Today is Friday May 1st. Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha!

I have not blogged for the last two days, although much has been happening, most of it not good. However, here we go again.

I think I am developing a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. Part of me doesn’t want this special time to end, although it, will, and must. But I doubt that things will be “the same” again, we have all been irredeemably changed by this experience of managing our situation during this pandemic, Phase 1.  I will call it Phase 1, although I doubt that Phase 1 is over in many places; it’s just getting underway, and one fears things will have to get worse before they get better.

As NZ moved from level 4 to level 3, it hasn’t been so quiet. On Wednesday morning, there wasn’t a lot of traffic noise, but it sounded as though everyone was putting out their wheelie-bins. The next few days it has been quiet again.

I’ve been to the store twice since we moved to level 3.  Although most people are still practising social distancing, and you still can’t take personal shopping bags into the store, there is a much more relaxed feeling up there. It’s as though there’s been a collective sigh of relief. It occurred to me, that if there are only about 3 new cases in NZ, then we can all be less anxious. I read in this morning’s paper that there have been no cases diagnosed in Wellington for the last two weeks. I am also pleased that postal services are available again, so I can post a birthday present to my granddaughter in the US. Fortunately I bought her present before the lockdown started.

It is amazing, although to be expected, I suppose, that there are still some voices complaining about the lockdown. It surprises me because we’ve coped fine, NZ is not like many places overseas where families tend to live in apartments; for the most part, we live in houses with separate bedrooms and front and back gardens, and there are plenty of good walks, even if the parks are closed. The Director-General of Health repeated that if you needed health care, you could get it; the Prime Minister insisted that no one should go hungry. One might well ask what better place could you be under lockdown?

But even in Aotearoa New Zealand, where the situation has been well-managed, the Novel Coronavirus gave us a big shock as everyone scrambled to make their working/servicing/shopping/eating environments safer, before the level 4 lockdown. Indeed, with the numbers of those infected increasing each day, and, in spite of travel bans and “precautions” there were still crazy things happening like cruise ship stops, so-called self-isolation “at home” being totally ineffective in some cases, an infected person visiting a café in Wellington, it was a relief when the Prime Minister took strong action and declared a severe level 4 lockdown to take place within a couple of days. Many of us acted early as if the lock down was already in place. Our son visited from the UK while things were still quite open; he seemed quite surprised by the precautions here. Despite those, by the time he left less than two weeks later, events had moved with great speed, and it was not easy for him and his wife to get back to England.

We had a sample, a taste, here of the enormous grief and disruption caused by cases of the infection leading to serious illness and sometimes death; people dying alone; not being able to hold funerals when people had died of natural causes; of just having to stay put, and hoping and praying that nothing happens to your loved ones.  Many of the stories from overseas record health workers’ despair at the situations they find themselves in ,and bearing the brunt of family members’ grief at not seeing the situation with their own eyes.

And yet..and yet, there is a rush to say “Enough! We’ve had enough of not having simple pleasures like what, exactly? Your old activities? We have all suffered. But did you learn nothing? Someone or something just said No!  One of the main lessons in life, is that, plan as we may, (and it’s wise to plan), the answer to what you want, will sometimes be No. This is one of those times. Sometimes, despite our best precautions, our best insurance, bad things happen, where you are grateful for life itself, life having got down to basics of breathing and staying alive and sheltered. In these situations, people matter, family and friends matter, One’s faith matters.

It seems to me that the pro-life Party in the US should perhaps now be known as the pro-death Party (not their death, of course), for its actions would seem to imply that there is a huge lack of concern for working people, coloured people, health workers, older people, veterans….In the US, seemingly in the pursuit of profit by a few, many are required to put their lives and safety, and by association, that of their family members and their work associates, in danger.

Although the US economy has shrunk by 4.8% in the first quarter of this year, although 21 million Americans (no, now 30 million unemployed) .have filed for unemployment, meat plants are being kept open, in spite of growing numbers of infected staff and some fatalities, and staff are being ordered to work, in spite of their feeing unsafe to do to. Some are told they will lose unemployment benefits. Larry Kudlow, formerly so upbeat about the economy, now warns that the coronavirus is no longer contained, but nevertheless, he’s optimistic about it “bouncing back”.

The US death toll from Covid 19 surpassed that of the war in Vietnam, which took place over 19 years; now it is growing by over 2,000 a day. A few weeks ago there had been no deaths. There does not seem to be any plan to halt this dreadful, growing toll.

