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.

Borders

Today is Sunday October 10th, 2021. Kia ora. Kia kaha!

Yesterday I did not write.  I took a break, after venting somewhat the previous day.  Yesterday there were 34 new cases of Covid 19; a positive case was discovered in the Bay of Plenty (in Katikati). We are all pretty nervous. Northland is in level 3 lockdown, and the positive case in Northland is thought to have a companion who cannot be found by police. Last night we heard about the positive BOP case; one person is in Palmerston North hospital (presumably a truck driver with an exemption to cross the Auckland border.

On Sunday morning I learnt that a sex worker had travelled from Auckland to Wellington during the Level 4 lockdown. I wouldn’t have thought sex was an essential industry.

Today imagine my dismay on learning that there are – wait for it – 60 (sixty) new cases of Covid 19. Of these, 56 are in Auckland, 3 in the Waikato, and one in the Bay of Plenty.  Waste water tests in Palmerston North have shown presence of the virus. So that’s not good news. The delta variant is still rampant in Auckland, and while we feel for them, just how safe are the rest of us?

I zoomed into a lovely St Anne’s service this morning. They are thinking about discontinuing it, given that they can now attend Mass in person (online registration is required).  But there is a move to keep the zoom sessions going. It’s been very empowering, to have so many take part, and in so many different languages.  It’s very meaningful to say the Lord’s Prayer in Te Reo Maori. Given that we don’t know what will happen, it may be wise to continue these sessions; even though I can rejoin some activities, I may wish to limit my exposure.  As I reminded them, the Good Lord gave us a brain.

They are endeavouring to get people vaccinated in the Newtown area, especially the residents of the various blocks of flats, some of which are owned by the council.  It seems vaccine hesitancy is greatest in the most needy and disadvantaged residents of Aotearoa.

On going to bed, I learn that a staff member at Auckland Hospital has tested positive for Covid 19. I am very apprehensive about this, and about New Zealand’s Covid 19/delta status. We are expecting a press conference on Monday to announce any changes to Covid 19 levels.

There’s great (and justified) outrage about the Facebook whistle-blower’s witness to just how awful and manipulative Facebook is, and some of its viler practices. There’s a very amusing sendup on SNL about this.  The whistle blower is female, well-educated, good looking, blond, and very credible. I am somewhat surprised and distressed that Peter Thiel’s involvement in Facebook has not been mentioned, despite a recent book being published about him: The Contrarian, by Max Chafkin. Its author has been interviewed on two podcasts I’ve listened to recently.  Thiel was the first big donor to Facebook, sits on its board, and is a big supporter of Trump – he was on Trump’s transition team, and Trump has not mocked him. Some would say that he’s Stephen Miller’s evil twin, but richer. There was a recent announcement that Thiel was behind Facebook’s commitment to not fact-checking Trump’s political claims. This information seems relevant to me.

It’s claimed in the press that one country let covid in, that country being Singapore. Nobody willingly lets covid in! C’mon, man!  They may relax restrictions, or throw caution to the winds, as many do, but I cannot think if anyone reckless enough to let covid in. I think all would prefer to be without it. Now Singapore is very different from New Zealand. Whatever comparisons are made, It’s being acknowledged that Prime Minister Ardern and her government and health advisors have some very hard decisions to make. Even Bill Ralston, usually against Labour, acknowledges this. By and large, the press acknowledge this.  The country went to level 4 over one case, before it was confirmed that it was the delta variant of Covid 19. One case! The world’s media thought this was absurd. Yesterday 60 new cases were reported. We are all in trepidation.

Today there are 35 new cases of Covid 19, all in Auckland.  At 4 pm there is another press conference, fronted by Prime Minister Ardern, Dr Bloomfield, and Minister Hipkins. It’s announced that Auckland will remain at level 3 for another week, while Northland and the Waikato will move to level 2 at midnight on Thursday. In Auckland, schools will not reopen next Monday on October 18th, like they will in the rest of the country.  In Auckland, a patient who was on dialysis at Auckland‘s North Shore Hospital has tested positive, and two staff members have subsequently tested positive.  Two staff members at Auckland Hospital have also tested positive, one of them fully vaccinated.

There are weeping new vaccination mandates for those working in the health and education sectors, and also working in the disability sectors, i.e. anyone working with or caring for vulnerable people. These kick in quite soon – by 1st January. This makes good sense, really. Prime Minister Ardern has made it pretty clear that high levels of vaccination are the key to having reduced restrictions.  Once again, she is quite marvellous, and has great control over events. She shows masterful handling of this crisis. As usual, there are questions about vaccination rates among Maori; once again, some of them need a lot of encouragement to trust this treatment.

It’s now Tuesday October 12th.  The media seem to be narrowly favouring Prime Minister Ardern.  David Seymour, leader of the Act Party, favours loosening of restrictions once a target of 90% vaccination is reached. Seriously, does anyone want this guy for Prime Minister? Judith Collins continues to struggle for relevance. The Maori Party claim it would be “modern genocide” to reopen New Zealand amid the covid outbreak. That’s a very serious term to use. In Australia, there are photos of happy Sydneysiders enjoying their new freedoms, now that covid restrictions have been lifted. Victoria is still in the grip of a delta outbreak, despite their lockdown.  Here, we don’t want more deaths, and we certainly don’t want our health system to come under more pressure.  So, frustrating as it is, the PM’s moves seem to be wise, and have a wise reception.

New Zealand police have found the woman they were searching for – in west Auckland! She is now showing symptoms of coronavirus.  It seems that truck drivers and sex workers have spread coronavirus; truck drivers may be essential workers; sex workers more certainly are not. Someone claims in this morning’s newspaper that they should claim the wage subsidy, rather than crossing borders to maintain their income. That’s assuming they’re not breaking government rules under some kind of duress. Evidently the second woman (i.e. the person the police were looking for) has now tested positive for covid 19.  It must be so frustrating for all the law-abiding citizens that these breaches are happening.  Everyone’s frustrated, but it seems that breaking the rules is causing disaster; for Auckland, level 2 is increasingly remote.  The rest of the country is on edge.

Apparently Brian Tamaki, who held a rally in Auckland’s Domain, has pled not guilty to charges against him. Undeterred, he’s planning another rally.

Meanwhile, the MIQ entrance system is literally a lottery. Many people are very frustrated by this, and not just us.  I know of people who genuinely need to come here, or come back here, and they can’t. There’s now a legal challenge to this system, and people are asking how it can be legal to deny New Zealanders the right to come home.

It’s also reported that the Katikati (Bay of Plenty) case has now tested negative for Covid 19.

It seems that approval will soon be given for children over 5 years to be vaccinated.  This is likely to be a thorny issue for parents, in my view.

Today there are 43 new cases, three in the Waikato, the rest all in Auckland. Once again, Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield take to the stage to front a press conference. What a great communicator she is!

She announces a blast from the past – a Vaxathon (remember the old Telethons? Back in the day, when there were only two television channels, and there was no social media).  This will be held on Super Saturday (October 16th) on TV Three and Māori television between 12 and 8 pm. 

Of the current cases of Covid 19, there are 34 people in hospital, 5 in intensive care, and one requiring ventilation. All the new Waikato cases are close contacts of existing cases, and were already isolating themselves.

Experts have also called for borders to be strengthened. There are anecdotal reports of people getting through without correct documentation.

I have been watching Scenes from a Marriage, on my own now, since JD can’t stand it. It is a pretty bleak series, to be sure.  I’ve just read the review in the Guardian:  this “uncoupling is all killer, no filler” it says, and I’d have to agree with that. Having said that, I’ve found the series extremely frustrating so far. Right from the beginning this couple did not communicate effectively. Both were struggling, in their way, she probably more than him.  The pregnancy test at the beginning, where his attitude is “you should do whatever’s right for you, and I’ll support you in that” seems to be interpreted by her as he doesn’t really want another child.

It’s so annoying to me that this couple, who both have good jobs, a nice house, and one beautiful daughter, can’t seem to make a go of their marriage.  What’s not to like?  How would you be better off?  Where are the (un)supportive family members and friends?  Who’s advising these guys?  How about some real problems, to deal with, like death, or illness?  I the last episode I watched, Mira has lost her high-paying job, she and her lover have split up, and they failed to make more babies; she seemingly  baulked at infertility treatment. So there are some real problems there, and it seems Mira and her new lover don’t have the fortitude to face them together. I have to admit that this series is very well made, and thought-provoking, but the couple’s inability to communicate, and Mira’s muddled and misunderstanding response, are irritating to me. Does she not understand men at all? I think that I do, a little more than her.

I have had a message about one of my singing groups. To sum it up, everyone must be vaccinated, masks must be worn to enter the Hall, but can be removed for singing, and there’ll be no morning tea; numbers are limited.  I expect the local cafés will receive very good custom.  It’s good that we are allowed to remove masks for singing.

