Up Close and Personal

You don’t even have to get out of your car!

Today is Sunday January 30th, 2022. Kia ora!

Well, what an eventful couple of days it has been. On Saturday night at almost midnight I rang Healthline’s 0800 number. The Bluetooth advice had been nagging at me; if it was just a test, I  wanted to know that too.

I  rang, and was told there were 11 calls ahead of me, and the wait time would be around 31 minutes. I waited a while and rang again. This time my call was second in the queue; for some strange reason, they wait the wait time would be 17 minutes. I waited on the line. I was told that the way Bluetooth works is to ping nearby mobile phones, if someone tests positive.  I pointed out that the only outing I’d made on Thursday 20 January was a walk up to the Churton Park New World supermarket, which hadn’t been registered as a location of interest.  They agreed that the date conflict was confusing – 20 January vs. 6 days ago, and said I should ring the Bluetooth hotline between 8 am and 8 pm the next day. And by the way, I should isolate, and shouldn’t go to church on Sunday morning. I should take this seriously.

Well, I just couldn’t sleep after that. I worried about the next day, and all the implications of being a “close contact”.  The definition says being in contact with an infected person for 12 minutes, in an unventilated place where protocols such as mask wearing aren’t being followed. I’m still mystified.

On Sunday morning, I join my church service via zoom. There’s hardly anyone there – last Sunday would be six days from yesterday; and perhaps attendees have received similar alerts? I wish I hadn’t enabled Bluetooth on my phone. Actually, there are only three other zoomers, so I suspect most older people don’t know the intricacies of enabling Bluetooth on your phone. Church is different – the minister is wearing a mask, except when he’s speaking; they don’t exchange the sign of peace; and there’s no reference to morning tea afterwards. But after the service I see one woman rush over and embrace another. Come on! We all have networks, and friends if not family! You don’t have to hug someone!

Around midday I call the Bluetooth 0800 number. There are lots of recorded messages, but “Please don’t hang up” is the dominant one. I don’t have to wait long to speak to a real person.  I have to give her my full name, date of birth, and NIH number. She waits while I dig this out. It’s recorded on my phone, but I daren’t risk losing the other person while I look it up there. She confirms that there is someone who’s been diagnosed with Covid 19, but she can’t tell me who or where. She confirms that the “contact” was on Thursday January 20th, so that narrows things down – to the New World supermarket at Churton park..

She asks about isolating, who else lives here, and wants to get me into the daily call/isolating tracking regime. I point out that if the contact was January 20th, my 10 days is up today. She wants me to have a test: they’ll “release” me once I’ve had a negative test for Covid 19; sadly, I missed my day 8 test (yes, because I didn’t know I needed one!)  She wants me to get tested at the Unichem Pharmacy in Johnsonville; I demure, saying I’d much rather get tested at the Johnsonville Medical Centre, where they have a drive-through testing facility in the car park; this seems much less risky. I tried to ring them yesterday to make a time too get tested before going to Hawkes Bay,, but they’re closed till 8 am Monday morning. We agree that this is a safer option (thank goodness!) I need to continue to isolate; can I do that? Can someone else shop for me? And there’s a warning about laundry, but I’ve already put the laundry on to wash.

Now that I’m in their system, I get what is to become a daily text, asking me to answer the call, or ring them back. At around 6 pm they ring me again. I agree to get tested on Monday, and they give me a code for this. That day I was very tired and fell asleep during McDonald and Dodds, TV One’s new English detective drama. It’s rather annoying – certainly not Morse or Endeavour, but watchable if it’s the “best of the rest”.   I did sleep much better that night.

It’s now Monday January 31st.

I ring the Johnsonville Medical Centre just after 8 am, and wait and wait. “Don’t hang up!”  The annoying background music is interrupted frequently to tell me they’re experiencing heavy volumes of calls at present.  Eventually someone answers, and tells me they don’t take appointments for tests until 8:30 am, but they will ring me back. And so they do, and the appointment is for 11:21 am. Appointments are three minutes apart: don’t come early, and don’t come late, and by the way, what’s the car’s registration number and colour?  I check that, and then I’m booked in.

JD has to have a shave before we go – I tell him no one can see his face, if he’s wearing a mask, but old habits die hard. He has to shave before he goes anywhere.  In the event, there’s a holdup in Middleton Road, but we’re early, and the car park is very busy. We manage to stop outside the testing station, and someone comes to test me.  This time it’s quite intense – the prod up the left nostril, much more intense than last time I had it done in early December, before we went to Napier then. It’s very quick, though; I should get results within 24 hours; and I go straight home, as instructed. I have a book on reserve at the library, but woe betide explaining to JD how to retrieve it and issue it.

Soon after I get back home, Healthline calls again – their routine call.  I am quite impressed. It’s very comprehensive, and there’s no rush.  I confirm that I’ve had a covid 19 test, and am isolating while I await the results. No, I haven’t developed any of the Covid 19 symptoms, So I’m quite well, then?  No, I say, that wouldn’t be true, but I don’t have anything out of the ordinary. I can still smell the Dettol. She makes me repeat the instructions as to what to do if I do develop symptoms. Is there anything else I’d like to ask her? Yes, there is. I’m wondering why the New World Supermarket in Churton Park still does not show up as a location of interest, given that it’s the only place I visited that day, and no one came to my home. I have worked out that the exposure does probably relate to my shopping there, when someone stood very close behind me at checkout. This annoyed me at the time: surely you’re meant to wait back until the person being attended to has finished shopping, before rushing through to shop yourself. Now I just have to wait for the test results.  I am still terrified, although not quite as stressed as I was. I dread the thought of notifying everyone I’ve been with during the last 10 days. Even when one restricts going out to things one’s chosen not to miss (and getting some exercise, which we’re exhorted to do), there’s still quite a lot of exposure. I will have words with the owner of that New World next time I get the opportunity.