Here in New Zealand, there is still a handful of cases each day. The Prime Minister talks about level 3 as being “the waiting room”. Some restrictions have been lifted, but we are urged to be responsible, stay close to home, and only go out if we need to do so. On Wednesday there are two new cases. Testing in level 3 will focus on the following:

  • finding new cases, where there are symptoms suggestive of Covid 19
  • carrying out surveillance testing according to a planned approach.

If someone in a rest home test positive, all residents and staff will then be tested.  Contacts of known cases are to be followed up and tested, and there is interest in studying how the virus spreads within clusters.

Journalists’ questions are quite combative. But Jacinda Ardern handles them with aplomb.

On Thursday, there are three new cases, and no deaths, but 7 cases in hospital.

There are several hundred complaints, but the police are onto these. The Prime Minister says that rather than there being a cult of snitching, most New Zealanders don’t want to lose the ground they’ve won, and feel threatened when they see people appearing to break the rules. On Friday there are three new cases, bringing the total to 1479. This total includes three health-care workers at Waitakere Hospital who have tested positive, related to a nursing home cluster in Auckland. The three new cases represent one from overseas travel, one related to a known case, and one still under investigation. There doesn’t seem to be asymptomatic community spread here. It will be interesting to see, as things are opened up again, just what happens with Covid 19.

Anecdotally, people are pleased to be back at work, to be able to buy barista-made coffee, and to buy takeaways again, despite the limitations.

The library have extended loan due dates again. I wonder how safe it will feel, though, to borrow books again, and to use libraries again. They used to be such havens! I am debating whether it will be safer to use the Book Depository, or buy from Unity Books in future. Goodness knows, I don’t need any more books, but I have a list I’d like to read, and would formerly have borrowed from the library.  The NZ Film Festival says it will show films at home. I’m looking forward to that!

Overseas, here is some of the news from the UK:

  • the search for a vaccine looks promising
  • The promised number of tests (100,000 per day) has not been met yet
  • There is still a lack of PPE
  • Masks not mandated yet
  • Somebody quipped that in London, during lockdown, mainly brown people can go to work.
  • Keir Starmer, the new Labour Party leader, has been grilling the government i.e. the ruling Tory Party about the number of deaths.
  • Rest home deaths are now added to hospital deaths from Covid 19.
  • Amidst all this there has been talk of lifting the lockdown because people are finding it really hard. I suggest they’re not seeing much gain for their recognised pain.

There has been recognition that the death rate in many countries was higher than usual from January, and so, probably, people were  dying from Covid 19 before the first deaths were officially recorded.  This is being used to suggest that the death rate is perhaps lower than thought.  It adds to the many perplexing facts about this disease. It puzzles me that if people were dying from it earlier than thought, why weren’t they showing the symptoms of Covid 19 that now seem to be fairly common?

In the US, there are the following additional facts that caught my eye:

  • In addition to damaging patients’ lungs and kidneys, the virus may do heart damage too.
  • In New York city the smell of dead bodies has been disturbing.
  • In the US, health workers, although praised, have been denied paid sick leave.
  • The US President has signed an executive order mandating meat processing plants, a main source of infection, to stay open.
  • In states where businesses are unwisely opening, workers feel unsafe but desperately need their pay.
  • In Michigan, there was an armed protest that went inside the Capitol; meanwhile the governor there has extended the stay-at-home order for another month.
  • There are still all kinds of problems with testing. The federal government has said it’s the states responsibility. There seems to be little control over how this is done. It seems chaotic.
  • This virus, once targeting poorer workers, is now targeting the middle class.
  • There is a huge risk that it will be so prevalent as to be extremely difficult to control.
  • Polls show that the American people generally support controls.

The figures for the US and the UK are increasingly alarming:

As at midnight 1st May, the US has 1.1 million confirmed cases, and 63,746 deaths, well past the total lost in the Vietnam War. The UK has 171,000 confirmed cases. And has had 26,771 deaths.

In Russia, the toll of those infected is going up in leaps and bounds. The Prime Minister has tested positive for Covid 19, and the big military parade set for May 8 has been cancelled. Meanwhile, there is concern for their “closed” secret nuclear cities. If they’re so secret, how did the virus get in there, one wonders.

Trump has been sending out lots of tweets. One of the funniest ones was where he criticised the “lamestream” media, and said journalists should give back their Noble prizes. I’m sure some of them wish they had received Nobel prizes; I’m afraid it’s their Pulitzers they should be returning!  We’re very grateful for the work journalists do. While we have fun criticising some of them, we appreciate them very much, especially during such interesting times.

To divert ourselves, we have been watching George Smiley on television, the old BBC series of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”, so much better than the later (2011) 0film. The music from that keeps going round in my head, the “Nunc Dimittis”.

That’s it for now. Nga mihi nui.

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