although they may limit the spread of coronavirus/delta.  Last year, a strict lockdown in New Zealand saw cases of Covid 19 dwindle, and it stayed under control with regional limitations imposed from time to time. These were well accepted, on the whole. We had a nice Christmas in 2020, some celebrated New Year’s Eve, and then New Zealand held the America’s Cup Yacht races in Tamaki Makaurau.  New Zealand won this, too, and celebrated this with many tourists who having been though MIQ, were cleared to enjoy the spectacle.  New Zealand was the envy of the world. We knew how lucky we were; in spite of various levels of local lockdown since then, New Zealand has been very fortunate in escaping the ravages of delta to date. Not so any more – the scourge is now upon us, but thankfully we have not had large numbers of hospitalisations and deaths to date. We were special! Not so special, now, alas.

At the Press Conference, Prime Minister Ardern seemed tired.  She stressed that vaccinations are the key to regaining our “freedoms”; new measures will be introduced to make vaccinations compulsory for many events, and for many employment sectors. You don’t have to have the vaccine, but you’ll be unwelcome at many venues and some professions if you don’t get vaccinated. That’s not hard, really.

It’s now Wednesday October 27th.

I was reading in the latest Economist a rather admiring article about China’s (successful?) approach to the coronavirus, by quarantining all arrivals and attempting to “stamp it out”. Then the same day I read a Guardian report that in fact cases of Covid 19 had popped up in a number of northern cities, and this was being put down to internal tours of elderly Chinese citizens. It’s acknowledged here that Covid 19 probably won’t be eliminated, but there are still significant restrictions as the government urges people to get vaccinated. There are legal cases about the personal rights of people not to be vaccinated, but I think again, be considerate of your friends and family, your colleagues, and the kind folk who serve you in shops, supermarkets, and cafés, to say nothing of people enjoying leisure or sporting activities with or alongside you. Few of us are complete loners; even if we are, one likes to go to the movies sometimes. I think if there were a cholera epidemic, most people would surely rush to be vaccinated.

In the US, the FDA has recommended approval of a lower-dosed Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 – 11.

Here, today, there are 74 new cases of Covid 19, 68 in Auckland and 6 in Waikato. It’s predicted that in level 3, schools will re-open for all children on 15 November. An anti-lockdown hikoi is progressing from Rotorua to Waitangi n Northland; but Waitangi doesn’t want them. The police are most probably going to stop them at the Auckland border.

Today JD and I went to see a fine film about Vincent van Gogh at the Penthouse Theatre. Although we left early, given there were warnings about glass panels falling off the HSBC Building in Lambton Quay, and possible disruption by Extinction Rebellion, we had a smooth run and got there early. While it must be very frustrating for those running businesses, I really enjoy there being so few people around, and having plenty of space.  The Film Festival booklet is still not out.

The film was very good. It was primarily about a wealthy Dutch woman, who collected van Gogh’s paintings and drawings, and planned a museum to house these works. We had commentators speaking rapid French, Italian and English – and lots of art work.  This woman felt she had a real affinity with van Gogh, in rejecting formal religion and seeking a personal relationship with God, can Gogh though his paintings, and she through viewing them.

On the way home, we listened to a beautiful recording of J. S. Bach’s 2nd Brandenburg Concerto with Wynton Marsalis playing the trumpet. I didn’t know he played classical music. I then read an interesting article in the New Yorker about Rachel Held Evans and her particular brand of evangelical Christianity.  I often wonder just why people have to be so complicated about Christianity. Silly questions, really; there are different branches of almost all the Christian religions. To cap this discussion off, I have been listening to the BBC’s Songs of Praise, and I was inspired by their 60th anniversary recording, which took place in Westminster Abbey. I was ever so impressed by Monique  McCann singing Blessed Assurance, accompanied by Yolanda Brown playing the saxophone, and, of course, the organ.  This was recorded quite recently, being the first post-covid time that people could sing together in the Abbey.

