Ce n’est pas possible!

Today is Thursday January 20th, 2022. Kia ora!

You can’t go back! It’s not possible. Trump, Brexit and the age of Boris Johnson – they’ve changed everything, and not for the better. These phenomena can’t be undone or reversed, sadly. Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark longs for what he calls “normalcy”.  I rather suspect I wouldn’t go for his normalcy. US and right-wing politics were bad, in my view, well before Trump’s election to the presidency; just watch The Newsroom on Neon for that. Dubya Bush joked that the Trump presidency made his time in office look not so bad.  Remember the invasion of Iraq? WMD?  You can’t go back, and you probably wouldn’t want to, although one may feel that wife-beating and physical punishment of children have been replaced by ghosting by the likes of Meghan Markle; and, by the way, domestic abuse continues. Cruelty continues. Some people are kinder to animals than to other people.  But you can’t go back; this (virus) too will pass, but the new normal will be different, as we are seeing.

This morning I heard that in Auckland a household contact of the infected MIQ worker and the Auckland Airport worker are both confirmed to have the omicron variant of Covid 19. One of them visited a café in Half Moon Bay, in Auckland. A person in Manawatu is confirmed to have Covid 19, although presumably the delta variant, not omicron.  Potential locations of interest are being researched.

I watched a very funny video of the Line of Duty team (Adrian Dunbar, Vicky McClure and Martin Compston) interviewing Boris Johnson about breaking his own government’s Covid 19 rules. The video is called Led by Donkeys. As my lovely cleaning lady said yesterday, just imagine if Jacinda did that! I doubt if she’d still be alive to tell the tale.  In Parliament the Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer asked “Have they brought their own boos?” in an unusually funny quip. You can find the video on Youtube.

Listening to a podcast about one of the 10 Downing St parties, I heard many very sad tales. I think the one that upset me the most was that of a woman who’d seen her husband off in an ambulance, not been allowed to accompany him, and didn’t see him alive again.  That is just so sad.

There is a statement early this afternoon about New Zealand’s Covid 19 status. Northland is to move from Red to Orange status at midnight tonight.  That means all of New Zealand will be in Orange. Prime Minister Ardern has said there’ll be no more lockdowns, but a community outbreak of omicron would put the whole country into Red status. I wonder what she means by a community outbreak? The case in Manawatu is now thought to be the omicron variant. Today there are 42 new cases at the border, and 39 in the community. Two new cases have been detected in Hawkes Bay, one connected to an existing Hastings cluster, and the other may have contracted the virus outside the region. Thankfully, my daughter has had her booster. We are finalising plans to travel north to see her. I do hope we’ll be able to go.

It’s now Friday January 21st.

Today’s news is scary.  Today I went to town. It was a fine day, after a cold start. There were quite a lot of people around, but very few masks in the street, although they’re mandatory in most shops. I went to get a birthday present for my granddaughter – quite a challenge.  JD took me into town and picked me up afterwards – it seems much safer than getting public transport.

Today, again, there are more cases in MIQ (at the border) – 44 – than community cases – 22 – of Covid 19.  The case in Manawatu (Palmerston North) is confirmed as being the omicron variant. This person, who was in MIQ in Christchurch and had 5 negative Covid 19 tests, travelled to Auckland and then to Palmerston North, by plane.  That’s a whole lot of contact(s)!  Another Auckland Airport worker has been diagnosed positive (not connected with the first Auckland Airport worker) . It’s reported that there are 9 new cases in Nelson (actually in Motueka). They are all living in the same household, and it’s thought recent travel to Auckland may be the cause of the infection. Eight of these will be included in tomorrow’s total. More locations of interest have been published, including Auckland’s Sky City Casino again. It’s reported that there were new community cases in Auckland, Waikato, Lakes, Hawke’s Bay, and the Nelson Tasman region. In Hawke’s Bay, the ministry was officially recording two cases, however a third case was notified after the cut-off time.

It’s reported that NSW had its worst day so far, with over 20,000 new cases and 46 death, although it’s reported that the peak of omicron has now passed in Australia. I trust that’s not wishful thinking.

It’s now Saturday January 22nd.

This afternoon I wanted to go to the movies; this changed into a shopping trip, to “stock up”.  Today’s information isn’t great; a second Auckland Airport worker’s case is confirmed to be omicron; a bar in Rotorua is a location of interest, and a café in a small place called Paerata.  Today there are 43 new community cases and 41 at the border – more community cases than border cases. It’s reported that today’s new community cases include 19 in Auckland, four in Waikato, six in the Lakes District Health Board region, six in Hawke’s Bay and eight in Nelson Marlborough. There are eight people in hospital. Apparently five Air NZ flights are connected with the Nelson cases. The six new cases in Hawkes Bay are news to me. It seems that omicron in the community is getting ever closer to having a big effect on us here.  I fear mostly for my school age grandchildren: my fear is that it will be really scary to go back to school in early February, or that school will be closed, causing more grief to their parents.

As usual, there are conflicting voices in the media.  On the one hand, it must be illegal to say New Zealand citizens can’t come home (i.e. can’t get a place in MIQ); on the other hand, the much maligned MIQ system, which has kept us safe from the ravages of the coronavirus, is overwhelmed with new infectious cases.  New Zealand won’t be able to cope with omicron at Red status;  hospitality business owners have actually stopped grizzling, perhaps wisely realising that some restrictions may be better for them in the long term. Act’s David Seymour thinks that Brian Tamaki should be released from prison. In the Guardian, Prime Minister Ardern is accused of using delaying tactics.  Their headings just get more and more ridiculous. I don’t think they even have a correspondent here.  Prime Minister Ardern has looked after us very well thus far; I don’t doubt that she will continue to do so.

