Today is Thursday September 23rd, 2021. Kia ora.

This morning I zoomed in to a singing session, and predictably got annoyed at some people’s reactions to Covid 19 restrictions. One person claimed that the government had changed its strategy, although it hasn’t told us so.  We talked about current restrictions on meeting to sing in person; evidently some exercise classes are permitted to meet; but the limit for the Khandallah Town  Hall is to have 20 people in the hall. With Thursday morning singing we usually get around 25.  Yesterday there were 23 new cases, but all but one were linked to existing cases. I commented that you couldn’t keep Auckland at level 4 indefinitely; anyway, level 3 is still pretty tough, although takeaway food and coffee (does anyone in Auckland not own their own coffee machine?) is allowed and presumably residents of Kumeu and other places that were flooded can now get their homes repaired, and materials can be unloaded on the Auckland  wharves.  Yesterday, Dr Bloomfield asked for all the residents of the Auckland suburb of Clover Park to get a Covid 19 test, even if they didn’t have symptoms. Aucklanders were reminded to stay in their bubbles, to work from home if possible, and not to cross borders unless they had a valid reason, and could present evidence of a negative Covid 19 test within the previous 7 days.

Today there were 13 new cases of Covid 19 here, all in Auckland. Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield fronted a press conference at 1 pm, , and Shaun Hendy spoke to a model his organisation had drawn up, highlighting the importance of vaccines, a predicting 3,000 deaths at a vaccine rate of 75%.

 The government has changed its strategy, now that the much more infectious  delta variant of covid 19 is here. Indeed, they’ve changed their strategy, as has their management of the very successful MIQ system, to meet changing needs: they’ve introduced 3 tests within the 14 day isolation, further isolated people infected with Covid 19, paused flights from India for a time, checked the air-conditioning systems in MIQ facilities, vaccinated MIQ and airport workers, and brought in the Ministry of Defence to monitor MIQ sites to ensure that no one escapes. MIQ here has been much more successful than that in Australia or the UK. People like Sam Neill have written glowingly about it. It’s worked very well. It operates at the government’s expense, for Kiwis returning home for good. It is a key part of keeping us safe, and thus one of the things we were able to do was to hold the America’s Cup yacht races here earlier this year.

In today’s press conference the government emphasised vaccination, as a tool to manage the virus, and its restrictions, in future.  While you can still catch covid 19, even if fully vaccinated, it seems your chances of becoming very ill and perhaps dying are greatly diminished. The government is not imposing vaccine mandates at present (apart from MIQ workers), but it’s expected that some industries may impose them. In future, it’s hoped that lockdowns over large areas will not need too be used. Once again, I am so grateful that our government takes such good care of us all. While some of the rules can be frustrating, at least there are rules. In this war, we can’t travel as we normally would, and at least we’re not being bombed in our beds, or sending folk off to war, or dealing with a disease that has messy and disgusting bodily emissions. There’s still much to be thankful for, not least that we have a vaccine that reduces the likelihood of serious disease.

There is significant reaction to Dr Shaun Hendy’s modelling as announced yesterday, saying that with 75% of those eligible vaccinated, one could expect 5,000 deaths.  There’s much criticism of this model. It was pointed out at the time that this study had not been peer-reviewed. It was presented (I think) as a wake-up call to encourage people to get vaccinated. At the end of the day, it’s just that – a model.

It’s now Friday, September 24th. Today there are 9 new community cases of Covid 1, all in Auckland. So that’s really encouraging – we’re now in single figures!  Let’s hope we stay there. Testing is now required in the suburb of Mt Wellington. Apparently residents of Clover Park responded very well to the request for testing, and one positive case has turned up. The Waikato are that was in isolation under a health order is to move to level 2, along with the rest of New Zealand.

This morning I read an article in The New Yorker (they do let me read one, now and again!) about a journalist who unwittingly became a super spreader for Covid 19/delta. He, his wife, their two children and his wife’s parents all caught delta. The four adults were fully vaccinated; the two children were too young. It was a very interesting story about how a well-educated family (the wife is an oncologist) did all they could to protect themselves, including isolating sick people, but the father had been on assignment in Baton Rouge in Louisiana – a covid hot spot. He was ill first, but all his family (and his in-laws) caught it. He wasn’t at risk of dying, or being hospitalised, but he was very infectious. There’s an object lesson here, about how seriously infectious the delta variant is. And yet, there are no further cases in Wellington, the Coromandel, or the South Island.

