Slouching toward Christmas

Today is Monday December 20th, 2021. Kia ora!

This morning there is more news from the UK: Liz Truss is to replace Lord Frost in the Brexit negotiations; there’s a photo of Boris and his wife and friends enjoying wine in the 10 Downing Street garden in May last year, when everyone else was in some kind of lockdown; (it certainly doesn’t look like a business meeting; perhaps it was the business of wine testing); and on Sunday 48,071 new coronavirus infections were reported, today 82,886, an increase of 72% on Sunday’s total. Omicron is the dominant variant of Covid 19 in Ireland, and there’s talk in the UK of the British government being recommended by their scientific advisers to impose a new lockdown as a “circuit breaker”.  Dr John Campbell claims that omicron is 60% of new cases in England. A new lockdown has been suggested by Sajid Javid, the new health minister, but Boris Johnson has not approved it yet; no wonder, for people like Lord Frost and some other Conservatives despise restrictive measures. It’s been a continual battle throughout the pandemic, between those in authority who would seek to preserve human life (like the Labour Government in New Zealand and some democratic governors in the US), and right wing people who think business is more important. Here, there’s a heading on the Stuff website that reads: “Pessimism reigns as New Zealand ponders 2022 Economy without elimination strategy”. Really! Wasn’t business desperate to reopen?  Haven’t there been protests about restrictions, about limitations on personal freedoms? You can’t have it both ways. Again, I see why people distrust the media. During 2020 someone made the point that you can’t have a healthy economy without healthy citizens (and that would include citizens who aren’t terrified for their friends and family members). In NWS in Australia, there’s a surge again of cases, including 266 omicron cases.

In the US, Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker have both tested positive for Covid 19, despite being fully vaccinated and having had booster shots.  The January 6 Committee is reportedly (via Adam Kinzinger) announcing that it’s considering whether Trump committed a crime. Another report tells that it  was Ivanka Trump who encouraged he father to stand outside the church in Lafayette Square in Washington D.C., holding a bible – evidently Mark Meadows has related this in his book.

In New Zealand at 1 pm there is, again, mixed news: there are 69 community cases of Covid 19; cynics would say that the number may be reduced because Aucklanders holidaying in the Coromandel may be too far away to drive to a testing station; but there are 9 new cases of omicron in MIQ! This takes New Zealand’s total to 22.  Surely it’s only a matter of time before it gets out into the community. There are 62 people in hospital, and 7 of them are in Intensive Care. The new community cases are as follows:  Auckland (59), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (2), Taranaki (1).

At some point the length of the MIQ visit shortened from 14 to 10 days, or perhaps to 7 days? This fact has eluded me. Apparently the Cabinet is to meet virtually today to discuss new developments regarding the spread of omicron, and whether the booster shot can take place less than 6 months after the second vaccine shot. I went shopping this morning, thinking again I may as well buy what I can, while I still can.

In Sydney, a young man evidently attended a night club, after receiving a text saying that he’d diagnosed positive for Covid 19. Consequently, about 150 people are having to isolate.

It’s now Tuesday, December 21st.

Today there are 28 new community cases of Covid 19, and 57 people in hospital and 7 in Intensive Care. There are 22 new cases of Omicron in MIQ! That’s nearly as many as there are delta cases in the community! 22! That’s just crazy.  Of the new cases, 21 are in Auckland, 5 are in Bay of Plenty, and 2 are in Taranaki; none in Waikato or Northland today. It would seem that New Zealand is licking this delta variant, but then omicron comes along, and we’re all super spooked by the situation.  The Hon. Chris Hipkins is due to front at a press conference at 2 pm, and is expected to announce any changes to the booster vaccine rollout, and to the proposal to open up external borders.

The announcement, when it comes, is very interesting.  I don’t think I’ve heard Minister Hipkins speak this well before. He had with him the MOH Chief Science Advisor Ian Town and a Maori paediatrician (Dr Danny Delore).  He said that the time for booster shots is being reduced from 6 months after your second jab to four months. JD and I had a our second jabs on 26 August, so we’ll be eligible for boosters from Boxing Day!  Minister Hipkins says at first you can just rock up to a vaccination centre; later they’ll get the revised “Book my vaccine” site up and running.  Records of booster shots are to be added to vaccine passports; they’ll issue new ones from the middle of next year. Workers who were required to be vaccinated will also be required to have booster jabs.

The other changes he announced relate to time spent in MIQ, and external border reopening. He also stressed the unpredictability of the omicron variant of Covid 19, and that the traffic light system may be used to make certain areas red again.  The temporary change to MIQ requires everyone to stay for 10 days; apparently this had been reduced to 7, with a further 7 days isolation out of MIQ.  Everyone on an international flight where someone tests positive for omicron is to be regarded as a close contact. Negative departure tests will be required 48 hours beforehand, rather than 72 hours, which is the present requirement. Vaccines for children aged 5 -11 are to be rolled out from January 17, before school goes back for 2022.

There are also changes to border reopening: the self-isolation date is to be moved back from January 17 to the end of February 2022.

On the whole, I think this is good news: the government’s strategy is to keep Covid 19/omicron out of the community for as long as possible, and, of course, they’re getting daily advice on what’s happening overseas, and what steps should be taken here.

That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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