Inside Southwark Cathedral

Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha!

Today is Monday April 20, 2020.

Will she or won’t she? (i.e. will the Prime Minister lift the lockdown from level 4 to 3)

That is today’s big question.

Meanwhile, this morning I went to the Johnsonville Community Centre to have an influenza vaccination. It is very straightforward, and very quick, and very safe – there’s nobody there except a receptionist and the nurse administering the vaccine. I am asked to wait 20 minutes in my car afterwards in case I have a reaction. Having briefly wondered what to do if I do have a reaction, I do some more puzzles while I wait.

Then we go shopping at New World in Newlands.  On balance, I feel safer at New World in Churton Park, although they have much less stock. It is a bit scary here. Some people don’t really avoid me; some bring shopping bags into the store (we aren’t allowed to do this at the other location); and while I am invited to use hand sanitiser and sign my name and contact phone number, there doesn’t seem to be any sanitiser for the trolley! What’s more, I have run out of disposable latex gloves. I am wearing a face mask, although it’s too big and I haven’t adjusted it. Also, they don’t use every second checkout like they do at Churton Park. Still, I bought some very nice apricot Danish pastries for morning tea, feijoas. and some (now rare) coffee beans. So that’s the essentials taken care of. They have plenty of bread, too.

The mood this morning is interesting. JD has “shout” radio on (i.e. talkback, it drives me crazy), and the majority view seems to be that the lockdown should be extended to after Anzac Day, on April 25.  Also, the view in this morning’s newspaper is probably to extend it, although there is considerable “damage” to the economy. Be that as it may, and I acknowledge there are some very sad stories out there, and I’m truly sorry for those who have been made redundant, surely saving human life is the most important thing here? And second to that would be the potential strain on medical and nursing facilities and care facilities, and then morgues and funeral homes and cemeteries, to say nothing of grieving and rearranged families. Any viewing of overseas hospitals and nursing homes and deaths is horrible stuff. We have already had some sad deaths here and cases of illness, and clusters, enough to really scare many people. We all miss our loved ones – children and grandchildren, and our friends. We realise just how large are circles are, potentially, and how far they reach.

The school teachers are also concerned about re-opening schools so soon.  That’s a valid concern.  Perhaps Jacinda put out a lightning rod to get reaction. I appreciate that parents are sick and tired of endless holidays/teaching online, but perhaps a few more days may be worth it. I guess a risk is that the most difficult children will be sent back to school, without the well-behaved ones to moderate the atmosphere.

There are also concerns about maintaining safe distancing and safe hygienic practices while some go back to work. People do have to take responsibility for their own safety, and that of their staff.

This morning I also had a long and thoughtful message from a friend in Christchurch. We both have children and grandchildren in the US, so we share some concerns, and common views.

I have been thinking about the concept of freedom. I would regard freedom as being free to hold my personal religious beliefs, while not forcing them on others; feeling safe, i.e. having a stable non-corrupt government and police force, i.e. adequate security; having a welfare state, i.e. a safety net, to ensure that everyone can have a warm home, enough to eat, and access to health care.  I accept that for everyone’s safety, there need to be certain rules an regulations. This implies that laws are debated and enacted in a fair parliament. There also need to be regular and fair elections. This personal ideal seems somewhat different from the American concept of what they are pleased to call freedom!  Their freedom often seems very inconsiderate to me.

I also came to a grim realisation over the weekend that most countries can’t really turn this unseen viral beast around now. Even if countries were to introduce or maintain strict lockdowns, it would take some time to get the levels of new infections and deaths down to whatever they consider a manageable level. We thought Italy and Spain had strict lockdowns, but there are videos showing some behaviours that would not be recommended today.