There seems to be a general consensus that Prime Minister Ardern is getting it right. That’s it for today. Ngā mihi.

Spin

Today is Friday October 8th, 2021. Kia ora.

I didn’t write yesterday, but there were 29 new community of Covid 19, I think. Five of these were in the Waikato, prompting an extension to the south of the then current Waikato boundary from midnight Thursday. Today there are 44 new cases, 3 in the Waikato and the rest in Auckland. Yesterday it was reported there was a case in Northland, specifically Whangarei, who was originally a weak-positive, being in the early stages of the disease, but this does not appear to be included today. After the death of a man who belonged to the AOG Church in Mangere, the church is encouraging people to get vaccinated. It’s very disappointing that so many need to be encouraged.

Yesterday there were upsetting reports of three rooms being trashed at the Jet Park quarantine facility, where you go if you have been diagnosed with covid 19. This was very distressing for the staff there, who work in a very risky environment.  As I recall, gangs were not involved in widespread infection during previous lockdowns; they are certainly causing trouble now.

Today it’s reported that a patient at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital has tested positive, and a significant number of other patients (42) and 18 visitors (are patients still allowed visitors? Are they visitors to the ED?) are regarded as contacts. He went there, to the ED twice for something else, and on his second visit tested positive for Covid 19. Several people (25) are in hospital with Covid 19, including 5 in ICU.  The Waikato cases are all close contacts of existing cases, so that’s good.

Everywhere there’s confusion and anger, all spurred on by media spin. We’re hearing testimony from the US about part of Facebook’s business model being to encourage anger; there’s plenty of it around, without FB’s help! We’re also hearing more about Trump’s strenuous efforts to claim that he’d really won the presidential election

I guess fundamentally we’re all angry about Covid 19/delta wreaking havoc on plans, bookings, our coming to terms with being “locked in” and making the best of it, and, frankly, having a wonderful Prime Minister in Jacinda Ardern – we were, justifiably, proud of our success in New Zealand’s keeping Covid 19 at bay, and although we’d had several near-misses, we’d been very fortunate here. The government has managed this situation rather well, in many respects.   Granted, we can’t plan overseas trips, or have overseas loved one come here, but within our limits, we were managing quite well.  Fear was almost eliminated. We could get back to worrying about getting anything fixed, getting through the day/week/month, and the queue for health treatment, given that many of us are older, living longer, and thus can expect things to wear out, as we slow down. Should I be concerned about that strange new symptom? Let’s see if it happens again.

Now there’s huge confusion. Will Covid 19/delta spread, and, if so, where? There are terrible reports this morning of Victoria having 1,838 new cases and 5 deaths, and reportedly calling the military in to help. NSW has 646 new cases, down a bit, but 11 deaths. Scott Morrison has decided that lockdowns don’t work, and they’re reopening, tra la. I think the lockdown in Melbourne has been far stricter than that in Sydney, but Covid 19/delta is now running rife in Victoria, whatever the reason. Evidently there is a new strain of delta in NSW.

After seeing the desperate scenes in India when Covid 19/delta was rampant there, I don’t think this can be “lived with”, as many people recommend. I think it must be limited, and I’m sure restrictions are preferable to having an overwhelming epidemic, where health care is rationed, breathing assistance is scarce, ambulances are queueing up at hospitals, and people cannot get care for all their other ailments that normally tie up Emergency Departments.

Here there is great uncertainty as we debate and make daily decisions about what risks to take, and what to go to, given that some activities are operating again.  I have been having discussions with singing folk, over whether we have to sing wearing masks (not an attractive prospect); how many people will be allowed at my new tai chi class; and whether one should go and see the new James Bond movie (I rather like Daniel Craig), or save up any exposure until it’s really necessary. It’s strange how eating becomes so important. One is always tired, and hungry, and surely one more biscuit or another piece of chocolate won’t make much difference? It doesn’t, of course, until you try to wear some item of clothing that doesn’t fit anymore.

Early this week my copy of the Listener arrived. It’s now being delivered by DX mail, like the bank statements, rather than NZ Post, so that’s a relief. I think it came last Monday.

We’ve been watching more episodes of The Newsroom on Neon, with the rather good Jeff Daniels. There are three series of this wonderful series, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin in 2021.  We are watching it now, and it was filmed during Obama’s presidency, which was, one has to admit, itself rather amazing.  Well, this series has all the major issues of the time, as I’ve noted previously. One may have thought America was going to hell in a hand basket during Dubya’s presidency; believe me, although Obama served two terms as president, it hasn’t gotten any better. And now…The news anchor, a republican who strongly disagrees with many republicans, gets into major hot water for likening some republicans (the Tea Party) to the Taliban. (Remember Rick Santorum and Michele Bachman?) He then asked if it was the Taliban who were upset. Well, I did not realise that Sorkin had beaten me to it, but I do recall writing about the Taliban-like mediaevalism of American attitudes towards women, with particular reference to the recent Texas abortion law (nwt temporarily shelved by a third-circuit judge). Actually Michael Moore wrote about it too. They’re both men, by the way.  Anyway, this series is my current drug of choice. It’s quite absorbing, and seems very prescient.

I’m also watching Scenes from a Marriage (on my own, now) and the fourth series of New Amsterdam – a rather silly medical soap, although the flawed characters are quite interesting. I’m looking forward to new series of The Crown and Succession. I may have to do lots of watching in my bedroom.

Isn’t it strange how things change. Everything’s a fashion, of course; movements that seem so certain at the time (I’m thinking back to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s) have changed for formality, some excess, and a new and different way of bringing up children.  I thought I was a good mother!  But my children all do it differently.

I thought we had eliminated sexual assault, paedophilia, and cruel practices in the workplace; but no, The MeToo movement is alive and perhaps not so well; porn is a big issue, being now quite unrealistic and readily available; cruelty to children continues; and bullying is rampant, not only in online media, but in many workplaces.  I remember when we went to Atlanta in November 2017, and three big things had just happened (in addition to many not-quite-so-big things): the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the arrest of Harvey Weinstein, and forest fires in California.  That was after three hurricanes (Harvey, Irma and Maria affecting the southern US and Puerto Rico), and an election in New Zealand.  After this election, Winston Peters with the New Zealand First party held the balance of power.  After what seemed like weeks, he decided to form a government with Labour (who had won fewer seats than the National Party). That is how we got the rather wonderful Prime Minister Ardern. That’s by-the-by, however. After Weinstein was arrested, a mother at my granddaughter’s school said ”I thought we were past all that”. Indeed, I had thought so too, but attitudes towards women in many countries have got worse, not better, and the US, which calls itself Land of the Free, is one of the worst.

It does seem weird, that now people are outraged by things we took for granted, back in my day. I never felt I had a deprived childhood, but bullying at school was endemic, dogs were scary and not tied up, physical punishment was expected, and children were left for long times on their own (or at least, I was).  Things were different – not better, necessarily, not always worse. I certainly did some hair raising things that I would be scared for my children to do. I feel now that we were really slack about car safety, but we obeyed current rules and recommendations at the time. We certainly were a lot more careful than our parents seemed to be.  Everything changes. Allergies were coming into vogue, but gluten free-ness and the issue of gut health were ahead of us. With the crisis of climate change now being recognised and addressed, to some extent, I remind our children that back in the day the fear of nuclear war and nuclear radiation was our climate crisis; we also “dealt with” the Vietnam War (the New Zealand compulsory draft was only abolished just before we were married), and the Aids crisis. There is still no vaccine for Aids, although it’s no longer a death sentence, but there is now a vaccine for malaria. This is great news.

Unfortunately the coronavirus pandemic has set the world back some in terms of human struggle and exploitation, child brides, and persecution of some minorities such as the Uighurs in China, and some in Myanmar, and Muslims in India. On the other hand, it ma have curbed some excesses.  The worldly struggles between good and evil and the grey areas in between continue.  I remember having it pointed out to me years ago that most new things have elements of both good and evil, viz. the internet, the discovery of nuclear fission, the right to free speech and religious liberty. Everything needs to be done with discrimination and judgment – after all, you have a brain!

The media continue to spin news stories: here, the Reserve Bank was reported to have hiked the Official Cash Rate. They raised it by ¼ of 1%, from 0.25% to 0.5%. That’s hardly “hiking” it. Similarly Prime Minister Ardern is said to have abandoned the strategy of elimination with regard to Covid 19. She never actually said that, although it’s been widely reported, both here and overseas, that she did. I know newspapers have to print something, and the more hair-raising the story, the better for sales, but I find this “spin” really annoying, and as for outright lies….The Bible has a lot to say about those who “love and make a lie”. It’s right up there with other sinful behaviour.

