The Festive Season

Today is Tuesday January 4th, 2022. Kia ora!

Yesterday on the Rest is History podcast Dominic and Tom spoke about Martin Luther, and J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s extremely interesting. Martin Luther was perhaps the founder of the Reformation – for his beliefs, he was excommunicated from the Catholic church; Tolkien, on the other hand, remained a devout Catholic. He was born in South Africa, but both his parents died while he was quite young.  it’s very interesting that he shared a house with C.S. Lewis, who also knew great grief; they were both very imaginative writers. I really enjoyed the Narnia books when I was a child; for some reason, I was permitted to read them. I whiled away night-time feedings by rereading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy when one of my children was a baby.   Years later, I tried rereading it, but found it far too long to hold my attention. Peter Jackson has done honour to it in making three long movies based on the Trilogy, and then three on the Hobbit, a much shorter novel. Each of the movies is at least three hours long; you need stamina to watch them. Personally, for me The first movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, was far and away the best, and it did really put New Zealand on the map. For the rest, I got very sick of seeing men with long greasy hair in dare-devil situations. I suppose that’s what you have to do if there are no guns or car chases, and you want to make a family movie that appeals to a wide audience.

Today’s coronavirus report is again not too bad. There are 31 new community cases, and 53 people in hospital; 3 of them are in Intensive Care. There are 29 new cases at the border. There’s one new community case of Covid 19, that person being a close contact of an Air NZ crew member who tested positive for omicron in late December. That means there’ve been 3 community cases of the omicron variant. Fourteen of the latest community cases are in Auckland, one is in Waikato, 12 are in Bay of Plenty and four are in Rotorua. It was reported last night that 6 people in Auckland are positive, who all went to the Pelican nightclub (aka a brothel).

A new highly mutated variant has been detected in France, presently dubbed IHU by the scientists working on it. It’s been found in a dozen people living in Southern France, and the index case came from Cameroon, in Africa. IHU, as it’s been known, has the N501Y mutation also found in the Alpha, Beta, Omicron and Gamma variants, which makes it more infectious, and the E484K mutation found in Gamma and Beta, which helps the virus evade people’s immunity., as well as numerous other changes. So should we be even more afraid? Who knows.

Meanwhile, the omicron variant is ravaging many “civilised” parts of the world. Leaders are determined not to call for lockdowns, but that’s what people are getting, in effect, as there simply aren’t enough well people or people who aren’t close contacts of infected people to come in to work and teach, nurse, or operate planes, trains, or buses. In Sydney covid 19 positive, asymptomatic nurses are called in to work, because, hey, they’re needed.  So much for this being a mild disease; it still required many hospitalisations, and much Intensive Care treatment. On Victoria, there are 21,020 new cases; in NSW, it’s 13,131.The ABC reports that symptomatic nurses have been pressured to return to work in ICU units. In some places you can’t get tests: two Sydney sites have shut down; often people can’t get test results quickly, i.e. in a couple of days.

In the US, Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of Theranos, has been found guilty of 4 fraud charges.  That will come as a relief to many.

In China the city of Yuzhou is in lockdown over 3 asymptomatic cases; meanwhile the city of Ti’an is still in lockdown. In the US, it’s reported there’s chaos as children are supposed to go back to school, with teachers and students reported sick. Evidently there are food shortages in the city of Ti’an, so food is being delivered to households by wagon.

It’s now Wednesday January 5th.

Today there are 17 new community cases of delta in New Zealand, with just five in Auckland, the lowest they’ve had for ages and ages. One could be nasty and joke that that’s because there’s nobody left there, but it’s still a remarkable achievement. There are 23 new cases at the border, and most of them are assumed to be omicron. There are 44 people in hospital, 5 in Intensive Care. Of the new cases in the community, nine were in the Bay of Plenty, while five were in Auckland and three were in Waikato. A rest home in Tauranga has had a staff member diagnose positive with Covid 19.

Meanwhile, NSW has 35,054 new cases, and Victoria 17,636. Djokovic has been given an exemption (from being vaccinated? From MIQ?) to attend the Australian Open, a summer event where people play tennis in crazily hot temperatures.  Apparently there are two new Covid 19 cases in Taranaki, and the Taranaki Hospital’s ED is now a location of interest.

