It’s now Saturday February 26th, 2022. Kia ora.
These are scary times indeed. I feel we are at war on three fronts, although our local problems seem minor when compared to the very serious conflict in Ukraine. But we are at war here, too: trying to keep healthy, and not get Covid 19; and we have the ongoing protest in the grounds of Parliament, but not confined there. Do I dare to go to church tomorrow morning, or just attend on zoom? Do I go to the chemist to buy RATs, and if so, which chemist would be safest? Are they open? Are they available locally? This morning’s Dompost has a demonstration of how to do a RAT test. Presumably there’s a requirement to inform the Ministry of Health if you test positive.
The situation here in New Zealand has changed, and I think we’re catching up with this. Dr Bloomfield has announced that locations of interest will no longer be published. People are wondering if it’s still worthwhile scanning locations wherever they go. The vaccine mandates expire from June 2022, and people are wondering if they’ll be renewed, or what they’ll be replaced with. The Hon. Chris Hipkins reports that one in five schools so far is affected by Covid 19 infections; they’re managing as best they can, with some online and some face to face teaching. Yesterday, a the High Court found vaccine mandates for police and NZDF unlawful. This decision is disappointing. There are reports that the contact tracing team (which texted and rang me daily during my “isolation”) is being disbanded.
The protest in Thorndon continues, but police monitoring the protest report that the stench from the portaloos is truly disgusting – “excruciating”, one said. It’s not a safe place for children, either – evidently people have been dropping their children off at unregistered “child care” centres. There are some people there in serious need of mental health care; it’s a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, and this morning some people are wearing foil hats, to protect them from – what, exactly? From tech weapons, apparently. The boat from the Picton has arrived, it was reported last night. Dr Bloomfield reported that some people from the protest have sought medical advice.
About Ukraine, now. I have listened to reports of desperation and misinformation: what is happening? Should I go or should stay? President Zelensky has ordered all men aged 16 to 60 to stay, join the army, and fight. It’s evident that the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, is under attack. Putin has said that Russian troops’ aim is demilitarization and denazification. That is particularly offensive to President Zelensky, who is Jewish. H remains defiant: he will remain in Kyiv, and encourages Ukrainians to fight the invasion, wherever they are. There have been reports of Ukrainians bravely swearing at Russian troops; the Ukrainians on Snake Island, near Odessa, were defiant, but are now assumed dead.
But it seems that Russian troops are not all that eager to fight; there is a strong suspicion that Putin is not only crazy, he’s out of touch too. His paranoia is on display; he has reason to be afraid, but you’d think he’d be more rational. He may have underestimated the resolve of the Ukrainian people. When the invasion started, there were large protests in over 50 Russian cities, and a large number of arrests. This is a significant sign of bravery. It’s also reported that some Russian troops are wearing Ukrainian fatigues, to confuse people. Oh dear, oh dear. What a sad situation.
During the night I got an alert from the UK’s Guardian saying that NATO was putting troops in Ukraine. I later watched a press conference given by Jens Stoltenberg, Head of NATO, assuring Ukrainians of NATO’s support. I thought he spoke very well, but JD was sceptical about how much actual support was being promised. Nevertheless, he spoke very well, and assured allies, such as Ukraine, of NATO’s support. Everyone knows about Article 5, which says in effect that if there is an attack on one member of the alliance, then the alliance will support that country. It seems that while Putin has caused enormous destruction, especially in Kyiv, he is getting more opposition than he expected. I watched the embarrassing footage as Putin ticked off the head of his spy agency, who tried to delay the attack on Ukraine; apparently the unsmiling Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, also tried to persuade Putin to delay.
In New Zealand, it’s reported that a mandate protest has departed from the North Shore of Auckland, and there are warnings about traffic disruption on the Harbour Bridge. Honestly, what is there left to protest about? Certainly no one wanted omicron; the government handled it as best they could, with the very good aim of trying to protect the health system. You have to feel sorry for the government: I’m sure they didn’t want any of this to happen, and they’ve spearheaded a magnificent effort to get over 90% of the population vaccinated. At midday it was reported that the Bridge has been closed to south-bound traffic. It’s also reported that there’s traffic “Absolute gridlock”. Well, that is hardly news, the traffic in Auckland is legendarily bad. You don’t expect to get anywhere fast there.
In Australia, they are busy lifting Covid 19 restrictions. I was interested, therefore, to look at the statistics for Victoria, which are still alarming, although omicron may have peaked there. ABC News reported that Victoria has reported a further 15 COVID-19 deaths, as eased restrictions come into place on masks and working from home. There are 281 COVID-19 patients in Victorian hospitals, an decrease on the 301 reported on Friday. There are 43 patients in ICU, five of whom are on ventilators. The state has recorded 5,874 new cases, taking the total number of active infections to 40,968. It may have peaked, but it’s still pretty drastic. I wouldn’t go there any time soon.