Yesterday it was reported that the PM, Prime Minister Ardern, was in isolation along with several others after the air hostess on a flight from Kerikeri to Auckland tested positive for Covid 19.  Apparently she was in isolation on what should have been her wedding day!  Poor thing. Today it’s reported that she’s tested negative. That’s a big relief. The new Governor General, Cindy Kiro, has also tested negative.

Today I was going into town to get my watch fixed, and to buy some hair conditioner.  It’s a shame not to be able to do that.

Yesterday there were 103 community cases, and one death. There were new cases, one each, in Wellington and the Hut Valley. Today there are 91 new community cases, and 13 people in hospital, with one new case in Wellington.  A South Auckland primary school has not opened as expected, because last Thursday was a training day, and someone has tested positive, so all the teachers are in isolation. The Ministry of Health has said it will no longer record locations of interest. Correction: it will no longer flag locations of interest as specifically for omicron. And as omicron is now the dominant strain in New Zealand, all cases will be assumed to be omicron.

I am reading a most interesting book about Alfred Dreyfus: it’s called An Officer and a Spy, by Robert Harris. It’s more interesting than I thought it would be. I hope I can renew it at the library.

It’s now Tuesday February 1st.

I’m still waiting for my test results, although I was told I’d get them within 24 hours. It’s now longer than that since my test.  I don’t feel good today, it’s a “bad day” for me, but I still don’t think that I have Covid. I’m hoping that the delay is due to the test being negative – surely they would have got back to me by now if it were positive? Perhaps they’re really busy? Early this morning I got an “Important message from Healthline” by text.  It wasn’t my test result, it was a message saying they’d call me for my daily check, and would I please answer the phone, or call them back. Well they did call a few minutes ago, and I answered the call, which then stopped. When I tried to call back, I was told the wait was about 10 minutes. Am I correct to assume that in their eyes I’m low priority?

There’s a story on the Stuff website about a reporter who was pinged, like me, by a Bluetooth alert, saying he was a “close contact” of someone who’d been diagnosed with Covid 19.  His frustration is very similar to mine. He figures that his exposure was on a public transport trip, and he wonders whether people will deliberately avoid public transport (as I have been doing) because of the risk. It’s very frustrating to have to isolate for exactly how many days now? He also noted the big difference between reporting the numbers and “taking care”, to being plunged into isolation, and the daily checklist and testing regime, with no preparation.

This morning I have been watching Youtube instalments on British politics, where Keir Starmer gave a wonderful speech (you can see it on Politics Joe), and an SNP politician Ian Blackford was kicked out of Parliament for refusing to withdraw his statement saying (several times) that Boris Johnson had misled Parliament. The Speaker tried to get him to withdraw this comment; rather, he reinforced it. I enjoyed listening to his Scottish brogue.

In Covid news, Otahuhu College now cannot open, because a teacher has diagnosed positive for Covid; the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has also diagnosed positive.  In the UK, the tall blond actor Laurence Fox, a prominent anti-vaxxer, has diagnosed positive and is treating himself with the horse-wormer drug Ivermectin. He played the conflicted Catholic sidekick to Detective Lewis in several follow-up television series to Morse. 

It’s midday now. I’m still waiting (anxiously) for my test result. Still, the only place I went to that day is not recorded as a location of interest.

The National Party’s new leader Christopher Luxon spoke yesterday to the party faithful in Queenstown. The media are making rather a lot of this. He accuses Labour of overspending (ha!) and it’s reported that he’s looking to the UK Tory Party for a lead.  That is rather mistimed, given the wrangling over Boris Johnson’s parties at 10 Downing Street. Queenstown seems an interesting choice of location. Meanwhile, more and more planned events are being cancelled, and people here are advised against travel unless it’s absolutely necessary.

In Portugal, the ruling Socialist party won a third consecutive term in government in recent elections.

Today it’s reported that there are 126 new community cases of Covid 19. There are three cases in Hawera, which will be included in tomorrow’s total. At the border? There are lots, from all over. It’s hard to get the numbers on a daily basis, and it’s becoming increasingly irrelevant, too. (79 today! 39 yesterday.) Omicron is here, we’re all scared, and once more, our lives are On Hold. That is, if they were ever Off Hold. 8 people are currently in hospital. It’s reported that today’s new community cases are in Northland (5), Auckland (84), Waikato (20), Lakes (1), Bay of Plenty (8), Tairāwhiti (2), Taranaki (1), Hawke’s Bay (2), Wellington (1), Nelson Marlborough (1), and Canterbury (1). Cases were also announced by health authorities in Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay, and Canterbury but had missed the ministry’s daily cut-off period for reporting.

At 2:10 pm I receive a text from the Johnsonville Medical Centre saying that my  Covid 19 test was negative.  That’s wonderful news. I was feeling very down in the dumps, and seriously doubting whether we should go to Hawkes Bay.  I had received a text from Healthline while I was preparing my lunch – not a test result, just another plea to answer their call for my daily check. Well, now I need them to release me from the isolation gig.  It will be a joy to go shopping again, and buy some lettuce and cucumber, some cheese that I like (preferably Havarti or Gloucester), and some more fruit.  The last couple of days have been even more boring than usual, but have seemed like an eternity. I hope I don’t have to go through this again – ever. 

Shortly after I receive my text from Johnsonville Medical Centre, Healthline ring for the daily check in. Am I irritable or confused? No, but I’m certainly annoyed! They don’t have my test results, so cannot release me from isolation. They expect to be able to do this tomorrow – after all, yesterday was a public holiday in Auckland for their Anniversary Day.

That’s it for now. Ngā mihi. With relief.

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