Today is Friday May 8th. Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha. It is a lovely fine day, and it’s one of my granddaughters’ 5th birthday.

The knives are out. No one (well, hardly anyone) is satisfied with the government’s swift actions. There is talk of human rights violations, and of suing Dr Bloomfield.  This morning’s newspaper content reminds me of how previously I sought to avoid New Zealand politics. So what does level 2 mean, exactly? I think it means use your common sense. Think about your loved ones, family and friends. Be respectful to other people.  If you get sick, of anything, who will look after you? Whom will you pass an infectious disease on to? What makes sense, in the new environment? Many of us have always been cautious. Under level 2, it makes good sense to be extra cautious.

The points that strike me first this morning are the following:

  • Michael Flynn’s case is to be lifted by the US Department of Justice (he admitted lying to the FBI).  This continues to cause huge shockwaves.
  • One of Trump’s aides has tested positive for Covid 19.
  • In Russia the oligarchs are taking over.
  • The official line is now that the US numbers of deaths and infections have been overstated.
  • China reports that Covid 19 has been found in the semen of infected men.

I listen to Dr John’s daily briefing before my phone conks out (I have been having trouble charging it, lately, and, when charged, it doesn’t last long). He makes the point that, regardless of socio-economic conditions, black people and ethnic minorities are four times more likely to die of this virus than white people.  There is a formal report (ONS) on this issue.

There is still no vaccine, no reliable antibody tests, no effective treatment for the coronavirus. Some otherwise fit and healthy people become very ill and die. If you have trouble breathing, and are put on a ventilator, the odds of recovery are not great – about 9/10 don’t recover. It looks as though it will be around for a long time – perhaps always. Even if New Zealand largely eliminates it, it will still be overseas, probably prevalent in some countries.

It seems to me that during wartime (and this is a war, albeit against an unseen, persistent and pernicious enemy), you have to accept some privations. Many see their military sons and daughters go far away, leaving behind parents, spouses, children and other loved ones, only to die alone overseas, whether by enemy of friendly fire. During World War 2 many English children were evacuated: how terrifying must that have been, for parents, children, and their (sometimes reluctant) hosts? They also endured rationing, which persisted until well after the war. Privations such as power outages continued for some time, while enemy countries such as Germany and Japan, and allies such as the US, and Australia and New Zealand, enjoyed financial success and rebuilt their economies. Victory came at a very heavy price for the United Kingdom.

What we have endured here is nothing compared to those privations. It has been hard, but to have all but eliminated the virus seems a big achievement, when other countries are accepting that they will have some deaths, many sick people, as well as a devastated economy. Whichever way you turn, easing up or imposing more stringent regulations, most nations have to accept Covid 19 affecting some if not many of its people, and the subsequent heavy demand on whatever health services they have, and consequent deaths.

Last night I read about Barbara Tuchman’s book about the 14th century, “A Distant Mirror”. I have read this book, but dismissed it as being somewhat ancient history. It now seems incredibly relevant. Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower, has also written a novel about a pandemic: “The End of October”. It seems very timely now, although it was researched and written before Covid 19 took hold.

It also strikes me that a crisis brings out the best in many people, showing an amazing degree of kindness and selflessness, but it has also brought out the worst in some. That would include:

  • Financial bailouts  for cruise lines, airlines and other examples of big business, from money that is supposed to help people in real need;
  • In Russia and in Italy the oligarchs and the Mafia have taken advantage of this crisis situation.
  • Increased domestic violence in many countries.
  • Mental health issues, especially anxieties and obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Difficulty in handling naturally occurring traumatic situations, such as death or divorce.
  • Many support networks for older and more vulnerable people unable to operate as they used to.
  • Elimination of democratic principles and intrusions into one’s privacy to monitor health of individuals and societies. I will have more to say about this.

Some of the good things include:

  • Parents seeing more of their children, not less
  • Fathers enjoying playing with their children and sharing domestic tasks.
  • Families cooking together.
  • Much less consumerism.
  • Lack of air pollution – skies are clear again, and streets are empty.
  • The environment has surely benefited from the lock downs.
  • People being creative about showing things online.
  • Lack of obsessions that many used to have – many things we used to think were so important don’t really matter now.
  • Some people taking pay cuts.
  • Smiles and waves.
  • Individuals  moving into bubbles of vulnerable folk such as the elderly or my daughter. Hohepa have been truly amazing, and goodness knows, they have challenging situations to deal with.

I am sure I have omitted other instances, both of scams, and kindness.

At am the figures are as follows: the US has 1,292,987 infections, and 76,942 deaths. The UK has 206,715 infections and (officially) 30, 615 deaths.

Today, my cleaner comes again. What a relief! It is great to see him. We miss the 1 pm briefing, but there are two new cases of Covid 19, and no deaths. One of the cases is a nurse who had been looking after St Margaret’s rest home patients at Waitakere Hospital. The other one is confirmation of a previously probable case, so the total rises by one to 1490.

We are so fortunate to be safe in this country, with strong leadership. Many of us have loved ones overseas, and while we pray for them, they don’t need to worry about us.  No one here should go hungry, or be without medical care.

I, for one, appreciate the steps that have been taken at our local supermarket. There is always someone at the door to greet you and allow you in; you’re not permitted to take bags into the store (this took some getting used to, as previously we had got used to taking reusable bags), and they’ve taken more trouble to wrap individual items and take doors off the self-service cabinet. It’s nice to shop there, and you feel fairly safe.  I am looking forward to having the checkout person pack my goods again, though – I do find it hard to load everything back into the trolley, wheel it outside, and then pack my bags.

This afternoon we are due to have a special afternoon tea with our granddaughter who turns five today. We are honoured to be part of her lovely family’s bubble. This is the first time we’ve interacted with family (not at a distance) since before the level 4 lockdown began on 25 March. We are so honoured to be part of her special day. She has missed (thus far) her last day at kindergarten, and starting school is still a bit of a blur. The children are very affectionate. With us being adult, and them being quite small, they can hug us again. It is good to share experiences together in person.  We agree that we haven’t missed inappropriate advertisements for clothes and travel and things you used to be able to buy at all!

The music for today has to be the Birthday Song.  Nga mihi nui.

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