What’s Next?

Today is Wednesday May 6th. Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha!

What’s next? A body can get used to anything, even being hanged, but now thoughts must turn towards the future, of reopening economies, of relaxing lockdown restrictions, of establishing a new kind of normal.

Tuesday was unpleasant, in terms of the weather. It was much colder than we have experienced here to date, and it rained heavily.

I woke to news of Trump complaining at the Lincoln Memorial that he has been treated worse than Lincoln, amidst alarming talk of the University of Washington changing the assumptions of its models (they had falsely assumed that testing would improve and the level of contact tracing would increase).

There was mixed news here. The government seems to be doing a great job, but the Wellington City Council, not so. Some of the complaints include a lack of openness, warnings about rates increases, bickering and infighting, strange priorities (surely reopening the Wellington Central Library has to be a key priority?), and an odd decision not to get information from NIWA about southern storm warnings, such as the recent high waves that caused such havoc at Owhiro Bay. Now evidently the council is going to build a wall, but not, according to residents, where it is needed.

But there is an article on the Stuff website entitled Ten Reasons to be Optimistic about Jobs and the Economy amid Covid-19, which JD actually agrees with. I do, too.  It is good, too, that Maori and Pacifica are not disproportionately affected here by the virus.

Overseas, the news is mostly not great. England is heading towards having the highest death rate in Europe; ah no, they’re not part of Europe now. China’s economy is down by perhaps 6% (whatever that means); their factories have been severely affected by worldwide fall in demand for anything that they make. It also seems their death figures have been understated. There is also huge suspicion in the US of China, and seeking to blame the Chinese for the virus. Was it created in a lab, and released by accident? Was it created in a wet-market, and transmitted from an animal to a human being? Who knows. Does it really matter, or make any difference now? We have all been hugely affected. The world has literally stopped in its tracks. Many agree that a pandemic was bound to come, sometime soon, and some of us are now thinking that this crisis was not such a bad thing to happen, here in New Zealand, anyway. The effects of climate change are coming, too.

There are efforts to track the progress of Covid 19 as well as its origins. It is a shocking reminder to realise the first reports of a new virus from Wuhan were in early December, through to the first death in the UK on March 5. By the time of Easter (Good Friday was April 10), virtually the whole world was in some kind of lock down, the world economy was paralysed, and personal situations were scary and confusing in many places. No one would have seen this coming, so fast. I reread a newspaper from Saturday March 21, before New Zealand went into lock down, and reporters were musing on the effect already on the tourism industry in small towns of the South Island, on the election, and another retrospective piece seeing what was likely to come here. Medical staff speculated on what might be required of them, if the effects of the virus became much worse here as it had overseas.

There are disturbing reports now from the US, and previously from the UK, of children being ill but in a different way from adults. They may have weird patches on their feet, like frostbite or chilblains, and symptoms of Kawasaki disease; or some in New York have presented with heart failure. These distressing signs are not widely prevalent, but have been noticed.

At the 1 pm briefing there are no new cases, and no further deaths in New Zealand. Four patients are in hospital. In April there were the fewest car deaths since 1946.

In the afternoon, we go shopping at Newlands for groceries (at least I do). I buy quite a lot of things, having to go back to the vegetable section for salad dressing, and then having difficulty finding a birthday card and wrapping paper for my granddaughter. At the checkout, I suddenly feel very tired. It is wearying to unload the trolley, and then put everything back in it, especially when one is trying to protect the eggs, the fresh bread, and some cakes. Anyway, I pay for the goods, and come out to the car and pack everything in the shopping bags I have brought.

Dubya (George W Bush) has released a video which shows kindness and empathy and the need for everyone in the US to work together. It is a wonderful message. While I cannot forgive the invasion of Iraq, this is a wonderful message, and just what the country needs.

I learn in the evening that the UK that there had been over 32,000 deaths in the UK. The US totals were 1.21 million infected, and 69,680 deaths.

On Wednesday morning there is more news. I think the most horrifying is the New York Times suggesting that the US will regard deaths due  to the virus like mass-shooting deaths – part of the price they seem more than willing to pay for “freedom” and defence of their Second Amendment rights. The heading reads “Will We Shrug Off Coronavirus Deaths As We Do Gun Violence?” One commentator pointed out that it was not unreasonable that one might defend one’s home; it is quite something else to openly carry a gun in a threatening manner (she said).  

Meanwhile, the White House is planning to phase out the Coronavirus Task Force, by Memorial Day, according to Vice President Mike Pence.  It seems that Trump has decided that it’s all nothing to do with him, he just wants everything to be as it was with the stock market rising, unemployment falling, his big donors happy, and everything open again, come what may. There are deep divisions across the country with many supporting some level of distancing and precautions. Trump toured a mask-making factory in Arizona today, refusing to wear a mask himself. The background music was “Live and Let Die” by Guns N’Roses.

George Conway, president of the Noble Society (and previous survivor of wind-mill cancer) has released a video, “Mourning in America”. The US President erupts in rage calling him “Moon face” in a tweet. Meanwhile Wendy’s is advertising that it can’t supply hamburgers, because of a meat shortage, and sales of meat are being restricted in stores. One assumes that so many meat processing plants have been affected by infections of Covid 19, that supply has indeed been affected, despite the President’s Executive Order requiring meat processing plants to stay open.

Another frightening development today was the news from California that the virus has mutated into another, more deadly version than its original, and that this deadlier one has wreaked havoc on Italy and New York, in particular. This version may be resistant to whatever vaccines are being developed. With regard to vaccines, China joined other world leaders including the WHO for a common video discussion yesterday. The US was not present. Meanwhile, a US doctor (Rick Bright) who was demoted because of the cronyism around use of hydroxychloroquine and development of a vaccine has now made a formal complaint.

The 1 pm briefing today brings two new cases of Covid 19 – one confirmed case in the Marist College cluster, and one probable at the St Margaret’s Rest Home in Auckland. This brings the official total to 1488. Sadly, there has been another death – a woman in her 60’s who was a resident at the Rosewood Home in Christchurch. She did have pre-existing health conditions. Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield front this briefing, and again, I am a bit surprised at how tough the journalists’ questions are.  This has been a war, after all, with war-time like conditions. Jacinda Ardern answers them all graciously, but does point out that her main focus was getting control over the virus, and managing that situation, and that the unfortunate situations she is quizzed about would be distressing in any circumstances.

On Wednesday it is fine and much warmer, in fact it is sunny in the afternoon. We go for a walk to the local store to buy things I couldn’t buy yesterday – there is one punnet of raspberries left, and there are tins of creamed corn. I can also buy packets of fruit biscuits. You can see what the popular items are!

Once again, we are so grateful to be here, in a country where there is good government, plenty of food, and an increased feeling of safety and friendship, and of people going out of their way to be nice. It has done us all good to slow down a bit. 

At the end of the day, figures are as follows: the US has 1,238,030 infections, and 72,284 deaths. The UK has just under 195,000 infections and 29,427 deaths. By contrast, Canada has 63,215 infections and 4,043  deaths. That makes you wonder, does it not?

My favourite piece today is the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Itzak Perlman as soloist. Isn’t he a marvellous That’s it for now. Nga mihi nui.

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