The coming Cop26 climate summit on Glasgow is to be chaired by Boris Johnson, whose government has just legalised letting sewage outlets flow into river water.  Previously, councils had to report when this happened. Now of course there’s not enough money to follow EU mandates about safe discharge. This just seems so dreadfully backward – during the hundreds of years leading up to the so-called Spanish Flu at the end of World War 1, it was recognised that clean air, and a clean, aerated environment were essential to combat the miasma of pollution in which the plague and disease festered. Indeed, efficient plumbing and sewerage disposal are a hallmark of a civilised society.

It seems that we are going backwards in so many ways:  cleanliness, good plumbing, basic good manners, provision of electricity, road rules, and an environment safe from violence, abuse and extremes of hot and cold are no longer to be taken for granted.

World leaders are pulling out of Cop26, notably President Xi, of China, who has plenty of problems at home; possibly President Putin of Russia; the Australians again are doing all they can to drag their feet.  Meanwhile, back here, Fonterra (the conglomerate responsible for negotiating dairy prices for New Zealand, is now doing rather well.  Seriously, how many dairy products does the world need? And aren’t cows an enormous burden on the environment?  Here they’ve added seriously to problems of polluted water ways, rivers and streams. The Queen is now not going to Cop26.  You have to feel sorry for Her Majesty; when she shuffles off this mortal coil, as she inevitably must, one day, what kind of mess will the Royal Family descend into?  I admire Prince William and the lovely Catherine, but one feels for them as they are just so busy, and not able to spend much time with their children.  One shouldn’t forget the stress of being always on show, having one’s clothes, jewellery, makeup, hair style, smile and so on analysed no matter how one is feeling, no matter how upset the children are, and no matter whether you’ve just had a marital tiff. They are both quite wonderful, I think, but it must be a strain at times.

Coming back to the climate crisis, I find this really scary. I’m thankful that all my children are very aware of the beauty of and potential damage to planet earth, and two of them are very committed to preserving it.  Personally, I’m glad that I don’t have to do much to deal with it, as I doubt that I’ll be alive, but I feel for my grandchildren and their future. I like to think of this as our nuclear moment. Back in the 1970’s, many young people thought that nuclear war posed the biggest threat to our continued existence on the planet, given the great danger of nuclear radiation. Like Covid 19, you can’t see it, or smell it. Disasters at Chernobyl, Mount St Helens in Washington, and Fukushima in Japan (as well as some hushed up catastrophes) have continued to provide a warning plus the reality of danger. Now several nations have nuclear weapons; there hasn’t been a nuclear war yet, but peaceful uses of nuclear power seem fraught with danger too – has anyone figured out a safe way to dispose of nuclear waste, yet? Many nuclear power plants are now past their “best before” date, and in need of maintenance; unexpected climate disasters have exposed potential risks to nuclear plants.  What a world we live in!  

It seems as though everyone is angry at present: angry that delta has come to New Zealand, and we simply don’t know what’s ahead.  Still, we are well off here, except for those in Tamaki Makaurau.  This isn’t Prime Minister Ardern’s fault! Ngā mihi.

Summer of Discontent

Where will delta go next? Where will it spend Christmas?

“Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorius summer by this duke of York”, Richard the Third, by William Shakespeare.

My apologies to the Bard.

Today is Tuesday October 19th, 2021. Kia ora!

I didn’t write yesterday. This week I have decided to get out and about more. I went to a Tai Chi session on Saturday afternoon; on Sunday I went to church, and then shopped at a different supermarket.  Yesterday I tried to get a catalogue for the coming Film Festival – I made my way to the Lighthouse Cinema in Wigan Street, but the printed catalogues haven’t arrived yet. The film festival in Auckland has been cancelled, but I understand it’s still on in Wellington later in November. I then walked to the Gordon Harris Art Supply shop and bought a sketch pad, which was rather heavy to carry. I didn’t get any of my other chores done, but came home on the bus. I must admit it’s hard to read on the bus with a mask on. In the Wellington CBD, perhaps 70% of people are wearing masks.

