Peak Time Yet?

RAT tests – not easy to obtain

It’s now Tuesday March 8th, 2022. Kia ora.

Now we all know someone with Covid 19.  We know of many more – people whom I don’t really know, I just know their names and roles.  No one in my family or friends in New Zealand has it as yet; a nephew in Australia has it for the second time, having returned from a South American country where he had gone to study, before Covid. In the former times.  I continue to pray that none of our loved ones gets it, but it gets harder and harder to avoid.  Knowing people who have it just makes it harder to take the risk and go out; it’s also difficult, seeing most activities are cancelled anyway, and you really need to get out.

Here in New Zealand, Hawkes Bay Hospital is under pressure, with 8 people with the virus in hospital. Their ED was already under severe pressure. They’ve scaled back some services and set up a dedicated Covid 19 ward, which can take up to 17 patients, with Intensive Care facilities as well. They’re going to start surveillance testing of all patients, to see if people without Covid 19 symptoms are infected; and they can take a further 24 patients if necessary. One hopes it won’t be necessary.

Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital is under pressure, with 195 patients infected with Covid 19. Some doctors are covering for nurses who are off either ill themselves or isolating. I guess if you have almost 700 people hospitalised, then they have to go to hospital somewhere.

The schools are badly hit, with 25,000 students and teachers isolating because of Covid 19.  They’re dealing with it in different ways, but it surely creates big problems; you might think you’ve solved the problem on Monday, only to have to find a different solution on Tuesday or Wednesday.

The Wellington City Council has problems with staff away; they’re not collecting crates of bottles for the foreseeable future; yesterday, in Broadmeadows, in the late afternoon recycling bins hadn’t been emptied. Staff are off at the Sewage Treatment Plant, as well. Some train services are being cancelled. Some stores are reporting shortages, although my local supermarket yesterday wasn’t too bad.

A Rhythm and Vines Festival that was to be held at Easter has been cancelled.

It’s reported that 6 members of Parliament have Covid 19. Meanwhile, the protest/campers have tried to set up camp at New Plymouth. Really, what’s left to protest about? The convoy outside Washington D.C. has stopped; perhaps they’re asking themselves the same question.  Some journalists here have tried to discuss with protesters what their grievances are; I agree it’s really trying if you’ve lost your job, but I wouldn’t want an unvaccinated person caring for my daughter or teaching my grandchildren.  Other than that, the call for freedom is pretty unnerving and unrealistic when you see what’s happening in Ukraine.

The upside of our omicron surge? New Zealanders are free to come here from overseas, and no longer have to try and book a place in MIQ. Come here, if you dare! At Auckland Airport, food outlets are running with reduced staff and availability – because of Covid 19.  New Zealand welcomes vaccinated Kiwis from overseas, (who don’t need to isolate), but don’t expect to eat at the airport! I find that is so ironical. PS any time I’ve eaten there, I’ve found the food overpriced and not great value for money.

Meanwhile, the dreadful war in Ukraine continues. It’s not easy to follow. There are streams of refugees; ceasefires to allow safe passage are being broken, again, as leaving residents are shelled. The photos show great devastation; it’s said Putin just wants to ruin the place. He won’t rebuild, even if he does win. He’s proposed six routes out of Ukraine, but four of them go through Russia or Belarus, so that’s unacceptable. President Zelensky calls for a no-fly zone; the West continues to resist this request, but more and more people are demanding that something be done to halt the dreadful damage and slaughter. There are broadcasters like Jake Tapper who point out that the West has appeased Putin for far too long; I guess, though, that they’ve sought not to rile him up.  In retrospect, it’s been a mistake to indulge him, and as for Dubya’s (George Bush II) words, I think Americans are far too trusting. Look where that got us! We get to live another day, and have more grandchildren, provided we don’t get Covid 19; meanwhile the brave Ukrainians’ lives are destroyed. Someone said the average annual income is $3,000(USD) a year. That’s not much, although they look like us.