Shortages abound – of precious metals, aka computer chips; of goods and fuel in the UK, water in the West of the US, and of power in China. In addition to this, fuel prices are rising in the EU, and widespread floods, heat and earthquakes are causing disruption.  We are fortunate to be here in New Zealand.  I had thought (in my naivety) that one could expect a degree of civilisation:  clean running water that is fit to drink; a fairly constant supply of utilities such as gas and electricity; a supply of fuel and food at reasonable prices, and good paved streets and nice footpaths and a reasonably efficient public transport system.  It seems in many places of the world these expectations don’t apply, and these things are often missing. 

In New Zealand, the area of Northland goes back to level 3 at midnight tonight. A woman has tested positive for Covid 19 in Whangarei, having (allegedly) falsified documents to allow her to go to Northland.  In Auckland, a policeman has tested positive, after coming in contact with a Covid 19 sufferer during a welfare callout.  There are new locations of interest: two in Whangarei, and more in Auckland. One feels for the contact tracing team, who must have their hands full.  At least Northland is north of Auckland; I’d like to see the new James Bond film but most sessions in Wellington tomorrow are fully booked! Presumable they’re fully booked allowing for social distancing. I hope we’ll be able to see it in the not-too-distant future.

That’s it for now. Delta’s had quite a busy day. We remain on high alert.   Ngā mihi.

What to do now?

Open Photo
Tightrope Time

Today is Monday October 4th, 2021. Kia ora.

Today there are 29 new community cases of covid 19, 28 of them in Auckland and one in the Waikato. Some contacts of a new cases announced yesterday have tested positive.

It’s now Tuesday October 5th.

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

There was a press conference at 4 pm yesterday afternoon, fronted by Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield. There is no change to Covid 19 levels, but restrictions have been eased for Aucklanders, who remain in Level 3:  two families can meet, but the meeting must be outside (up to 10 people), masks should be worn, and social distance should be maintained. Early childhood centres can reopen, but are expected to maintain “pods” i.e. small groups of children. Elsewhere, hospitality venues can now have more people – up from 100 maximum, but patrons must be seated and maintain social distancing.  There is relief, and frustration, of course.  I have to remind myself that I am one of the well-off ones, in terms of these restrictions: I don’t have children living at home, I am not that active, and I’m not concerned about losing my job, or keeping a struggling business afloat. I’m just frustrated about not being able to do the activities that form a key part of my schedule now: singing and exercising, going to church, and going to the movies. Well, I can do the latter, if I feel safe to do so.

Reaction is predictable. Jacinda has abandoned the strategy of eliminating Covid 10! Shock, horror! A U-turn!  Prime Minister Ardern has outlined a three-step programme for Aucklanders living with level 3 to move out of their current restrictions.  Vaccination is strongly encouraged, and the vaccination rates are disappointingly low.  Actually JD showed me a different world graph, which rates vaccinations in NZ at 68.47% (having had one jab or more).  This Labour led Government has done, and continues to do, an enormous amount to keep New Zealanders safe.  It is indeed disappointing to be in this situation, where we had 28 new community cases of the virus yesterday, (after one on 27th August!), but think how and it would be if things were worse, we had multiple deaths, and our health system, which is pretty amazing, was overwhelmed.

On Tuesday I think there were 29 new cases; this was confusing, because the Stuff banner told a different story from the story itself.  Facebook and Instagram were down for several hours (what a relief!) and internet reception was rather dodgy.  A “whistle blower” who used to work for Facebook as blown the whistle on their dodgy business model. Are we surprised? Not really.

I feel that this government is managing the situation well. We look at the situation in Australia, where the NSW rates are easing now, but Victoria’s are increasing. Singapore is “reopening”, but having disturbing numbers of new cases, and what about Singapore’s immigrant population, who have been having a really hard time.  Reopening, or lifting of restrictions, is very risky indeed, in this environment. Yes, we’ve all had the coronavirus up to here, and we’re sick of this, but we should continue to be very wary, I think.

Someone’s written “No, you can’t hug Grandma yet”, but you can hug people while wearing a mask, and young children are much shorter than adults, so yes, you can safely hug them. You can’t kiss them on the cheek, and many prefer you not to, anyway.

So far there is no bad delta news today.

Last night we watched more episodes of The Newsroom on Neon. What an amazing series it is, once you get over the American sense of entitlement. Last night we had the shooting of Gabby Giffords, Citizens United, the Tea Party movement, the Koch brothers (one has since died), and the Arab Spring – the revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Along with that, we had teachers demonstrating in Wisconsin against then Governor Rick Scott’s new law. I was reminded that things were already pretty awful in the US before Trump became republican candidate for president, and won the US presidency. We were despairing even then, and Obama was president.   That is quite some series.  Gabby Giffords almost died, and took a long time to “recover” I remember her being reported as saying that “easy, flowing speech is a thing of the past”. I can so relate to that.  She did “recover”, of course, but obviously life was never the same again. Six people died in that mass shooting event.

It’s now Thursday September 6th.

Today in the newspaper there was more measured coverage of the Covid 19/delta outbreak. Evidently Prime Minister Ardern’s announcement has caused some confusion. Auckland remains in Level 3, and its new freedoms are very limited.  There was an interesting story that helped to explain the current situation in a more rational way, than leaping to conclusions as much media has done with an “Aha! Got you now” approach. Is New Zealand’s success up until now a bad thing? Is there some jealousy, maybe?

It’s been a bad day for Covid news here, or perhaps, rather good day for Covid 19/delta in New Zealand. Today there were 39 new community cases of Covid 19, 30 of them in Auckland, and nine in the Waikato.  This includes a case in Kawhia, a predominantly Maori community (near Raglan, on the coast) with very low vaccination rates; a case in Karapiro, close to Cambridge, a city in the Waikato close to Hamilton but outside the level 3 exclusion zone; and it was reported that there was a “weak positive” case in Northland. Furthermore, the first death (New Zealand’s 28th) death has occurred, of a man in his 60’s who was in hospital. He evidently had other health conditions, and his wife is also in hospital battling the disease. They were both worshippers at the Assembly of God Church in Mangere, the site of the largest current cluster. He had been in hospital for 40 days.

Minister Hipkins has admitted that Covid 19/delta has infiltrated the gang community (he doesn’t say which one), and he acknowledged they’ve been a bit loose over the restrictions. Meanwhile, people are still being encouraged to get vaccinated, and not to wait six weeks for their second jab. The interval was extended from 3 to 6 weeks, on the grounds that it may be more effective if there’s a longer gap (based on the UK’s non-intentional delay). 

So the news is that this outbreak is not really contained, it’s spreading through the Waikato region now, and I guess we should all be very afraid.

Meanwhile the custodians of the hall where my local singing group rehearse (and enjoy ourselves) have recommended smaller groups, and that we sing wearing masks. This does seem a bit silly. You can take off your mask to do yoga. Our art group plans to meet this coming Friday – I’m not sure if we’ll go yet.  It all feels very different now, in terms of personal risk and safety.

Today I was in the CBD, where it was warm, and busy. Not everyone is wearing a mask – several aren’t. I went to Pickle and Pie for a coffee and a cheese scone, and they were incredibly busy, so much so that I thought I had better vacate my table. There wasn’t much, if any social distancing going on there.

I went to Unity Books, where they have hard-back copies of The Suitcase by Frances Saunders. This is the book I read in instalments in the LRB last year, and I would dearly love to buy the book, which has photographs and a family tree.  But at $48 I felt I could not justify buying it. On Book depository.com it is slightly less, but at just over $41, still quite dear, so I shall have to wait till it comes out in paperback.  I did sit down and do some reading, however, before putting it back.

I also went to the pop-up library Te Awe. Only the Panama St entrance was open, and I was only allowed to stay ½ an hour.  I duly did this, and then went to sit in Midland Park, needing somewhere to sit, but not wanting to buy anything.  The Reserve Bank has raised the OCR by ¼ % to 0.5%.

That’s it for now. I wonder what the news will be tomorrow? Ngā mihi.

Stacked

Prime Minister Ardern and Auckland Police were unhappy about Brian Tamaki’s Lockdown Protest

Today is Friday October 1st, 2021. Kia ora.

On our first trip overseas at the end of 1973, there was all kinds of excitement, but our first experience of London was our McDonnell Douglas DC9 plane being stacked over Heathrow Airport, and flying over seemingly endless streets that looked like Coronation Street. We feel as though we’re in a similar holding pattern right now.

 On Friday it was a busy morning. I texted my cleaner to find out when she expected to come. She texted back midday, but then texted again soon after 10 to ask I was home and if she could come then. It was a bit of a panic because I had showered, but JD hadn’t; anyway, I rushed around, emptied the rubbish, decided not to change the sheets, and changed the towels and put the dirty ones on to wash. After she’d finished, I walked to the local shops, and back. It was a beautiful fine day, but it was quite windy, nonetheless.

