Mere Kirimihete 2021

New Zealand Pohutukawa

It’s now Boxing Day, Sunday December 26th, 2021. Kia ora!

I had a lovely day yesterday, despite not getting much sleep the night before. I had church in the morning – it was like Easter, with Friday/Saturday/Sunday church. We had a video call with our daughter in Hawkes Bay, although it took a wee while to master the intricacies of this. We watched her open some Christmas presents we’d left for her when we went there for her birthday, earlier in December. 

At church, the organ played again, and we sang more Christmas carols. The beginning of John’s Gospel was read: In the beginning was the word. And the word became flesh, and dwelt amongst us. It uses that wonderful Greek word logos, making one think of logic and reason, permanence and meaning – a different angle from the story in Luke’s Gospel of Jesus’ birth. Afterwards, I accepted a piece of Christmas cake.  I waited to be picked up at the library – there’s seating there, and although it was overcast, it wasn’t raining.  Some children were there wearing tutus and trying out their new scooters (no helmets, mind, although their older brother did have a bike and a helmet).

Once back at home, I called my son in England (he’d called while I was at church), and there were various calls with family members. We had a rest before preparing salads to take to another son’s house later that afternoon. I even got to lie down with my book for a bit – magic! And I wasn’t cooking a turkey – a big relief.

I got up, got changed and we went to my son’s house, where we had such a nice time, and video-called our eldest son and his family.  It was a very low key, but very enjoyable day.

That evening we watched a charming film on Māori Television based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and I had a whiskey – Laphroiag.  Then I slept rather well.

This morning was Boxing Day, but it was Sunday, so I went to church again.  There were very few people there! The New World supermarket across the road was open, and it was sunny, although quite windy. I bought fresh croissants for lunch.

It has been a relief to have a break from the local covid 19 news. And today the news isn’t too bad: I had learnt there were new cases in Taranaki (one, related to the Eltham cluster), and two in Gisborne. Today there are 126 new community cases of Covid 19, this total being spread across two days, and 7 omicron cases in MIQ (there are 3 non-omicron new cases at the border).  There are 47 people in hospital, and of these 7 are in Intensive Care. The 126 community cases were in: Auckland (88), Waikato (17), Bay of Plenty (6), Lakes (13), Taranaki (1), Northland (1). So it seems we got through Christmas with no major Covid 19 disasters as yet; there have been some serious road accidents, however.

Overseas, it is quite a different story. In these grim times, one’s view narrows so much that it becomes all about myself and my family, and their safety and well-being. The last three days I’ve been happy to go to church; many people overseas cannot, as places of worship like the Washington National Cathedral have been closed to patrons. Thousands of flights have been cancelled, as in many cases not only are there not enough passengers to make it worthwhile, but the flight crew are sick themselves. It occurs to me that those who are against lockdown may find themselves in just that situation, if the people who normally serve them are ill themselves, or close contacts of infected people. In this situation, contact tracing becomes really hard work, and potentially a lot less useful.

NSW in Australia is in the grip of another deadly wave, with 6,394 new cases; South Australia has 774 new covid 19 cases, with 17 people in hospital (weren’t they keeping it out before?) Queensland has 714 new cases. And so on.  Prime Minister Morrison again seems tone deaf, as he does about so many issues – remember the severe fires this time last year? He was holidaying in Hawaii with his family. He says Australians will make rational decisions. It’s hard to be totally rational when your government is doing little to protect you.  I think more people are happy to have some rules to follow, even if they’re highly inconvenient at times.

In Melbourne, there were record numbers of people seeking tests; in Sydney, 400 people who tested positive were wrongly told they were negative.  Someone complained there was no triage at a testing clinic, as in do you have symptoms? Are you a close contact of an existing case? Have you recently travelled? Or are you just one of the worried well?

In China, although the large city of Ti’an has gone into lockdown, new cases of Covid 19 are being discovered.  Here, at least, we got through Christmas day without any major disasters. But Covid 19 says, hey, not so fast…

It’s reported that partygoers who attended an Otara Christmas party are being asked to self-isolate and immediately get tested after a guest tested positive for Covid-19.

A Christmas party held on Thursday December 23 at East Tamaki Community Hall in Otara has been identified as a new location of interest. Anyone who attended this party has been identified as a close contact. The Ministry of Health is asking anyone who attended this Christmas party between 4pm and 11pm to self-isolate, test immediately and on day 5. “Self-isolate, test immediately and on day 5 after you were exposed at this location of interest”.

