Today is Wednesday August 18th, 2021. Kia ora.
Today is day one of our level 4 lockdown. It is very quiet, apart from aeroplanes flying overhead. The wind must be a Southerly, although the weather really doesn’t matter much: we can’t go anywhere. Travelers have 48 hours to return home, so my cousins won’t go to the Chateau as planned, right now. They are to fly south this evening. We aren’t allowed to go to the airport to see them off. Public transport here has reverted to weekend half-hourly services, although I doubt that anyone’d want to catch a bus or train unless they really had no other option.
Overseas press media such as the UK’s Guardian report with some amazement that New Zealand has gone into lockdown after just one community case being reported. While the Government certainly acted swiftly, this morning (at 5:30 am, I think) it was reported that Covid Joe (as I’ll call him) has the Delta variant of Covid 19 (as expected), and there are four new cases, all connected to him. A very concerning factor is that one of them is a nurse at Auckland Hospital, who had received both vaccination jabs. There is still no knowing where this person contracted Covid 19, and no apparent link to MIQ or the border. But he certainly got around: places he visited in the Coromandel and Auckland and places en route have been published. There is to be another news conference at 1 pm. Meantime, the streets are empty, apart from testing centres, where there’s lots of testing going on.
Yesterday I omitted to mention that the Honourable Grant Robertson, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, has said that the wage subsidy will be re-introduced. Bless him. I’m sure this lockdown will hit some very hard, but I don’t sense any great resistance to it. The morning paper was largely supportive. There is some suggestion that there should be a mask mandate, but lockdowns never go far enough for some people.
I think that Prime Minister Ardern is quite wonderful. We watched a video of her being interviewed on Radio NZ this morning, and she certainly communicates well. Among other things, she said that the vaccine programme might be able to restart before the 48 hours are up, if suitable protocols are in place. It seems that vaccines don’t protect you against the Delta variant of Covid 19, but we’d all feel safer to be fully vaccinated, nonetheless. There is lots of talk of booster shots as well. This seems pretty mean when some countries are having difficulty getting vaccinated at all.
At around 11 am this morning I received various emails from agencies such as the Khandallah Community Centre (no surprise, there, all activities are off until clearance is received); hymn singing had already been cancelled; and another rather confusing message from Access Community Health. I don’t know quite what to make of that. I was expecting my Home Help on Friday, but it’s no big deal if he doesn’t come. I also received an email newsletter from my church. Bless them, they’re very caring. My dance group will revert to zoom sessions.
This time is different, I think, from previous scares. People seem resigned to this lockdown: any frustration is perhaps not openly expressed. We all want to be safe, and we want our families and networks to be safe. Yes, we can do this.
Overseas, harrowing scenes continue as people endeavour to get out of Afghanistan. In the US there’s a feeling that President Biden has stuffed up here, and, by the way, he’s no good on foreign policy. I still support him, I thought he spoke well, justifying the troop withdrawal; it seems the previous administration made various unwholesome deals with the Taliban; no doubt it’s a really complicated situation. It’s really sad to see what’s happening there, but the US should never have invaded in the first place. I believed at the time the US was wrong – the shock and horror many of us felt about the so-called “War on Terror”, and the Bush statement that you’re either with us (the US), or you’re with the terrorists was tragic indeed. One politician (Democrat Barbara Lee) voted against invading Afghanistan, warning the US not to become the evil it feared.
In Haiti, they’ve had three tragedies: the assassination of the President (whatever you thought of him, it’s still a tragedy for someone to be killed like this; his wife was shot too); the big earthquake (7.2), in which several people were killed, and now Tropical Storm Grace is dousing them with very heavy rain. Poor Haiti, they don’t deserve such (un)natural disasters.
