Covid 19 – the Prequel

Today is Thursday November 25th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning I learnt that Judith Collins, leader of the National Party, had demoted Simon Bridges (a former leader) on account of a complaint about sexual harassment 5 years ago.  I assumed that (a) she was wanting attention, and/or (b) she didn’t want to be leader any longer.

I went to singing in Khandallah. It was lovely, as always, but, although I’d practiced singing in the shower, I got the hiccups and had a frog in my throat, and struggled with the high notes.  There was quite a bit of discussion, along the lines of: why do we have to have a catered lunch for our end of year breakup – the rules are ridiculous! Ranging to why does the government appear to have abandoned the notion of protecting us?  You can’t have it both ways: you may consider different organisations’ rules to be ridiculous, but at least there are rules, and most people do not want to get Covid 19.

After singing, I learnt that Judith Collins has been rolled as leader of the National Party, and that Shane Reti is the interim leader. He was to address the nation.  One feels that the leadership is a poisoned chalice, that nobody really wants, at this point in time. Who’s left then, other than Christopher Luxton, Muller look-alike, waiting in the wings – he’s not yet ready to lead this mess.

There are fewer new Covid 19 community cases today: 178 and 77 in hospital.

It’s now Friday, November 26th.  Today there are 173 new cases of Covid 19, across 6 regions: there are new cases in Auckland (154), Waikato (15), Northland (one), Bay of Plenty (two), and Lakes (one). There is also a case in Christchurch, who could not be included in yesterday’s total, a close contact of an existing case who was already isolating. 78 people are in hospital and 7 in Intensive Care.

It seems to me now that the Government is concerned about protecting the health system, as its first priority, and I wonder where that leaves mentally disabled adults, and other vulnerable people. Hohepa have taken very good care of our daughter up until now; the traffic light approach leaves us all scratching our heads, and wondering just how it will affect us, and more to the point, our daughter.

Meanwhile, one is doing Christmas shopping, and changing priorities as one must in these challenging times. Even during the so-called Black Friday Sales, and a rush for some good bargains, there are not that many people about, and most are genuinely polite and thoughtful. Thankfully, we don’t have Christmas Carols playing in the shops just yet, although most have Christmas trees up.

In the US, three men have been found guilty in the case of the Ahmed Arboury killing. That comes as a huge relief to many.  In the US it is Thanksgiving time again. This, to me, is a somewhat crazy ritual, like their Halloween (pronounced Hollow-een), accompanied by some very scary parades and decorations.  I listened to a Bulwark podcast, but they always get on to why can’t the Democrats be more like Republicans, be less liberal, less progressive, and by the way, inflation is terrible. I have to turn this off, I can’t bear to listen. I do agree with Charlie Sykes – we can be grateful that Trump’s not president.  There are many guides about surviving Thanksgiving with people you disagree with: why invite them? Why eat with them? Why punish yourself? Why buy a turkey, and then do the whole thing again in one month’s time for Christmas? Why, indeed.

There’s a new variant out of covid 19/delta, that’s been discovered in South Africa. Should we be afraid? The Hon. Grant Robertson says no, but apparently South Africa is to be put on the UK’s “travel red list” for this.

It’s now Saturday November 27th.  It seems that the new variant of Covid 19, now named Omicron, first observed this month, is indeed something to be very afraid of. Even Sajid Javid the UK Health Secretary, is calling the alarm. It’s been unheard of to date for the Brits to take much notice! There is wide spread alarm about Omicron.  It originated earlier this month in South Africa, but has already been found in Israel, Hongkong, and in Belgium.  Vaccinated people are not immune. The World Health Organisation has met, and says not to limit flights, but many countries are doing just that. The stock market has fallen. Meanwhile, in the US, there are alarming surges of Covid 19/delta in many places: most seriously in Michigan, but also in New York. We don’t yet know what the US Thanksgiving surge will be; that there’ll be one, is pretty certain. One wonders again, why do so many Americans put themselves through this? You have the perfect excuse to avoid travel and large gatherings.

Dr John Campbell has broadcast again, saying that we all need to be proactive about facing this; it’s complicated, but the variant seems to have several spikes within it; it’s potentially very infectious, but we don’t yet know if it makes people really ill.  Perhaps the vaccines can be tweaked to address this variant, and delta, too.  We were alarmed about the spread of delta in New Zealand, as borders are to be reopened, the fateful MIQ reduced (although it has done a great job of keeping us safe); one of my daughter-in-law’s parents are thrilled to be able to return to New Zealand from Australia, where they have been marooned for far longer than they intended.  This relaxation of restrictions was going to be good for some people, but still pretty scary for people like my daughter. More walks, more swings, any one? Now, with the coming of omicron, all bets are off, I fear. Certainly, the coronavirus hasn’t finished with us yet.

