Today is Thursday August 26th, 2021. Kia ora, kia kaha.
Hang in there, New Zealanders! I strongly believe we need to do all we can to eradicate the Covid 19/Delta variant that has become such a large cluster in the space of just over one week, particularly in Auckland, where there are positive cases extending from Pukekohe and Otahuhu Colleges in the south, through to Warkworth in the north. South Auckland was a priority for vaccinations, being part of Group 1; I had thought that medical staff were a priority as well. Now everyone is rushing to get vaccinated; I hope it will protect some of us against Covid/long Covid.
Last year, as the threat of Covid 19 spread and became a pandemic, causing much sickness and death, and for health systems (where they existed, in varying degrees of sophistication), there was a general sense of fear and panic, in some cases. My son and daughter-in-law visited from the UK in March last year, and while they somewhat miraculously escaped being infected, there were places in New Zealand where they couldn’t go, and some who were too afraid to see them. I had decided to self-isolate for 14 days after seeing them (which was such a joy!), but by that time New Zealand was in a level 4 lockdown, and I wasn’t seeing anyone anyway. At that time, the coronavirus was thought to be very infectious, but masks and sanitiser were really hard to get, and it was a while before the Covid 19 QR code scanning application became available. What a wonderful invention that has been! It has worked really well for this country, and if your phone won’t scan the QR code, you can always add a manual entry.
Now, things are different. Masks and hand sanitiser are readily available; indeed, masks are compulsory in many places, as they have been on public transport for several months. Many of us have been vaccinated, or are in the process of getting our jabs. But the Delta variant has spread so quickly, that it forms a new kind of threat, not affecting older folk so badly, but really hitting young people and children. There seems to be no shortage of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – this was a big worry for much of the first half of 2020.
I got my second jab this morning. JD had an appointment at 11 am, and I joined him, since my Monday appointment had been cancelled. Since we are both in the same bubble, they took us both. It was a bit different from the first time. There are two clinics at the Johnsonville Shopping Centre. While there were some older people there, many were younger. The armchairs have gone, and you only have to wait 15 minutes afterwards now. The injection seemed easier than last time. Afterwards, we were called up together, but although I had my vaccination card with me, they wouldn’t mark it, so as to reduce the amount of handling. Apparently a record goes through to your doctor. The whole process was very efficient, and I got home in time to join a zoom session for Thursday morning singing. It was wonderful to see everyone’s faces, and sing and chat together. We reflected that it isn’t really tough for us, seeing as none of us has young children to amuse, and try to keep quiet while someone else in the bubble does a Very Important zoom meeting. We aren’t living in crowded conditions, either. It’s also noted that Countdown supermarkets have been the ones under fire, not New World (who have closed their delicatessens); on the other hand, the Kilbirnie Pak’N ’Save (owned by Foodstuffs, as is the New World brand), is a location of interest. There are now over 500 locations of interest.
In Afghanistan, things are still dire for everyone. This morning I listened to Charlie Sykes talking to David Priess, who was the guest on the Bulwark podcast. I listen to this, even though it frustrates me at times, because Charlie does a run down of the latest news, which is good to hear, and I respect David Priess who worked in intelligence for the Obama administration. It seems there’s still a great deal we don’t know about the evacuation situation; it’s supremely ironic, though, that the CIA helped put the Taliban leader in prison in Pakistan several years ago; Trump got him out, and now the current head of the CIA , William Burns, is negotiating with that same person. Evacuations are proceeding, and large numbers of people are being flown out, but there are grave concerns about their security at the airport in Kabul: as well as being roughed up by the Taliban, there are fears that there’ll be a terrorist attack by Isis J. It’s also really hard to get to the Airport: there are multiple checkpoints along the way, and every one costs you money. There is some difficulty knowing where to go at the airport: airports are vast places, and while this one is probably not nearly as large as Dubai Airport, it can be hard to find your way around. Humanitarian conditions must be awful, too: is any clean food or drink available? does the plumbing still work? Young families are there for days sometimes. The places they’re flying to also aren’t set up for such an influx of people, in the Middle East, for example, where it’s very hot and there’s no air conditioning. It seems that President Biden just wants to get the heck out of there, without any American lives being lost. Many are saying that the US has an obligation to the Afghan people who helped them, as well as to evacuate American citizens living there, but they didn’t have to register with the US Embassy and it seems some may be left behind. Amid such crowds of desperate people, it’s difficult to process any papers or proof of legitimacy; it also seems that the Trump administration, including Stephen Miller, slow-walked any process of legitimate visa application in the last few years, Consequently Biden is being shown as being derelict, pursuing an “America First” policy, and being loath to leave much of a presence there. The previous leader, Karzai, is rumoured to have left with the equivalent of millions of dollars in cash. What to make of all this? It’s a desperate situation, and I struggle at times to sympathise with Biden’s point of view. Given the security threat, are American lives more important than Afghan lives? Biden seemed to show great empathy, until now.
At 12:30 I learn that a Countdown supermarket worker has tested positive; locations of interest now include the Warehouse store in Waitakere. There is a note of optimism in this morning’s newspaper, that while the number of cases is increasing at an alarming rate, it’s not exponential, i.e. it’s not doubling every day. That, apparently, is a cause for optimism. Evidently 1,400 Countdown staff are isolating. Personally, I prefer not to shop at Countdown, but of course many people do. I’ve actually found prices lower generally at New World supermarkets, but perhaps that’s just for the things I usually buy.
The Australian figures are not available yet (at 12:40 pm). In the US, there are again a large number of new cases thought to arise from the Sturgis motorcycle rally. This wasn’t unexpected.
There is to be a press conference at 1 pm today, at which it’s expected that more than 65 new cases of Covid 19 will be announced.
Today’s news is indeed grim. There are 68 new community cases of Covid 19, and one in MIQ. Of the new cases, two are in Wellington, and are household contacts of other cases; the rest are all in Auckland. The total in the community cluster is now 277; of these, 35 are in the so-called Birkdale cluster, and 114 in the AOG Mangere cluster. This cluster now has a dedicated testing centre. There are several new locations of interest, bringing the total to 495. The Ministry of Health website is refreshed every two hours. The contact tracing team is under pressure, and is recruiting new members. Wastewater testing has shown some evidence of Covid 19 in Christchurch, but there are three Covid 19 cases there in MIQ, so this isn’t unexpected. Other than this, wastewater testing in Auckland and Wellington has shown traces of Covid 19 as expected, but no other area has done so, despite extensive testing. Finally, many New Zealanders are turning up to be vaccinated; you may get a text message asking about side effects. If this is so, please answer the survey. The lockdown is having an impact.
In Australia, the numbers have now been published, and they’re pretty awful. NSW has cracked one thousand in having 1029 new cases; Victoria has 50, and the ACT 14. No one there will be pleased about that. An Opposition Senator in Australia has accused Scott Morrison not only of mishandling Sydney’s outbreak, but of exporting the highly transmissible Delta variant to New Zealand. Notwithstanding, rules are to be relaxed in Sydney for fully vaccinated people.
Late news is that someone has diagnosed positive with Covid 19 at a rest home in Warkworth, north of Auckland, and a worker at Auckland University. Please, let the schools open in here next week. This is pretty hard. Bring back concerts, and even the Americas Cup! Those were the days, we didn’t know how lucky we were. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.