Omicron is here

Today is Wednesday December 29th, 2021. Kia ora!

Today there are 46 new community cases of Covid 19. There are three new cases in Northland, 30 in Auckland, six in Waikato, four in Lakes, two in Tairāwhiti and one in Canterbury. There are 48 people in hospital and 7 in Intensive Care. So that’s pretty stable, really. There are no major concerns. At the border, however, it’s another story: the Ministry of Health said a total of 71 Omicron cases have been detected at the border. Yesterday, they said the total was 54. Doing the math, as they say, would mean there are 17 new omicron cases detected at the border.  This poses a huge risk for New Zealand. If one of those cases requires hospitalisation, the risk of community spread (mistakes, improper PPE use, all health care workers have their own networks of family and friends), becomes far greater. The word from overseas seems to be the equivalent of “just suck it up”: we’ll all get it, so why try not to?  And by the way, we’ll achieve herd immunity, so why take precautions?  Well, no one wants to be sick, and I certainly don’t want my family and friends to be sick. I think most of us still want to avoid Covid 19, in any variant. Once again, we are an isolated island nation (two actually, the Main Land and the North Island. There’s also Stewart Island/Rakiura, of course).

So what have I been listening to?  The Rest is History have been doing daily podcasts for the twelve days of Christmas; they do sound rather well-lubricated, but hey, it’s Christmas. I do have to wonder about their long-suffering family members, since they must spend a bit of time investigating these topics. They tag team, with each presenting a topic they’ve chosen. I must say I find them very interesting. The one on Boxing Day was about the coronation of Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor (yes, I must find out much more about that), and the second topic was about the resignation of Mikhael Gorbachev, and the breakup of the USSR and formation of the Russian Federation, and the formation of Ukraine as a separate nation (evidently a referendum was held, and the majority wanted Ukraine to be a separate nation).

Yesterday Tom Holland talked about Childermass, the Massacre of the Innocents, as told only in Matthew’s Gospel. I had forgotten about this incident, but it’s reminiscent of the Flight of the Israelites out of Egypt, led by Moses. Herod was so afraid of the new-born Messiah, so he called for boys two years and under to be killed. Consequently Joseph and Mary took the baby Jesus into Egypt to escape from Herod, and stayed there until Herod was dead. Before the Israelites left Egypt, the last plague was the death of all the first born; the Israelites’ children were spared if they put blood on the door from a lamb they had killed and eaten: this was the Passover, when God passed over the houses of the Jewish people, and touched only the Egyptians’ children. After this, Pharaoh begged the Israelites to go. Matthew quotes from the prophet Hosea, “Out of Egypt have I called my son”.  So it’s all very meaningful, and reminiscent of the dangers that existed even when Jesus was a little baby. His parents knew overcrowding, poverty, being in danger, and being refugees. Mary had just given birth, and I doubt if she felt particularly energetic at this time.

After this Dominic Sandbrook spoke about the Tay bridge disaster in 1879, when the new Tay bridge in Scotland on the way to Dundee was affected by stormy weather so that the train going over it crashed, and there were no survivors.  74 or 75 people died. William McGonagall wrote a rather bad poem about this disaster.

Lawfare has done a series of podcasts about the Russia/Ukraine crisis. 

In NSW, there is an eye-watering total of new Covid 19 cases: over 11.000! So reports the New Zealand Herald.

This afternoon the NZ Herald reports as follows: “The first community exposure in New Zealand to the highly infectious Omicron variant has been confirmed. The Ministry of Health says whole genome sequencing had detected a border-related case of Omicron who had briefly been active in the community. The person was a recent arrival who returned a positive result on day nine of their self-isolation period. The ministry said they had previously returned three negative tests for Covid-19 while completing seven days of managed isolation in an Auckland facility.” So – it’s here. We don’t know where yet – could be Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, or Rotorua; of course, this person may have flown around the country, too. 

More information has been released: the Omicron-infected person arrived on a flight from the United Kingdom via Doha on December 16 and was fully vaccinated with the mRNA vaccine, said the ministry. So far no other Covid-19 infections had been identified from the person’s flight.

They were active between December 26 and 27, visiting five locations of interest in Auckland, including central city nightclub Impala and Commercial Bay Precinct. 

To resume: the case recently arrived from the United Kingdom via Doha on December 16 and tested positive on day nine in their self-isolation period. So why weren’t they isolating in MIQ? Why? Why? Why? All you people that wanted home isolation…perhaps you just ruined summer for us?  How will I feel safe to do anything now? Evidently Minister Hipkins is to hold a press conference at 11 am tomorrow.

Just as well then that we went to see the Hilma af Klimt exhibition at the Wellington City Art Gallery (the building that used to be the Wellington Central Library).  This exhibition is extraordinary! Having said that, I don’t know that I want to see it again. She relied heavily on mathematical symbols, and on symmetry; some of the paintings are extraordinarily detailed.  Looking at them, you see more figures in them. The colours change, too. There are some odd signs and symbols that keep recurring – it’s very hard to interpret these.  There are different styles of paintings and drawings; I was tempted to say to her, Just relax!  It seems she relied heavily on the occult, and on séances, and on the companionship of other women – the Five. Apparently she showed some of her paintings to Rudolf Steiner, the father of Anthroposophy as practiced by Hohepa, and he did not particularly like them. They are quite intense; they’re not restful paintings, although I really liked some of the watercolours.

