Still Holding

Charlotte Hird Design – fresh ideas daily
A painting by Charlotte Hird

Today is Sunday August 2nd.  Kia ora katoa.

I guess we are still “holding our breath” as coronavirus cases worsen around the world. New Zealand’s status, where there is no community spread, seems just about unique. Certainly, it is extremely unusual. We are still getting one, two or three cases of Covid 19 detected in travellers in managed isolation, some days. Some days it’s reported that there are no new cases. It’s a bit concerning that some folk travelling overseas (one to South Korea, two to Australia), have tested positive for Covid 19.  This raises questions as to where they contracted the virus, and from whom. The traveller to South Korea may have contracted it in a layover in Singapore; he also visited several places in New Zealand before flying out from Christchurch. Travel to Australia suggested that some Air New Zealand staff may be infected, or airport staff. It seems that the air-filtration systems on aeroplanes are quite effective against spreading disease, unlike those on cruise ships.

Meanwhile, we do stuff, like we used to, although with added caution on the part of many. Someone hugged me the other day – an unusual experience, for me, now normally reserved for close family members! Our grandchildren go to school (that must be a huge relief), and the older ones both play rugby. Yesterday JD and I went to a movie, and had coffee at the cinema’s café afterwards. We had a zoom call with Australian members of JD’s family, where we tried not to brag about where we were! It was great to see their faces, even if we couldn’t hear them very well. One upshot was JD being directed to buy a Lotto ticket, using numbers chosen by us all.

The movie featured the luminous Cate Blanchett, a wonderful actress. There was some great acting, but the plot had several gaping holes. Anyway, it was fun. Blanchett has featured in several shows I’ve watched recently: the series Stateless and Mrs America; the movie Carol, and this one, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  There were some funny parts, too, and Kirsten Wiig was terrific as Audrey, Bernadette’s neighbour. It was quite a diversion.

In New Zealand, there are three new cases of Covid19, all in managed isolation, and one of them the child of someone diagnosed earlier. Across the Tasman, in Australia’s Victoria, there are 723 new cases!  Trump has claimed (falsely) that Australia is “devastated” by Covid 19, and, while the numbers are concerning, they are mainly in Victoria. The rules there, although being tightened, remain confusing, although apparently a New Zealand-style lock down is contemplated for the state of Victoria, or parts of it. It seems that a number of health-care professionals are being infected, as well. It seems that this “second wave” is indeed very aggressive: some are claiming it’s more infectious than the first wave, although this disease has always been very infectious.

So what do we now know? Previous hopes and assumptions have turned out to be false. You can get it more than once; immunity “passports” won’t happen; contact tracing is very difficult (even under our level 4 lockdown this would have been difficult, and relied on honesty and memory); children can indeed catch it although in most cases they have it quite mildly; if anyone gets it, you don’t know how mild or severe it will be, what will be the after-effects, and how long they’ll last. In some cases, they may be permanent. This disease seems to affect older people more, especially in rest homes; its happy place is a bar, any bar; and it loves crowds, especially in meat plants, but also in churches. It also affects what the English call BAME (Black and Ethnic Minority) groups more severely.  There is also much we don’t know about air pollution and air and surface transmission. Does singing help spread the virus? We just don’t know. So nobody wants to get this virus. Ever. At all.  It’s shocking that there have been difficulties in getting tested in the US. The statistics now, however botched they may be, are altogether alarming. This pandemic is by no means under control.

While parents must be desperate to get their children back to school, there are huge fears not only for children’s safety, but their teachers, teacher-aides, bus drivers, cafeteria workers. What happens to all the exams, the degree and training programs, I wonder? Some medical students will have had a horrifying introduction to emergency medicine and crisis management; others will have been bored waiting for this to be over.  The timeline for this being over ever recedes into the future, at present; one assumes that at some stage there will be an effective vaccine (will enough people take it up for it to be effective?), and the coronavirus pandemic will become a thing of the past, except for a few persistent hotspots. It will be managed, somehow, or we will have learnt to live with it.

Enjoying my freedom, I went to my Tai Chi class last Tuesday. There were a few more than the previous week, but not nearly the usual numbers, although it was a fine, sunny day. Some people have been reluctant to come to singing, too. Tai Chi is definitely non-contact, you do it on your own, and you don’t need to change, so it’s a winner for me. Others, including one of the tutors, have admitted that there has been some physical loss in not attending class. Those of us who are back are very happy to be back.

Afterwards, I went to the new pop-up library in Brandon St again, Te Awe. More people have discovered this, but it is still a great space, and the café serves great coffee.

On Wednesday I went to hymn singing in Khandallah, and afterwards I went to a new art exhibition at the Mitchell Gallery, where I know one of the artists exhibiting. The exhibition is called “Artistry”. It’s a fine exhibition, in a lovely shop. There was no NZSO concert that evening.

On Thursday, my singing session was cancelled. The woman who leads us had a bad cold. There have been quite a few coughs and sniffles around the last few days, although it’s early for spring allergies. On Friday my cleaner came. I tidied up first, and now it is so nice that I have a clean house again.

Local politics continues to be interesting. Apparently Matthew Hooton has left the National Party, so I presume he won’t be masterminding National’s election campaign. He was behind Todd Muller’s brief elevation as leader. It remains to be seen if Judith “Crusher” Collins can do “nice”, although she is sporting a new look. The glasses have gone, the hair is more blonde, and she has been ‘softened” in her photographs. We hold our breath  to see what her next move will be.

In the US, things just get worse and worse. In a tweet (what else?), Trump has threatened to delay the election. According to the Constitution, he can’t, but when has respect for the constitution or the law ever stopped him? This has caused enormous unrest.  There has also been the suggestion that only votes cast on Election day will be valid.  This whole thing continues to be fraught with doubt and uncertainty, especially so given that the US is extraordinarily bad at holding “free and fair” elections. On a recent discussion on MSNBC, Steve Schmidt was really annoyed and displayed righteous anger at the prospect of the election being postponed. The black woman also being spoken to said well, this is what black people have always had to put up with. Getting legal permission to vote was the least of it. Staying on the role, having an accessible polling booth, having your vote counted, and the ballot not interfered with by hackers, malign or otherwise, cannot be guaranteed. States versus Federal laws are another consideration. The much-vaunted American democracy is just a joke to the rest of us, who look on with horror and amazement, at a system which makes it so very hard to get Democrats elected. And I haven’t even mentioned gerrymandering.

I’ll stop now and carry on tomorrow. New riches have come to light. Ka kite ano.

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