Vlad the Impaler

It’s now just after 1 pm on Sunday February 27th, 2022. Kia ora!

Today there are 14,491 community cases of Covid 19. One person with Covid 19 has died in hospital from an unrelated medical condition. There are now 305 people in hospital, including 5 in Intensive Care. It’s reported that the new community cases are located across the country: Northland (225), Auckland (9,046), Waikato (1519), Bay of Plenty (812), Lakes (208), Hawke’s Bay (136), MidCentral (142), Whanganui (19), Taranaki (100), Tairāwhiti (69), Wairarapa (45), Capital and Coast (516), Hutt Valley (373), Nelson Marlborough (158), Canterbury (981), South Canterbury (44), Southern (532), West Coast (9), while five are unknown or yet to be classified.  That’s high numbers for Wellington and the Hutt Valley. Of the 14,941 new cases on Sunday, just 5,747 were identified with a traditional PCR lab test, while the remainder were from rapid antigen tests (RATs). It’s reported that New Zealand’s R value is now 3.54, which is pretty high. This means that every person with Covid 19 can be expected to pass it on to more than 3 people. There were 41 new cases detected at the border. It’s reported that some pipes have been installed to empty toilets down stormwater drains. Police continue to warn about unsanitary conditions at the protest. I must admit I’m kind of desperate for them to close it down.

In better news, it’s reported that 70% of eligible Kiwis have received their third dose of vaccine.

In Ukraine, devastation continues. It’s reported that the Russians have blown up a gas pipeline and an oil depot is on fire near Kyiv; but also that Western allies are to cut some Russian banks out of the Swift payments system.

I watched a Jon Stewart episode on Youtube about the war in Ukraine. Jon says something like “Social media!  Where are you now?”  There are protest marches in Vancouver, London, New York and other places, in addition to the protests in Russia. Germany has agreed to send 400 RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades) to Ukraine; they have also agreed to send anti-tank weapons and missiles.  Ukrainians have been taught to make Molotov cocktails. What brave people they are!  Kyiv is under fire, but they are sheltering in subway stations, and fighting back. This should not be happening, but it is, and the resistance is surprisingly large.

It seems that Kyiv has been very hard hit; there are pictures of bombed apartment buildings – quite distressing. But the Russians have bombed an airfield outside Kyiv, and have met with resistance such that they cannot use the airfield.  Still, no matter how fierce the resistance, the attack is ferocious. Columns of tanks look very scary, but there’s vulnerability there, and there’s probably not that many in the column. With the time difference here, and various items on Youtube, it’s not easy to get a sequential picture of what’s happening. Ukraine is a large country, too, so you get reports from journalists stationed in various areas.  I must say, the different reports are very interesting.  The media coverage is very good indeed.

Back in New Zealand, 7 of the protesters are confirmed to have Covid 19; three of them are in hospital.

It’s now Monday February 28th.

Last night I heard that Russian tanks are heading towards Kharkiv, and that Putin is furious. This morning I hear that the Ukrainians have defended Kharkiv, and the Putin has put his nuclear weapons on alert.  There is the offer of negotiations in Minsk (that would be in Belarus); it’s reported that President Zelensky has agreed to this. My husband, ever sceptical, thinks this may offer a chance for Russians to regroup and move more intense missiles to Ukraine. It’s evident that the rest of the world is pretty united against Russia for starting this war; there was a huge protest in the Tiergarten, Berlin. CNN had a report about Russians upset that the rouble has fallen in value, and that some ATM’s have run out of cash. There are reports of Russian tanks running out of fuel.

Things have changed. The dangers of giving arms out are recognised; of course, there is a bad side to fighting back: you can see why states need to have recognised armed forces, and restrictions on weapons issued. Refugees are pouring out of Ukraine and into Poland. There are already arguments over whether you need to have a visa, especially if you’re a person of colour. Others would like to leave, but to go where? Ukraine is a large country. I imagine people don’t what to flee to Belarus. There are plenty of sanctions against Russia – Putin is a pariah; let’s hope and pray that he’s not crazy or angry enough to use nuclear weapons.  Actually, almost all the rest of the world is against him; China condemns an attack on another country – of course, it doesn’t recognise Taiwan as a country, but no doubt it’s watching the world’s reaction nervously. But there are some people who are very supportive of Putin, although their government is not. They would be Trump and his followers, like former Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and, of course, Tucker Carlson on the animal channel.  Not only do they support Putin’s moves, unlike the US government, but they decry President Biden, who has reacted in a wise and measured way, and is being applauded for having united NATO in support, even Germany, who probably stood to lose the most from the sanctions (they are heavily involved in a gas pipeline from Russia – Nordstrom 2). Now they’re arming Ukraine (to the tears of their Green Party). It’s just truly astonishing that President Biden has acted so wisely, and been, on balance, such a good president, has polled at 37%!  How is that not 90%?  Former President Reagan joked about attacking what he called the “Evil Empire” (referring to the former Soviet Union) – words which I remember thinking at the time were extremely unwise, but the MAGA view perhaps does not remember that, although many of us, here and there, do remember it.  I listened again to The Rest is History podcast episode about the history of Ukraine. It is sobering, indeed: it’s very complicated, of course, but there have probably been more low times than times for celebration.  They spoke about the Budapest Treaty of 1994, when Ukraine’s security was guaranteed, providing they gave up their nuclear weapons. Thanks, Tom and Dominic!  Very few people remember this.

