Level 2/Delta

Prefab (that was)

Today is Monday September 6th, 2021

Kia ora katoa.

We just had the 4 pm press conference here, with Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield, and, of course, a sign language interpreter (they’re a regular addition to the Dynamic Duo at these events). The news is that New Zealand, barring Auckland, will move to level 2 (Delta) at midnight tomorrow (on Tuesday night). Auckland will stay at level 4. So that’s good news, and some relief is at hand. Northland will also move to level 2.

However, rules have been modified for level 2, allowing for the fact that the Delta variant of Covid 19 is more infectious, and even more virulent than earlier mutations.  Social distancing of two metres between each person will be required, and gatherings indoors limited to 50 people; outside, to 100 people.  You must wear a mask when entering any property; you must also scan the QR code. Schools will reopen on Thursday; mask-wearing is at the parents’ discretion, but is strongly encouraged, especially by secondary school pupils.

So, there’s good and not-so-good there: small cafés, libraries and cinemas will have difficulty, I predict, in maintaining viability.  It remains to be seen just how they’ll enforce the rules. Formerly, under level 2, at a hospitality venue you had to be seated, and served by one person, while maintaining distance from people not in your household bubble.

The new rules for Real Estate remain to be seen. Can Open Homes go ahead? How many visitors will be allowed? MIQ staff will be tested twice a week. Police will continue to man checkpoints, and you’ll have to have a reason to go through Auckland (without stopping). Anyone requiring to leave Auckland will have to be tested within the previous 3 days. The government will make a decision early next week as to next moves.

It’s now Tuesday September 7th. Today there are 21 new community cases of Covid 19. There are a large number in hospital, several in ICU and some being ventilated. I can’t find the exact numbers.  So we go on. The Auckland numbers have not dropped yet as hoped; they haven’t increased, either.

It’s apparent that level 2/delta has significant implications for many people, requiring a 2 metre distance from anyone you don’t know when out and about. This requirement makes many activities unviable. The Khandallah Community Centre has sent a message saying that all its activities are cancelled, for level 2. I’m not surprised, really.  As I said to my son in England, we hope for fine weather so we’ll be able to sit outside at cafés that have outside tables, since many inside will be unusable.

It’s now Wednesday September 8th. Today there are 15 new community cases of Covid 19/delta, all in Auckland. While this number is less than yesterday’s total of 20, it shows that the virus is still virulent out there. One feels for Auckland, whose residents are still at level 4 lockdown. That’s really hard, and it’s hard that Auckland, New Zealand’s most populous city, has been hit hard again. Today, there are 37 people in hospital, 6 in ICU and 4 being ventilated.

This morning our son came here to work again. His children go back to school tomorrow, for a brief time before the September holidays kick in. This morning JD and I walked to the store. The local café is open again, but I suspect that with reduced numbers one will have to book to have a meal or a snack, and can’t just do spur-of-the-moment walk-ins like we like to be able to do. However it is noisier out there, and the store wasn’t as busy as usual. We walked up there, and then it started to rain quite heavily; by the time we came out, though, it had stopped raining. The shelves all seemed quite well stocked, except for flour. What is it that makes people want to bake at this time? I, for one, am relieved that I will no longer feel obliged to bake (after the abject failure of my cheese scones).  Annoyingly, I didn’t take a list, and consequently forgot to get the things I most wanted: some stamps, a large envelope, and some dishwashing powder.

It’s now raining quite heavily, but not particularly cold. Despite cold snaps, it’s been quite a mild winter, really.

It’s now Thursday, September 9th. Today I learnt that Prefab, in Jessie St, is to close. Bother! It’s one  of my favourite places. There’s plenty of room, and it’s always busy. You can’t book, but they always find you a seat, in my experience. They have super-thick paper napkins. It’s helpfully sited between the Lighthouse Cinema in Wigan St, and Moore Wilson’s in Tory St.  There are buses in Taranaki St and Courtenay Place, so providing the weather’s not too awful, you can walk to a bus stop.  It’s a large café, with plenty of room inside and tables outside, so their opting to close is a bit of a mystery. One of the really frustrating things about Prefab, Astoria, and Clark’s closing is that people still want to go somewhere, and the remaining popular places become very busy. You feel guilty for taking up a table, and daren’t overstay your welcome.          

Today there are 13 new community cases of Covid 19/delta, all in Auckland. There are still 30 unlinked cases, in other words, mystery cases, not linked to a known victim or cluster.  It’s certainly taking a while to go away, although the waning numbers are encouraging. There are 31 people in hospital, including 5 in Intensive Care, and three being ventilated. We feel for Aucklanders!  I had a singing session on zoom this morning, and we all enjoyed it. Technically we probably could meet again under the new rules, but I think we would all advise against it, given how infectious the delta variant is proving to be. I think we feel that despite restrictions, we have again dodged a bullet here in Wellington.

Today a new edition of the LRB arrived in the mail. It’s dated 9 September (which is also today’s date).  They tend to arrive super-fast or super-slowly. This one looks very interesting, with articles on the Exit from Kabul, the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the United States of Amnesia by Eric Foner (he’s always good to read), Indian nationalism, D.H. Lawrence, and many more. I can’t wait to read it, meaning that I will put aside other good reads in order to address this one first. You would have thought that during this lockdown I would have caught up with my reading, but I fear not, and I’m ashamed to admit it.

Wellington is gradually opening up again, although we’re sensible folk here in the capital city, and there’s no rush. I do want to go to the movies on Saturday – they’re playing a French Film Festival movie that I missed out on.  Hopefully there won’t be too many coughs there, and everyone will be masked. My favourite cinemas, the Penthouse and the Lighthouse, are open again, with distanced seating – I think you need to book first, though. It’s nice to see them open again. School’s back today, too – that’ll be a relief to many people. The Mojo chain of cafés had a disappointing turnout yesterday, but I think that’s to be expected, as people’s confidence needs to grow again.  I’m sure many are working from home where possible.

In the US, Idaho is in a bad way now, after Arkansas, Alabama, Florida and Texas. In the southern states, vaccination rates are low, and most people are thinking that booster shots will be required; that perhaps vaccines will need to be tweaked annually for new variants. Perhaps the threat of this coronavirus will be less after three years. My son says that in Georgia it’s as bad as it’s ever been. Everyone is desperate to see children back at school – safely. People are looking for guidance on that – should masks be worn in school? How safe are teachers and administrators and support staff? In Cuba children as young as toddlers are being vaccinated. It will be interesting to see how that goes.      

In Australia, things don’t get any better yet. Today NSW recorded 1409 new cases and 5 deaths; Victoria recorded 324 new cases. Nevertheless, NSW is to lift restrictions; it’s being accepted that Sydney could rise to 2,000 new cases a day, and that if you need urgent healthcare for some other critical condition, it may not be offered. There was  some griping in this morning’s paper about people missing out here on scans, surgery and chemotherapy during our recent lockdown. I accept that that’s sad and frustrating, but I do admire the way our government has taken swift action to deal with this latest outbreak of Covid 19/delta, and has taken on board the ways in which the situation is different from 2020.      

It seems that Covid 19 will be with us for some time to come. Remember Auckland on New year’s Eve, the Americas’ Cup yachting races, and the crowds that watched them, both in person and on television? Last year we went to several wonderful concerts at the Michael Fowler Centre.  I hope they come back, but given the cramped seating in the MFC Auditorium, I’d have to feel very safe about going there.

We hope to join our daughter in Hawkes Bay for her birthday and Christmas, both in December, and we hope that we’ll be back to Level 1 by that time. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.                                                                                                   

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