In other news, the US networks have been very quiet over the Thanksgiving break. The stores are advertising Black Friday sales (which actually last for several days). In the English Channel, a perilous stretch of water (I know, I’ve sailed on it twice), a dinghy carrying several desperate refugees sailing to England from France capsized, and 27 people drowned, including children and pregnant women. In New Zealand, the Reserve Bank raised – by 0.25% – the OCR (Official Cash Rate) – it’s now 0.75%. The Guardian duly reported that in NZ the Reserve bank had hiked the cash rate. That is a gross exaggeration, like much of the talk of that other bogey man, inflation. Go on, hype it up, why don’t you? One can see how people get angry with the media.

Yesterday the Hon. Grant Robertson claimed there was no reason to be alarmed about omicron; today, he’s reported as calling it a “wake up call”. We’ve all been woken up, I think: this is potentially worse than what we’ve seen to date.  What about special needs folk? We’ve had coronavirus, Covid 19, the sequel (delta variant); now it looks like omicron, the prequel, is coming.

Today it was announced that there were 145 new community cases of Covid 19, and a further death.  There are still no further cases in Wellington or Hawkes Bay.

On Saturday afternoon we went to North City Shopping Centre, to buy a Christmas present for one of my granddaughters, and a new toasted sandwich maker – we wanted to take advantage of the Black Friday sale.  It was very busy there – that Food Court must have the potential to be a super-spreader location. They tried to enforce queueing, but I doubt that had much effect. In the Farmers department store, it was quite busy. I managed to find store attendant who looked unsuccessfully for what we wanted; in the meantime, of course, JD found other things to buy. There weren’t many toasted sandwich makers left, either – I suspect the advertised ones had gone, but we did get one, and I later bought the present I’d been seeking online. It was not a great experience, going to North City – I won’t repeat it for some time. Actually, like Queensgate Shopping Mall, it’s not enticing at the best of times. It’s a place you don’t want to be.

On Saturday evening I learnt that there is a case of Covid 19 in Kawerau, a town in the Bay of Plenty.  Many countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have put in place some kinds of restrictions on passengers from South Africa and several African nations.  There are no direct flights here from Africa, so it’s a bit dicey to know just where people arriving her have come from.

It’s now Sunday, November 28th.  It is quite a bit cooler today, after being very warm yesterday.  This morning I learnt that two cases of Covid 19/omicron had been diagnosed in the UK. Cases have also been diagnosed in Germany and Italy.

This morning I went to Church. It’s the beginning of Advent, and a little girl was to light a purple candle for Hope. The candle wick failed to ignite at the first attempt, and then flickered hopefully (ha ha!) when it did ignite. That seemed appropriate, somehow.  In church, they’ve apparently taken my advice (!) to allow seating in every second row, but unlike in an Anglican church we went to, where it was quite clear where one could sit, they’ve marked rows with little stickers that aren’t that easy to read:  rows  where one can sit have a beautiful red floral decoration, and alternate rows have a small sticker saying Please don’t sit here. I sat down, well away from others, but people came and sat rather closer to me than I was comfortable with.

After church, I went grocery shopping; it was really quiet when I went there, but soon filled up with people.  I got raspberries! And some apricots. The summer fruit is starting to appear. I didn’t get coffee beans – my bad.

Before lunch I learnt that there is another case of Covid 19 in Hawkes Bay.  This person went to the ED at Hastings Hospital, and was diagnosed positive. There are several locations of interest, which are gradually being published. Napier Pak’N ’Save is one of them, but in the evening – I don’t think our guys would shop there in the evening. Nevertheless, it’s alarming.  Two people landed in Sydney from South Africa, and were diagnosed with Covid 19. It’s not known yet whether it’s omicron or not. Meanwhile, Covid 19/omicron has been diagnosed in several countries.

The 1 pm briefing tells that today’s total of Covid 19 cases is 144; there has been another death in Auckland, this time of a woman in her 80’s. A child in Canterbury has been diagnosed positive: this child seems to have flown alone, and then caught a flight from Auckland to Christchurch; this is being regarded as a border case. Of the 144 new cases in New Zealand there are cases in Auckland (127), Northland (two), Waikato (nine), Bay of Plenty (four), Hawke’s Bay (one). There are 82 people in hospital, including 8 in Intensive Care.

There is still so much that we just don’t know about this virus. It seems that omicron has different symptoms, from the Covid 19 we’ve become used to, that it’s very infectious, and that young people catch it easily; other than that, we just don’t know how much of a threat it represents. We struggle on, trying not to take unnecessary risks, but feeling more than ever that we’re stumbling through a maze. There’s a lot of prayer; and I’m ashamed to say rather more fear than peace. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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