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Life in Lock Down: Day 5

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March 30: Day five of living in lock-down…

Woke up still in darkness. Alarm hadn’t gone off. Turn to radio clock; it’s a few minutes after 6am… I lie there in the dark, waiting to drift off to sleep… but it ain’t happening. Clock ticks over to 6.55 and RNZ snaps on to the voices of Gyles Beckford, Corin Dann, and Susie Ferguson… Latest updates on covid19; thankfully no one else has died overnight. I waken more and more as the stories unfold…

Medical staff from Canterbury are heading to the West Coast to help after 21 health workers from Greymouth’s hospital had to go into isolation. They had been treating the 70-year-old woman who yesterday became the country’s first Covid-19 fatality.

New Zealand has 514 cases of Covid-19, with one death and 56 recovered. University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy speaks to Corin Dann.

The Easter Trading Laws could be amended to let supermarkets stay open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, days where they are normally forced to stay closed. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Susie Ferguson it depends on whether supermarkets need the time shut to restock shelves, but the government will be talking to them directly about the issue.

The Director-General of Health is expecting more cases of community transmission to come to light this week. That’s despite a dip in the number of new cases reported yesterday.

A Wairarapa farmer says heavy rain that fell over the weekend will be a “gamechanger” for the drought-stricken region.

It’s going to be a new day in several ways. Staff/client rosters have been radically changed to reduce the number of clients in our “bubbles”. Mine is still bigger than I would like, but we do the best we can with the tools we have. At least three people are removed from my “bubble”, which makes things marginally safe for them and me.

Quick breakfast with first two coffees of the day; feed the cat; prep home-made lunch (cafes are a luxury from how long ago?); check emails; pack up the gear I need for the day and out the door I go. I’m an hour earlier than I normally am but it’ll give me extra time to take notice of things on my way into Wellington and travelling through the city. This isn’t just a routine drive to work, but also scrutinise how things are progressing in our lock-down world.

First thing I notice, the Park N Ride carpark is virtually empty. An ashphalt field built for several hundred cars now holds just… two;

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Before turning from my suburban road onto SH2 I notice a police car parked on the side of the road. First one for the day?

On the motorway, traffic is again almost non-existent. Perhaps “heavier” by one or two cars. But then, this is supposedly “peak hour” and instead of three of four vehicles in my field of vision, there are six or eight. I don’t think traffic was this sparse since 1920.

Interesting… I’m noticing commercial vehicles on the road which I doubt are “essential”. A heavy truck, painted fiery red, with “Coca Cola” emblazoned over it. Soft drinks? When did that become a staple, essential food?

A few minutes later, a Firewood truck. The vehicle is a light truck and covered. I have no idea if they are delivering firewood or not. If so, and if the driver is coming into contact with clients… [Note, in a weird coincidence, at 10.47pm as I write this, a friend txts me to describe her day in lock-down and mentions having firewood delivered next week. So it seems they are operating in the lock-down.]

Then a C & M Transport heavy-duty truck built for gravel, rock, soil, and similar materials drives down from Horokiwi Rd, onto the motorway. Is that an essential service when the building industry is practically at a stand-still?

At least two trucks lugging shipping containers. I hope those containers are filled with foodstuffs for supermarkets…

Then, a couple of “Rockgas” trucks…

A Chubbs van…

A chemdry van. When did carpet cleaning become “essential”, FFS?!

Is there ANY business that ISN’T open and operating as per normal?!

At the old MoT stop on the Hutt Road a police car pulls over a driver heading in the opposite direction to me…

Wellington is as deserted today as it was last week. Hard to tell if there are more or less cars. At the Basin Reserve roundabout a bicyclist riding her bike on the footpath passes within a metre of a pedestrian. Even in saner times, it looked an unsafe passing manouver.

But driving up the Mt Victoria tunnel showed The Quiet Earth the city had become. At nearly 9am, the tunnel was… empty. I pulled over (yes, illegally… but since I was The Last Man On Earth…) to snap this image;

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Eerie… like something out of an episode of The Twilight Zone, an empty tunnel that seemed to disappear into infinity. It was waiting for me to enter…

Once through the tunnel, a quick drive into the eastern suburbs. More joggers. At 9am, the car park at Miramar New World was full. Queues of well-spaced shoppers waited patiently, in their own two-metre bubbles, respected by others.

