Staying the Course

Today is Monday May 4th. Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha!

“Let’s not squander the gains we have made”.

The sense I get from this morning’s paper is one of caution, although there are the usual arguments for lifting restrictions vs. we haven’t been severe enough. There is a predominating fear of celebrating too soon, of lifting our guard too quickly. Perhaps there is also some fear of opening things up  again – work, schools, tourism, hospitality, shopping in person, cinemas, libraries, pools etc.

Today the 1 pm briefing is on again, fronted by Dr Ashley Bloomfield. There are no new cases of Covid 19, and no new deaths. Dr Bloomfield allows himself a rare smile of cautious optimism, bur warns that this success reflects New Zealanders’ hard work, and warns that we need to maintain discipline. Any new cases arising from the move to level 3 will show up later this week, and will be a good test of whether the rules are being relaxed too much. Dr B, you’re amazing, and well done, New Zealand. The Prime Minister is due to give a press conference at 4 pm. We will all be agog.

Overseas, people are getting “antsy”; while the dreadful death rates of almost 1,000 a day recorded by some European countries have thankfully declined, and their lock downs are being eased, other countries have still to see the worst of it, with rapidly rising rates of infection, and high death rates almost certain to follow. It seems premature to talk of a second wave of this virus, as some are eagerly doing, when the first wave is still wreaking havoc. Some countries’ leaders are in denial, for example, Brazil’s Bolsonaro; the US seems unique in its inability to manage this crisis and not to care about human suffering and human lives lost.  One thing the US Federal government does succeed in doing, besides being a winner in terms of cases of infection and numbers of deaths, is in sowing chaos amongst those who would seek to manage this better. One feels so sorry for those needlessly suffering in this crisis.  It seems many do not have a choice.

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State, gave another good briefing, shown today. He delivered many useful messages, including the following: there is rightful appreciation shown for health-care staff, ambulance drivers, and other essential workers, but if you really want to help them, then don’t get sick! His leadership has been a bright beacon in a large country crying out for good leadership with a strong sense of decency.

Andrew Cuomo says several interesting things. He mentions changes to the climate, and the difficulties of getting any kind of unity from many different hospitals in New York, many of them private. He talks about a consortium of governors working together to purchase PPE and ventilators so that they are not competing with each other, and a desire to hold stockpiles of PPE, and be prepared for whatever the future holds. He also mentions that the California, in the west, contracted the virus from China, whereas states in the East contracted it mainly from Italy – a seemingly different strand, causing different problems; this would help explain why Italy and then New York were both hit so very hard, for several weeks, and how this came as such a shock.  Both have seemingly good health care systems, and yet both were struck with problems of disease and death beyond anything they’d previously experienced.

Now European countries, and some American states, are seeking to lift their lockdowns, with a view to re-imposing restrictions as necessary, should the virus flare up again. People are enormously relieved , it seems, but there are still many who advise and act with caution. Cuomo also remarked that it is harder to open things up than to shut them down.

Tonight the main figures are as follows: the US has 1.18 million diagnosed infections, and has had 68,286 deaths. Apparently Trump this morning predicted a US death toll of 80 – 90,000. Which model is being used now, one wonders (yesterday he was predicting 100,000). I fear that target may be reached sooner than he expects.

The UK has had 187,000 cases and 28,446 deaths. They haven’t maintained their target of 100,000 tests each day. Their death total now outstrips those of Spain and France and almost reaches that of Italy. All these countries have been very hard hit by the virus. Their wonderful tourist sites looked so attractive without the sightseeing crowds, but I think now we would rather be here.

This morning we have a great video chat with one of my sons and his two children. It is such a treat to see them all! The little boy is talking with lots of words and the baby girl looks so well, happy and growing. She reminds me so much of her father when he was a baby. The little boy shows us where he sleeps now, and demonstrates his building skills. We promise to find and put together some more toys for him.

“Stay the course, finish the job”.

At 4 pm Jacinda Ardern gives a press briefing. She does this alone, and handles reporters’ questions with aplomb. I keep wondering if these journos would address the same questions to a National Party Prime Minister, and give him or her the same grilling? They probably wouldn’t get a chance! She’s been invited by Scott Morrison to join the Australian Cabinet by video for a meeting tomorrow, primarily to discuss trans-Tasman travel. This invitation is unprecedented.

The Prime Minister has undertaken to tell us on Thursday what level 2 Covid 19 restrictions will look like, but a decision to go to level 2 won’t be made until May 11.  Meanwhile, we are all wondering what level 2 will mean for us, and when it may be safe to resume some activities.  I think my initial preference would be to go to a supermarket further than 2 km away, and buy some fine cheese, doughnuts and other goodies. My other wish is to go to a bookshop and buy some new books.

Tomorrow I would have gone to a Tai Chi class, caught the train back into Wellington, had a bite to eat and done some shopping, and caught the bus home. I won’t be doing that, but I will go shopping to buy more food.  I think it may be a long time before we can plan a party, or travel to another part of New Zealand. That would involve driving long distance or flying, and using cafés, bathrooms, and accommodation – all perfectly normal back in the day (late December, was the last time we travelled), but quite scary now. As I say so often, there’s no rush.

With regard to watching television, there is no live sport for JD to watch, and we don’t have Sky anymore, so rather than watching climate change videos and calving glaciers, he watches re-runs of America’s Cup yacht races. New Zealand won the last one, in Bermuda, much to the astonishment of the non-Kiwi commentators (who would have thought – the Kiwis did win it in 1995). Auckland is supposed to host the next race series, although who knows when and where that will be?

I try and be disciplined about television watching, mainly sticking to evenings. After we’ve done current affairs on YouTube, we scan TVNZ1 and Maori Television, then Netflix, Lightbox and TV On Demand to see what’s worth watching.  Sometimes there are good reruns of series available, such as the John Le Carré/George Smiley series.  Usually we find something.

Today it is Sunday in the Northern Hemisphere, and I have not really caught up with the news.  Tomorrow will be different! Lots of beautiful music goes around in my head, but today’s favourite has to be Bach’s Air on the G String. It is evocative of many things.

Nga mihi nui.

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