It strikes me that if Ukraine wants to be a separate country from the Russian Federation, then indeed it has every right to be; after all, Europe comprises many countries, with quite different identities, languages, food, etc. You only have to look at differences between France, Italy, Spain, and Germany to see big cultural differences, yet they would all claim to be European.  I remember when we first went to Europe in the early 1970’s, every place had a different smell:  Hong Kong smelt of poverty and faeces, France smelt of baguettes, and so on. Everywhere was different, but most places had beggars.

Back here in New Zealand, it’s thought that Covid 19 is spreading throughout the protest scene in Thorndon. Some people refuse to be tested. Meanwhile, proper toilets have been installed, that drain into Parliament’s wastewater system. Now there’s a shower block, too, outside the barricade. My assumption is that that was done without Council approval. People come and go, so it’s not known how many people are there.  What a frustrating situation!  I wish the police had closed it down sooner.  The longer this goes on, the more bedded down the protesters are.  What do we hope for now? Another cyclone is coming? Perhaps they’ll be beset by sickness. Really, I don’t wish ill on anyone, but this protest is seriously inconveniencing many people. Some Māori groups have condemned the protest for disrespecting their tikanga. I guess, as there are many ways to be a Christian, there’s more than one way to be a Māori. The Khandallah Town Hall is closed to most activities for the coming week; I think that’s a wise decision.  Most of us are too scared to go anywhere, anyway.  I spoke to a friend of mine yesterday, and we agreed to communicate by phone for the next little while. Meanwhile, it’s reported that protesters camped out at the Auckland Domain are causing access issues for Hospital staff and visitors. Someone evidently went swimming, knowing he was infected with Covid 19, and then had to be rescued by lifeguards.

Switching back to Ukraine, now – there are really only two big topics: war in Ukraine, and the protests here vis à vis our desire not to get Covid 19.

There’s a lot of talk about the Russian Empire, which, like most if not all  histories of Empire, incudes many sad tales of poverty, slavery, and not having enough to eat while a few at the top were insanely wealthy.  There is some talk of Peter the Great, actually that should be Catherine the Great. Well, he was crazy, and she was German!  Why shouldn’t Ukraine be a country in its own right?  They are surely united now, in not wanting Russian domination.  That’s been remarkable to see.

With regard to what I said earlier, The Independent has footage of Trump at CPAC calling Zelensky a brave man – 2 years after he tried to extort him to provide dirt on Joe Biden.  This was a “perfect” phone call, of course. 

Back in li’l old New Zealand, we went shopping soon after 1 pm. We tried the local chemist for RAT’s, but they’re not available yet, and she didn’t know when they would be. We then went to the supermarket, where there are lots of gaps. I don’t know if these are genuine shortages, or just due to the general incompetence there. I buy lettuce, apricots (they’re finishing soon), and more margarine. They don’t have Black Doris plums; I buy Omega plums instead. Perhaps all the Black Doris plums go towards the delicious ice cream? I also buy croissants – they look good today.

As we get home, I learn today’s Covid 19 numbers. There are 14,633 new community cases of Covid 19 reported today, and there are 344 people in hospital (5 in Intensive Care). Minister for the Environment, David Parker has tested positive for Covid 19. There are now 17 cases of Covid 19 linked to the protest at Parliament grounds.  Actually there are probably far more than that. Victoria University reports that 648 of their students living in Halls of Residence have tested positive for Covid 19. It’s infected workers at Port Lyttleton, too.

It’s reported that the new cases are in Northland (208), Auckland (9305), Waikato (1530), Bay of Plenty (762), Lakes (265), Hawke’s Bay (138), MidCentral (175), Whanganui (30), Taranaki (67), Tairāwhiti (60), Wairarapa (52), Capital and Coast (604), Hutt Valley (281), Nelson Marlborough (178), Canterbury (573), South Canterbury (24), Southern (372), West Coast (3), and an unknown area (six). There are 24 new cases at the border.  Today marks two years since the first Covid 19 case was confirmed in New Zealand.  We did rather well there for a while; sadly, that’s no longer the case.

Oh, and the border’s now open for people to come here from Australia and self-isolate for 7 days, rather than going to MIQ. Actually apparently they don’t have to self-isolate, if they’ve been “fully” vaccinated, whatever that means. Confusion reigns. Welcome back! You’d have to be a brave person to get on a plane, I think. Wellington expects no flights from Australia before the end of the month – or perhaps the end of March? MIQ facilities are to be kept on in case they’re needed in future.

A last word on Ukraine. President Zelensky looks exhausted; what a hero he has been.  The Ukrainians continue to put up fierce resistance. They retreat to subway stations  when the air—raid sirens go off. One wonders how long they can keep up this kind of resistance. They do seem remarkably resilient.  You see film of them in their puffer jackets, with their cell phones. Can this really be happening? There are casualties, of course. The demonstrations in Russia, and the arrests, continue. It is very brave of people to protest like this. There are reports too of some captured Russians – that even their parents didn’t know they were in this war! Some troops were told they were on manoeuvres. Some manoeuvres!  There have been so many lies; one of the biggest is that Russian troops are only aiming at military targets. Bombed out apartment buildings give the lie to that.

In this crisis, you see plenty of able-bodied folk being very brave and resilient. But what about the vulnerable: the elderly, those with cancer or other serious health issues, those in prison, and, of course, the mentally infirm?  There’s no word, so far.  But I do remember footage of a Ukrainian television station continuing to broadcast from the bottom of a parking lot! How resourceful these people are.  How long can they keep up this resistance? One thing’s for sure, defeating Ukraine is no cake-walk.

That’s it for now. Ngā mihi,

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