At Kilbirnie Pak N Save the carpark seems about half (?) full. I park my vehicle in the underground carpark, which is almost empty. Upstairs, shoppers again queue outside the main doors, with yellow strips conveniently marking two-metre spaces. Everyone is waiting patiently.

At the line I woman remarks how well New Zealanders are doing, considering how we have a “thing” for strong independence and not liking being told what to do. I reply I made a similar point yesterday in something I wrote for a blog. Another of those curious acts of synchronicity that marks our lives.

Inside, there is signage everywhere, imploring people to act responsibly;

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As I make my way through the aisles it takes only a few minutes to realise something: it’s harder to keep two metre spaces from other people than I thought. Most people – two thirds? three quarters? – reciprocate the need to maintain safe distances.

Some don’t. They either don’t understand what two metres is; have forgotten to respect the new boundary; or, simply don’t care.

It’s irritating. In effect, one person standing at, say, the cereal section, commands two metres in radius around her/him. You have to wait till they move on.

Like I said, most respected the new norm. A few didn’t. One guy in particular not only ignored the two metre “bubble” but passed close enough to me to raise strong discomfort in me. And the prick knew. His eyes met mine. He saw the expression on my face.

This carried on  for another two aisles. F**k it, I thought, if he does it again, I’m going to cough in his direction and in a “Dad’s Army” kind-of-voice croak at him,

“Oh, sorry, mate. It’s this coronavirus thing I picked up in China… Can’t seem to shake it…”

But he scurried off to check-out. Inconsiderate prick. I hope his position in Hell is in a very warm spot…

Curiously, the toilet paper section was remarkably well-stocked;

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Has the “Futures Market” for bog paper collapsed?

Not so the baking section. Human locusts had been through the section and left not even a chocolate chip or speck of wholemeal flour,

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At the checkout, more yellow tape marked off two metre intervals. It seemed to be respected by everyone that I saw standing in line;

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Equally important, to safeguard the workers, plexiglass shields had been erected in front of them;

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One checkout operator was heard saying to a customer she wished the shields could stay up permanently.

And just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any weirder, well they just did.

Two men (?) in full head-to-feet hazmat suits, breathing-masks, and protective goggles appeared at the supermarket entrance. One didn’t want to be photographed – the other did not mind.

Sign of the times;

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Once the groceries have been dropped off, each and every packaged item had to be individually wiped down with a cloth soaked with antiseptic. Fruit and veg – washed. Because there was no way of telling who had handled any of the items and what micro-organisms they had left behind on steel cans, plastic wrappers/bags,  cardboard cartons, and fresh produce.

The future is well and truly upon us.

The drive home at 8pm tonight was quiet. Once I hit the motorway, traffic all but vanished. There were moments when I was literally the only person on the road in either direction.

I phone my partner. It’s now eight days since we’ve laid eyes on each other. We joke that after the next three (four? five?) weeks, we’ll have to get re-acquainted with each other all over again.

Her “bubble” is smaller than mine, but she’s so much safer.

Meanwhile, throughout the day, we heard stories of fools flouting the protocols not to socialise with people outside their “bubble”; of money-hungry businesses whining that they were “essential”; of tourists deciding that self-isolation did not apply to them.

Or politicians like David Seymour and Judith Collins;

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Ok then, let them all open. Every single business. Then, when we have 10,000 deaths, maybe those same politicians will start to think, “Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…?”

Some people only take a crisis seriously when the body count goes double or triple digits.

When it comes to the safety and well-being of everyone in the community and when it comes to a few selfish dicks who put their own desires ahead of everyone else, I have zero hesitation in advocating going full throttle law’n’order on their asses. In fact, I have the perfect sentence for those convicted of flouting the stay-home edict: home detention. (Just  make detention double or treble the month long lock-down.) It makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Ironic isn’t it? How the Right are always bleating on about personal responsibility; law and order; and maintaining society.

Except, of course, when business is threatened.

Current covid19 cases: 589

Number of deaths: 1

Number of deaths if Mr Seymour & Ms Collins have their way: hundreds. Possibly thousands.

Sensible people do sensible things. Don’t be Mr Seymour or Ms Collins. Be sensible.

