Kia ora katoa! Kia Kaha!
Today is Friday April 17th. Yesterday the Prime Minister spoke about the country moving to a Level 3 lockdown, and what that may mean for New Zealand. She and her cabinet have agreed to take a pay cut.
Of course, New Zealand’s good news can’t really be treated like good news by the NZ media. I’m sure there are cases of great hardship and uncertainty. But compared with just about anywhere overseas, we are so fortunate here, to have competent leadership, government financial assistance, increasing effective testing, and a manageable problem with Covid 19. It seems that it was not long ago (around mid-late March) that the number of cases was growing very quickly. I remember the shock on hearing on March 23 that we had 102 cases in NZ. Although that seems small now, the total was growing very fast, and it was a relief when the country went into a strict lockdown. It was also very well publicised, with messages everywhere, including on my mobile phone.
I think the approach to lifting restrictions is sensible. Schools (years 1 – 10) and Early Childhood facilities will be open, but patents are encouraged to keep their children at home, and work from home, if possible. Basically, you have to still stay in your “bubble”, social distancing is to be maintained, and there is to be no contact; everything still stays closed. But you can get takeaways, if they are delivered, so that’s something. At least pizza is cooked! I think you can go to drive-through food outlets. You can have gatherings of up to 10 people for weddings or funerals, but no food is to be served.
The government has said that they will decide on Monday April 20th whether to go too level 3.
Yesterday we went for a walk in the afternoon, and this morning I went shopping. Although I take a list, it is a question of buying bread first, at the back of the store; then if I can buy A I’ll get B,C and D, but if not, I’ll go down another track. Coffee beans are very scarce at present, so I buy some – fortunately it’s my favourite brand. Many items are missing from the shelves.
The store is not full at all. The staff are very welcoming. They have taken the glass doors off the self-service cabinet, as well as wrapping all the items. This is something I approve of, I wear one of my new masks, but there are all kinds of difficulties: it’s too big, it’s hard to talk, it makes my glasses fog up, and it turns out that I was wearing it inside out! I had one disposable latex glove left; now it’s quiet there, and I bought some Vogel bread. Fortunately JD turned up to help me pack and carry stuff home.
We made up boxes of games, books and puzzles for our local grandchildren.
The 1 pm briefing has become a “piece de resistance” each day, awaited with avid anticipation. It’s also a really good time to go shopping, as the store will be quiet, and you can always replay the briefing later.
At the briefing on Thursday, fronted by the PM and Dr Bloomfield, there was a lot of talk about the proposed lifting of restrictions to level 3. There was also welcome news: just 15 new cases of Covid 19.
On Friday the briefing is fronted by Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance, and Dr McElnay. There are 8 new cases, bringing the total to 1409, and, sadly, two more deaths. All new arrivals (over 1.000) are now quarantined in government-controlled facilities, and some of them have tested positive. Thank goodness they are now being quarantined away from their homes, and being monitored. There are 16 clusters being monitored. So far, all the deaths have been older people, some from the Rest Home residents in Christchurch who were moved to Burwood Hospital.
Well done to the NZ government who have been doing more testing. Drive-through testing facilities have been set up in more main centres, although I think you still need a doctor’s referral to get one, but testing has been done at a Queenstown supermarket, with staff and customers gladly participating.
I think that here in New Zealand we can truly say that we have turned a corner, that we can see light at the end of the tunnel, that some definite good has come of all this, and we accept that whatever cliché you want to use, life will not be the same again as before. This has been an interesting experience, and do-able, with a great deal of smiling and goodwill. Now that there is a prospect of lifting the restrictions of a level 4 lockdown, it has been good to know that we can do it; that there is no rush; that while things will be different in future, one hopes we will not always have this sense of fear and panic. It has been nice to hear more birdsong, much fewer planes flying overhead, and less traffic, although people drive much too fast along our street. Nonetheless, it has been nice to just enjoy things, seeing as you can’t really do anything else!
Overseas, the news continues to be quite dreadful, and getting worse every day. While New York city may have restricted its death rate to several hundred each day, the spread of Covid 19, the lack of testing, the dire rates of deaths in rest homes (in many places), the closure of meat processing plants, are truly terrifying. Pregnant women at a New York hospital were routinely tested for Covid 19, and several tested positive, while being asymptomatic! You can see why the medical staff are so afraid of catching this disease.
One feature they used in China involved decontamination at the end of a shift. Each worker was watched by a nurse, and took off all their PPE, individually, before changing into other clothes and returning to wherever they were staying. Their shoes were disinfected, too. This practice seems to make more sense than wearing one’s gear home, then taking it off and showering, before rejoining one’s family.
The English don’t appear to have any plan for lifting their lockdown, indeed, they’ve extended it. Despite the applause for NHS staff, which I am sure is more than justified, I’ve watched videos of rest home staff, who should also be applauded, with little in the way of protection.
In the US, the President keeps saying he wants to “reopen” the economy, despite medical advice and other cautions. In fact, he didn’t do anything to “close it down”! He’s been vague, untruthful, and contradictory in his response. The demonstrations in Ohio and Michigan for so-called “freedom” are very scary. How can you be “free” when your actions hurt other people? Surely you want your children and grandchildren to think well of you? One just hopes that sanity will prevail, as with some State Governors combining to take baby steps in lifting state lockdowns. No one is calling Trump King Cyrus now!
As I’ve said before, there is so much we don’t know about this virus. It seems to be incredibly infectious, and may have mutated into several strains. And far from being a mild flu-like disease, for some it is deadly serious, taking weeks to recover, and damaging organs, not just the lungs, in its path. People who’ve had it say you don’t want to get this disease. For many it is a life-changing experience.
We are already hearing many obituaries of wonderful people who died, before their time, of Covid 19. Most of them we do not know but tonight we heard that John Conway, mathematician, had died. We did not know him but our eldest son did, so there is extra sadness there.
There was a lovely pastiche of stories on the Washington Post Reports podcast yesterday. My favourite was one hospital playing the Beatles’ song Here Comes the Sun” over the loudspeaker when someone was discharged. A happy sound!
My favourite music today is Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, a short but very beautiful piece. There are lots of recordings on Youtube; one of my favourites is, you’ve guessed it, sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge.
Ave, verum corpus
natum de Maria Virgine,
Vere passum immolatum
in Cruce pro homine,
Cujus latus perforatum
unda* fluxit (et)* sanguine,
Esto nobis praegustatum
in mortis examine.
That’s it for now.
Stay safe out there! Don’t push the limits! Don’t put yourself, or others, at risk.