To Level 2, and Beyond

Today is Monday May 11th. Kia ora katoa! Kia kaha!

Everything is starting to be noisier here. This morning I hear a plane go over. There is noise of rubbish collection, but then, you would expect that on a Monday.

I wonder about the weekend update from Hohepa, and get JD to forward it. For some reason, I didn’t receive it. Never mind, it is very good, as always. Under level 2 they are cautiously going to reopen the school and the workshops, but will not use public transport, or go to their usual activities; the shop will remain closed.

JD has a zoom meeting at 2:30 pm. He asks to borrow my PC. I have got used to some of the intricacies of zoom, however this requires me to run around finding passwords and then getting a code on my phone to be passed on. In the meantime, I read more of my Stalingrad book, and some old LRB’s – about Wuhan, the plague in Florence from 1629 – 1631, and the 2020 campaign for a Democratic nominee to the Presidency..

We are waiting for the Prime minister’s announcement at 4 pm as to whether New Zealand will go to level 2 on Thursday. Meantime, I listen to a podcast about the strange new silence. The author misses the sounds of activity, of traffic, of busy-ness. Meanwhile, I enjoy the peace and quiet, as I think many do here. We are grateful to have much less noise, so even the half-hourly empty bus that goes past is noticeable.

What else is news? The US death total has passed 80,000.  Trump has certainly made America First, in this race. The rest of us pity the US even more than previously. Trump urges states to re-open, even as their cases of infection are rising.  In the UK, Boris Johnson eases the lockdown, but causes huge confusion there and opposition elsewhere. Interestingly, he (or someone) has combed his hair for this announcement, so he looks more presentable than usual. Sadly, his announcement is met with scorn and derision.

Today, in New Zealand, there are three new cases, bringing the total to 1497. Two patients are in hospital, none in Intensive Care.

At 4 pm Jacinda Ardern gives a press briefing, along with Dr Bloomfield. She announces that New Zealand will move to level 2 on Thursday, but physical distancing is still required and strict attention to hygiene. Schools will reopen on 18 May, and bars on 21 May. On Thursday, shops, cinemas, gyms, and playgrounds can reopen.  So that’s huge, and I expect some re-thinking will be going on, as local authorities and others decide just how to open safely.

Gatherings of up to 10 (not 100) are permitted, but I think you’re still required (as always) to use your own discretion as regards safety, bearing in mind the potential attendees, and the venue. People can travel locally, again.

I imagine that cinemas, libraries, public transport, and caterers, to name a few, will be thinking about just how they can lure back their loyal customers, and assure them that they will be safe using their facilities again.

This afternoon we go for a walk to the local supermarket. While the “rules” are still in place, each day (we now shop daily again, instead of weekly), everyone seems much more relaxed, there are even more smiles, and fewer masks worn. On the way, I notice two red rosebuds, and I determine to pick them when we return. At the store, I buy raspberries, feijoas, and plums again! In May! There is also a new Economist available (just two copies). I buy one. I wonder what happened to the missing ones? I also buy a packet of face masks to send to my son in the UK.

I figure it’s a good thing if the lockdown is lifted before my asthma gets bad again, as it usually does in autumn, with consequent coughing and difficulty breathing. I wouldn’t want to alarm anyone with my symptoms!

In many countries now, there are infected workers in meat processing plants. This has turned out to be a very vulnerable area. In New Jersey, there have been 72 deaths at a Home for Veterans. Don’t these lives matter too? We also heard tonight that Vice-President Mike Pence will self-isolate “out of an abundance of caution”. Reading between the lines, one surmises that the White House is a very scary place to work right now.

The University of Washington has revised its model to predict 137,000 deaths from Covid 19 in the US by August 1st. This figure has been revised upwards from May 4th. The main reason for this projected increase is increased mobility, i.e. more states relaxing stay-at-home orders, and people moving within and between states, as well as a continuous increase in the numbers of people infected.

Late today, the figures for the US are as follows: 1,367,963  infections, and 80,787 deaths. For the UK, there have been 219,183 infections and 31,855 deaths. There is a story of Greek people getting their loved ones to return to Greece from England, on the grounds that they’d be safer in Greece. How right they were. They (and others) wonder at how the British have messed this crisis up so badly. Their death toll outstripped that of Italy some days ago, having already beaten those of Spain and France (which were initially, and remain, horrifying). Their respective priorities, Build that Wall, and Get Brexit Done, seem more than ever like vanity projects that faced significant opposition at home and abroad, and ignored other priorities. Both their supposed strengths have been subsumed in these ridiculous other crises, while their leaders, in spite of scientific and medical advice, continued to ignore the rising threat of this pandemic, to their economy, and their people. Now they do know, but mismanagement and chaos continue.

Rising cases in Russia cause concern (they are close to coming second to the US  in the world for infections), although their deaths have yet to catch up; the rate of death amongst the numbers infected is different from country to country, e.g. 6.5 % in the US, and 15% in the UK.  And also, the UK ordered a large number of gowns from Turkey, and they’re no use. Figures in Brazil also cause concern – 162,699 infected and 11,123 deaths; and Belgium has 53,449 infections and 8,707 deaths. Food for thought.

I reiterate how fortunate we have been in New Zealand to have kept the coronavirus totals so low, and to be in a position to gradually open things up again. I do hope we don’t get a second wave here, although I fear as travel becomes more common again, that the course of this virus will be very hard to manage. I hope that is still some way off, and that there’ll be much less of it.

Tonight we watched Tea With the Dames on Maori Television, with a wonderful clip of Dame Judi Dench in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and the final episode of Normal People.  The music for today is a song from that play, “Where the Bee sucks”.

I’ll be back again tomorrow.  Nga mihi nui.

Prospero says, The Tempest, Act IV, Scene 1:

You do look, my son, in a moved sort,
As if you were dismay’d: be cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. 

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