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References

RNZ: Coronavirus – Extra medical staff sent to the West Coast

RNZ: Coronavirus – Looking at the numbers

RNZ: Coronavirus – PM says supermarkets may open over Easter

RNZ: Coronavirus – Dr Ashley Bloomfield expecting more cases

RNZ: Wairarapa farmer labels weekend’s rain a ‘gamechanger’

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Jenny Craig staff told they are an essential service

Twitter: David Seymour – allow butchers, bakers to open – 30.3.2020

Twitter: Judith Collins – competition for business during a pandemic – 30.3.20

RNZ: Coronavirus – Total number of Covid-19 cases in NZ rises to 589

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Malcolm Evans – A Letter to the Kids

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

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Acknowledgement: Evans

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 31 March 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 4

30 March 2020 26 comments

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Lock Down: Day 4 – A photo essay with observations

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March 29: Usual wake up routine as RNZ snaps on my radio-clock. Jim Mora’s voice slowly enters my conciousness; there’s talk of a second wave of covid19 taking hold in South Korea; the week in Parliament – not that there’s been much activity in the Debating Chamber; the plight of New Zealanders stuck in Peru and having to pay extortionate prices for return air flights (even if air flights *ARE* available)…

It is raining heavily outside. My back yard will be a swamp fit for pukekos. I am relieved; this will keep people inside.

Lurch out of bed… jug on… feed companion animal (double check to make sure I give her cat food and not my coffee)… prepare for Q+A  on TVNZ. Breakfast is figs and peanut butter on rye toast again (which I love)… Coffee ready… note pad… tablet…

Jack Tame’s eternally youthful visage appears on screen. He tells the nation there were eightythree new cases yesterday, taking the numbers up to 451. He wonders if this is going to be the “new normal”…

He presents his guests for the day… his first guest, Minister of Health David Clark.

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Though nothing really new  through the interview, Minister Clark did drive home the most basic point;

“Ultimately it’s in our hands… I’ve heard reports of people playing touch rugby or going into business that are non-essential. That cannot continue. We have zero tolerance for that kind of thing going on. If people do those kinds of things we will need to stay in lockdown longer because that behaviour affects all of us. So we’re asking every New Zealander to play their part.

… It’s about staying home, staying safe, and ultimately that will save lives.”

The problem of community workers without protective gear was raised. These are essential support professionals who are often faced with numbers of clients – without any protection at all.

Jack’s next guest, Professor Shaun Hendy, an expert in modelling pandemic spread;

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Jack opened describing a “morbid alternative. Researchers researchers at Auckland University say that without intervention or preventative measures as many as eighty thousand New Zealanders could have died from Covid19”.

Professor Hendy expressed concern at potential growth of community transfers: locals inadvertently transferring the virus as they continued to ignore strict rules for personal “bubbles. He warned;

“It could get very bad… the 80,000 figure that was the kind of the worst case scenario that we were looking at; we’re not facing that now we’re taking these steps. But we still have to be… still a possibility that we could have tens of thousands of deaths.

But, given the steps the government is taking, given the lockdown they’re taking, that’s reducing the possibility of that happening all the time.

By going into lockdown, us keeping to our bubbles, we’re protecing ourselves, by not having contact with other people who might be infected. But also if we do get infected then we’re reducing the number of people we might go on to infect.

And that number… we want that number to get below ‘1’. So on average, right, every person is infecting less than one other person, and if we get that, then what we will see, we’ll actually contain and be able to eliminate the disease in New Zealand and that’s the number we’re looking for.”

He said that the number of possible deaths in New Zealand was “still up in the air”. It depended on how New Zealanders observed the lock down.

Professor Hendy warned “If not, these lock down measures would have to go on longer, and we still facing a scenario where we might have thousands of deaths.”

He also predicted restrictions to international travel until an effective vaccine had been developed. Otherwise the country could be re-infected.

The next segment had reporter Whena Owen in various Wairarapa towns talking to people from rural and small town New Zealand. Some interesting insights.  Eyebrows and alarms must have been raised when one gentleman – supposedly self-isolating in a campervan in one spot for the next three and a half weeks – was gone when Ms Owen returned the following day to speak to him;

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Ms Owen’s report was followed by a crackly Skype interview with National Party Leader, Simon Bridges, now heading the Epidemic Response Committee.

