Floods and Evacuations

50 Homes Evacuated in West Auckland

Today is Monday August 30th, 2021. Kia ora!

Today it’s fine and sunny, and not too cold. I walk up to the local supermarket. It’s a lovely walk, and there are few people at the store. On entry, my phone goes on the blink and I have to reboot it before I can scan the QR code. There are a couple of people behind me, but they are gracious about the delay. This morning there’s plenty of bread, still very few eggs, and one large bag of coffee beans, which I buy; also, some more plastic gloves (which became very scarce, last year).  I feel a bit like a Muscovite: queueing sometimes at the store, taking a list, only to be greeted with large gaps, and buying things not on the list because I may need them in future. After all, one wouldn’t want to run out of coffee beans.  Yesterday I went shopping and there was no bread (or none that I was prepared to buy). Now that is saying something.

This morning’s press seems to be a bit kinder to Prime Minister Ardern, but there is a note of huge impatience with the present outbreak: when will numbers start to drop? Level 4 isn’t strict enough; Jacinda should really do something. Well, she is, actually. I couldn’t even buy a book of postage stamps at the supermarket – postal services have been paused. There was a story in yesterday’s paper about Chris Hipkins at an airport, alone, looking absolutely exhausted. One feels for these people who have to make big decisions that affect us all. 

In Australia, there are reported to be 73 new cases in Victoria; in Sydney it’s reported that ICU nurses are talking about the extreme stress of the situation they’re in.

The NZ Herald reports that today’s Covid cases are expected to be just over 50, all of them in Auckland. I’d say that’s quite a decrease from the last two days of around 80.

This morning I listened to another fairly conservative podcast about – guess what – the exit of the US from Afghanistan.  This time David Frum made some interesting points, that I hadn’t heard earlier.  He said that practically there are only two ways to get material supplied to Afghanistan – via Russia or via Pakistan. Since Russia was sanctioned, supplies must go through Pakistan. This seems a really important point, but no one has raised it yet, to my knowledge, and I’ve forced myself to listen to a lot of podcasts about this, distressing through they be. He also pointed out that the US taught Afghan troops to fight the way they would, with heavy air bombardment supporting the troops on the ground. That was removed before the Taliban took over. Furthermore, Afghanistan is not, in his view, a haven for terrorists, with its backward communications and difficult topology.  I’ve listened to many pointed heads arguing effectively that might is right and the US should maintain a presence there. They tend to argue, as they did for invading Iraq back in 2003, in an academic way. One of the things that Michael Moore pointed out was that most politicians did not have a son or daughter serving in the military; Joe Biden, however, did. I’m sure that has had a bearing on the way he’s handled this crisis. It’s good to hear some pushback on the near-universal condemnation of the way he’s handled this crisis, with some even calling for his resignation.

This morning I learnt that the US had targeted two vehicles in Kabul with a missile from a UAV, which they claimed were being prepared for another suicide bomber raid.  That was impressive: they must have good intelligence to be able to carry that out (and Taliban cooperation, perhaps?) Note: I just saw video of this on television. It was very impressive.

Back in New Zealand, today we were told just after 1 pm that there are 53 new cases today, all of them in Auckland. There are now 37 in hospital, and 5 in Intensive Care, including 3 on ventilators. It seems this outbreak has hit Pacific Island people very hard. By contrast New South Wales has 1,290 new cases and has had 4 more deaths. I know where I’d rather be, right now.

We were supposed to go to Christchurch in a few days’ time for a meeting of the Hohepa Foundation. This meeting will now go ahead via zoom – no surprise there. I scrambled around to find the details of our flight bookings, (made with JD’s credit card), but all I needed was the reference number: I couldn’t cancel the booking, but I could cancel these flights and hold a credit for one year, to rebook the trip (or a different one). That was much easier than I expected.  It’s a shame not to go, but we want to go when Christchurch is open, not in level 2 or 3. Consequently we’ll be able to go to our Art group meeting, if that’s allowed to go ahead.