This morning I went out with one of my sons and a granddaughter. We went to a Garden Centre and had coffee, and walked around admiring the plants and the shop there.  It is fine today, but north of Wellington it was quite overcast and very windy.

Yesterday there were 60 new Covid 19 community cases, three in the Waikato and 57 in Auckland. There was a press conference at 4 pm, in which it was said that Auckland would remain at level 3 for two more weeks, while Northland would move to level 2, and Waikato would remain at level 3.

Some experts were calling for an Auckland “circuit-breaker” of moving back to level 4 for a few days, but this was discounted by the government.

Imagine my shock and horror today then, when it was announced at 1 pm that there are 94 new community cases of Covid 19!  Of these, the bulk are under 39 years of age; there are 38 people in hospital, and 5 in ICU.7 cases are in the Waikato, the rest are all in Auckland.  Third Pfizer vaccine shots are advised for those severely immune-compromised. Prime Minster Ardern says that last Saturday’s Vaxathon was an interim step on New Zealand’s vaccine journey, and should not be seen as an end in itself. It’s evident that any loosening of restrictions will be linked to increased vaccination rates. It’s very disappointing to have our highest number yet of community cases.  Covid 19/delta is right across Auckland, evidently.

It’s now Thursday October 21st. I didn’t write yesterday, but there were 102 new community cases of Covid 19.

On Wednesday I went to Tai Chi at the Churton Park Community Centre. It’s very different from what I’m used to, but there were just a handful of us, and I quite enjoyed it. Afterwards, I had lunch at Simmer, where I met some old friends.

This morning I went to singing in Khandallah. There were just four sopranos there!  Thankfully, there were several altos and men – perhaps 12.  I signed them all in, then went to have coffee with a friend. The café we went to was very busy. I couldn’t find my phone, then an old dear couldn’t make her eftpos card work. Thankfully, they have payWave now, and I got myself sorted eventually. It was good to sing in a group again, and to chat with friends.

Today there are 102 new community cases of Covid 19, of which there are 8 in Te Awamutu, and the rest all in Auckland. That’s over 100!  We had shared fears and frustrations before this news was published.  A friend has a son who works for NZQA. They are trying to solve the difficult problem of what to do about this qualification this year. JD and I spoke to a friend in Auckland; he’s fine, but feels for those who are disadvantaged, and schools desperate at the best of times, providing an anchor for their students, and pastoral care. Of course, they’re all closed at present.

South of the Waikato, we are fortunate to be stuck here, and not to have young children at home.  Having said that, it’s still really frustrating not to be able to catch up with loved ones overseas, and not to be able to travel. We know we’re well off, but what happens at Christmas is anybody’s guess. I, for one, would like to see a lower-key Christmas. The birth of the Saviour needs to be the highlight of Christmas, in my view. Thank goodness we don’t have sound of Christmas carols in the supermarkets yet – perhaps they’re waiting until after Labour Weekend, or till November?

It’s now Friday October 22nd.  Today there are 129 new community cases of Covid 19 – 9 in the Waikato, and the rest in Auckland.  The new Kmart store in Napier is a location of interest. In Auckland, it’s been announced that schools i.e. colleges can reopen for older (masked) students – years 11 and 12. People are not very happy about this, many seeing it as a risk.

Prime Minister Ardern has said that lifting of restrictions depends on the three Auckland DHB’s reaching a target of 90% vaccination. A “traffic light” system is envisaged. This afternoon it’s announced that there are now in addition two Covid 19 cases in Northland. This is all not good, and it seems Covid 19/delta is not going away any time soon.

Overseas, there is now concern about variants of the delta variant – one currently known as the “delta plus” variant. Various nations are taking more stringent actions to combat the spread of the coronavirus, whatever the variant. Of my activities, more and more are insisting on vaccination – you don’t have to have it, but you won’t be welcome at many venues if you don’t.