The interview went fairly well and Mr Bridges gave a fair response to Jack Tame’s questioning of his disastrous speech in Parliament on 18 March. But the Opposition Leader couldn’t help himself and took another swipe at the Coalition government’s increase to welfare payments. Which is ironic when considering how many of Mr Bridges’ voting base may well up up as WINZ “clients”.

Following on was an interview with Grant Webster, CEO of Tourism Holdings Ltd. While confirming the massive damage wrought to tourism, Mr Webster suggested that post-lockdown, New Zealand might reinvent itself as a “high end” destination with “lower end” tourism “falling away”.

If true, it could prove a significant boon to our natural environment that has been severely impacted by large numbers of tourists. DoC could finally spend it’s budget on its core purpose: conservation, rather than building carparks and toilets.

Mr Webster predicted that 2020 and next next would both be “tough”. He expressed the view that what would happen next would be “covid19 related”.

Perhaps the last interview was saved because of it’s chilling aspects. Guardian US weekend editor, Martin Pengelly, gave a run-down of the covid19 crisis and chaos in the United States.

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He described the situation as;

“It’s very bad. It’s very very bad indeed.

Hospital system over-whelmed, or soon be over-whelmed. US Navy medical ships, one’s in Los Angeles, one’s setting off for New York now. Deadlock between state governments and Federal governments about resources, about ventilators, about the whole response.

… It got to this stage because of a number of factors, including the macro-factor of the US having no public health system. There is access to public health, but no working system.

… New York, where I am, is [an] alarming hot-spot [and] the worst is coming.”

He called it a very confusing and bleak situation.

As the United States stands on the precipice of catastrophe, Trump is stroking his own ego, denying assistance to states that are governed by Democrat leaders; Biden is struggling to remain relevant; and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is being whispered about as the secret candidate to stand against the incumbent President.

On Youtube, The Young Turks ran a piece showing how Biden is not coping with what little media media attention he has been getting. Again, mention is made of Governor Cuomo.

My txt-msg sent to Q+A was read out at the conclusion of the programme;

“Shaun Hendy’spoint is simple: ongoing transmission depends on us. Not govt. Not foreigners. Not even the virus. It’s US.Thesooner people get their heads around this, the better outcome we have.” – @fmacskasy – 9:22 AM · Mar 29, 2020

Writing and formatting this blogpost took up most of my late morning, early afternoon. Managed to stop for a bit of late lunch at 2PM; melted cheesy on rye bread with chopped onion, paprika, and basil. And coffee. Fed cat again. (Cat got water, not coffee.)

By mid-afternoon, the weather has cleared up. The sun is out. This is not good.

This afternoon, I discovered that things have taken a turn-for-the-worst. As I replied to a poster on The Daily Blog;

“As at 1pm today the first person in Aotearoa New Zealand has died from covid19. The numbers of infections has risen to 514.

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I don’t mind confessing that it is a frightening prospect to go to work tomorrow. But I’m one of the “lucky bastards” who works in an essential service. Lucky me.

If I catch the virus, my diabetes and age group (to put it delicately I’m no longer in my 20s…) will be two strikes against me. I think the medical term is “I’m f****d”.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

(PS: In the event of my demise my Will is in my Filing Cabinet; someone feed my cat; and please clear my Browser History. )

Anyways, I think this explains my low tolerance threshold for those individuals who think this is a holiday and life is normal.

We lost “normal” last week.”

On a more mundane note, I had a txt-msg chat with a mate; the 78th World Science Fiction Convention – aka CoNZealand – scheduled to take place 29 July to 2 August this year in Wellington has been effectively cancelled. The irony should not escape us; one of the most well-used plot-devices in science fiction literature and film (remember the old 1970s television series, “The Survivors“?) – has blown a global annual sf fan gathering out of the water with a viral version of a  photon torpedo.

5.45PM: Dinner is two egg sandwiches on rye. Not much of an appetite, might try to eat something later. Cat is happy though.

Watched TV1 news at 6PM, carrying the story of Aotearoa’s first covid19 fatality. Will this drive home to New Zealanders just how f*****g serious this is?! Short  answer? Probably not.

I’m familiar with the New Zealand psyche of hyper-individualism; giving the two-fingered salute to Authority; accompanied by a toxic bloated sense of entitlement which so many people seem afflicted with. We’ve devoted an entire pop-culture to anti-establishment sentiments, with Goodbye Pork Pie probably our best effort. For a small minority, requiring people to stay home is a challenge to do the polar opposite.