One of my sons showed me a photograph his brother had sent him from the UK, where their local petrol station is has no gas. Evidently they’re short of toilet paper.  I listened to a podcast about Prime Minister Johnson, where he claimed that the relevant industries would just have to even things out, somehow. It seemed to be nothing to do with him.

Today there are nineteen new community cases of Covid 19, all of them in Auckland. Two people who’d been to the ER at Middlemore Hospital had tested positive, and 60 patients were regarded as close contacts.  The majority of these are linked to current clusters. But Dr Bloomfield has said not to expect level 1 freedoms while the delta variant is still prevalent in the community. So that’s rather sad. It means that singing and exercise will probably not take place, since most of these activities don’t happen unless we’re at level 1.This was reported as Bloomfield claims these freedoms are things of the past, which has not been reported accurately.  What he said was that level 1 freedoms are a thing of the past while there is a Codi19 19/delta epidemic in New Zealand.

In NSW, Gladys unpronounceable has resigned. The mournful Premier has resigned not because of her mishandling of the latest Covid 19/delta epidemic in New South Wales, but because of corruption! They’ll probably get someone worse next time.

It’s now Saturday September 2nd. Today there are 27 new cases of coronavirus, all in Auckland. Another person has tested positive after visiting Middlemore Hospital’s ED. It’s suspected that some gangs have been infected, thus probably proving more of a challenge to health officials; they tend to come from larger family groups, plus there’s the difficulty of maintaining separation in a gang setting.  Today self-styled Bishop Brian Tamaki is holding a gathering in Auckland’s Domain to protest peoples’ freedoms and their right not to wear masks or get vaccinated. Any large gathering breaks all the rules for level 3. It’s reported that about 2,000 turned up for this gathering. Some of them wore masks, as did Tamaki before he took his off to speak to the crowd.

I think if there should be a protest it would be in the South Island, where there have been no Covid 19 cases diagnosed, and people there must be so frustrated at the limitations they’re required to obey. Steven Joyce, previously known as the National Minister for Everything, claims the Ardern Government is getting too big for its bossy boots. Really, that is mean and awful, in my view. Goodness me, we’re not dealing with cold weather, petrol and goods shortages, or even a great deal of sickness and death. Get over it, people!  You’re not dealing with radiation, bombings, or dreadful bodily emissions from sick people. 

In other news, in the US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has tested positive for Covid 19. Corey Lewandowski has further disgraced himself by sexually assaulting a Republican donor, who has now sued him for this. India now requires all travellers from the UK to quarantine on arrival.  And there are dreadful shortages in the England: as well as petrol shortages (many stations have no petrol), and basic foodstuffs, people’s utility bills are set to increase, and benefits to reduce. Winter is coming. The whole situation seems very cruel, and very tone-deaf on the part of Tory politicians. This comes after years of austerity, where libraries and youth centres have closed. It’s reported that one in twenty school children has tested positive for coronavirus.

I’ve listened to several interesting podcasts lately – some about Max Chafkin’s new book about Peter Thiel (The Contrarian), about the CIA’s efforts under Mike Pompeo to kidnap and kill Julian Assange (lawyers stopped this, pointing out that Assange had not been charged with a crime); and more about lawyer John Eastman’s “legal” plan to overturn the election in favour of Trump. The more I learn about this plan, and about the events of January 6th, the more horrified I am. Then there is all the wrangling about the Democrats’ and President Biden’s legislative program, and the  issue of raising the debt ceiling. Frankly, I’m sick of it all.

I was also upset by this heading in the UK Guardian: ‘Clearly not working’/ How New Zealand’s consensus on striving for Covid zero is finally cracking, along with the obligatory photo of Prime Minister Ardern frowning. I know newspapers have to print something, and there’s a huge tendency to exaggerate anything that is said, but c’mon, Man, who’s side are you on?  Prime Minister Ardern has, in my view, done an amazing job of keeping us safe here. The present restrictions are very frustrating, but it would be far worse to have the health system “overwhelmed” (I listened to a podcast recently explaining just what that might mean), and lots of deaths. Could it be that you’re jealous of New Zealand’s success, thus far?

This afternoon we were supposed to go shopping, but the chauffeur changed his mind. However a new issue of the LRB arrived in the mail, with some welcome reading in it.

It’s now Sunday September 3rd. This morning I zoomed into my church service, along with several others. It didn’t look as though many attended in person.  I enjoyed this. I then watched the service at St Mathew’s in the City on Youtube. This was celebrating St Francis. I always find the Desiderata incredibly moving. The music was truly wonderful.

Last nigh I heard that a truck driver who commutes between Auckland and Palmerston North has tested positive for Covid 19. He was tested as part of regular cross-border checks.  Consequently, there are several new places of interest, including Burger King outlets and petrol stations. There is further trepidation.

In the UK, Christmas is cancelled, and it’s all Brexit’s fault: there’s a huge shortage of petrol, turkeys, and Christmas trees (real and artificial)! They did it to themselves, too.

In New Zealand, it’s reported that there are two new community cases in the Waikato.

In the 1 pm announcement I learn that there are 33 new Covid 19 cases, including two in the Waikato area: one in Hamilton, one in Raglan; the rest are in Auckland. Hamilton and Raglan are to move back to level 3 at midnight tonight. This is not such good news.

I missed the announcement because I was shopping at my favourite supermarket, New World in Thorndon.  We bought salads, pizza bread and a doughnut, although they don’t have the lovely round doughnuts they used to have. I did get some raspberries! It was nice to go shopping. The store wasn’t crazily busy, and someone wiped down the trolley with disinfectant before I took it. They have automatic hand sanitiser dispensers – a great innovation. We also bought two other essentials: bread and toilet paper. One wouldn’t want to run out, now!

It’s now Monday September 4th.  Last night I learnt that the mother of a baby in NICU has tested positive for Covid 19 at Auckland City Hospital.  This must be a hugely stressful situation for both hospital staff, the baby’s whanau, and other parents and babies. There’s usually a significant circle of people in such events, both whanau, and hospital staff.

Yesterday Prime Minister Ardern urged the importance of vaccination, saying that a way to reduce lockdowns is through vaccination.  I am frustrated here, though. I had thought that South Auckland and the South Auckland DHB (which includes Middlemore Hospital) were in Group 1 for vaccination priority. I think Maori and people with disabilities were in Group 2, and yet Maori have been slower than Pacifica and other New Zealanders to take up the offer of free vaccines, together with all the inducements that have been offered. I, in Group 3, had to wait: till the end of May, then till after Queen’s Birthday weekend (beginning of June), then till the end of July. I had my first jab on Monday 26 July. My second appointment was cancelled, and I went along with my husband to his appointment for his second jab. I would have had the jabs much sooner if they’d been available to me. I am immune-compromised, but was told to wait my turn.

This morning I leant that a new born, asymptomatic baby has tested positive at North Shore Hospital, but the mother has tested negative. That’s another even greater mystery – how did the baby catch Covid 19?  Was the midwife infected? Were the delivery staff infected? Here, too, are swathes of people, all contacts, potential or contacts of contacts.  Evidently the father has tested positive for coronavirus, so it’s assumed he passed it on to the new baby. The chief executive is assessing what further actions need to be taken to protect the birthing unit.

Poor Auckland! What chance of their going to level 2 this week? We all anxiously await this afternoon’s press conference, but I’d have to say things aren’t looking great for going down a level. Some experts are asking if the known cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The contact tracing teams will be really busy, again.

The NZ Herald reports that there are more cases in the Waikato (an area of which went from level 2 to level 3 at midnight last night), and an Auckland taxi driver has tested positive.

I’ve been watching the new UK crime series, Vigil, on TVNZ On demand. I find it quite interesting, although it has far too many loose ends, including the following: a detective who has experienced great personal loss; a lesbian relationship (of course); a dodgy nuclear submarine; difficulties of being confined underwater for long periods; attempts by the Royal Navy to cover up crimes; the involvement of MI5, drug use, dodgy urine tests, and so on and so on. So why is this old nuclear submarine doing dangerous missions at all? Is anyone likely to attack the UK?  They are quite capable of hurting themselves, by themselves. But the series is quite gripping, and the Scottish accents and countryside are beautiful, as always. 

Last night we discovered The Newsroom on Neon (starring Jeff Daniels), and I have to admit JD quite liked it. We watched Recon (a movie) the previous night, and he found all kinds of faults with that. I am watching more are more things alone on my computer, since I find all the Elon Musk stuff really boring, i.e. I’m sure it’s amazing but I don’t admire him as a human being.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens – at 1 pm and 4 pm today. Ngā mihi.