This afternoon we went to see the Rita Angus exhibition at Toi Art at Te Papa. I was a bit cross when we got there, because they asked to see our vaccine passes, although they didn’t have a notice warning us of this. Then we had to hand-sanitise, and then scan or sign in. I think this is in the wrong order: I think one should scan the QR code, show one’s vaccine passport, and then hand-sanitise.

Never mind. We made our way to the exhibition, which had been well-curated and was very worthwhile. There were a few others there, but it certainly wasn’t overcrowded. What a strongly individual woman she was! Her independence shines through her beautiful paintings. What a strange life she had! She displayed an amazing use of colour in many of her landscapes. They are very detailed, even when showing hills or plains. There are also tricks in her works: remember that famous boat scene at Island Bay, with Taputeranga in the background? The boats actually look pretty flimsy, a bit like paper boats in a bath tub, yet it’s a iconic painting.

On our way home, we stopped at the New World supermarket in Thorndon. Thankfully it was much less busy than it had been before Christmas – there was hardly anyone there. We had new potatoes with mint and salad for dinner. I had forgotten how delicious new potatoes can be, Afterwards, we tried to watch the original West Side Story movie with Natalie Wood on Māori television, but I found it very long. I have to admit I don’t really enjoy musicals.

It’s now Monday, December 27th.

Today it’s reported that there are 34 new community cases of Covid 19, and ten border cases in MIQ, four of them being omicron (there’s a total of 49 omicron cases, still confined to the border). There are 41 patients in hospital, 8 of them being in Intensive care.

The locations of the new community cases reported on Monday are: Auckland (21), Waikato (7), Bay of Plenty (2), Rotorua (3) and Canterbury (1). There’ve been no  concerning wastewater testing results over the past 24 hours.

So well done, New Zealand: the storm hasn’t hit just yet; perhaps it’s lying in wait? Who knows.

This afternoon the NZ Herald informs me that NSW has recorded its first omicron death, that cases are surging, and it’s reimposing restrictions. Masks are now compulsory in all indoor, non-residential settings, including for hospitality staff and in offices, unless eating or drinking. Venues and patrons must also now follow the one person per two square metres rule indoors at pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes.

It’s now Tuesday December 28th.  There’s no bad covid 19 news here, so far.

Overseas, it’s another story. The UK recorded 113,638 new Covid 19 infections on Christmas Day, but Prime Minister Johnson won’t impose restrictions. In France, the time delay between the second vaccine jab and the booster has been reduced to three months. In the Chinese city of Ti’an, Covid 19 cases continue to rise; although Chinese officials there face punishment for failing to prevent this latest surge.

In Australia people are complaining about testing; in Sydney, another 800 people were given false negative results of their tests; and there’s huge frustration.  Essential health workers are now having to isolate for 7 days instead of the usual 14, if they’ve been in contact with a Covid 19 case, because the health workers are needed.  They’re throwing shade at New Zealand’s approach, but New Zealand, I think, has been wise, as long as omicron stays out of the community.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has died at 90, and there are huge plaudits for him; Joan Didion has just died, too, and there are plaudits for her, especially for her book, The Year of Magical Thinking, which explores he grief at her husband’s sudden death. Her adopted daughter sadly died, too. Both were elderly. Reclusive Booker Prize winner Keri Hulme has died at 74, not that old, really. It hasn’t been said what she died of. Her one novel, The Bone People, was a hard read. I have a copy, but I haven’t reread it.

In New Zealand, the Covid 18 news is not bad. There’ve been some tragic road accidents, so far so normal, but today there are 18 new community cases: of these, 13 are in Auckland, three are in Waikato, one is in the Bay of Plenty and one in the Lakes District. Sadly, another person has died – a woman in her 70’s. There are 54 people in hospital, including 8 in Intensive Care. At the border, 16 new cases have been identified, including 5 of the omicron variant.

In Australia, in the UK, in the US, the omicron variety of Covid 19 is rampant, it’s out of control.  Quarantine times are being reduced, because of the shortage of well healthcare workers.  This variant now surpasses cases of the delta variant; it causes some hospitalisations and some deaths, but it seems futile to oppose it, in many places. Tests, where you can get them, have a high positivity rate. Some have concluded we just have to live with this. It’s airborne, too, so is very easy to catch. Many cases (with few or no symptoms) are probably undetected.  Still, I think one wouldn’t want to catch it, or for any of one’s children or grandchildren to catch it.  How long will New Zealand keep it out? We seem to have good news on the delta front, with reduced case numbers; on the other hand, it’s the holiday season so there have been reduced numbers of tests. We have yet to get through New Year.  That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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