It’s now Friday December 17th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning there’s a whole lot more news: a photo of Boris Johnson at a Pizza party in May 2020, when the country was supposed to be in “lock down”; I put this in inverted commas, because lock down means different things to different people. In Tasmania, 4 children (and later a 5th, in hospital) have died when the bouncy castle they were playing in was picked up by the wind and dropped; Her Majesty the Queen has cancelled her pre-Christmas lunch, for the second year running: a tradition where the family would get together just before Christmas; and the UK has recorded 88,576 new cases of Covid 19.  There is great confusion, in the UK and in Australia, between going liberal and dropping restrictions, and making them more restrictive, amid a scary rise in Covid 19/delta cases, and a rapid rise in omicron cases. As a medical person in the UK pointed out, even if the omicron variant is a milder disease, the fact that it’s growing so rapidly means that probably many will need hospital treatment in any case. People are advised to get booster jabs of vaccination, but many can’t get an appointment, it seems.  In Australia, and the UK, governments rely on vaccination to protect people, but this seems “ae fond wish”.  Two jabs plus a booster may offer some protection against omicron, but there’s difficulty in getting the booster.

In New Zealand news, there are 76 new community cases of Covid 19 today; we assume they’re all the delta variant. There are 51 people in hospital and 5 of these are in Intensive Care. Forty-seven of the new cases are in Auckland, 15 in Waikato, 10 in the Bay of Plenty, one in Lakes and three in Taranaki, taking the total number of active cases to 2104. The last time Auckland had this few new cases was two months ago on October 17. The Ministry of Health has also confirmed that a person died in MIQ on November 2, and that a child under 10 years of age has died from Covid 19. Also, three more passengers, who were on the same flight as New Zealand’s first omicron case, have tested positive for Covid 19.   There has also been Covid 19 detected in the wastewater of Gisborne, again, and people are urged to get tested if they have symptoms of Covid 19. The total death toll in New Zealand from Covid 19 is now 49.

MIQ offers a good defence against the Omicron variant of Covid-19 at the border, but there are concerns it will eventually escape into the community.

People infected with Omicron have much more of the virus in their cells than Delta cases. Omicron is also better at bypassing natural and vaccine-induced immunity to the virus, new evidence suggests.

New Zealand’s first case of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 arrived on December 10. There are 82 close contacts of the case, most of whom are in managed isolation in Christchurch.

As a result of climate change, the world’s axis has changed, and it’s not quite so stable on its poles as it was. In Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier poses a huge threat, as its break-up could cause a sudden major increase in sea-levels.

In the US, things are truly weird, as people and journalists and talking heads digest the huge news of the texts received by Mark Meadows, surrendered to the January 6 Committee and read out by Liz Cheney. Boy, is she an effective communicator!  I have to say she puts many of her Democratic colleagues to shame.  It’s evident that Jim (Gym) Jordan of Ohio played a huge part (he admitted it!) even before the January 6 certification in encouraging Meadows and Trump’s colleagues to overturn Biden’s win in swing states. It’s also evident that the Fox News hosts were not at all a-political in their texts asking Meadows to ask Trump to call off the insurrection: they feared it would make them look bad! Last night Chris Hayes spoke to Dustin Stockton and Jennifer Lawrence, who were supporters of Trump and had offered to organise the protest and manage the crowds. Although they were then ardent Trump supporters, they did not support the insurrection and invasion of the Capitol, or the march down Pennsylvania Avenue, and became seriously disgruntled with him. These two have been asked to testify, and are now cooperating with the January 6 Committee. It’s evident that all the folk texting mark Meadows believed that only Trump could call off the insurrectionists, and that he failed to do, for over 185 minutes.

In the evening I learn that there are three more cases of Covid 19/omicron in New Zealand, in MIQ in Rotorua. These people flew from Dubai to Auckland, and have since been transferred to the Jet Park isolation facility.  Given how transmissible omicron is, I fear this is just the tip of the iceberg. What about the other people that flew with them? The bus driver? The airport employees and police on duty? I guess we’ll learn more tomorrow.

It’s now Saturday December 18th.

Last night we went to a party for work reasons. I was loth to go, but JD thought it was an important choice. We had to sign in, and our vaccine passes were photographed, but there were no masks in sight; there may have been hand sanitizer at the door, but the people serving weren’t wearing gloves.  We didn’t know what kind of party it would be; we hardly knew anyone there, but they were about to serve (a seated) dinner, so we didn’t interact with many others. After we left, I learnt that there are 3 further omicron cases in New Zealand, not connected with the first case, and discovered in MIQ in Rotorua. I feel very nervous about all this.  There were some gaps at the dinner – I figured out why! I took an unnecessary risk, and I rather wish I hadn’t.

