Covid for Christmas

It just keeps raining on their parade…

It’s now Wednesday December 15th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning I learnt that there is a cluster of covid 19 infections in Eltham, a small town in Taranaki – there are 11 new infections based in one primary school.  Actually there are 15 new infections, and it’s understood that 11 of them are students at the primary school. In the UK, Prime Minister Johnson is seen on television wearing a mask. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear a mask before. In Australia, Covid 19/ delta infections are on the rise in Sydney and Melbourne, and they are still having deaths; in Sydney, many people are isolating after exposure to a Covid 19/omicron case in two bars.  It seems that rather than the delta variant being replaced by the omicron one, you can now have both; the delta variant is still very strong in many places, and omicron is right there almost alongside it. Scandinavian countries are imposing further restrictions, for fear of omicron. In some places, Covid 19/omicron is the dominant variant, and cases are rising very fast. Already in the UK there are difficulties staffing schools, because so many people have come into contact with an omicron case, and are isolating.

Christmas here seems strangely muted, this year. There are Christmas decorations around, but few traditional Christmas trees. And quite a lot of silver tinsel. Silver seems to be the theme colour this year, and there’s a lot of red about – Pohutukawa and poinsettia.  And very few Christmas carols:  this morning I went to our last hymn-singing session for this year, and we sang some beautiful carols: All Poor Men and Humble (I don’t think I’ve sung this since I was in college), O Holy Night, In the Bleak Midwinter (it was cold, bleak and wet this morning), Angels from the Realms of Glory, and In Dulci Jubilo. It was just beautiful. It being the last session for the year, four of us had morning tea together afterwards. Who know when we will sing together again?

I am missing Christmas carols this year. It’s usually a bugbear, but the only time I’ve heard a take-off of Mariah Carey is on the Bulwark podcast; I did hear “Joy to the World” this morning, but where’s Feliz Navidad?  This reminds me of an earlier Christmas, when one group I was singing with couldn’t stand Feliz Navidad, and another wanted to sing just that. It takes all sorts, I guess.

Later in the morning I went into town, and made my way to Commonsense Organics’ new store near the top of Tory Street. I found what I was looking for, a vegan Christmas cake; I then went to the Warehouse and bought some picture frames. Then I went to Moore Wilson’s and got some gluten-free mince pies. By now it was very hot, and although I’d taken my jersey and raincoat off, I was still overdressed. I walked down to the bus stop at the St James Theatre, and caught a bus home.  Those shops are seriously difficult to get to!  You certainly don’t want to be carrying much weight if you have to walk back to the bus stop.

My computer is running extremely slowly today, and it‘s very frustrating.  We are still reeling from Mark Meadows’ text records, especially the ones from Fox News anchors – who have since minimised the violence shown on January 6.

At midnight last night Auckland borders opened, and there were people striving to get out in their cars – at 11:59 pm!  Down here we are bracing for the influx, but thankfully wherever I’ve been today was not busy – the Commonsense Organics store was probably the busiest.

Today there are 74 new cases of Covid 19, and there has been a death, in  Tauranga, of a man in his 30’s. The family have asked that no further details be released. There are 61 people in hospital and four in Intensive Care. Journalist David Farrier has had Covid 19, in Los Angeles. There are new cases in Auckland (56), Waikato (9), Bay of Plenty (7), Lakes (one), Canterbury (one).

It’s now Thursday December 16th. There’s lots of news this morning, mostly, if not all, bad; some weird.  A photo has surfaced of a Tory party held last December for the London mayoralty candidate, which shows platters of food, including canapés, and a group of people, unmasked, standing very close together, for a photograph. Some wore party hats. Meanwhile the Guardian reports 28,438 new Covid 19 cases.  In the US, over 800,000 people have officially died from Covid 19. Congress has voted to hold mark Meadows in contempt, as recommended by the January 6 Committee; the texts he handed over to this committee, as read out by vice-chair Liz Cheney, are still shocking; perhaps the most shocking is the one from Don Jr asking Meadows to call the insurrection off ASAP.  He evidently didn’t have his father’s cell phone number.

The front page of the Dompost highlights that the Hon. Grant Robertson is promising to give money to the health sector: $4m hospitals boost, the front page reads.  I think this is not actually a great deal of money: I heard last night that the figure promised was closer to $4 billion dollars; then I read the article, which says “Two of Wellington’s hospitals will get $4m worth of infrastructure upgrades”. Still, the heading is extremely misleading. Stuff, you have to do better than this! Then I read a headline on my google news feed claiming Christmas is cancelled!  This told of how two planeloads of Australians flying from Sydney to Queensland would have to isolate because of exposure to a Covid 19 case – deemed an over-reaction. All this was before I had my breakfast.