It will take more people to die before it slowly dawns on that tiny minority that, yes, This Is A Thing.

Might watch some Seth Meyers or Star Trek Continues later on Youtube. (The actor who portrays Capt James Kirk bears a striking resemblance to William Shatner The Younger.) Looking forward to relaxing and laughing to some of Seth Meyers’ ascerbic satire and some nostalgia sf…

9.30PM: Hot mug of sugar free drinking chocolate and my cat on my lap, settled in to watch Miriama Kamo present her ‘Sunday’ programme. The backgrounder on where viruses like H1N1, SARS, and now covid19 spring from is a testament to humanity’s abuse of our surrounding natural environment.

It may be  anthropomorphising it, but it certainly feels as if Nature is mightily pissed of at us and is giving the human race a swift kick up the pants.

Afterward, I sat back down at the computer to refresh my memory how long ago Aotearoa New Zealand experienced its first covid19 case.

It was 28 February.

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Only a month and one day later, our country has 514 (known) cases.

I’m no mathematician – anything past the multiplication table escapes me – but even I recognise the steep rising curve in numbers. At that rate, had our PM not made perhaps the boldest call since we joined Great Britain in declaring war on Nazi Germany, the numbers would be in the tens of thousands by the end of the year. The experts at Auckland University, as covered this morning in Q+A, knew pretty much what they were talking about.

It is half past ten at night as I put the finishing touches to todays entry to Life in Lockdown.

Work tomorrow. I have latex gloves in my satchel – and nothing else. A full hazmat suit would be nice. Is there a choice in colours? Perhaps something ‘Star Trekky’? (But not in red. Trek fans know what I’m talking about.)

I should be so lucky.

And finally, let’s remember to all do our bit. It’s not quantum mechanics, people.

You have a better chance at survival if you follow the protocols;

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And, in Frank Speak;

Stay the F**K home!!

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References

TVNZ Q+A: Minister of Health says there is enough protective equipment for health workers

TVNZ Q+A: People should prepare themselves for the possibility of a longer lockdown – Scientist

TVNZ: Q+A looks at how one small town coped with shutting down life as we know it

RNZ: Coronavirus – Simon Bridges criticised for ‘politics-as-usual’ pot shots amid covid-19 crisis

TVNZ Q+A: The shutdown could provide a reset for the tourism industry – Tourism Holdings CEO

TVNZ: Q+A:  Very confused, very bleak – New York journalist on the COVID-19 crisis in America

Youtube: The Young Turks – Joe Biden GIVES UP Mid Interview

NewstalkZB:  ‘A very sad day’ – NZ has its first coronavirus death

CoNZealand

Wikipedia: The Survivors (1975)

NZ Herald: The life of Pie

RNZ: New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 30 March 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 3

29 March 2020 27 comments

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Lock Down: Day 3 – A photo essay with observations

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March 28: First day of the first weekend in Lock Down. It feels like it’s been weeks since only Level 3 was declared last Tuesday, only four days ago.

Woke up this morning to RNZ; coffee; toast, pat and fed my companion animal. Finished off Day 2 blogpost in time to watch Newshub Nation. Listened to Dr Sandhya Ramanathan describe the extraordinary lengths to carefully decontaminate before and after leaving her hospital,  followed by further decon-protocols at her home.

It made the precautions we are taking for our clients seem so utterly amateurish. But considering my employers (a nationwide NGO) have no Pandemic Policy in place that I’m aware off, we’ve used our initiative and common sense.

Political commentators Neale Jones and Matthew Hooton were both singing from the same “song sheet”. There’s nothing quite like an amoral, apolitical, non-sentient deadly virus to focus the mind.

As I begin this blogpost, it was raining  heavily. Normally not a weather situation I’d be happy with, but today and for the next three weeks, it is a blessing from Nature. It may help keep people off the streets, parks, beaches, etc, and (except for short walks in their immediate area) stay at home;

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I won’t be driving around today to observe what others are doing. Which restricts my reporting, but if I’m to follow my own demands of others – I stay home. Aside from short walks along my own road, observing strict two metre rule, staying home means staying home.