This morning the UK Guardian reports that there are 93,045 new cases of Covid 19 in the UK, Is that double yesterday’s total? It’s a large and scary number. Omicron has completely changed the equation. It’s as scary as climate change, which is still scary, by the way.

In the US, there’s all kinds of news. Jeffrey Toobin is back on CNN; presumably he’s done something to redeem himself.  It seems apparent that some of Trump’s Republican colleagues (Jim Jordan, Rick Perry) expected to turn the presidential election for Trump even before the vote was called for Biden by simply not recognising the many democratic voters.  It just gets worse and worse.

The 1 pm statement today is most interesting. There are 39 new community cases of Covid 19 – that’s much lower than it’s been for ages; but there are 4 new omicron cases at the border.  There are actually 10 new cases in MIQ, and four of these are omicron, bringing New Zealand’s total to eight. Of the 39 new community cases, 25 are in Auckland, 11 are in the Bay of Plenty, two are in Lakes and one is in Taranaki. Of the 11 new cases in the Bay of Plenty, eight were in Tauranga and three were in the Western Bay of Plenty. There are 49 people in hospital, including 5 in Intensive Care.

Two Omicron cases arrived in New Zealand from Singapore on separate flights – one travelled on a flight to Auckland on December 13 and the second case was on a flight to Christchurch on December 15.

Of the eight Omicron cases, two were in a bubble but the other six cases were unrelated to each other suggesting no cross-contamination or cross-infection either in-flight or within MIQ facilities, the ministry said.

“We are carrying out whole genome sequencing on all new border cases of Covid-19 to rapidly identify any new cases of the Omicron variant,” the Ministry of Health said.

In the UK, Ireland has imposed an 8 pm curfew on hospitality venues.  That would be pubs!  Boris Johnson and the Tories are smarting from a convincing defeat to the Lib Dem candidate in a by-election, in North Shropshire, a seat that had been a Tory party stronghold. Boris Johnson’s popularity is now waning. To many, this will be a relief.

In the US, information just keeps emerging about the January 6 riot at the Capitol. It seems that at some point it transformed from a legal, managed protest, to being an illegal, shocking and highly violent insurrection. Who ordered it? It’s evident that only one man, Trump, could call it off as witnessed by the many text messages to Mark Meadows.

It transpires, too, that Trump delayed responding to the Covid 19 pandemic early last year, not allowing the CDC to report (according to Dr Deborah Birx).

Wales new restrictions have been impose. Rachel Maddow reports that the Republican party paying Trump’s legal bills, even though he’s no longer a politician.

It’s now Sunday December 19th.  There was no bad news overnight; well not  here, anyway. I went to church, and figured out that Christmas Day is next Saturday, not Sunday. There’ll be a Christmas Eve service, at 11:15 pm, then church on Christmas Day, then church again on Sunday, Boxing Day. After church I learn that in the UK Lord Frost has resigned – the Tory minister who was responsible for the Brexit negotiations.  It’s another nail in Boris Johnson’s coffin, I fear; to mix metaphors further, the knives are really out for him now. What a mess for someone else to clean up. Whatever the new parliamentary priorities, they won’t please everyone. Just look at the US, where poor Joe Biden is prevented from doing good things for people, and is unfairly being held responsible for the rise in Covid 19 cases and the rise in inflation, and he’s not really liked by millennials, either. The coronavirus isn’t his fault!

The 1 pm news release here is mixed: there are a further 5 omicron cases in MIQ (don’t these people have to have a negative Covid 19 test before they come?), and 55 new community cases:  there are 56 in hospital, and 6 of these are in Intensive Care.  There are now 13 cases of omicron in New Zealand in MIQ; thankfully, no community cases as yet. There are new community cases in Auckland (41), Waikato (four), Bay of Plenty (three), Taranaki (seven).

Overseas, the Dutch are going into lockdown before Christmas; in London, the mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called a state of emergency; Germany has been added to the list of countries that do not welcome British people there. Omicron is running rampant, and even if it’s not such a serious illness for most people, its being so infectious means that some people will still get sick and need hospital care. Games have been cancelled, and there are worries that there won’t be enough well people to provide essential services. This morning I learnt that there are more than 10,000 omicron cases in the UK. It’s spreading really fast.

Back here, we just had a lovely afternoon tea for family in Wellington. My vegan Christmas Cake tasted good, and all the Christmas presents went down rather well.  I had been appalled to find that one gift I had ordered online had come in the wrong colour, but my granddaughter made an adjustment and I think it will be acceptable. Wow, we’re really winding down towards Christmas, now. It’s been a beautiful sunny day, here, although rather windy.

A sixth child has died from the bouncing castle tragedy in Tasmania. No Messiah live performance for me, this December; no Hohepa Christmas plays. That’s it for now. Ngā mihi. À bientot!

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