Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha!
Today is Friday April 24. Tomorrow is Anzac Day. Given the lockdown, New Zealanders are being encouraged not to attend a Dawn Service, but to stand at their gate or in their driveway at 6 am. I am not usually up and about at this time, but tomorrow, we shall see. I did not lose anyone close in the Great War, or World War 2; my folk would have been conscientious objectors, but I feel very affected by those who did lose their lives, and the dreadful conditions they encountered.
I have to begin by quoting the US figures, since they will no doubt be worse by the end of the day. The US has over 842,000 cases of Covid 19 infection, and has had just under 47,000 deaths. Over 20 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s eldest brother, who served in Vietnam, has died of Covid 19.
Back here in New Zealand, there is enormous support for the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s move to instigate a severe lockdown. In this morning’s paper I am introduced to JOLO, or the “Joy of Letting Go”. Rosemary McLeod’s column is always interesting, too. I feel I share some values with her, although thankfully I didn’t go to boarding school. Although I was born in the 1950’s, my parents were deeply affected by the Depression of the 1930’s, and World War II, followed by the Korean War and the polio epidemic of the 1950’s. Vaccines were discovered for diseases that had previously killed many children – polio, tuberculosis, whooping cough and diphtheria. My parents had a very different view of life from today’s parents, and that coloured my perceptions too. Now the mend and make do/recycle/don’t waste anything vibe has become fashionable again, although views of food (what one should eat) and health have changed enormously.
I watch Dr John Campbell’s update. There is very little news of the UK these days, but Dr John gives some figures: there have been over 20,000 deaths in hospital, but these no doubt fail to represent the actual number, seeing as they don’t include numbers of deaths in care homes, or deaths at home. They have been struggling to buy PPE, but a picture is emerging of rich countries buying PPE at poor countries’ expense. He notes that testing has increased in the UK, but not to the level claimed by the Tory government. He also notes cases of animals being infected. He also notes that trials of a new vaccine are to begin at Oxford.
Dr John also lavishes high praise on the NZ Prime Minister, although he gets her name wrong. He notes that there was going to be a commemoration of the mosque shootings in Christchurch on March 15 last year, but she acted swiftly in changing that and putting strict measures in place to stem the potential flood of Covid 19 infections and deaths. He notes that she was proactive, rather than reactive, and it is hoped that the coronavirus can be stamped out.
There is a lot of talk, particularly in the US, about a second wave of the coronavirus. This makes no sense to me. The supposed first wave has been terrible, causing great amounts of severe sickness and death, and this is still going on! There is still a lack of testing, of contact tracing, and lack of confidence in the health system’s ability to cope. In my view, although numbers of daily infections and deaths may be declining in Europe, they are still increasing in the US, especially in rest homes for the elderly, in prisons, and in meat processing plants. So-called “herd immunity” does not kick in until 60-70% of the population has been infected. Surely no one wants to get to that level.
The Governor of Georgia is still determined to reopen businesses over the next few days, despite enormous opposition, including from the staff of some of those businesses. Many have great fear about this move. Georgia has been badly hit, does not carry out effective testing, and one gets the feeling that some people there don’t take this virus seriously. The prospect is terrifying. Although people in other states with Democratic Governors have been encouraged to “liberate” their states, i.e. go back to work, Georgia has received no such encouragement; in fact, the President has now chided the Governor although not expressly forbidding him from opening certain businesses.
Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader from Kentucky, has incurred significant criticism from Andrew Cuomo and former Senator Claire MacAskill, to name a couple. He has suggested some states declare bankruptcy, one of the outcomes being to endanger pensions. This has infuriated people. Cuomo continues to receive acclaim for his masterful presentations. He does not agree with Trump, but he seems to be able to stay on side with him.
Everything is so political in the US. I have learnt about Republicans that you can’t have too much money, or too much hypocrisy; human life is only valued for older white men, or in the womb. Despite repeated admonitions in the Bible to be kind to the poor, Evangelical religion seems to have a very limited view of Christian values. It has been evident in this pandemic crisis, as in the crisis of climate change, that money in the short term matters far more than human life in the long term. This virus emergency has taken the world by hold, and has forced us to take different actions and value and be thankful for different things.
Back here in Aotearoa, the 1 pm briefing is fronted by Grant Robertson, Minister of Finance, and Dr McElnay. There are 5 new cases of Covid 19, and there has been a further death, a man aged 69 who was a resident of the Rosewood Home in Christchurch. Grant Robertson talks about the need to rebuild the NZ economic recovery as the lockdown levels are lifted.
This afternoon I went for a walk, and went to the store. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and lots of people were out walking. One woman had drawn a poppy on her drive, in preparation for Anzac Day. The store will be closed tomorrow morning, so I bought a few things. Some items are back in stock: there are plenty of coffee beans, there is anti-bacterial handwash lotion, and there are packs of latex gloves. I also buy some fresh bread, feijoas, and raspberries.
Yesterday I watched the new climate documentary released by Michael Moore, Planet of the Humans. It does not mention sea-level rise at all, or methane emissions; rather, it decries the hand of big business in supposed “green” alternatives to fossil fuels, and seemed to involve a great deal of logging and wood burning, which is called using “biomass”, which is somehow supposed to be better. I found it thought-provoking. I keep feeling, however, if we all used less “stuff”, as we’re being forced to now, at this time, planet earth would be a better place. As the Northern Hemisphere countries head into summer, I wonder what will come in terms of heat, forest fires, hurricanes, and floods. It has been a joy to have far less pollution in the air, and no planes flying overhead, but the emergencies caused by natural disasters may force an end to social distancing. We just don’t know what’s around the corner.
At the end of this day, the US total for Covid 19 infections is 890k. The official number of deaths is 50,372.
Today I’m going to finish with some lines from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets:
We shall not cease from exploration,
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
My music for today is Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Piano Sonata.