Which made some of the emails/txts read out by Kim Hill all that much difficult to stomach. Idiots were justifying why the rules did not apply to them and why, as surfers and mountain bikers, they were more expert at judging risk than all the medical professions in the world.

As at today, the number of covid19 cases in Aotearoa New Zealand has jumped by eightythree cases and now stands at 451.

But these thrill seeking morons on surf boards and mountain bikes seem to think they are bullet proof? Or virus proof?

I can only surmise these surfers and bikers have had a few to many knocks to their soft skulls.

Spent the day…

Breakfast (coffee, toast with tomato and toast with fresh, ripe fig).

 

Shower. Coffee.

 

Watched “Newshub Nation“. Sent “tweet” to “Nation” producers; “Anyone else thanking the gods that production of masks is a local NZ industry and not “exported” to overseas manufacturers… like China?

Twitter

 

Brunch. Coffee.

 

Twitter

 

Finish Day 2 of “Living under the Lock Down“.

 

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Elevenses

 

Watched Seth Myers on Youtube calling out Trump for his lack of action on the virus epidemic hitting the US. Evidently, Trump’s approval ratings now stands at 49 to 60%, of  Americans saying he’s doing a “good job“. Wait till the body count starts to mount up, and footage of body bags fills the evening television news. Footage like that killed public support for American involvement in the Vietnam War.

 

Lunch

 

Twitter

 

Listened to Ministry of Health press conference. Covid19 cases now up to 451. Two are in ICU. John Ombler, the All of Government Controller, was blunt when he called out spectacularly moronic behaviour from some people;

“I have heard today that some people were playing touch rugby and frisbee in parks, that’s just stupid. People need to stop doing that sort of thing. COVID can transfer on a frisbee from one person to another. With touch rugby, it is quite obvious. Please, don’t do it. Don’t be stupid.”

Twitter

 

Email to my organisation regarding possible ‘re-jigging’ of our rosters and number of clients we attend to. (The fewer clients, the smaller our ‘bubble’.)

 

Twitter

 

Afternoon tea

 

Twitter. A bit of laundry washing.

 

4.30PM: Did I just see what I think I saw out my window? Guy drives up in white canopied hilux ute. Ute has a company logo on the side relating to an early childhood company;

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Guy goes inside a house, by himself. Comes out about ten minutes later with two children (around 8 to 10 years old?). Woman comes with them. Was she providing a child care service? Were they a separated couple? Whichever the case, it appears that two children are moving between two adults, as well as both having adult-to-adult contact.

I sincerely hope they constitute one “bubble”. What is the likelihood?

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Twitter

 

Late afternoon tea

 

Watched 6PM TV1 News. Shouted myself to a bowl of (sugar free) chocolate ice cream.

 

7PM: Went for walk around my block. Weather was autumnal, overcast, chilly, but had stopped raining. Must have seen five other human beings in my walk. One followed the two metre distance perfectly, giving me a wide circle; gave him a wave, cheery smile, and a big “Thank You!”

I usually pick up plastic detritus along the way; bottles, tops, coffee cup lids, straws, lollypop sticks, etc. Tonight I touched nothing. Not worth the risk.

The Kiwirail Park’n’Ride carpark was utterly empty. Not even one vehicle;

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Came home, put on Julee Cruise CD for some soft-but-dark background music. When the world feels like it’s falling apart (due in no short part to the human tendency for self-destructive dumbness), you want an appropriate soundtrack. Either Ms Cruise or Smashing Pumpkins’ “The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning“.

9PM(ish): Phoned my partner. We don’t live together and because I work in the community, with a larger-than-desirable-“bubble”, we have decided to isolate from each other. She has her “bubble”, I have mine. If I catch covid19 – which is more likely than her getting it – I won’t be able to infect her. So for one month, we chat over the phone but nothing more.

I work in the community and am at higher risk than most others. We are foregoing contact to mitigate risk to her.  All these things, we do because it is necessary.

So people will excuse me and understand why when I see others casually disregarding keeping to a “bubble”; not observing the two-metre protocol;  enjoying themselves with frisbees, surfing, boating, and other thoughtless behaviour… I am more than a wee bit miffed. Their’s is the sharp end of self-entitlement.

Watched some America news channel news clips on You Tube. The slow disintergration of the United States is like a driving past a vast car pile-up on the motor-way; grimly fascinating. You don’t want to watch the carnage… but you can’t help yourself, wondering what is next.

