Today is Monday January 24th, Wellington Anniversary Day. Kia ora!

We are all coming to terms with what status Red means for us.  Event organisers are deciding whether or not to go ahead with planned events; and, if they do go ahead, how to manage safely the event situations.

In Wellington a Lunar New Year Festival has been cancelled; there are many more planned events, including the Cubadupa Festival, and the NZ Festival of the Arts.  That used to be a big thing for us – our sons were usually performing, and there were several events JD and I (or our sons) wanted to go to. Prime Minister Ardern has indicated that she will make public a three stage plan for omicron on Wednesday. Hohepa sent out an email yesterday; they are meeting again today and will communicate again. The main thing I’ve noticed is a lack of anger this time:  people got very angry late last year when it looked as though New Zealand’s delta outbreak could not be stopped, and Auckland was in lockdown for about three months.  But it wasn’t just Aucklanders who were angry: everyone was angry, everyone was in a rush. Now it seems there is a quiet resignation.  We have seen the devastating effects of omicron across the world, and especially in our neighbour, Australia, whose government’s approach has been to “let it rip”, and who’ve had stunning numbers of daily Covid 19 infections and deaths.  Thank goodness we have a good government here.

Pupils will be required to wear masks in schools, when school goes back, either at the end of January or early in February.  The CEO of Air NZ has stood down a number of staff who are either close contacts of the staff member who has diagnosed positive with omicron, or staff who are showing symptoms. The staff member who tested positive for omicron was tested as part of routine staff testing. I would think that flying poses quite a risk, as it has done for the last few months.

In China, officials are fighting small numbers of Covid 19 positive cases in several cities by heavy handed means.  They are desperately trying to maintain the Winter Olympics in Beijing as a viable event. Omicron in the community has also reached Taiwan, who, like New Zealand, has tried to keep it out. It’s believed to be in Japan, too. 

I have ordered better masks from my local chemist. They were supposed to arrive last week, but so far they haven’t. Minister Chris Hipkins is warning that there may be tens of thousands of new cases each day. 

This morning I learnt that an Indian restaurant in Auckland’s Mission Bay is a location of interest, as is a Countdown supermarket in Motueka.

I walked up to the local supermarket this morning mainly to get a pie dish as part of their sticker rewards scheme, which closes soon. I was able to get a pie dish, and some croissants for lunch. There were few people there, and the mood was sombre and muted, with no anger visible.

The 1 pm new statement is confusing.  There are 8 new cases of omicron (in the community, we assume) across Auckland, Nelson and Palmerston North. These are all contacts of existing cases.  Several more locations of interest have been published. To date there are 19 cases of Covid 19/omicron in New Zealand.  Apparently there are 50 cases of covid 19 at the border. There are 25, new community cases: 4 in Northland, 13 in Auckland, 4 in Waikato, 1 in Lakes, 1 in MidCentral and 2 in Nelson /Tasman. There are 10 people in hospital.

Overseas, reaction to Prime Minister Ardern’s action is very negative. I don’t think the likes of Piers Morgan realise that under status Red you can actually do most things; it’s just that numbers at gatherings are limited, and further limited if attendees don’t have vaccine passes.  It was joked that while Ardern has cancelled her wedding, at least the bloke is lucky – he’ll still be free. Actually, do I detect a hint of jealousy here? I also understand that Prime Minister Ardern has postponed her wedding, not cancelled it.  Many of us have had to cancel events, or limit numbers in attendance; make sacrifices that we’d prefer not to make. I wonder if I will ever see my sons who are currently overseas again.

What a strange thing travel is.  When I’m at home, I yearn to be somewhere else; when I’m somewhere else, I often find it quite difficult, or boring, or tiring. You have to settle into whatever your brief home away from home is. One must always be aware of security. That is balanced by magic moments when you prick yourself to realise that you are actually seeing something special, or are in a special place. Sometimes I find out later that there were things I should have known about, and looked out for. I still feel that whatever the crowds, my own view and vision is unique to me, and I will carry the memory of that vision with me.

It’s now Tuesday January 25th.

This morning I learn that Sarah Palin has Covid 19.  The US may send troops to Ukraine, after all. Biden is beefing up military support for Ukraine, and some embassies are withdrawing their staff from Kyiv.  The Russians withdrew their diplomatic staff first. I’m reminded of the Munich film – what do you do about Putin’s aggression? Appease him? Buy time?  Large numbers of Covid 19 infected people in Russia don’t seem to be holding him back.  Honestly, don’t the pundits drive you mad? They carry on, pretty safe in the knowledge that the conflict is very far away from them.  Mind you, it could have global effects, if not questioned, at least.  We’re all inter-connected.  In the UK, there are photos of a birthday party for Boris Johnson, which must have also broken the rules.  Another Tory MP has defected, although he claims it’s not about this rule-breaking issue.  There’s talk of bullying, and a Muslim MP is claiming discrimination because of her faith. Here, the elderly are advised to “hunker down” through an expected omicron epidemic, whatever that means. Hey, we’ve been hunkering down for most of 2021, waiting for vaccines, then having the delta outbreak, and exercising supreme caution; Auckland’s borders opened before Christmas, and now we have omicron to fear.  No wonder most people I know are thinking very carefully about each venture out of home, be it to buy food, use public transport (should I use Uber instead?), or meet in a coffee bar. All is risky. One only has to look at the ever-growing list of exposure sites in Auckland where the omicron-infected family went: a hotel, restaurants, Rainbow’s End, two weddings, a funeral, and, of course, an Air NZ flight.  That reminds me that nowhere is safe, although some places are probably safer than others, and some people exercise a lot more care than others.

Of course there has been some so-called panic buying.  I admit to securing a supply of toilet paper, rubbish bin liners (now they were scarce), and coffee beans, but I doubt that I’m depriving other people.  After all, you can always use tissues – which don’t seem to be in short supply.

Last night I booked our accommodation in Napier, with the option to cancel, of course.  The prices have dropped, so I’m glad I didn’t book earlier.  I was expecting Hohepa to send another email yesterday, but so far they have not.

Meanwhile, I am reading the Robert Harris book called An Officer and a Spy, about Alfred Dreyfus. I am finding it quite interesting. I have listened to The Rest is History podcast about General Gordon. Who on earth was her, one might ask. Well, I did not know, but I do now, and I’m looking forward to listening to part 2. He was a very interesting person. I won’t pay extra to belong to their club; I’ll put up with the sponsors, annoying though they are.

I’m still waiting for my N95 masks, which are supposed to give better protection against omicron.

At 1 pm I learn there are 10 new omicron cases in the community, including 2 in Tauranga. The index case has still not been found. There are 10 people in hospital, and none in Intensive Care. The PM is to give a press conference at 4 pm. Apparently there are 25 new community cases in all, and 37 at the border. Today’s new cases are in:  Northland (1), Auckland (18), Bay of Plenty (2), Lakes (2), MidCentral (1), Nelson Marlborough (1).

Prime Minister Ardern and Dr Bloomfield front a press conference at  4 pm. Again, I think the PM is amazing. Tomorrow there’ll be another presser with Dr Verrall, where she’ll outline stage 1 of the 3 part plan to combat omicron. It’ll be interesting to see how this new-ish minister handles the press. The gist is as follows: vaccine booster take up is good, and please continue; proper masks must be worn basically all the time, and they must be proper masks, worn correctly; ventilation units are being purchased for schools; testing capacity is being increased; Rapid Antigen Tests are on order but there’s huge demand for them at present. Meanwhile, I received a message from Access saying that only essential cares will be provided while we are at red status.

So that’s it  for now. Ngā mihi.

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