Rest an’ be Thankful

Cartoon from the Dom Post Wed 24 June 2020

Today is Tuesday June 23rd. Kia ora katoa. Still calm and reasoned here!

I picked this up again on Saturday June 27th. And it’s now Tuesday June 30.

Get a grip, everyone! We are alive, and well, and here in New Zealand, where our government does not deny the existence of the novel coronavirus, but takes sensible steps to contain and manage it. We are fortunate indeed.

While there may be “chaos at the border”, as shrieking headlines exclaim, this new emergency situation is being managed. Of course many New Zealanders want to come back here, and why wouldn’t they? Most of the rest of the world is in a huge mess. Back here, you get good, and for the most part, free, health care. Testing is readily available. While all arrivals from overseas are required to be in managed quarantine for 14 days, it is managed, and people are tested, on day 3 and day 12.  This far, there is no community spread of Covid 19. But these folk are coming from places where the novel coronavirus is rife. It is to be expected that some of them will have it.

While it upsetting for some that a few people returning are infected, at least this situation is being managed, and is to be expected. It is probably an easier quarantine here than in China, where if you open your door this is on film and you are asked why. Here I understand people in quarantine are allowed to exercise.

The rest of the country is not in lockdown. People are free to go anywhere they wish. Churches, schools, cinemas, hair and beauty salons, libraries, cafés and bars have reopened. We are moving forward again, with a new sense of caution. There were packed stadia for rugby matches recently: how cool is that?  Where else in the world could you do that? Everyone I have spoken to is grateful to have been, and still be, well looked after.

New arrivals are released after their 14 days’ quarantine, and after a negative test for Covid 19.  They are then free to live in New Zealand, buy and eat food and clothing, buy houses, and generally add to whatever spending is going on.

None of these folk are refugees, and many of them won’t be hard up. This situation is being well-managed. It has been a big task to bring New Zealanders home, and it seems they truly want to call New Zealand home again. This is a good thing, and will add to local spending and tourism.  People have said how nice it is to be able to go to popular venues, now uncrowded, and see them properly.

I have read a great deal about pandemics, or plagues, much of it distressing. I have read about the Black Death in Fourteenth Century Europe and England; Thucydides’ account of the plague in Athens in 430 B.C., and Albert Camus’ The Plague. I have read Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders, about the English village of Eyam that walled itself off during the plague of the fourteenth century. I have watched the movie Contagion on television, and listened to podcasts about Lawrence Wright’s new novel, the End of October. I also listened to a podcast about early medical education in America. Scary stuff!

Sadly, there are commonalities, or perhaps this is just human nature exemplified in extremis. Common features include the following:

  • A wish for self-preservation;
  • Acts of great altruism and kindness;
  • Acts of cruel desperation;
  • Some of those who can, leave for places of perceived safety;
  • Life gets down to the basics of having a food supply and safe drinking water;
  • Less important conditions are put up with;
  • Utilities are taken for granted – clean running water; rubbish collection; provision of utilities;
  • The likelihood of imminent death comes as a shock;
  • The sufferings of victims is taken seriously, or not at all;
  • Systems of law and order tend to break down;
  • One tends to live for the present – who knows if tomorrow will come?
  • Superstitions abound in terms of proposed cures;
  • True facts are hard to come by. There is a saying that Truth is the first casualty of war; it certainly is in the case of a war against an infectious disease;
  • Odd fears “go viral”; others accuse one of over-reacting;
  • Distrust of politicians;
  • Some people cope with emergency situations much better than others.

In New Zealand now we are getting about two new cases each day, of people returning from overseas. That is to be expected, after all. These people are help in quarantine for 14 days, and tested on day 3 and day 12. If someone tests positive for Covid 19, they are moved to a different motel. There are no further exemptions. I think this is positive: after all, you’d expect some of the people returning to test positive, especially as so much of the rest of the world is still suffering greater or lesser recurrence of positive cases of disease. This virus is certainly persistent, especially so in the southern states of the US, who are taken aback that their infection rates are so high, and their hospitals in heavy use.

Since I wrote this, southern states in the US like Texas, Arizona, Florida, and California, which had seemed to be doing rather well, are approaching a crisis situation with their health systems, such as they are, potentially being overwhelmed. Some restrictions are being reimposed, reluctantly. There is an aversion to wearing a mask, which is being seen as a political statement, although some states have mandated them. Anecdotally, testing is really hard to get. With so many positive cases each day, many people feel this is a desperate situation. On a positive note, it does seem that rates for Covid 19 among BLM marchers are not so high, showing there is some benefit to being outside, masked, and maintaining some distance where possible.

But there are really no silver linings to this truly desperate situation. How civilised is this country? I doubt anyone calls it “great” anymore.

Other countries are re-imposing lockdowns in some areas: Germany, the UK (Leicester), and China; meanwhile, the state of Victoria in Australia had 75 new cases yesterday and has put some restrictions in place. No one is really winning this war – except, perhaps, New Zealand, where we can feel safe. Taiwan has done well, but lives in fear of its neighbour, China, who shows continual aggression and influence, increasingly towards Hong Kong. Who will help these brave folk?

I guess people react to crises in different ways. This emergency has certainly distracted us from other pressing issues!

That’s it for now. I am so glad to be a New Zealander. Nga mihi nui.

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