In the US, where the Delta variant of Covid 19 is rampant, they’re still pretty crazy about taking any precautions, especially Republican Governors Greg Abbott and Ron de Santis of Texas and Florida, respectively, although some republican governors have changed their right-wing devil-may-care attitude, given that so many of their constituents are seriously ill. Well, according to the Guardian, Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for Covid 19. That has to be kind of ironic. Evidently he’s been fully vaccinated. Who would have thought? Evidently he chose to be vaccinated. No one would wish anyone to be ill, but hey, this is interesting news. By the way, the Federal government has been helping Texas out by supplying ventilators. Because of the surge of Covid 19 patients, all elective surgery has been put on hold. The Federal Government is also supplying mortuary trucks. So what if you have a stroke or a heart attack, a car accident, or a fall? Good luck to you, then, the hospital probably won’t have a bed for you, and by the way, your risk of contracting Covid (if you get treated) just increased a great deal.
In Australia, Victoria has recorded 24 new cases of the coronavirus, but they aren’t saying yet what the Sydney total is today. Sometimes this is reported at 11 am. They think a child contracted Covid 19 at an MIQ facility. I guess that’s always a risk. Victoria has a curfew in place, and late night public transport at weekends has been cancelled. The Shadow Finance Minister’s 14 year old daughter has been diagnosed with Covid 19. Later it was reported that NSW has 633 new cases. No wonder the Sydney Morning Herald wasn’t keen to report that fact.
There’s a story in the NZ Herald about four new covid cases. I can’t figure out if they’re the ones we already know about, or four new cases. One of them is a teacher at a West Auckland school. Everyone gets about, of course. Even if you live a relatively boring life, you still have many contacts.
At 1 pm today there was a press conference featuring Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield, followed by the Police Commissioner, Andrew Coster.
There is quite a lot of news. The original covid 19/Delta variant case is linked to the NSW Delta variant outbreak. In addition to the four new cases advised this morning, there are a further two, bringing the total in this cluster to seven (thus far). Of these, the four were flatmates, and the two new ones friends of the flatmates. Two key sites of interest have emerged: the Church of Christ, in Freeman’s Bay (Sunday’s 10 am service), and the Casino at Sky City. One woman who tested positive is a teacher at Avondale College. Somebody also went to a nightclub. Basically, folk went everywhere. In Coromandel, there was a lot of activity over the weekend, and not a lot of Covid QR code scanning. Dr Bloomfield fears we may be under lockdown for two weeks. Jacinda Ardern stresses that the government has been planning for such an event, and both she and Dr Bloomfield acknowledge that it’s different this time around from March/April 2020. Yes, it’s much colder, too!
There are more changes. Vaccinations can start again from 8 am tomorrow (Thursday, August 19); they can start in some places this afternoon. The main thing is to ensure distancing is provided for. If anyone’s booking needs to be changed, they’ll get a text advising that, otherwise they should just turn up as booked. From now on, vaccination booking is open to those aged 40 and over.
There is to be a mask mandate from midnight tonight, for anyone over 12. People are required to wear them at places still allowed to be open, namely supermarkets and dairies, petrol stations and pharmacies. While there’s been a mask mandate (not always observed) on public transport, you’re now required to wear one at bus stops and when using a taxi. The strike planned for Thursday (tomorrow) by nurses and midwives has been called off. All rugby playing for the weekend has been called off. Many planned public events have been called off. Yet again, I’m so relieved we had our party last Saturday evening, and the only uncertainty was when and whether Covid 19 (Delta variant) would come to New Zealand. Thankfully, I didn’t have to cancel (or try to recoup costs for) cake or flowers, or air fares, and my new dress wasn’t wasted.
The Governor of the Reserve Bank has kept the Official Cash rate at 0.25%. That’s probably a good thing overall, although it still means some people can borrow very large amounts of money at very low interest rates, and hence pay huge amounts for houses.
It was interesting to note that the police broke up a few protests: there were 20 (!) protesters in Nelson. They also sent home back lots of Auckland would-be holiday makers. Really! What a strange place it is here in Aotearoa. Meanwhile, Covid 19 testing continues.
Once again, I am so thankful to be in New Zealand, where most people are sensible – about everything, especially in Wellington. We are pragmatic, and philosophical. Amongst other songs, we sang Que sera, sera last Saturday night. How very prescient of us. Be at peace, everyone, and don’t be anxious. Where would you rather be?
I’ll stop now. No doubt there’ll be more news, but I’ll save it for tomorrow. Ngā mihi.