Single figures (briefly)

Today is Wednesday September 29th, 2021. Kia ora!

Today I would have to admit I’m a bit down. Yesterday there were 8 new community Covid 19 cases – we were in single figures! But there was concern about Covid being detected in Tauranga’s wastewater. Authorities in Tauranga are concerned, but there’s so far no further news. Anyone who has Covid 19 symptoms in Tauranga is encouraged to get tested.

Yesterday was quite a busy day. A plumber came in the morning to check the shower in the en suite bathroom. Since the power outage just over a week ago, the taps in the en suite have been running slow, and the shower has been really frustrating: it’s been hard to get the water hot enough, and the flow varies – you think it has come right, and then it goes strange again. It transpires that we need a new valve. The plumber went away for a while, then came back and fitted the new valve. I’m pleased to report that it’s made a huge difference, and the water flow is now much greater.

Meanwhile, I had a friend visiting that afternoon, and a cousin wanted to return a book I’d lent her. I needed to go up to the local store to buy some dairy milk for my friend (we don’t usually have dairy milk in the house).  You can’t buy anything in a rush these days – but suffice to say I got the milk, the new valve got installed, JD got to his appointment, the book was returned, and all went well. I even washed the dishes and tidied up a bit. My friend and I drank English Breakfast tea out of my beautiful new green cups, and we had a lovely chat. We talked about our loved ones overseas, and how the coming here of the delta variant of Covid 19 has changed everything. We can understand their weariness better now. Last year, in 2020, I used to joke that while our children overseas and their families are tearing their hair out with frustration, at least they didn’t have to worry about us. We were safe here, and life in Aotearoa has been almost back to the new normal.  Now that’s all changed. We, the fully vaccinated, are now too scared to go anywhere, or do anything much. Would we feel safe at any kind of gathering? A cinema, a concert, a restaurant or café, a church service?  We go to the supermarket and buy things we don’t really need, because, after all, what else is one to do?

Yesterday there were 8 new cases of Covid 29. Today there are 45 new cases! That is devastating!  I was quite upset when newspapers like the Guardian did not highlight yesterday’s  good news; today, that 45 is the biggest number of new cases we’ve had in a while. Yesterday there were no new locations of interest. Had we turned a corner? Today there are new places of interest – another shopping mall, in west Auckland. A patient at Waitakere Hospital, who had gone there for another test, tested positive for Covid 19. Meanwhile, conspiracy theories abound. Every time there is some new development, voices of criticism are quick to shout that the government should have done x, y or z; should have planned better; should have had prior knowledge. And yet we have all proved to be wrong. There’s still so much we don’t know about why some people are much more infectious than others; the most infectious time seems to be before you know you have covid; and hey, you change your approach as you go along, as the news keeps changing. It’s true though that the best behaved people (fully vaccinated, careful) are probably the wariest about using their so-called “freedom” to stimulate the economy. Much as we’d like to sing, go to church or the movies, and eat out, we’re terrified of any gathering greater than two or three. We daren’t plan ahead:  my daughter in Hawkes Bay has her next birthday early in December. I wonder what we’ll be allowed to do then, or at Christmas?

Our singing leader advised that she’ll be holding the last singing session on zoom for term 3 tomorrow morning. Then we’ll have two weeks’ break for the school holidays; after that, it may be clearer whether we can meet physically again.  So that is quite depressing: a zoom appointment is an appointment, even if it just involves putting a jersey over one’s pyjamas. Now we’re in that weird in-between phase, when many zoom sessions are now meeting physically (which is scary), and others are cancelled. While we love to see our grandchildren, the school holidays can be a rather fraught time.

Speaking of shortages, they are starting to bite. Here in New Zealand, coffee beans are short again, although you can still buy most other kinds of coffee. Evidently pasta is in short supply, although that doesn’t really affect us. Some metals, such as those used for making computer chips, are in short supply, Something’s happened to the fertiliser supply (I’ll have to listen to John Dickerson on the gabfest podcast again to find out the exact details).  Most of the world is heating up, but in China, coming right after the property company Evergrande being in major financial difficulties, (causing protests, unusual in China), there have been power cuts. 

The major shortages are in the UK, where policies of Brexit and the pandemic have combined to create predictable shortages – of most things, many foodstuffs, lorry drivers, and now, a severe petrol shortage. Christmas turkeys may well be scarce as well. My son used to say he and his wife could buy from local markets – now they’re complaining about shortages as well. As the UK goes into winter, and facing the fear of extreme cold and short days that brings to many colonials, the shortages are causing alarm. It’s all very well for Lady Colin Campbell to claim that the autumn weather continues to be marvellous: long may it continue! Presumably she’s not too fussed with trying to buy food to feed a family. I’m also aware that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex flew by private plane from California to New York and back recently, despite professing to care about climate change, and despite the fuel shortage in Great Britain. Some cancer patients couldn’t attend clinics because of the fuel shortage.

I well remember the three day week that was on when we first went to England in December 1973. There was a lot of terrorism back then, and North Sea oil had not yet been discovered. Opec had just been set up.  I was deeply struck by the apparent poverty in England, as well as the immense wealth, too. Of course, the wealthy could get around the gas shortage then – one toff bought up the local petrol station. Problem solved. We were stacked over Heathrow Airport for a time, and I remember the rows and rows of Coronation St type terraced houses we flew over.

While we were there we saw many wonderful sights, amongst them Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower of London. I remember being rather appalled to find that my husband’s great aunt had a wooden bench top (now she was not hard up). We went to a New Year’s Eve party at a pub in Kent, and caught the hovercraft on New Year’s Day to. Calais. We then (somewhat hungover) caught a train to Paris Nord. I later discovered that this was the Gare du Nord.  There are many memories of that wonderful first trip overseas, but I was hugely disappointed not to see the British Museum – it was closed, because of the 3 day week.

So, really, the shortages here aren’t too bad. We’re ok, but we would like to feel safer from the unseen enemy, as we wonder if each site visited will be the move towards disaster. Most people are wearing masks. We don’t have major shortages here, yet; raspberries have not appeared on the scene, but asparagus has, and avocadoes are cheap and plentiful. There is lots to be thankful for.

In the US, the Democrats are discussing (wrangling over) Biden’s plan, but there is a debt ceiling crisis which demands attention right away. Yesterday, no Senate Republicans voted to raise the debt ceiling (I.e. fund what has already been spent, such as Trump’s tax cuts). Even Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney voted against this. What kind of madness is this?  Their names are already blackened, surely things couldn’t be worse for them? These two have voted with republicans more than once recently, to my intense disappointment. I guess the Dems will sort things out somehow, and they don’t need me to stress about their issues.  It also seems that the Arizona audit of the presidential election, which actually give Joe Biden a bigger win, has not slowed down the former guy at all from lying about the election result.

The answers to all these problems is that time will tell. Is today’s figure of 45 new cases of Covid 19 just a bad blip, or a sign of things to come? What should the government do next?  Will they get lucky?  In Australia today, Victoria had more new cases (950 and 7 deaths) than NSW (863 cases and 15 deaths).  The number of deaths is certainly shooting up. This has a dire effect on the medical staff, who have to deal not only with dying patients, but with their distraught family members as well, who cannot be with the dying person in the way they would wish. Thankfully here we have not had many deaths from Covid 19, thus far,

That’s it for today. Nga mihi.

Still Shocking

Today is Saturday September 25th, 2021. Kia ora!

I haven’t written so much about US politics recently, but a number of interesting things have happened there; interesting to me, that is. I had thought several times that I could no longer be shocked by Trump’s actions; but it seems I still can. They just keep spilling out, and not getting any better. There’s no story that reads “Trump did something honourable here”. There’s news about how he refused initially, and then on an ongoing basis, to accept that he was defeated by Joe Biden in the November 2020 presidential election. It’s now almost a year since that election (10-11 months), and the Arizona audit has finally reported. The report says that Joe Biden won Arizona by even more votes than previously reported. Yet the former guy has turned on many of his so-called friends, e.g. Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Greg Abbott – he’s demanding a recount in Texas, a state in which he won handsomely!

I listened to a podcast on Skullduggery about Peter Thiel. It transpires that he was one of the first to support Facebook financially, which gave him some control over it. Specifically, FB undertook not to fact-check Trump’s statements. We always suspected this, now we know. I was reminded that Thiel was on Trump’s transition team; he was also behind the demise of Gawker, by suing them, and winning the case. It’s been pointed out that, whatever you think of Thiel, he is one of the few Trump supporters who has not been humiliated and belittled by him. Now that’s saying something.