Late this afternoon we went shopping at New World in Thorndon.  There was an air of quiet desperation. It was quite busy, not crazy busy; but always nice to go there, of course.

Today NSW records 20,148 new cases and 30 deaths.  Milburnians are reported as staying home because they’re afraid to go out, although everything’s open. So much for the healthy economy. I tried to buy everything we might need, or things  that would keep and we wouldn’t want to go out to buy. I needed kitchen tidy liners, and couldn’t find them anywhere.  I asked one staff member, who said he was new, and didn’t know; I asked another, who said Aisle 8, but there seemed to be no numbers on the aisles. I went back to an earlier aisle, and found what I was looking for, that is, I found the right area. The bin liners I wanted were right at the back of a shelf; obviously they were in demand. I also bought another non-stick fry pan, and coffee beans, bread, salads and raspberries. When we got home, I washed my hands, as I always do, and wiped my phone down with Dettol.  I can still smell the Dettol. It’s quite hot and sticky this afternoon.

It’s now Sunday January 23rd.

Things happened fast today. But I went to church, and heard the organ playing both before and after the service.  The organist announced that hymn-singing will begin again on 2 February. We had that wonderful text from Luke’s Gospel, where Jesus reads from Isaiah 61: “Lo the spirit of the Lord Jehovah is upon me, because Jehovah has anointed me to announce glad tidings to the meek…to proclaim the acceptable year of Jehovah”.  Then in Luke 4:21 he says “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your ears”.  When we exchanged the sign of peace (an opportunity for a little chat!), a woman told me that Prime Minister Ardern was to address the country at 11 am.

Afterwards, JD picked me up, and indeed the Prime Minister’s announcement has been made: New Zealand is to move to Red setting in the traffic light system at midnight tonight.  The cases of Covid 19 in Motueka are confirmed to be omicron (now 9 cases, I believe); they took a flight to a wedding in Auckland attended by about 100 people – these are now of interest, as is Nelson Airport; an Air NZ hostess is also Covid 19 positive, and four other flights she flew on are of interest. It’s not known what is the index case, i.e. where this infection came from, specifically.  Prime Minister Ardern has postponed her wedding.  She’s philosophical about it, saying “Such is life”. Omicron is now circulating in Auckland, and possibly the Nelson-Marlborough region and elsewhere, she said.  I immediately wonder about my granddaughter’s proposed birthday party, and our proposed visit to see my daughter in Napier; oh, and my plan to get a large photograph of old Wellington reframed and rehung.

What can we still do under the Red setting?  Numbers at events are limited, and mask-wearing is more important, but apart from that, I think it’s a matter of going where you feel safe to do so, and (continuing to take) taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

The 1 pm statement, when it comes, is not quite so scary. Perhaps. There are 24 cases of Covid 19 in the community, and 47 at the border. There are only 8 people in hospital, and none in Intensive Care.  Another rest home worker in Summerset by the Park Rest Home in Flat Bush in Auckland has tested positive.  It’s reported that sixteen of the new community cases are in Auckland, two in Northland, one in Waikato and five in Lakes. There is one new case in the Waikato today, in Hamilton. They are linked to previous cases. Fifteen people are isolating at home in the Waikato. All five new Lakes DHB cases are in Rotorua. Two of them have not yet been linked to known cases. All are in isolation or MIQ.

It is very, very quiet here, the noise only punctuated by aeroplanes noisily flying overhead.  It’s as if we’d all been muted.  This morning’s newspaper was full of doom and gloom stories about how New Zealand isn’t ready for omicron. I must stop getting upset about these stupid stories. I don’t know how you can be “ready”: ready for what, exactly? More hospitalisations and perhaps deaths? The government has sought, wisely in my view, to delay the coming of omicron. We can be thankful for that.

Last night we watched the new movie on Netflix, Munich: the Edge of War.  It was very good, I thought, although Jeremy Irons’ distinctive brogue did not sound quite like Neville Chamberlain’s.  It was suitably scary, especially with the terrifying black uniforms of SS officials with the swastika on everything, even in 1937, and a frightening level of violence. The movie promoted the idea that Chamberlain had succeeded in buying time before England went to war; meanwhile, the Sudetenland was in effect “given away”, with the Czechs having no say in the matter.  Despite the violence and the racism, many Germans supported Hitler, and it was a brave person back then who would oppose him.  I kept thinking of Americans’ support for Trump, in spite of the dreadful stories about him, even before he won the presidential election in November 2016.  Although he had a lot of help, it’s mind-boggling that anyone would support him (and he got even more votes in November 2020, although he lost the popular vote both times).  In the US, terrifying details keep emerging about Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election, and remain in power – and it’s not as though he had no support in this. Apparently Giuliani masterminded the plan, and Trump drew up an executive order for the army to seize voting machines.  The US escaped “by the skin of its teeth”.  Thankfully, there were a few brave souls who saw to it that Trump’s dastardly plans did not succeed, around one year ago.

That’s it  for now. No doubt there’ll be more news tomorrow. Ngā mihi.

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