It’s now Saturday October 23rd.  Just before lunchtime I learnt that there’s a positive case in Blenheim, of a person who flew from Rotorua to Blenheim.  The 1 pm statement comes late, but when it does, there are 104 new community cases of Covid 19: 4 in Northland, 8 in Waikato, one in Blenheim, and the rest in Auckland.  So the South Island has been “breached” – there’s now a positive case there, the first for this current run – the first for almost a year.

In the afternoon we had planned to go to the movies, and so we did: we saw the new James Bond film, No Time to Die. Daniel Craig was pretty amazing in it, but Ramy Malek turned in a truly amazing performance, and I hope he gets credited for it. We went to the Penthouse Cinema, and it was pretty empty there. There was no one at the counter when we bought our tickets, and we were well spaced in the theatre. Nobody coughed. Everyone seems quite subdued.  They still don’t have the printed booklet for the Film Festival – it’ll be out on Tuesday, I’m told.

Afterwards, we went to New World supermarket in Thorndon, where I bought pâté, raspberries, bananas, kiwifruit, and salads, resisting other temptations.  They had evidently sold out of doughnuts, which was probably just as well.

It’s now Sunday October 24th.  I went to church this morning; it was very pleasant, my friend was playing the organ, before, during and after the service. Afterwards I bought a brioche for morning tea, and some pizza bread for lunch.

Today there are 80 new community cases of Covid 19. Somehow that doesn’t seem as bad as triple figures. But we really don’t know what’s around the corner for us, what news each day will bring. Will we be plunged suddenly back into lock down? Nobody on earth knows. I feel I should do what I can while I can, and it’s nice for me to have fewer people around – everywhere. The government has yet to announce how one gets a vaccine passport; I’m picking that I’ll need one to travel to Hawkes Bay in future.

Of today’s new cases, 77 are in Auckland, two in Waikato, and one in Northland. 46 of the current cases remain unlinked (as reported by the Ministry of Health, today). Locations of interest in the Marlborough area are published, and residents are encouraged to get tested, even if they only have minor symptoms. Apparently the case in Northland is linked to the four new cases published on Saturday. Apparently the new Blenheim case noted yesterday was unvaccinated.

The media is doing its bit by saying we’re so divided as a nation. I would say ‘twas ever thus, but surely everyone needs to be tolerant.  You certainly don’t want to make matters worse. I feel deeply for Tamaki Makaurau, but in this time of crisis, I tend to focus on my own needs, and those of my family. It won’t do anyone any good if I become ill, either physically or mentally. Thankfully, it’s not my job to lead the country, or make rules for anyone other than myself. The delta variant is advising us to be careful, and to take it seriously, although even when you do, as NZ’s government has done, it feels as though it’s spitting right back at you, and laughing at your efforts.  Covid for Christmas? I guess that depends on vaccination rates. Here’s looking at you, Auckland!   Ngā mihi.

Jabberwocky

A poem by Lewis Carroll, or another name for the Vaxathon

Today is Thursday October 14th, 2021. Kia ora!

I didn’t write yesterday.  I am finding all this incredibly depressing and boring. I can’t do much, and I don’t wish to increase my exposure.  Yesterday I ventured into the Johnsonville Shopping Centre to pick up a prescription. It’s incredibly annoying to find that the one item I really wanted is missing.  I looked up Manage My Health, and I can’t order it! This application is useful, but also incredibly frustrating. I think they’ve loaded a backup which has overwritten more recent prescriptions.

It has been cold and wet here, after some very warm, almost summery days. I actually quite like the cold! I never thought I would say that, but it hasn’t been really cold this past winter, and with my new heater I can keep my bedroom quite comfortably warm.  I find the heat really enervating; I find the see-saw temperature changes, sometimes within the same day really frustrating. Just pick a temperature and stick to it!

It must be a southerly wind, because planes just keep flying overhead, to land at Wellington Airport.  It seems they go past every few minutes. Air NZ must be doing quite well domestically.

In Australia, people can’t come home because the flights are very expensive. In New Zealand, Kiwis can’t come home because they can’t get a place in MIQ.