With my companion cat on my lap, time for a brief check on Twitter. Received lovely compliment re Day 2 of my Lock Down diary. Sent back reply.

And then… This;

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Simon Bridges just can’t f*****g help himself, can he?!?

I responded;

Come on,Mr Bridges,really?!There are umpteen sources of news. Closing nonessential ones -even if distasteful- may save lives If you have concerns,do what adults do: talk to each other. Its what youre paid to do Ive stopped using the nationalnotfittogovern. You stop politicking

Time for bed.  Maybe read another chapter of SS-GB, an alternative Earth history novel by Len Deighton. Then lights out and see what tomorrow brings. TVNZ’s Q+A is on at 9AM, then…?

Meanwhile…

For those people who do not understand the manner in which contagion spreads, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, microbiologist sums it up in simple terms;

“Because people can spread the virus for a few days before they have any symptoms, each person who contracts the virus can unwittingly pass it on to several of their whānau, friends and colleagues. Then each one of them can unwittingly pass it on to several of their whānau, friends and colleagues. This means that if, left unchecked, the number of cases grows exponentially. This is what we are seeing in so many countries overseas. Spinoff cartoonist Toby Morris’s illustration of that concept has circled the globe in recent days.” – Siouxsie Wiles, 26 March 2020

And for those simple souls who still don’t get it, illustrator Toby Morris has drawn a pretty picture with crayons;

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References

Newshub Nation:  I don’t want to be a hero, I want to live

Twitter: JackyNinjaKitty – “Stay at Home” – 28 March 2020

RNZ: Coronavirus – 83 new cases in New Zealand, two patients in intensive care

NPR:  Trump’s Approval Hits New High, But A Rally-Around-The-Flag Effect Is Small

US History:  The Vietnam War

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Infected being abused online, Kiwis ignoring rules by playing sport

Twitter: Simon Bridges – closure community papers – 28 March 2020

The Spinoff:  Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris – You’re waking up in lockdown New Zealand. Here’s how it works

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

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Acknowledgement: Slane

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This blogpost was published on The Daily Blog on 29 March 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 2

28 March 2020 28 comments

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Lock Down: Day 2 – A photo essay with observations

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March 27 – Day 2 of our Strange New World. The Park and Ride near my suburb, usually filled with hundreds of vehicles, had just… four;

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Another drive into Wellington City on a highway nearly deserted. I tried to estimate if vehicular traffic had lessened; increased, or was roughly the same. It was hard to tell, so I’m guessing it was possibly the same. (NZTA road sensors would probably reveal traffic flow stats?)

The ride through the Terrace Tunnel was notable in  one way: mine was the only vehicle! It felt as if the NZTA had built this billion dollar infrastructure solely for my own personal benefit. If so, thank you very much, NZTA. I owe you guys a beer (when/if the bars ever re-open).

The latest James Bond movie’s title seemed like a dire warning to all of us;

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Photoshopping my little bit into the bottom of the image  (“Keep 2 metres apart!”)  gave it even more relevance.

Once again, near-deserted streets through Wellington. Once again, a few individuals out strolling, jogging, biking… After all, it’s not like humanity itself is under threat from an unseen menace that could be anywhere at any time.

And once again, throughout my entire journey from the Hutt Valley to Miramar – not one police car was spotted. Not until about 11.20AM – nearly two and a half hours since walking out my front door – did I witness a police car stop on Park Road in Miramar and a policeman exited to talk with two pedestrians.

On Kent Terrace, two young women jogging side-by-side passed within elbow-touching distance of a hapless pedestrian struggling with two heavy bags of groceries. No effort was made to implement a two metre space with the grocery-lugging pedestrian.

People who are still oblivious to the need for safe social spacing and to keep to our own “bubble“, are both ignorant and selfish to a degree that is hard to fathom.