It transpires that Trump engaged some seriously dodgy doctors as experts on the coronavirus; suffice to say, Dr Fauci remains with his head held high and his credibility intact, while the others do not. This is the US! You’d expect them to have managed this better, like the UK, but they have each, in their own bumbling way, been among the worst.  Poor America!  How could so many of your citizens vote for this guy?

And yet there’s more news.  Four of Trump’s closest aides (including Steve Bannon, not then formally employed by the White House, Mark Meadows, Kash Patel, and  Christopher Miller) have been delivered subpoenas in connection with the January 6th insurrection. Apparently Kash Patel is quite upset over this. Trump has tried to claim executive privilege,  but as he’s no longer president, this has been denied by the current president.

Then there is all the support Trump had to overturn the results of the election: people like Jeffrey Clark and John Eastman. And we have former Vice President Dan Quayle to thank for talking Pence out of not certifying the 2020 presidential election. Who would have thought so?

During the past week I have been listening to the Bulwark podcast, which I generally find interesting and newsworthy. But I have been quite annoyed this week, as it seems to be a litany (from conservatives, former republicans) about haw awful the Democrats are. Why do I find this upsetting? The Democrats have a very powerful social agenda which would go some way towards giving more people clean water, new and safer bridges and roads, enhancing the social safety net – all very sensible things, really. Republicans are not making things any easier for them, including McConnell’s refusal to provide Senatorial support for raising the debt ceiling (money that’s already been spent, by the way). The Dems are figuring out how to do this stuff, given that some of them are more moderate, some more progressive. As I noted, in most countries what progressive democrats want is perfectly normal. And most of them care about the planet, too. You’d think the combination of floods, fires, and hurricanes would be a wake-up call, but remember, Ted Cruz went to Cancun in Mexico during the freezing cold in Texas last winter, when the electricity failed. There’s no accountability there.  And Greg Abbott, if you’re listening, it’s not much use preventing an abortion when the child is doomed to live in poverty, breathe foul air, and drink foul water, while fleeing for their life whenever the next natural disaster strikes, or condo tumbles over. Why should the Dems govern like republicans? Perhaps it feels different under a democratic administration, just as it feels very different here under a Labour Government, rather than National.

I’ve also listened to several thoughtful podcasts about General Milley’s decision to talk to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about his fears that Trump might start a nuclear war (yes, Bob, it is pronounced “nu-clear-ar”, not “newcular”). Thoughtful Americans debate and discuss these issues rather well. One podcast is entitled “Milley’s Crossing”. Hilarious. The debate usually runs along the lines of while Milley was right to be concerned, was he right to shoot his mouth off to Bob Woodward, or did he show an error of judgment? Should he have resigned, and then spoken out?  Whatever, the story is truly terrifying. I was afraid of what Trump might do; I’m glad and relieved that a handful of wise heads stopped him. I’m also appalled at the carnage. Trump predicted American carnage in his inaugural speech: he certainly delivered that, in spades. Someone claimed to me during his term as president that he’d kept his promises: I wondered which ones, if any, she’d regarded as honourable.

In other news, the Durham investigation has come up with – nothing much. What is he Durham investigation? Durham was appointed by William Barr, the former Attorney General, to investigate the basis for the Russia investigation.

Back in La La Land, i.e. Aotearoa, New Zealand, there are 13 new cases of Covid 19, all in Auckland. So that’s not too bad – it’s not single figures, but it’s not in the 20’s either. Three of these cases are as yet unlinked. Earlier this morning a patient came to Waitakere Hospital, and tested positive for coronavirus. He has since been isolated, and is considered to be low-risk.

It’s now Sunday September 26th.

This morning I zoomed into a service by St Anne’s Catholic Church in Newtown. There were no clergy involved, and it was wonderful!  There was a great deal of sharing with different people singing, speaking and praying.  The different languages and songs of worship are amazing. I also watched the St Matthew’s service in Auckland on Youtube. I did not go to my usual church service, being slightly nervous of gathering in person, and besides, it was a short night with the start of Daylight Saving on Saturday night. On Saturday night we had watched, and enjoyed, Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility on Māori television, starring Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant and the gloomy Alan Rickman. Somewhat improbably, the Kate Winslet character marries Alan Rickman, while Emma Thompson teams up with Hugh Grant.  Jane Austen’s novels generally end up with the poor-ish heroine getting her rather well-off man, and marrying him, thus ensuring not only her financial future, but one filled with interesting characters and smart conversation as well.  There are various missteps along the way, of course, and plenty of examples of rather sad marriages. Emma Thompson wrote the screen play for this film, and it was very droll, too.

On Sunday evening we watched Coriolanus, again, on Māori television. The lead stars were the great Vanessa Redgrave, and the nearly as great Joseph Fiennes. Jessica Chastain wasn’t bad either.  This was set on modern times, and I’m sure they hired an existing BBC newsreader to make it extra realistic.  Vanessa Redgrave’s plea to her son is truly amazing.  It was such a treat to hear the Bard again. I’m ashamed to say I did not know this play, but I do now. How very versatile Shakespeare is! How much he knew about human emotion, pride, and ambition.  A rare treat. During the day I corresponded with my children overseas, always a joy.

On Sunday there were 18 new cases of Covid 19, all in Auckland.

It’s now Monday September 27th. Today there are 13 new cases, all in Auckland. They were all already in isolation, although not all have been genomically linked yet to existing clusters. A prisoner has tested positive, and so two police hubs are isolating.  

Over the weekend John Key (Sir John) has waded in calling New Zealand a “smug hermit kingdom”.  This is the man who grew up in a state house, became very wealthy, and presided over a very severe housing crisis as National Party Prime Minister. During this crisis rents went up, state houses were sold, and many wealthy folk invested in nice houses here. Often houses went empty, while families lived in crowded houses with other family members, or garages, or their cars, and emergency housing could not keep up with demand. Wages were not nearly enough to meet increasing rental costs, and benefits were very hard to get.  This created a bunch of spin-off problems: overcrowding, lack of privacy, changing schools, lack of space to do homework, and some dreadfully cold and damp conditions in existing housing. Surely everyone deserves a home, that is warm and dry, with enough good food to eat?  The Labour Government has tried to address this problem, and many would say they haven’t done enough, but many new houses are now being built, now that councils have removed restrictions allowing more building to proceed.  Now, if something could be done about the insane cost of housing!  I do believe, that if there’s more houses, they may become cheaper to buy. It seems that right wing governments tend to create social problems, usually pandering to their well-off base, and left-wing governments then not only try to clean up the mess, but do more for their less well-off base, who are usually desperate for a better chance at acquiring the basics of life, and giving their families a good life, with more amenities.

Thankfully several people, including Minister Hipkins, have fired back at Key, including one journalist who’s pointed out that New Zealand is not like North Korea: you’d get shot for criticising the leader there. The Guardian in the UK, a known left-wing paper, with some good articles, can be especially annoying at times: for the last few days they’ve been running with the following headline: “The mood in New Zealand on Covid is changing, and Jacinda Ardern knows it”. New Zealand was for a long time regarded as a world-beater in terms of Covid 19, but the emergence of the delta variant has changed everything we thought we knew about Covid 19. So why isn’t she Prime Minister Ardern? And why is she shown frowning so often by the media?  Isn’t she allowed to change her mind, too, as do most normal people when the facts change?  What friends are out there for Prime Minister Ardern?  I happen to still think she’s amazing, and I wish there was more support out there for her.

The MIQ system is causing great frustration, and not only for other people; it affects me personally, too. In March last year (seems like ages ago!) we thought this inconvenience would only last a matter of weeks, or months, perhaps.  Come Christmas, and vaccines were coming. That was to be our Christmas present.  The coronavirus said hang on there, I haven’t finished yet – I’ve more people to see, places to visit, and some of them I liked so much that I’ll go back there again; but I’m quite whimsical, too: I’ll defy predictions, so whatever the pundits think, I’ll aim to outwit them.

Although New Zealand’s approach to Covid 19 has been the wonder of the world, I suspect that a new reality has caught up with us now. When the very infectious delta variant emerged on the scene, kiwis lacked immunity: they had been late to be vaccinated (along with several other developed countries like Australia and Taiwan), and we thankfully had no experience of being exposed to the coronavirus. We were sitting ducks, and now it’s Australia’s, and Auckland’s turn to suffer.

The government aims to reduce the impact of Delta on the health system; already, there aren’t enough ICU beds.  We’ve had fewer than 30 deaths so far, and I think that no one under 60 has died: most deaths have been older people, some very old. Maori and Pasifika have not been hit especially hard, unlike in most developed countries where coloured people have been far more badly affected than white people.  That too is a blessing. Ngā mihi.

PS next time I’ll write about shortages.

Bor-ing!

Today is Thursday September 23rd, 2021. Kia ora.