I used to travel into town, taking refuge to sit down in the library; it was very annoying when the Wellington Central Library closed abruptly in 2019.  It  had everything: elevators, escalators, rest rooms, a rather nice, roomy café, easy chairs, and lots of quiet spaces. There is a nice pop-up library, Te Awe, in Brandon St, but since we are at level 2 the Brandon St entrance is closed, and visits are limited to 30 minutes!  That’s nothing!  One can’t really stay in a café if there’s a queue for tables. Many places have closed, there’s a limited number of cafés where one can sit for a while. At Te Awe, you can sit in the library if the café is full, or alternatively, you can decamp to the café if your 30 minutes are up! The café does not seem to have a time limit, although most cafés are closing earlier than previously.

Many stores have closed in town. There really isn’t much to do there, other than hang out at Unity Books (where there are armchairs!), libraries and cafés. There’s only so much coffee one can drink.

Things are being cancelled, including some popular music festivals. Auckland’s Christmas in the Park has been cancelled this year (some would be relieved – it’s not a religious ceremony, celebrating the Saviour’s birth).  Cancel, cancel, cancel. Fear, fear, fear. Boredom reigns supreme.  You can only do so much reading, so many puzzles, in a day. We’ve finished watching The Newsroom on Neon, sadly. (Note: there’s another series, thank goodness).

Yesterday there were 55 (fifty-five) new community cases of Covid 19, mostly in Auckland, with two in the Waikato.  A teacher at an early childhood centre has tested positive for the virus.  There seem to have been only three children in her “pod”, and so the exposure has been limited.  It’s still an alarming number of new cases.

Northland and parts of the Waikato are to remain at level 3 until midnight on Monday, October 18. Auckland remains at level 3, although some say they should go back to level 4. Even at level 4, you can still have quite a wide circle of contacts.

Predictions are dire, that this Covid 19/delta spread will see bigger numbers in Auckland (say 200 a day, according to one modeller), and spread throughout the country.  It seems sex-workers travelled from Auckland to Blenheim, despite the limitations – this would not be allowed under level 3 or level 4. They aren’t cooperating with police. What is it with sex workers? These two have now been arrested. They did not have valid travel permits.

Rapid antigen tests are now allowed, for some core businesses. Some people are against vaccine mandates; actually, you don’t have to be vaccinated, but you may lose your job and not be allowed to go to many places if you haven’t been vaccinated. The government is producing vaccine status documentation, which you can apply for.

The Ministry of Health is planning for coping with more sick people.

It does seem to me that planning for disaster is fraught with risk, and depends very much on the identification of possible risks, and quantifying their likelihood, and potential impact; and most importantly, what happens afterwards; i.e. how long can that fall-back/interim position be sustained? When I was a project manager, the Risk Register was one of the first documents to be produced for any project. It’s really important to at least identify risks and their potential impact, and mitigation.

Having said that, there’s all kinds of gripes about not preparing adequately for the pandemic. Many people are trying to plan for the present and future impacts of climate change, and encountering much resistance. How do you plan for the delta wave of coronavirus, given New Zealand’s limited exposure, and (now rapidly) growing vaccination rate?

I think you meet it with a mixture of restrictions, given vaccination rates, compliance with the rules, and cooperation with police; you also take into account wastewater testing, and how many new cases are contacts or family members of existing cases.

Today there are 71 (seventy-one) new community cases of Covid 19. That’s the most yet. That’s quite depressing. Covid 19 has been detected in wastewater systems for Raglan and Te Awamutu.  The Hon. Grant Robertson blames gatherings in homes (in defiance of level 3 or 4 rules) for the higher numbers. He says it’s an Auckland-wide problem.  Of these, a number of cases were unlinked at the time of reporting.  It’s a huge worry. Thank goodness my  grandchildren here are back at school next Monday (after the holidays) – Covid permitting.