My church is to hold worship service in person next Sunday, with heaps of rules: socially distanced seating, no collection, (you can make an offering at the door), no pew bibles, and no refreshments afterwards. I imagine they won’t be passing the peace of Christ, either. The service will also be available via zoom. The church also sent out a reminder that Daylight Saving begins on Saturday night, September 26th.  Actually the reminder said that it ends, but in fact it begins, Saturday will be a short night. That is the only reminder I’ve received! I was unaware, but I’m grateful we’re not driving back from the Hohepa family Weekend, which used to coincide with the start of Daylight Saving – a bit of an ordeal after a very busy two days.

I am also reassessing how safe I feel in certain situations. Last year, JD and I enjoyed several wonderful classical concerts at the Michael Fowler Centre for $30 a seat. At that price, I broke my rule not to go out at night, and we greatly enjoyed these concerts, including a rendition of Handel’s Messiah. But the seats at MFC are very close together: it’s like being on an aeroplane, and so, I think that were such tickets to be offered again, I would feel very hesitant about going in person. Many concerts used to be live-streamed last year, but this year they haven’t been offered. I wonder why not?

It’s frustrating now to feel very stuck. The prospect of catching Covid 19/delta is very scary, not just for me, but for my family members. It feels different now, I don’t feel as protected as I used to, even though I’ve been “fully vaccinated”. Where can one go?  Up till now, we’ve gone mainly to Hawkes Bay to see our daughter. The party we had just before we went into the August 17 lockdown was a highlight for 2021, and then we were due to fly to Christchurch earlier this month.  We should visit some other local locations, although I fear that a road trip is perhaps not advisable now. It occurred to me that we could fly to Christchurch, catch the Trans-Alpine Express to the West Coast, stay there for a few days, and then return the same way.  That’s something to bear in mind. But it does feel very stuck, not to be able to go to Australia, even, should one want to.

Last year when we went into lockdown it was a relief.  It put separation between the “before” times, and their excesses (excessive concern about “gut” health, stag parties in Los Vegas, hen parties in Bali), and the pandemic times, which we’re still living in. It was a relief, as Covid 19 cases climbed here and overseas, and I was aware of the mounting threat posed by the coronavirus, to have our government do something about it, and there was financial and medical assistance available too. There was some warning, so we could go shopping and stock up (along with many others – there were huge queues at our local supermarket); and I could be an invalid: I stayed in my bedroom, where it was warm and comfortable, and read my big library book (the library had helpfully waived any overdue fees), and JD stayed in the siting room. The weather was kind. We parcelled up games and puzzles for our grandchildren. Everything quietened down, and it was a relief not to hear planes overhead. The absence of traffic, and a zero road toll, were most welcome. All the pressing issues of jobs to be done and not enough money to pay for them went on hold. Most people were remarkably well. And best of all, I did not have to listen to angry outbursts about things. It was a relief, and many people were very grateful for it. There was a certain freedom in not being able to go anywhere, or do anything. It was quite “cut and dried”.

Looking back, we were so ignorant then. Covid 19 was scarily infectious – tales about it affecting mainly older men, who perhaps did not wash their hands properly, or smokers, or it disappearing in the summer, were disabused as we saw the terrible toll Covid 19 took on places like New York and Bergamo, in the north of Italy. In China there were stories of someone catching it while in a bus, and sitting some way away from an infected person. Yet now it’s different. The delta variant is a game-changer. Before Christmas, vaccines were coming- the great hope, although they haven’t been as effective as we wished. Delta has taken a huge hold on certain communities – and certain states in the US  – and yet some areas are spared (for now?) Perhaps it’s not their (our) turn yet.  I have to acknowledge that for all that I currently know, or think I know, coronavirus continues to weave its way around the world with devastating effects.

I think that here in Wellington we’re quite compliant, obedient and well-behaved, yet people have different levels of tolerance for the potential hurt from this virus. Thankfully, New Zealand has not seen many deaths. I do resent the way Prime Minister Ardern is shown frowning in most media photographs. She has done a wonderful job in looking after us here. Some say this in private; others scoff, and I sense their resistance. It’s a bit like talking about God. Some just don’t want to hear the good news. Having said all that, it’s very boring this time around. Ngā mihi.

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