This morning I zoomed in to a singing session, and predictably got annoyed at some people’s reactions to Covid 19 restrictions. One person claimed that the government had changed its strategy, although it hasn’t told us so.  We talked about current restrictions on meeting to sing in person; evidently some exercise classes are permitted to meet; but the limit for the Khandallah Town  Hall is to have 20 people in the hall. With Thursday morning singing we usually get around 25.  Yesterday there were 23 new cases, but all but one were linked to existing cases. I commented that you couldn’t keep Auckland at level 4 indefinitely; anyway, level 3 is still pretty tough, although takeaway food and coffee (does anyone in Auckland not own their own coffee machine?) is allowed and presumably residents of Kumeu and other places that were flooded can now get their homes repaired, and materials can be unloaded on the Auckland  wharves.  Yesterday, Dr Bloomfield asked for all the residents of the Auckland suburb of Clover Park to get a Covid 19 test, even if they didn’t have symptoms. Aucklanders were reminded to stay in their bubbles, to work from home if possible, and not to cross borders unless they had a valid reason, and could present evidence of a negative Covid 19 test within the previous 7 days.

Today there were 13 new cases of Covid 19 here, all in Auckland. Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield fronted a press conference at 1 pm, , and Shaun Hendy spoke to a model his organisation had drawn up, highlighting the importance of vaccines, a predicting 3,000 deaths at a vaccine rate of 75%.

 The government has changed its strategy, now that the much more infectious  delta variant of covid 19 is here. Indeed, they’ve changed their strategy, as has their management of the very successful MIQ system, to meet changing needs: they’ve introduced 3 tests within the 14 day isolation, further isolated people infected with Covid 19, paused flights from India for a time, checked the air-conditioning systems in MIQ facilities, vaccinated MIQ and airport workers, and brought in the Ministry of Defence to monitor MIQ sites to ensure that no one escapes. MIQ here has been much more successful than that in Australia or the UK. People like Sam Neill have written glowingly about it. It’s worked very well. It operates at the government’s expense, for Kiwis returning home for good. It is a key part of keeping us safe, and thus one of the things we were able to do was to hold the America’s Cup yacht races here earlier this year.

In today’s press conference the government emphasised vaccination, as a tool to manage the virus, and its restrictions, in future.  While you can still catch covid 19, even if fully vaccinated, it seems your chances of becoming very ill and perhaps dying are greatly diminished. The government is not imposing vaccine mandates at present (apart from MIQ workers), but it’s expected that some industries may impose them. In future, it’s hoped that lockdowns over large areas will not need too be used. Once again, I am so grateful that our government takes such good care of us all. While some of the rules can be frustrating, at least there are rules. In this war, we can’t travel as we normally would, and at least we’re not being bombed in our beds, or sending folk off to war, or dealing with a disease that has messy and disgusting bodily emissions. There’s still much to be thankful for, not least that we have a vaccine that reduces the likelihood of serious disease.

There is significant reaction to Dr Shaun Hendy’s modelling as announced yesterday, saying that with 75% of those eligible vaccinated, one could expect 5,000 deaths.  There’s much criticism of this model. It was pointed out at the time that this study had not been peer-reviewed. It was presented (I think) as a wake-up call to encourage people to get vaccinated. At the end of the day, it’s just that – a model.

It’s now Friday, September 24th. Today there are 9 new community cases of Covid 1, all in Auckland. So that’s really encouraging – we’re now in single figures!  Let’s hope we stay there. Testing is now required in the suburb of Mt Wellington. Apparently residents of Clover Park responded very well to the request for testing, and one positive case has turned up. The Waikato are that was in isolation under a health order is to move to level 2, along with the rest of New Zealand.

This morning I read an article in The New Yorker (they do let me read one, now and again!) about a journalist who unwittingly became a super spreader for Covid 19/delta. He, his wife, their two children and his wife’s parents all caught delta. The four adults were fully vaccinated; the two children were too young. It was a very interesting story about how a well-educated family (the wife is an oncologist) did all they could to protect themselves, including isolating sick people, but the father had been on assignment in Baton Rouge in Louisiana – a covid hot spot. He was ill first, but all his family (and his in-laws) caught it. He wasn’t at risk of dying, or being hospitalised, but he was very infectious. There’s an object lesson here, about how seriously infectious the delta variant is. And yet, there are no further cases in Wellington, the Coromandel, or the South Island.

My church is to hold worship service in person next Sunday, with heaps of rules: socially distanced seating, no collection, (you can make an offering at the door), no pew bibles, and no refreshments afterwards. I imagine they won’t be passing the peace of Christ, either. The service will also be available via zoom. The church also sent out a reminder that Daylight Saving begins on Saturday night, September 26th.  Actually the reminder said that it ends, but in fact it begins, Saturday will be a short night. That is the only reminder I’ve received! I was unaware, but I’m grateful we’re not driving back from the Hohepa family Weekend, which used to coincide with the start of Daylight Saving – a bit of an ordeal after a very busy two days.

I am also reassessing how safe I feel in certain situations. Last year, JD and I enjoyed several wonderful classical concerts at the Michael Fowler Centre for $30 a seat. At that price, I broke my rule not to go out at night, and we greatly enjoyed these concerts, including a rendition of Handel’s Messiah. But the seats at MFC are very close together: it’s like being on an aeroplane, and so, I think that were such tickets to be offered again, I would feel very hesitant about going in person. Many concerts used to be live-streamed last year, but this year they haven’t been offered. I wonder why not?

It’s frustrating now to feel very stuck. The prospect of catching Covid 19/delta is very scary, not just for me, but for my family members. It feels different now, I don’t feel as protected as I used to, even though I’ve been “fully vaccinated”. Where can one go?  Up till now, we’ve gone mainly to Hawkes Bay to see our daughter. The party we had just before we went into the August 17 lockdown was a highlight for 2021, and then we were due to fly to Christchurch earlier this month.  We should visit some other local locations, although I fear that a road trip is perhaps not advisable now. It occurred to me that we could fly to Christchurch, catch the Trans-Alpine Express to the West Coast, stay there for a few days, and then return the same way.  That’s something to bear in mind. But it does feel very stuck, not to be able to go to Australia, even, should one want to.

Last year when we went into lockdown it was a relief.  It put separation between the “before” times, and their excesses (excessive concern about “gut” health, stag parties in Los Vegas, hen parties in Bali), and the pandemic times, which we’re still living in. It was a relief, as Covid 19 cases climbed here and overseas, and I was aware of the mounting threat posed by the coronavirus, to have our government do something about it, and there was financial and medical assistance available too. There was some warning, so we could go shopping and stock up (along with many others – there were huge queues at our local supermarket); and I could be an invalid: I stayed in my bedroom, where it was warm and comfortable, and read my big library book (the library had helpfully waived any overdue fees), and JD stayed in the siting room. The weather was kind. We parcelled up games and puzzles for our grandchildren. Everything quietened down, and it was a relief not to hear planes overhead. The absence of traffic, and a zero road toll, were most welcome. All the pressing issues of jobs to be done and not enough money to pay for them went on hold. Most people were remarkably well. And best of all, I did not have to listen to angry outbursts about things. It was a relief, and many people were very grateful for it. There was a certain freedom in not being able to go anywhere, or do anything. It was quite “cut and dried”.

Looking back, we were so ignorant then. Covid 19 was scarily infectious – tales about it affecting mainly older men, who perhaps did not wash their hands properly, or smokers, or it disappearing in the summer, were disabused as we saw the terrible toll Covid 19 took on places like New York and Bergamo, in the north of Italy. In China there were stories of someone catching it while in a bus, and sitting some way away from an infected person. Yet now it’s different. The delta variant is a game-changer. Before Christmas, vaccines were coming- the great hope, although they haven’t been as effective as we wished. Delta has taken a huge hold on certain communities – and certain states in the US  – and yet some areas are spared (for now?) Perhaps it’s not their (our) turn yet.  I have to acknowledge that for all that I currently know, or think I know, coronavirus continues to weave its way around the world with devastating effects.

I think that here in Wellington we’re quite compliant, obedient and well-behaved, yet people have different levels of tolerance for the potential hurt from this virus. Thankfully, New Zealand has not seen many deaths. I do resent the way Prime Minister Ardern is shown frowning in most media photographs. She has done a wonderful job in looking after us here. Some say this in private; others scoff, and I sense their resistance. It’s a bit like talking about God. Some just don’t want to hear the good news. Having said all that, it’s very boring this time around. Ngā mihi.

Shot, bro!

Today is Thursday September 16th, 2021. Kia ora.

Today there are 13 new cases of Covid 19, all of them in Auckland. All but one of them are linked to known cases. There are 5 new cases in MIQ. There are 19 people in hospital and four of these are in the ICU. By contrast, today I learnt that one in five hundred Americans has died of Covid 19.