Last night I couldn’t get to sleep, and I listened to several podcasts, all very interesting: one was of Chris Hayes speaking to Mike Duncan, who was in Paris with his wife and two young children last year when we were all in lock down. He was amazed to see Laura Ingraham on Fox News blaming the Democrats for using the pandemic to get back at Trump! And here he was, locked down in Paris, and Paris isn’t quite so wonderful when you’re locked down, allowed out for one hour each day, with young children. I also listened to English podcasts, a refreshing change, not to have American accents, and now they’ve got over Brexit.  I listened to one about the Jeremy Thorpe scandal, and another about someone who faked his own death. For the latter, I listened to two parts, and am eagerly awaiting release of the third. The British presenters are so well-spoken, and have such an irreverent sense of humour and a fine sense of irony.

This afternoon I walked up to the local store.  It’s now fine and sunny outside with a bit of a breeze, after being cold and wet this morning. The store was well-stocked, with few people there. I did find myself getting extremely tired, but I made it home.

It’s now Friday, October 15th. There is a huge sense of doom around today. A second wastewater sample in the Waikato town of Te Awamutu has detected Covid 19. That indicates that there are probably undetected community cases of Covid 19 around there. This outbreak is quite scary, now; we don’t know how big it will be, or where it will go next. 

We await the 1 pm briefing with great interest.

In Australia, the new case numbers for NSW are down, and up for Victoria; but NSW are still recording a significant number of deaths.

The New Zealand Herald warns that the North Shore cluster in Auckland reaches a “record high”.

Today there are 65 new community cases of Covid 19, all of them in Auckland. As at 1 pm, 31 were unlinked. There’s no press conference today, just a statement from the Ministry of Health. Prime Minister Ardern is in Taranaki, which evidently has a poor vaccination rate to date.

On Saturday, “Super Saturday”, there was a huge vaccination drive – a “Vaxathon”, where over 130,00 people had a jab. This was a huge success, reaching just over its target of 130,000 injections.  My husband had the television on for a while to watch the Vaxathon on TV, but was disappointed to find that there seemed to be more advertisements than performances. Still, the day was fine and warm, and it was a big success. Hopefully it will make a big difference in terms of our vulnerability to Covid 19/delta.  I ventured out to a Tai Chi group meeting, which I enjoyed, although I did not know many of the forms. I was not alone in that – this had some serious practitioners there.

On Saturday there were 41 new community cases of Covid 19.

It’s now Sunday October 17th. This morning I went to church (in person) again. It was nice to be there, although they haven’t separated the pews as I thought they would have, ruling every second row out of use. Several people – perhaps 8 – zoomed in. I enjoyed singing in a (distanced) group again. Today it’s cold and wet again, or rather, drizzly.

Today there are 51 new community cases of Covid 19, 47 in Auckland and 4 in the Waikato. We’re used to big numbers, now – at least it’s around 50.

The voices of doom and gloom and predictions of hundreds of new cases in Auckland have, so far, not come true. That’s not to say they won’t, of course, but it’s heartening that people responded so well to the call to get vaccinated.

In overseas news, there have been bow and arrow killings in Norway, a suicide bomb in a mosque in Afghanistan killed many people, a British conservative MP was fatally stabbed in a church at a constituents’ meeting, and several children drowned in a river in Indonesia. In the US, Senator Joe Manchin has upended President Joe Biden’s climate agenda, right before the Cop 26 climate meeting in Glasgow. That all seems desperately sad. But amid ongoing threats of violence against American democracy in various ways, the saddest thing to me seems to be the latest requirement when teaching about the Holocaust – to provide “other perspectives”.  What other perspectives can there possibly be – how is genocide permitted under any circumstances? How is theft allowed? This dreadful, shameful event should be taught for what it was – the systematic killing of millions of people, never mind that they were forced to operate at a distinct disadvantage, herded into ghettos, deprived of the power and use of the law, and then, after being starved, robbed, deprived of health care and dehumanized, carried off by train in random “aktions” to concentration camps and to their likely death. I am old enough that the Great Depression of the 1930’s, followed by the Second World War, left a marked impression on my parents, and therefore on me. I’m horrified to find that they haven’t made such an impression on others.

That’s it for now. I have several activities to look forward to in the coming week, as some things get underway again for Term 4. Ngā mihi.