I then watched Dr Campbell’s talk on Youtube, which claimed, unlike his earlier optimism, that the omicron variant was like a light flu, and/or that it would replace Covid 19/delta, a very dismal outlook, saying that omicron is 8 times more infectious than delta (certainly not twice as infectious, as was earlier reported; NHS hospitals are being emptied out in preparation for an influx of Covid 19 patients; footballers are isolating, and there’s fewer people left to drive tube trains or lorries and there’ll be some shortages. A football game has been cancelled!  While Covid 19/omicron may be a mild disease in South Africa, that is very different from the UK and much of Europe, which is heading into winter and very short, cold days. The Ashes series is being played, but the new Australian captain will miss the second test because he has to isolate, having come into contact with someone who later tested positive for Covid 19. Well done, bro!

I go to the last singing session for the year. It’s lovely, of course, and we sing several Christmas carols, including Feliz Navidad. We also sang Silent Night( in English and Māori), O Come all ye Faithful, Away in Manger, and Jingle Bells. Then we enjoyed a very nice lunch, with savouries, sandwiches, cakes, fruit, and a savoury platter with cheese, crackers, olives and so on. Most people aren’t going away for Christmas – sadly, we’re staying here in wellington, in case anything happens. It’s going to be a very muted Christmas.

While we were singing, there was an Anti-Vax protest in Wellington, organised by Brain Tamaki’s daughter.  The marchers were joined by the Mongrel Mob, of course. They were due to march from Civic Square to Parliament – which closed for the year yesterday.  One of my singing colleagues’ nephews warned her about it – he caught a train into Wellington from Paraparaumu, and it was full of rowdy protesters. Others warned about traffic and transport disruption in the city. It seems a shame that these loud voices drown out the majority of quiet, civil, respectful, law-abiding citizens, who really care about their children, grandchildren and their friends.

Here the weather’s still terrible; actually it’s not terrible, but it’s drizzly and overcast, although not particularly cold.  It’s certainly not summery, although we don’t have gale force winds, which I guess is something to be grateful for.

Ironically, what is now State Highway 59 is blocked in both directions ar Pukerua Bay, because of a slip. The rain must have been quite heavy up there. SH59, by the way, used to be State Highway 1 – the main route north. The new Transmission Gully road will become SH1, when it opens. This closure must be so frustrating for people – anything to keep those Aucklanders away!  Actually, I know why they have to get away – it’s the humidity!

I’m reading this afternoon that the variants delta and omicron may merge to create something more deadly, more awful. Meanwhile it must be a southerly wind, because planes just keep flying overhead. I find it quite annoying.

Today the total number of community cases in New Zealand is 91, and there are 58 people in hospital with 4 in Intensive Care. Aotearoa is 90% fully vaccinated, the stuff website claims. I hope this claim isn’t guesswork. Apparently the paediatric version of the Pfizer vaccine has been approved here by Medsafe for children aged 5 to 11 years. There are new cases in Auckland (55), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (10), Lakes (1), Taranaki (16 – 15 of which were announced Wednesday).

I also read that the first case of omicron has been diagnosed in New Zealand – now that’s a shock. It’s in managed isolation (MIQ) in Christchurch, I gather from Stuff. The Ministry of Health is to address the country at 4:20 pm about this case.  I expect it had to turn up sooner or later.  Apparently the person had been double-vaccinated. I listen to the press conference, which is fronted by Dr Bloomfield. He looks a bit rushed, and his hair is not quite as tidy as usual. He’s reassuring, as ever; the timing for booster jabs is being reconsidered: he’ll be recommending somewhere between 1 and 6 months gap (Ha Ha!). This case travelled from Germany to Auckland, and then travelled in a group by charter plane from Auckland to Christchurch; everyone is regarded as a close contact and is isolating blah blah. There may be localised lock downs in future. For the rest – wait and see.  I later learn that this case has been in the country for 6 days. Am I surprised? Not really. I remember saying we’d be told sometime that omicron was in New Zealand, and, by the way, it had been here for a few days.

In NSW, delta cases are on the rise again. Perhaps delta is jealous of omicron!

Britain has recorded nearly 79,000 new Covid-19 infections in a single day amid warnings that the United Kingdom would continue to “break records” in the weeks ahead as the Omicron variant rampaged through the country. That’s a lot more then I reported earlier from the Guardian; perhaps the lower number was for London, or for a particular area, not the whole of the UK.  It’s also reported that in the UK infection rates are doubling every two days.

That’s it for now. There’ll  be more news tomorrow, no doubt. Ngā mihi.

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