What to do now?

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Tightrope Time

Today is Monday October 4th, 2021. Kia ora.

Today there are 29 new community cases of covid 19, 28 of them in Auckland and one in the Waikato. Some contacts of a new cases announced yesterday have tested positive.

It’s now Tuesday October 5th.

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

There was a press conference at 4 pm yesterday afternoon, fronted by Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield. There is no change to Covid 19 levels, but restrictions have been eased for Aucklanders, who remain in Level 3:  two families can meet, but the meeting must be outside (up to 10 people), masks should be worn, and social distance should be maintained. Early childhood centres can reopen, but are expected to maintain “pods” i.e. small groups of children. Elsewhere, hospitality venues can now have more people – up from 100 maximum, but patrons must be seated and maintain social distancing.  There is relief, and frustration, of course.  I have to remind myself that I am one of the well-off ones, in terms of these restrictions: I don’t have children living at home, I am not that active, and I’m not concerned about losing my job, or keeping a struggling business afloat. I’m just frustrated about not being able to do the activities that form a key part of my schedule now: singing and exercising, going to church, and going to the movies. Well, I can do the latter, if I feel safe to do so.

Reaction is predictable. Jacinda has abandoned the strategy of eliminating Covid 10! Shock, horror! A U-turn!  Prime Minister Ardern has outlined a three-step programme for Aucklanders living with level 3 to move out of their current restrictions.  Vaccination is strongly encouraged, and the vaccination rates are disappointingly low.  Actually JD showed me a different world graph, which rates vaccinations in NZ at 68.47% (having had one jab or more).  This Labour led Government has done, and continues to do, an enormous amount to keep New Zealanders safe.  It is indeed disappointing to be in this situation, where we had 28 new community cases of the virus yesterday, (after one on 27th August!), but think how and it would be if things were worse, we had multiple deaths, and our health system, which is pretty amazing, was overwhelmed.

On Tuesday I think there were 29 new cases; this was confusing, because the Stuff banner told a different story from the story itself.  Facebook and Instagram were down for several hours (what a relief!) and internet reception was rather dodgy.  A “whistle blower” who used to work for Facebook as blown the whistle on their dodgy business model. Are we surprised? Not really.

I feel that this government is managing the situation well. We look at the situation in Australia, where the NSW rates are easing now, but Victoria’s are increasing. Singapore is “reopening”, but having disturbing numbers of new cases, and what about Singapore’s immigrant population, who have been having a really hard time.  Reopening, or lifting of restrictions, is very risky indeed, in this environment. Yes, we’ve all had the coronavirus up to here, and we’re sick of this, but we should continue to be very wary, I think.

Someone’s written “No, you can’t hug Grandma yet”, but you can hug people while wearing a mask, and young children are much shorter than adults, so yes, you can safely hug them. You can’t kiss them on the cheek, and many prefer you not to, anyway.

So far there is no bad delta news today.

Last night we watched more episodes of The Newsroom on Neon. What an amazing series it is, once you get over the American sense of entitlement. Last night we had the shooting of Gabby Giffords, Citizens United, the Tea Party movement, the Koch brothers (one has since died), and the Arab Spring – the revolution in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Along with that, we had teachers demonstrating in Wisconsin against then Governor Rick Scott’s new law. I was reminded that things were already pretty awful in the US before Trump became republican candidate for president, and won the US presidency. We were despairing even then, and Obama was president.   That is quite some series.  Gabby Giffords almost died, and took a long time to “recover” I remember her being reported as saying that “easy, flowing speech is a thing of the past”. I can so relate to that.  She did “recover”, of course, but obviously life was never the same again. Six people died in that mass shooting event.

It’s now Thursday September 6th.

Today in the newspaper there was more measured coverage of the Covid 19/delta outbreak. Evidently Prime Minister Ardern’s announcement has caused some confusion. Auckland remains in Level 3, and its new freedoms are very limited.  There was an interesting story that helped to explain the current situation in a more rational way, than leaping to conclusions as much media has done with an “Aha! Got you now” approach. Is New Zealand’s success up until now a bad thing? Is there some jealousy, maybe?

It’s been a bad day for Covid news here, or perhaps, rather good day for Covid 19/delta in New Zealand. Today there were 39 new community cases of Covid 19, 30 of them in Auckland, and nine in the Waikato.  This includes a case in Kawhia, a predominantly Maori community (near Raglan, on the coast) with very low vaccination rates; a case in Karapiro, close to Cambridge, a city in the Waikato close to Hamilton but outside the level 3 exclusion zone; and it was reported that there was a “weak positive” case in Northland. Furthermore, the first death (New Zealand’s 28th) death has occurred, of a man in his 60’s who was in hospital. He evidently had other health conditions, and his wife is also in hospital battling the disease. They were both worshippers at the Assembly of God Church in Mangere, the site of the largest current cluster. He had been in hospital for 40 days.

Minister Hipkins has admitted that Covid 19/delta has infiltrated the gang community (he doesn’t say which one), and he acknowledged they’ve been a bit loose over the restrictions. Meanwhile, people are still being encouraged to get vaccinated, and not to wait six weeks for their second jab. The interval was extended from 3 to 6 weeks, on the grounds that it may be more effective if there’s a longer gap (based on the UK’s non-intentional delay). 

So the news is that this outbreak is not really contained, it’s spreading through the Waikato region now, and I guess we should all be very afraid.

Meanwhile the custodians of the hall where my local singing group rehearse (and enjoy ourselves) have recommended smaller groups, and that we sing wearing masks. This does seem a bit silly. You can take off your mask to do yoga. Our art group plans to meet this coming Friday – I’m not sure if we’ll go yet.  It all feels very different now, in terms of personal risk and safety.

Today I was in the CBD, where it was warm, and busy. Not everyone is wearing a mask – several aren’t. I went to Pickle and Pie for a coffee and a cheese scone, and they were incredibly busy, so much so that I thought I had better vacate my table. There wasn’t much, if any social distancing going on there.

I went to Unity Books, where they have hard-back copies of The Suitcase by Frances Saunders. This is the book I read in instalments in the LRB last year, and I would dearly love to buy the book, which has photographs and a family tree.  But at $48 I felt I could not justify buying it. On Book depository.com it is slightly less, but at just over $41, still quite dear, so I shall have to wait till it comes out in paperback.  I did sit down and do some reading, however, before putting it back.

I also went to the pop-up library Te Awe. Only the Panama St entrance was open, and I was only allowed to stay ½ an hour.  I duly did this, and then went to sit in Midland Park, needing somewhere to sit, but not wanting to buy anything.  The Reserve Bank has raised the OCR by ¼ % to 0.5%.

That’s it for now. I wonder what the news will be tomorrow? Ngā mihi.

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