We had to show our vaccine passes, and sign in.  It took a long time to buy tickets and get organised. I’m glad we saw it before omicron becomes active in the community:  I fear that we’ll be very nervous about going anywhere once it’s widespread.

News has broken of the death of Senator Harry Reid, Democratic leader of the Senate for several years. He was a devout Mormon – now that I didn’t know. Also in the US, it transpires that Peter Navarro, Trump’s one-time trade advisor, has admitted to endeavouring to keep Trump in power.  These continuing revelations are shocking, horrifying; and yet the impulse is to ignore the silliness. But you can’t, really. 

It’s now Thursday December 30th.

I’ve learnt more information about the omicron case. It turns out it was a famous DJ (known as Dimension) from the UK, who was scheduled to play at the Rhythm and Alps music festival in Wanaka.  The Rhythm and Vines festival, I think normally held in Gisborne, was cancelled; but subsequently resurrected as Rhythm and Alps in Wanaka.

Dimension arrived from the UK via Doha on December 16 and spent 7 days in MIQ. This was to be followed by 3 days of home isolation. He returned three negative tests before testing positive on December 27 – the result of a test taken on day 9, which was December 25. He was active in the community for Boxing Day and the day after that, when he shouldn’t have been. A close colleague of his, the DJ known as Friction, played at Hagley Park in Christchurch, but is now isolating.  Other people assumed to be close contacts have tested negative. It’s not clear just how many places he visited, when he was infectious, or how many are regarded as “close contacts”. Both DJ’s have pulled out of the starting line up at the Wanaka festival, which has already started. So now we know. It’s now December 30th, and we were told on December 29th. That means that two days elapsed when we didn’t know.  That’s not great for engendering trust.

In other news, two people in Tairawhiti/Gisborne have tested positive, one of them a school-age child.

So omicron is here, in the community – right between Christmas and New Year. Apparently Dimension is “devastated”. So are we, so are we, dear boy.  You may be truly upset, but you did break several rules. You were trusted to comply with the rules.

The Wellington-based Phoenix team have recorded positive cases amongst several players and a member of staff.

Unfortunately I missed Minister Hipkins’ press briefing at 11 am. Apparently there were at least 47 people regarded as close contacts at the Impala Night Club attended by Dimension. Apparently his case is not related to other cases of omicron in MIQ (does this make sense to you?) Six locations of interest in Auckland have been published.

Auckland is set to move from Red to Orange status under the traffic light system, at midnight tonight. My reaction is: So what?  What difference is that going to make?

In the US, Ghislaine Maxwell has been found guilty of helping Jeffrey Epstein sexually abuse teenage girls.

Last night I listened to another episode of The Rest is History podcast on the twelve days of Christmas, this time about Saint Thomas Becket, and the Battle of Wounded Knee.  I found both very moving, especially as I have visited Canterbury Cathedral (twice), have studied T.S. Eliot’s verse play, Murder in the Cathedral, and studied Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. So it was good to hear the story again, and it reminded me of Chaucer’s wonderful prologue to his great poem:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licóur

Of which vertú engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open ye,

So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially, from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke,

That them hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

It’s so ironical that Chaucer wrote this poem in a time of plague (I read about this

in the LRB); and also, that while King Henry II wanted to get rid of Becket, in fact

he became a famous Saint and martyr; pilgrimages began, and St Thomas Becket

is probably more famous than King Henry II.  Murder in the Cathedral is a very

fine play, with elements of Greek drama, as evinced by the Chorus. Tom Holland

is familiar with it, too.

The story about Wounded Knee is very moving too. Who has not heard of the

book, Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee? It was made into a film, too. Again,

there were some very questionable dealings here, and there was much death at

Wounded Knee, as US forces sought to eliminate Native Indians. Again, there are

martyrs. This mini-series is so interesting. I wonder what they’ll do next.

Back to Covid 19, here in New Zealand.  Over 100 people are isolating as a result

of being close contacts of DJ Dimension. There are 60 new community cases of

Covid 19, 6 omicron cases in MIQ, and another MIQ-related case of omicron. This

second case of omicron in the community is an Air NZ crew member who worked

on a flight between Auckland and Sydney on December 24. They were tested as

part of routine testing on December 27. This case is linked to 3 other omicron

cases on the same flight. They’ve been moved to MIQ, and there are no known

locations of interest.  It’s not known how Dimension caught the infection:

s, 20 are in Auckland, 28 are in Waikato, eight are in Bay ofPlenty and there is one each in Northland, Lakes, Tairāwhiti and Canterbury.

As we draw near to New Year’s Eve, there are all kinds of crazy predictions about

what 2022 may bring. As usual, I ignore them, and try not to be too anxious

about everything: the coronavirus, climate change, US politics, and the threats to

Ukraine and Taiwan etc. I would love to travel again.

That’s it for now!  Ngā mihi.

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