Today we went shopping at New World in Thorndon.  I had forgotten to take my phone, so had to sign in manually.  It was lovely: I bought new potatoes (there aren’t many left, now), avocadoes (still 3 large ones for $1, although there’re pretty ripe), raspberries, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, coffee beans, ice cream, rye bread and pies (and a cake).  There were none of my favourite prepared salads. There’s no asparagus, now.  We  don’t queue up for booster jabs because JD has an appointment tonight.

This morning I listened to Dr John Campbell, of northern England. I have to admit I was really annoyed, specifically by three things he said. He claimed New Zealand was a “hermit kingdom”, or perhaps a republic. Actually, New Zealand used to be a British colony, and it’s now a member of the Commonwealth. We share the same sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II.  I would have thought that he’d know that.  His view is that we’ll all get omicron, and that will provide herd immunity. Well, that’s not necessarily true: people who’ve had Covid 19 are catching omicron, as are people who’ve been vaccinated and had boosters, so there’s no knowing about the community level of immunity to Covid 19, specifically the omicron variant. Then he said he thought we’d (i.e. the UK) be fine by June (that would be April 2022, not too far away).  There’s no guarantee that because we’ve had Covid 19 up to here, it’s finished with us. A scary new infectious variant has been discovered in France.  I think the esteemed Dr John may be a teeny bit jealous of the situation in New Zealand, where omicron has been kept to a minimum, as compared with Australia, where the numbers are astronomical and the health system in NSW is under great pressure.

It’s now Thursday January 6th.

1/10 are infected in UK. Unofficial lockdowns are in Australia, the US and the UK:  whether you like them or not: stuff can’t work as normal because teachers and other staff are ill or isolating.

There are 19 new Covid-19 cases in the community today, the Ministry of Health says. Of today’s 19 cases in the community, six are in Auckland, five in Waikato, five in Bay of Plenty, one in Northland and two in Taranaki. here is an extra case in Taranaki but as it came in after today’s cut-off time, it will be reported alongside tomorrow’s numbers. There are 43 new cases at the border, up from 23 yesterday, assumed to  be mostly omicron.  Apparently there are now 10 cases connected to the Pelorus Nightclub (aka brothel).

It’s now Friday January 7th.

NSW reports 38,625 new cases of Covid 19.  Here, we fear (and are warned by a modeler) that omicron is coming. The NSW government is now preparing to reintroduce some restrictions including closing nightclubs, banning singing and dancing in pubs and cancelling major events.  There is consternation around what exemption, if any, was made for Novak Djokovic to play in the Australian Open. Apparently he’s holed up in a hotel in Melbourne at present. The row has extended to Prime Minister Morrison (“rules are rules”), the Serbian President, and Rafael Nadal, Djokovic’s main rival on the tennis court.

In the US, the insurrection at the Capitol is being sadly remembered/commemorated.  Here in New Zealand, there’s been (and continues to be) a very sad count of water-related deaths (i.e. drownings) and road accidents. Everywhere else, Covid 19/omicron is rampant. Here, we’re thinking what is it still safe to do?  Using public transport poses a risk, as does going anywhere public. The WHO has admitted that Covid 19/omicron may be less severe than delta , but is not a “mild” illness. Thanks for that admission,

This morning someone was supposed to come and do some housework.  Access cancelled the arrangement, on account of staff sickness. It’s now weeks since anyone’s been – they cancelled last week, it’s being New Year’s Eve. It has been very warm during the week, but’s now much cooler: my computer says it’s 14C, as opposed to 27C earlier this week (it seemed very sticky, too). I must admit I find it easier to cope when it’s a bit cooler, especially at night.

Yesterday we queued up at the Johnsonville Shopping Centre to get booster vaccination jabs, only to be told, after waiting a while, that they’d run out of booster jabs, but we could book an appointment. Accordingly we’ve booked for Saturday afternoon. I bought a diary, but why did they have to change the format?  I liked to see a week at a glance. This one is different.

I’ve enjoyed The Rest is History Podcast finding events for the 12/13 days of Christmas, some of them quite obscure. Dominic Sandbrook’s fruity/plutey tones are quite mellifluous, although I probably sympathise more with Tom Holland. Each day they’ve found an episode relevant to the date, and full credit for that. They’ve covered Solomon Northup (celebrated in the movie, 12 Years a Slave), and Albert Camus; the death of Edward the Confessor and L’Affaire Dreyfus, and Alfred the Great and Pepys’ “Fanatiques”.  What a lot I have learnt.  It’s now time to take down the Christmas decorations, such as they are. More news tomorrow. Ngā mihi.

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