The Russian Army’s much vaunted strength and power isn’t looking so great now, although it’s bombing apartment buildings and industrial sites with terrible effect. But the Ukrainians are fighting back, too, with photographic record of destroyed tanks, and some planes and helicopters.  I know that misinformation is a hazard, and you have to be careful about what you watch, but there are some videos on Youtube which seem to bear more truth than others. There have been clips of captured Russian soldiers apologising, saying they’d been misled, and they never should have invaded Ukraine. War analysts and some generals have useful things to say about supply lines and suchlike. The ground that Russian tanks are driving on already looks very muddy in places. 

The Ukrainians have been saying 11,000 Russian troops are dead. Even if this figure is exaggerated, it’s still remarkable. Mothers from Siberia are telling Putin not to use their sons as cannon fodder. This morning it was claimed they’d destroyed a column of 36 tanks. The historian Stephen Kotkin claims that war is always a miscalculation: of the strength of one’s  troops; the nature of the terrain; the power of the resistance, and, of course, how to supply fuel, food and much needed morale to the troops themselves.

New Zealand has imposed some sanctions, and is now in Putin’s bad books: it joins a list of other countries that have imposed some kind of sanctions on Russia: the list includes Australia, Albania, Andorra, Great Britain, including Jersey, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, EU member states, Iceland, Canada, Liechtenstein, Micronesia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, San Marino, North Macedonia, Singapore, US, Taiwan, Ukraine, Montenegro, Switzerland and Japan. I think we’d be proud to be included in that list. There’s talk of the US not importing oil from Russia.

Apparently the Russian rouble has dropped even further in value: it was worth 1 cent (US), now it’s worth 0.6 cents. But Putin has a friend in President Xi of China, who refuses to condemn the invasion, and talks of setting up a Chinese alternative to Visa and Mastercard, who have suspended operations in Russia. Russian people cannot withdraw cash from ATMS, and what they can withdraw is almost worthless. 

Today the NZ Herald reports that Ukrainian forces have taken back the city of Chuhuiv, with defence officials saying Russia suffered “heavy losses in the battle”, including the deaths of two high ranking officials. It was reported that Chuhuiv is a small city 30,000 people, located about 35km southeast of Kharkiv. It was one of the first cities to be taken by Russia when troops invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The Russians have demands for the Ukrainians to stop military action, and for Ukraine to recognise Crimea as Russian, and Luhansk and Donetsk to be s separate states.  Do we think it will stop there? Is resistance a crime? Do we believe Putin, or his negotiators?  Zelensky has said nothing is off the table. Evidently he’s survived three assassination attempts. The British have said they will accept 50 visas from Ukraine – a move that is being widely ridiculed. I listened (with amazement) to a Guardian podcast about refugees fleeing from Ukraine, and hearing some of the personal stories; meanwhile, the UK only allows 50 visas. Poland has been very kind, but they are reaching their limit, too. The refugee situation is becoming a humanitarian crisis.

Today’s Covid 19 report is presented by Dr Caroline McElnay, who is herself isolating at home because she’s experiencing mild symptoms, and wishes to be seen taking her own advice. Meanwhile The New Yorker is letting me read an article about the first phase of Covid 19 in Ecuador, which killed so many thousands of people, although a doctor had prepared for Covid 19, on first hearing the stories out of Wuhan. It is just so sad. They already have a very high murder rate, but this wave of disease was something else: all normal systems for coping with disease and death were overwhelmed.

Today’s report, unsurprisingly, is worse than yesterday’s. There is a story in the paper about how difficult it is to get a RAT test: here’s a link.

Today’s total of new community cases is 23,894, the highest yet, and the most people in hospital – 756 (another website says 757), with 16 in Intensive care. There are reportedly 9,081 new cases in Auckland. We’re not told the locations of the new cases, only that most are diagnosed through RATs, rather than PCR tests.

Isolation requirements are being relaxed for critical medical services only: a person can return to work on day 6 after having two negative Covid 19 tests; or a covid 19 infected person can work on a ward where all patients have covid 19. Predictably, the Nurses’ Union is calling foul, that nurses will be pressured to work when they’re feeling unwell. No one is supposed to work if they’re feeling unwell; presumably it’s their own choice if they do so.

In Ukraine, it’s reported that 9 planes have been shot down in 24 hours, a loss that can’t be sustained for more than a fortnight, according to some analysts.

That’s it for now. Ngā mihi.

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