In future, it seems you must have:

  • Continued random testing.
  • Easy to obtain testing if requested.
  • Contact tracing.
  • Temperature taking. I know not everyone with Covid 19 has a fever, but it is an indicator of disease.
  • Testing on recovery.
  • Isolation of patients who have tested positive for Covid 19, even if they feel all right
  • Continue to isolate new arrivals under strict management.
  • Test all staff on returning to a work environment.
  • Common guidelines, and audits, for rest homes, care facilities, and prisons.
  • Safer management of situations where people live closely together such as the armed forces, immigrants, refugee camps.
  • Strict management of all food preparation and sales (I think New Zealand used to be quite good in this regard)
  • Strict management of water quality.
  • When a vaccine becomes available, most if not all people should be strongly encouraged to have it.
  • Good hygiene practices should always be followed, starting with hand-washing, covering coughs, yawns and sneezes, and keeping living and working environments clean.

The US and the UK seem to be, in their unique ways, stumbling along the track of not really caring enough about loss of life to manage their situations effectively, and waiting till “herd immunity” kicks in, when most people will have had the infection, and presumably it offers less of a threat, albeit at an unknown, huge, and terrible cost. How do you turn back?

There are frightening stories of new infections in China, brought in by travellers, and of tentative re-opening, and monitoring of facilities in Wuhan. Still, everyone is very afraid of contact- shopping. Is this the second wave of the infection? Who knows? And, by the way, where is Dr Fauci?

There is no 1 pm briefing today, but NZ has 9 new cases of Covid 19.  Dr Bloomfield said yesterday that sewage outlets were being tested for Covid 19 too, to determine if there were clusters of infection other than the ones we know about.

At 4 pm we learn that the PM has decided to extend the level 4 lockdown to midnight on Monday April 27. The country will then move to a level 3 lockdown for two weeks, and a further decision is to be announced on May 11. Moving to level 3 means some industries (construction) can start up again, and take-out food that can be delivered, such as pizza, will be available. Our bubbles are slightly expanded under level 3. The reaction, so far, is positive. We’ve managed up until now, we can do another week. We really appreciate the fact that our government is trying to keep us safe.

Many countries are looking to lift their restrictions on what you can do, and when educational facilities should reopen. It will be very interesting to see how this works out. The UK, on the other hand, has decided to extend their lockdown.  Senior ministers front up to press briefings, which are uniformly disappointing. It seems Bojo did not take this illness at all seriously until he had it himself. He was very ill, so ill that he was in Intensive Care; now he’s recovering. If this is “taking back control”, they seem really lost, and haven’t done well at all.

I suppose it’s easier for NZ in many ways to live under a strict lockdown, as we have done and are to continue doing. We are not crowded, we are a small nation, and the government provides a safety net.  But this has not been easy. All of us have had to give things up. While we enjoy not enduring the endless focus on “gut health”, we have missed family, grandchildren, friends, having coffee together, activities, the closeness with which we used to interact with each other, and freedom of movement.

I watched some videos about the US during the middle of the day. When I started, their death toll was 40,678. Two hours later, it was 41,000. I discovered a new program, NOW THIS, which follows the White House daily briefing and corrects the information being presented. It is hard to sit through, but instructive. And where is Dr Fauci? 

Today I have been thinking about Geoffrey Chaucer, one of my favourite poets. His great work, the Canterbury Tales, begins as follows:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licóur

Of which vertú engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open ye,

So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke,

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

Bifil that in that seson on a day,

In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,

Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage

To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,

At nyght were come into that hostelrye

Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye

Of sondry folk, by áventure y-falle

In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,

That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.

I have been to Southwark Cathedral, and to Canterbury Cathedral (twice). It is a

very impressive place indeed, even if it has a Starbucks outside. T.S. Eliots’s play

Murder in the Cathedral is set there too, about the return and murder of Thomas

Becket. It is written in verse and has a chorus, like an ancient Greek tragedy.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the Chaucer, seeing it is April, although we are heading

into autumn, not spring, and pilgrimages are off limits, for a time.

The music for today is Vivaldi’s Gloria, quite a short piece, but very beautiful.

There is a nice recording performed by the National Chamber Orchestra of

Armenia accompanied by the National Chamber Choir of Armenia. Sometimes

these groups make wonderful recordings; they’re a bit less stilted than other

more formal groups.

That’s it for now. Nga Mihi!

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