At 4 pm Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield give a press conference. As expected, all of New Zealand south of Auckland will move to a level 3 lockdown at midnight on Tuesday (that’s tomorrow). It’s expected that this will be for one week. At level 3, you can’t really do much. People are allowed to return to their workplace; all transactions must be contactless (i.e. you can buy takeaway food but it has to be placed on a table outside the shop; presumably you pay for it online; and you can have up to 10 people for weddings or funerals. I remember last year we got together with  our two sons and their families to have afternoon tea together for a granddaughter overseas’ birthday; technically, that’s not allowed yet. But this is progress. Northland is to remain at level 4 until Thursday night, and will then move to level 3 dependent on wastewater testing in Warkworth. Auckland will remain at level 4 for a further two weeks.  The government has been very careful, being aware of the large number of people hospitalized, and the rapid growth of this epidemic. Cabinet will meet on September 13th to decide on further level moves.

It’s now Tuesday August 31st.

There is news this morning: five rockets fired at the airport in Kabul, and intercepted by the US, and the last evacuation flight of US key diplomats. This doesn’t mean that evacuations won’t continue. This is variously reported – I guess the US is “officially” out of there. Apparently Erik Prince (brother of former Education Secretary, Betsy de Vos) is offering seats on planes out of Kabul at $6,000 each. I heard this on the Al Franken podcast, where he is talking to Ben Rhodes, a security advisor for President Obama. He also noted (like Michael Moore) that contractors like Prince had done very well financially out of this war.  There were also some civilian casualties (reportedly at least 10) caused by the drone strike which took out a vehicle  containing a rocket launcher. “The US has officially withdrawn from Afghanistan”, it’s said.

Hurricane Kit has done immense damage to New Orleans and parts of Louisiana, where the power is out and expected to remain out for several days. However the levée built after Hurricane Katrina has stood firm, although several large boats were dislodged.

And, closer to home, Auckland received severe rain and a thunderstorm last night, causing flooding, and some areas west of Auckland such as Kumeu had to be evacuated. We also learnt that the firm Sistema (which makes plastic containers) failed to tell staff (waited a week!) that they had a Covid 19 infected staff member on their books.  Surely actions like this further endanger all of Auckland, where most people are desperately trying to reduce the numbers of infected people, so they can get back to some kind of normality. It’s reported that ambulance staff are not always being told that potential cases have been exposed to Covid 19.

I learnt last night that two workers at Hello Fresh have contracted Covid 19, putting a hold on distribution.  Hello Fresh is a food outlet, like My Food Bag, which spent a lot on advertising, but got in trouble in November last year over their fish having to be recalled.  It’s based in Germany, but is the biggest meal provider in the US. It sounded quite expensive to me.

There’s also news that there’s a new variant of Covid 19, considered to be “worse” than Delta, and it was detected in an MIQ arrival in late June. This variant is in South Africa and several other countries, and has mutated substantially from the original Covid 19 virus from Wuhan.

In Australia, Victoria is reporting 76 new cases; a first Aboriginal death from Covid 19 has been reported. Sydney has 1,290. Or perhaps that was yesterday. It’s later reported that NSW has 1164 new cases, and two deaths. Meanwhile Prime Minister Morrison says, in effect, that lockdowns are a waste of time, and they can’t go on like this. Meanwhile, Australia is evidently short of Ivermectin, the drug some southern UA states are using to treat Covid 19. Actually, it’s a horse de-worming drug. How can Australians be so gullible?

At the 1 pm briefing both Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield front up. There are 49 new cases of Covid 19 today, all based in Auckland. That’s the lowest total in 6 days. The majority of cases are close contacts of earlier cases. There are 33 in hospital, 8 in Intensive Care,  and 2 on ventilators. Six cases are less than one year old. As we move to level 3 tonight, we need to stay in our bubbles; schools and pubic venues remain closed. We need to shop and exercise close to home, still.  Faith-based gatherings are not allowed. Thank goodness we don’t have the US Supreme Court, here! Any transactions must remain contact-less. People down to 12 years of age can now book their vaccination appointments. In addition, the original case is not now thought to be linked to the Crowne Plaza MIQ Hotel. It’s origin is still a mystery. That’s clear, honest information, every day. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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