In the morning I had a singing session on zoom, and then I went to visit a friend. I came home early, because two of my grandchildren came to visit after school.  They played with the dolls’ house, and then did some lovely drawings. Another son brought us some delicious leek and potato soup for dinner. We finished up with Sticky Date Pudding (from our local supermarket), and ice cream.

It’s now Friday. Today someone was supposed to come and do some cleaning. I wasn’t having a great day, but I got up, changed the sheets and towels as I normally do, emptied the rubbish, and then checked my roster online. I was quite discombobulated to learn that rather than having someone I knew come at 2 pm, someone whom I’d never met was scheduled to come at 12 noon. It was now 11:30 am. Well, it was a no-show, as it turned out. Nobody came. One really doesn’t want someone different coming every time – one wants the same person, after one has shown them where everything is. So that’s a bit annoying.  I had been asked if they could come on Saturday. I’d said no to this.  So here we go again. Last week I cancelled the “cares”, and then someone turned up unexpectedly. Really, some communication would be helpful – a text, call, or email, perhaps. They’re impossible to get hold of by phone. Today a friend invited me for lunch, but I declined because I had someone coming from Access. It turns out I could have gone, after all.

Today (Friday) there are 13 new cases of Covid 19 in the community, all of them in Auckland. It’s taking a frustrating amount of time to eliminate this strain: I’m sure they would have preferred the number of new cases to be in single figures, by now. I used to check the Australian figures after 11 am each morning, but I don’t any more now: they’re scarily predictably awful.

There is another worrying aspect to these figures. A truck driver, who left Auckland to deliver goods in the Bay of Plenty area and south of Auckland, has tested positive for Covid 19. It’s quite cold today, after a run of fine, sunny days.

There has been another dreadful tragedy here. Last night, police found three little girls dead in a house in Timaru. The mother, injured, was still alive, and was seen being helped into a police van. The father, an orthopaedic surgeon at Timaru Hospital, is distraught, as are relatives of the family. It’s very sad. The family had come from South Africa, and had just spent 14 days in MIQ before moving to a rental property in Timaru. Tonight there are photos of them online – they all look beautiful. The couple had just celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary. It seems very sad indeed, after the terrorist knife attack in Auckland recently. The mother has now been charged with the three homicides.

It’s now Saturday, September 18th. Newspapers are giving yesterday’s total as 11 new cases of Covid 19. Perhaps there are two in MIQ which were included?

Today there are 20 new cases, but only one of them is unlinked, i.e. not a family member or a close contact of an existing cases. So I guess that’s both encouraging, and disappointing. This variant is certainly nothing if not tenuous.

This afternoon we went shopping at one of my favourite supermarkets, New World in Thorndon. I have to say that I quite like being at level 2 (minus the masks, which I find quite annoying). The store wasn’t crazily busy. I felt quite safe there. I bought salads (including a roast vegetable salad), preserved fruit, coffee beans, bread, pizza bread, and some doughnuts – just the essentials, really! Raspberries aren’t back yet, unfortunately. I’ll just be so grateful when they can pack my shopping again. Many shoppers insist on packing their purchases at the checkout counter: this can be very selfish, as it holds up other buyers. You can put everything back in the trolley, and pack them outside, where there’s plenty of room, and it’s under cover, too.

Recently we watched the first episode of the new series, Scenes from a Marriage, based on the film by Ingmar Bergman. Like Mare of Easttown, or Line of Duty, a new episode is only released each week.  I’ve also watched the first episode of Halifax: Retribution on TV On Demand.  I read a very interesting article on Edward Said in the LRB.

It’s now Sunday September 19th. This morning I zoomed into a lovely church service, delivered by the congregation of St Anne’s, in Newtown. I also watched on Youtube the service at St Matthew’s in the City in Auckland.

Today there are 24 new cases of Covid 19, all in Auckland. That is quite devastating news, and does not bode well for a much-anticipated move to level 3 on Tuesday.

It’s now Monday September 20th. We await today’s news with great anticipation.  In the morning, there’s a power outage, from before 8 am. There was no warning. I rang Contact Energy, and got through to a recorded message saying that there was an outage in Johnsonville and Churton Park, and it should be fixed by 11:15 am.  Our hot water doesn’t work; even though we have an Infinity hot water system running on gas, because the electricity is out, this is too (it has an on-off switch). I will have to go into the city to have my first coffee. I was going to town, anyway!

I had a very strong coffee and a boysenberry Danish pastry, in preference to a cheese scone.  I got my watch fixed, and posted some articles.  While I waited for my watch, I enjoyed another long black coffee and a very spicy cheese scone at Pie and Pickle. I then tried to use the restroom at Arapaki, only to find it barred off. I went to another restroom, upstairs at the Grand Arcade, and it was empty, and furthermore, it had paper towels.

I then went to Queensgate in Lower Hutt and went to Farmers there. I checked out bed linen, but there were no good specials there. I remembered the challenge of finding the right sizing for sheets and pillowslips, and gave up on that. Then I checked out the women’s clothing, but couldn’t find anything that really appealed, so I left Queensgate, and caught a bus back to Wellington. Boring as, really.

I caught a bus home. While doing so, I finished reading another edition of the LRB. I read about nerve agents, like Novichok, and discovered that the US had passed such drugs to Saddam Hussein in the Iraq/Iran conflict. No wonder the US had unfinished business in Iraq, and needed to attack it in 2003. I also read an article about the Aswan Dam in Egypt, and the dam that’s being built in Ethiopia – a source of conflict – now and in the future.

It was announced at 1 pm that there were 22 new community cases: 19 in Auckland, and three in Waikato (as announced earlier).

Eventually it’s time for the 4 pm press conference, fronted by Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield. The much-anticipated result is pretty much as expected. Auckland is to go to level 3, but people are to stay in their bubbles; older people over 65 are to stay at home; but at least you can get takeaways, in a non-contact way. The schools remain closed, except for children of essential workers. The level 3 restrictions will be in place for two weeks. In the Waikato, in the area north of Hamilton (where three people have tested positive, being part of the whanau of the remand prisoner from Mt Eden Correctional Facility), is to come under a special order; in effect, they will be at level 4.  The rest of the country is to stay at level 2, but you can have gatherings of up to 100 people indoors. I pick that many churches will now be able to hold services in person under this rule. It seems that most new cases are close contacts or family of existing cases, but there all still mystery cases that come up; for example, how did the prisoner contract Covid 19? And there is some mystery about his journey home from Auckland.  Still, Aucklanders will be able to get takeaways now. That has got to be a huge relief to families, and to many small business owners.

Predictably, the restrictions don’t go far enough for Dr Michael Baker, but I think this is probably a wise move. They are still pretty limiting. Another couple has “broken the rules” and got around the Auckland boundary restrictions; this, says the PM, is a further reason for allowing some relaxation.

On Tuesday I zoomed into a Bible Study group; then I met my cousin on town for lunch. I wanted to have mushrooms on toast, but was sold instead a very nice omelette with mushrooms, cheese, and lots of spinach.  On Tuesday there were 14 new community cases of coronavirus, including members of three gangs who have tested positive.  Auckland is due to go to level 3 at midnight on Tuesday.

It’s now Wednesday September 22nd.  There is all kinds of disquiet about the government’s seeming to abandon the Covid 19 elimination strategy, that they’d been focusing on; Judith Collins is all but gone as National Party leader; vaccine rates are still not as high as hoped; I guess people are just angry that Covid 19 rates haven’t fallen faster; confused about what safety means now; and I imagination councils are hastily rewriting the rules about what can happen in council-operated facilities, such as libraries, parks and community centres, now that at level 2 you can have 100 (up from 50) people indoors. I guess that some churches will be meeting in person this coming Sunday.  Meanwhile, I quite like level 2, with its added layer of caution, and not having so many people around. The masks are a huge nuisance, though. I cannot find a way to wear one without my glasses fogging up, so I don’t wear them much of the time. Predictably, people are frustrated with the new MIQ system. We are fortunate to have it, and that it works so well. remember there was a very scary time when we didn’t have it, or the regular testing and monitoring that followed? It has protected us well, even if it’s very frustrating that my son can’t come home for Christmas. This is like war, and we’ve only been at it for almost two years. Think how long the two world wars went on for.

Today it’s raining, and cooler again. We await the 1 pm news, announcing the latest Covid 19 numbers.  In Australia, in Victoria in particular, there have been huge protests against restrictions on tradies. I think everyone is angry, but governments are doing their best, one assumes, to manage the threats posed by delta – a scary new version of what we’ve been dealing with. There is some good news on the horizon, though: Pfizer has approved lower-dose 3vaccines for children aged 5 – 11. That could be a game-changer.  Ngā mihi.