A New Beginning

Today is Friday, March 20, 2020, perhaps an auspicious day to start writing about the situation in which we find ourselves.  I am sure many people will write, blog, vlog, make podcasts, and find other creative ways to express their feelings, and pass the time. I am starting today.

This pandemic is new to us, and whereas many are talking about the flu epidemic of 1918, I remember my mother talking about the polio epidemic of 1947-49, and the enormous impact it had here (and in many countries). The schools were closed in New Zealand, and indeed an aunt and uncle of mine (my mother’s siblings) caught the disease, and recovered from it, with little in the way of visible effects. I remember the huge relief when the polio vaccine became available in the 1950’s, when I was a child.

Having had a serious illness myself, I now realise that nothing is ever quite the same again, as it was before.

Now we seem to be in a similar situation with the coronavirus. News is instant, but every day brings new horrors, new statistics, new stories, and new evidence of things being shut down. I am grateful not to be 70.

My youngest son arrived here from the U.K. just over a week ago, before travellers were required to self-isolate (whatever that means) for 14 days. It is so good to see him and his wife again. This visit has been long anticipated and looked forward to, not just by me.

I decided that I would not go to my usual activities for 14 days.  I was roundly criticised for this decision, but the remark of an oncology nurse helped me to make up my mind: “You wouldn’t want to be the one to pass this on”. Most if not all of the folk I do things with are older (some in their 80’s), most of not all have health issues, and we are all trying to stay healthy and not fall over.

Sadly, the news each day makes my decision seem quite reasonable.

The activities I have cancelled out of include our Art Group, Tai Chi (the last 2 sessions of term one), my weekly hymn singing, and weekly singing at Khandallah. Actually, the singing session was cancelled anyway, but the person who takes it is trying to find a safer way to do it.

I read today that in Auckland all libraries are to close. New Zealand has 11 new cases today, including one in Hawkes Bay. These are all people who have travelled into New Zealand, so not community spread, which I guess is something to be thankful for.

I have to say there have been some really frustrating things happen. The Prime Minister has put a travel ban in place, and now requires travellers from overseas to self-quarantine for 14 days, but a person flew to Auckland from Brisbane, found out that his Covid19 test was positive, and then took a commercial flight to Wellington, where he stayed in a hotel and went to the Milk Crate café!!! In another incident, a group of passengers was disgorged from a cruise ship. They were told your cruise has ended, and you’re free to go, which they did. I also find it irritating that people are not being advised to cover their mouths when they yawn. The other day I was shopping in Thorndon New World when a woman yawned, open-mouthed, not far from me. Grrrr!

It is really hard not to do stuff!

I have walked up to the supermarket each day, as I do most days. This morning I explained to two friends I encountered that I couldn’t come close or hug them as I normally would. We have stocked up on tinned food and basic essentials, but today you can’t buy flour or bread; preferred items are restricted, there is still no new TV Guide (which I get for the puzzles, and the movie ratings), and the store is to close at 9 pm rather than 10 pm (they cited the recent “uplift”, which I assume is a polite way of saying “panic buying”).

I listen to Dr John Campbell (north of England), who does a daily update, which is recorded on Youtube. He does a great job of tracking progress of the virus, which he has done since the first cases were recorded. His approach is fact-based, non-hysterical, reasonable and useful.

I also listen to lots of podcasts, as well as keeping up with the main newspapers. While the news websites give one the big picture, the podcasts often provide interesting titbits of information, and real life stories such as the doctor from Northern Italy, the story of New Rochelle (in New York), and the different approaches as people get to grips with this changing crisis. Some parents are relaxing the rules around “screen time”.  I really feel for older people who are not “online”. This must be very isolating for them.

We are torn between wanting to do the things that keep us alive, and not wanting to pass the virus on. I’m not afraid for myself, but I am concerned for my family, their loved ones, and my friends.

It’s fascinating how much everything changes. It must be good for the planet’s health that there is so much less air travel, and that cruises are not welcome, if   not entirely banned.  Although there is probably more personal and medical waste, this has to have a smaller footprint than the extensive use of jet fuel. It has to be good that we all buy less stuff (although there are some great deals out there). On the other hand, many people were really struggling before this, and now whole industries have been wiped out. Who knows how long this crisis will last, and when it will be safe to do things again?  One admires the socialistic response of the US government to give people money. So how are they to spend it, after paying the landlord and the bank, seeing shops and restaurants are shut down? Ah, I know, online shopping will save the day (for the richest man in the world).

One also wonders where the homeless will wash their hands, or just how they will obey a civic order to “stay home”. It’s also been pointed out that you can’t clean a house, or help someone shower, “remotely”.

One of my two favourite cinemas put out a useful newsletter recently. They are doing more cleaning, and more hand-washing, but they also will try and seat people so they’re not so close to each other.

There was also some useful advice in this morning’s paper about funerals and tangi – that older folk may wish to say “good-bye” on their own, and not go to the funeral service (which will probably be live-streamed). Oh dear, how will we cope without funerals and family gatherings?

It’s interesting how when things become a matter of life and death, other worrying considerations cease to be important.

I look forward to having a flu jab, singing hymns again, re-joining Tai Chi and my other singing group, and doing other things. Of course, one can do these things at home, but it is much more fun to do them with other people.

For me, it is always an achievement to get there on time, no matter how bad the night has been, or how awful I feel. If I deem myself not to be infectious, I will go. Getting “into the zone” makes it worthwhile.

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