Coronavirus: the Sequel

Today is Wednesday July 21st. Kia ora katoa.

Covid 19 – The Sequel (apologies to Stephen Colbert).

What a strange world we live in. Despite my issues and concerns, I am relieved to be free of Covid 19 and the worst effects of climate change – flooding in Westport (after the Christchurch floods), flooding and death in Germany and Belgium, and fires in Siberia (producing toxic smoke), to say nothing of the extremely high temperatures in the North West of the US, including a huge fire in Oregon. I always found summers and winters either extremely hot or very cold when I was there, but this is worse. Although New Zealand has its share of problems, including quite severe allergies, it has, for the most part, a temperate climate. Actually, there’ve been floods and severe rainfall, and bushfires, for years, but little notice has been taken by many people. When I first went to the US again after many years in 2005, the newspaper USA Today was publishing details of climate change and how it was affecting the States.

Here we can have intense storms, and fires, but generally, nobody dies. Many lose their homes, however. Many are under-insured. How much is ever enough? How much money should one spend (waste) on insurance?

On the home front, there are still no community cases of Covid 19, although a couple of ships have docked here with numbers of crewmen infected, and some seriously ill.  Lest we think we live in some kind of paradise, free from the coronavirus, there was a news conference today fronted by the Hon. Chris Hopkins and Dr Ashley Bloomfield, where Dr Bloomfield warned that the pandemic is not over yet. Cases are rising overseas, while they remain restricted to overseas visitors at present, who are required to enter MIQ.

Yesterday I registered for myself and JD to get the coronavirus vaccine. This was only a registration of interest; I only found out about it because I rang the medical centre about another matter. I duly registered us both, after finding our NHI numbers (that took some doing!), and justifying why we considered ourselves to be in Group 3.  Evidently a new shipment of the Pfizer vaccine arrived a couple of days early, so that’s good news. There is such scepticism, even here, about the Pfizer vaccine; yet surely most of us have the annual flu vaccine?  There is a big worry about children having RSV, a respiratory condition, that makes some very ill, and causes many trips to hospital emergency departments, and some stays in hospital.  So you should stay home if you have cold symptoms -a cough or a runny nose. Yet there are complaints about children having reduced immunity as a result of the Covid 19 lockdown. Really, you can’t have it both ways. I still think we are fortunate to have been so well protected from Covid 19 here. Children do get sick – that’s par for the course, but hopefully they don’t get the dreadful diseases that were so often fatal before the advent on vaccines in the 1950’s.

Overseas, Australia is still “in the grip” of another Covid 19 wave, with South Australia now going into lockdown. What of the Trans-Tasman travel bubble? Personally I think everyone who was going to take advantage of it should have been vaccinated, before opening and using the travel bubble.

Countries such as Indonesia and Myanmar are in a bad way; the Tokyo Olympics is on the verge of being cancelled (it was supposed to go ahead in 2020, and was deferred); in the UK, despite rising cases, Freedom Day has gone ahead, and all restrictions (I think) have been lifted. There have been photos of crowded scenes at nightclubs, and talk of queues for their midnight opening. Meanwhile, thousands of people have been pinged by their mobile phones telling them they need to self-isolate for 14 days. There’s a great deal of scepticism about these notifications, which is hardly surprising.

In the US, one of Nancy Pelosi’s aides has diagnosed positive, as have some staff at the White House (who have all been vaccinated). I do hope President Biden doesn’t get it!  The Delta variant of Covid 19 is continuing to spread at an alarming rate. There is huge scepticism about vaccines, while some of those vaccinated wonder if they should have a booster shot. Hannity was recorded as saying people should take the virus seriously, in a change of tone for Fox hosts.  It does seem true that while those who have been vaccinated can still contract Covid 19, generally speaking they aren’t as ill, and they don’t die from the disease, although they may infect others. There are still huge benefits to being vaccinated, even if it’s not 100% effective (actually, most vaccines aren’t 100% effective).

One podcast I listened to argued the theory of natural selection here, which I thought was very intelligent. The brainy, rational, well-educated people are mostly vaccinated, and likely to survive. Those who don’t get vaccinated, are probably more likely to get ill, and some may die; by the same token, they won’t be able to vote if they’ve died, or attend rallies.  Surely they see some problems with their blind faith in the former president, and the now neutered GOP?  Joy Reid made the very good point that in true religion, your Saviour died for you; in a cult, you’re expected to die for the Leader.

In other (I was going to say Royal) news, Harry has promised to write a memoir, which is to be “wholly truthful”.  Oh, the irony! So he was telling lies before? The interview with Oprah Winfrey had so many obvious lies, that, shocking as it was at first, it has been harder and harder to take it seriously. And this is from people who want privacy. How much more (if anything) do we need or want to know about Harry?  And what happened to H and M’s “proper” maternity leave? Meghan certainly didn’t seem very maternal with her firstborn; she doesn’t seem so with her daughter, either, whom we have yet to see.  Actually, the US doesn’t have much, if anything, in the way of parental leave, so perhaps they’re being very Californian now.

In other news from the US, Tom Barrack, a close friend of Trump and chair of Trump’s Inauguration Committee, has been arrested and accused of acting as a foreign agent for the UAE.  Really, I am reminded of something Seth Myers said, that the former President (and many of his cronies) regarded the Seven Deadly Sins as a “to do” list. In fact, the former one-term president boasted that he was impeached twice, “and I got worse”.  One wonders again, how the US can have so many wonderful people, and so many “deplorables”. There, I’ve said it.

That brings me to the other huge scandal, that of the phone-hacking software, the Pegasus project. Both the UK’s Guardian and the US’s Washington Post have exposes about this, and the Guardian has a series of podcasts (In Focus was mainly presented by Anushka Astana, and we do miss her – one of the few lovely female voices on podcasts).  It is a strange phenomenon that men’s voices (not all, by any means), that I have listened to, generally sound better on podcasts than women’s’ voices do.  That is a strange thing.

Coming back to the phone hacking software. It was developed in Israel, and is touted as enabling states to track terrorist threats. It seems rather to have been used to track anyone potentially seen as a threat. Even President Macron of France was on a list of those hacked. It’s pretty scary that people don’t know if their phone has been penetrated: you can be as secure and risk-averse as you like, and may not be aware that your calls and texts are being listened to, and perhaps you’re being recorded. This is terrifying for anyone who’s critical of their government, say, or who has made enemies. It seems that this software is being used to spy on many people. I always thought that you had to be careful what you said on the phone, but this is next-level surveillance. And who would keep tabs on Emanuel Macron?

It’s now Thursday July 22nd.  Today I bought some new paints for my grandchildren at Gordon Harris’s sale. Australia’s coronavirus figures are still rising. In China, severe flooding has killed several people, including some poor people trapped in a subway train. This afternoon here in Wellington it rained very heavily for a while, creating big puddles. The heavy rain seems to defy drainage. In New York, there is polluting smoke from the fires in Oregon and California. On the animal television channel they’re now advocating vaccines.

But the big news of the day is that JD and I got text messages inviting us to make appointments to have our vaccine jabs, both injections. I am to have the first one next Monday!  Things are happening, at last; meanwhile, there is talk of shelving the Trans-Tasman travel bubble indefinitely; and it’s near impossible to get into MIQ. Welcome to Aotearoa, not just yet. Ngā mihi.

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