Today’s Covid 19 numbers are out. There are officially 13,606 new community cases of Covid 19, and 263 people in hospital, with 5 of them in Intensive Care. In Auckland alone, 7702 cases were reported. New Zealand’s positivity rate – the percentage of tests that are positive – is now 27.4 per cent, which had increased from 10.9 per cent 24 hours earlier. It’s reported that the locations of Covid-19 cases detected via PCR tests are: Northland (46), Auckland (1565), Waikato (388), Bay of Plenty (279), Lakes (23), Hawke’s Bay (54), MidCentral (112), Whanganui (13), Taranaki (37), Tairāwhiti (34), Wairarapa (10), Capital and Coast (182), Hutt Valley (85), Nelson Marlborough (79), Canterbury (355), South Canterbury (13), Southern (524) and the West Coast (6). The location of one PCR result is unknown.
The locations of cases found using RATs are: Northland (87), Auckland (6403), Waikato (544), Bay of Plenty (338), Lakes (140), Hawke’s Bay (40), MidCentral (41), Whanganui (5), Taranaki (11), Tairāwhiti (18), Wairarapa (4), Capital and Coast (77), Hutt Valley (20), Nelson Marlborough (23), Canterbury (114), South Canterbury (5), Southern (343) and the West Coast (3). The location of seven cases identified via RATs is not yet known. There were 19 cases detected at the border. That would be about 300 new cases just in the Wellington/Hutt Valley area.
This afternoon it’s reported that police have let the protest onto the Harbour Bridge to avoid “escalating” the situation. I guess the police have their hands full with trying to deal with the protest in Wellington, which is potentially very dangerous, and coping with sundry homicides and cases of domestic abuse. You get the feeling that they wish all this would go away.
There was a wedding at the protest site today, of two anti-vaxxers; however I did see some masks in the photos. Where are they sleeping tonight, I wonder?
Apparently Kazakhstan has refused Russia’s request for troops; it also refused to recognise the two states of Donetsk and Luhansk. President Zelensky fears for his life, but remains in Kyiv. It’s already been bombed, heavily; perhaps now the hand-to–hand street fighting begins. Meanwhile, people are joining the Ukrainian forces – and returning to Ukraine to do so. It reminds me of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s. It seems that Putin is surprised by the reaction against his attack.
It’s now Sunday, February 27th – Transfiguration Sunday.
This morning I learn that there has been a bit of “Skirmish” between police and protesters at parliament grounds. Police were spat on, and three have sought medical attention. Dr Bloomfield reports that several protesters have sought medical treatment from a hospital, while the protest is underway. Apparently tents are being set up in Auckland’s Domain for another protest; it seems that the so-called Bishop Tamaki is behind these protests. It is just so sad! My husband said these right-wing protests remind him of the Dancing Cossacks campaign of the National Party under Rob Muldoon against Labour Party leader Bill Rowling. How do you pit a nice guy/gal against someone horrible? With great difficulty, I fear.
In other news, President Zelensky is being hailed as a hero – Michael Smerconish called him a modern-day Spartacus. While Americans love their heroes, he has indeed been heroic, bravely defending his country, refusing to leave Kyiv, and defiantly making rousing speeches encouraging his fellow-countrymen to resist, and other countries to help the Ukrainians. It seems Putin may be surprised by the resistance. More on this later.
This morning I went to church, where I learnt that a friend of mine had passed away recently. I had seen her a few days ago – thankfully; she was frail, but fighting omicron as best she could. There is no formal funeral.
It’s Transfiguration Sunday, and we had three readings this morning, from Exodus, where Moses goes up the mountain to meet God, from Luke 9, where he tells about the Transfiguration, and from 1 Corinthians 15 – “Behold, I tell you a mystery”. I don’t normally proselytise, but I was very impressed this morning by several things: the Minister said that when people die and he speaks to family members, he usually asks them what the dead person’s faith meant to them. Often, they don’t really know! I’d like to think that my children have a good idea of what my faith means to me. I was also very interested in the idea of Moses veiling his face when he had spoken with God; the clouds that enveloped Jesus at the Transfiguration, in 1 Thessalonians Paul talks about us being caught up in the cloud when the Lord comes. At the end of the service we sang “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”. The Minister spoke about fear of God as being overawed by His power and might. Sadly, my friend the organist was away – I hope he’s not unwell. It seems he was expected to be there. We are about to enter the season of Lent, which this year will be from 2 March to 14 April. On Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) there’ll be an outdoor service at St John’s in the city. I may go to that – jus trying to figure out where to park.
That’s it for now, I’ll talk more about what’s happening in Ukraine in my next blog. Ngā mihi.