Contrast with the orderly queue to gain entry to Miramar New World. Nearly everybody seemed to conscientiously observe the two metre rule;

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At  11.45AM another (or the same?) police car drove past the New World outlet;

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More near-deserted streets in Kilbirnie. Two young people rollar-skated past Colonel Sander’s visage staring down from the artery-hardening business he had founded. For four weeks, all New Zealanders will be free of the “joys” of cholesterol-laden, fat-dripping, highly processed bits of fowl that KFC peddled to the masses;

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Apart from the three supermarkets in Kilbirnie, plus a Dairy or two, the only other food vendor open was this outfit;

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Despite the sign –

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– I wondered if they had permission to be open. A “spice emporium” does not strike one as being an “essential service”. (And I say that as a committed, adoring fan of Indian cuisine…)

A police car driving past at 12.10PM seemed unconcerned or did not notice the retailer’s open doors. (There was no signage on the retailer’s second door, around the corner, notifying the public of their “one in, one out” policy.)

And again, in Hataitai, people were out, strolling or riding, enjoying the sunny day. Two joggers ran past; two bike riders, followed by another jogger sprinting closely by a mum and her two young children. The jogger was well within the two metre social distancing.

Question: what is it with joggers and their apparent disregard to others on footpaths?

Next question: would those same joggers tolerate similar careless behaviour from motorists as they cross a road and evade drivers who are oblivious to their presence? I’d like to put it to the test.  Purely for academic research purposes, of course. No malice involved, of course.

Meanwhile, this young lad took social distancing to the Nth Degree, walking up the middle of Waitoa Road;

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Throughout the day, as I drove from one client to another, people continued being out and about in the sun. Sometimes observing social distancing, other times not. Watching how close some passed to others made my teeth clench.

Until 2.30PM, when the heavens opened up with a sudden downpour. The heavy rain persisted for a solid half hour. It forced the few people of the streets and a little while later, driving through the eastern suburbs, I noted about 17  people (including one wind-blown biker) along a five kilometre stretch, braving the wintry blast.

It occurred to me that the only force that will get people of the streets is not the cold, hard facts from our medical professionals and scientists; nor our much-lauded Prime Minister who, more and more, is faced with being the “mother” of a million recalcitrant ‘children’ – but the weather. Take away the sun; replace with gale-force winds and horizontal rain and – voila! – people stay indoors.

Thor has indeed heard our implorings…

Four weeks of bad weather and the covid-19 virus might finally be defeated. Nature vs Nature – with mere humans standing impotently on the sidelines. Yes indeedy, the gods have indeed given us mortals a much-needed swift kick up our pants for our hubris.

Later that evening, a crisis. Only two days into Lock Down and it appears I might be “out of the game”…

One of my clients began exhibiting symptoms. Fever, heavy perspiration, a  slight cough… Checked the covid19 website. Symptoms are… fever, a cough. Place calls. Alert colleagues. Keep others well away. As if time is being dilated by a nearby Black Hole, the minutes stretch out and seem to last hours…

We take his temperature… 36.7. Take it again; 37.0. Normal. Yet he is perspiring profusely and his forehead is hot… Temperature taken again; 36.7.

We don’t get it.

He’s also not coughing consistently and says his throat is not sore or dry (a prime symptom of Covid19).

Until one of my colleagues notices where he’s been sitting. Under the heat pump.

The temperature has been set at 25 degrees, which is mild and doesn’t seem too hot. But he’s been sitting under it all evening. We dial it back to 21 degrees and wait.

Sure enough, his forehead is now much cooler to the touch and is no longer perspiring.

For a scary hour it seemed that all out precautions  have  been for nothing. The entire premises is under total lockdown. No or comes or goes except for rostered staff. Even managers are banned. Anything purchased from outside (groceries, supplies, etc), are wiped down with disinfectant-laden cloths. All staff are in their strict bubbles – I won’t be seeing my partner for The Duration.

We take this shit seriously.

The “bubble” ain’t perfect and is probably larger than I’d be comfortable with, but it’s what we have. The premises are lovingly referred to as “Stalag 13” – though there are no tunnels leading out under the locked gates. And no cuddly, lovable nazi called Sgt Schultz.

It was a scare and I drove home that night wondering how many more false alarms there might be. No wonder pedestrians and joggers who ignore the two metre rule really annoy the bejeezus out of me.

It was 8pm by the time I was on the road home. The motorway leading out of Wellington  was even more deserted than this morning. At some points along SH2 I was the only car on the road. (Cue opening scene to the 1960s paranoia-sf series, The Invaders.)

Again, not one police car or constable was sighted anywhere along my 40km drive home.

This weekend, except for brief walks along my street (observing a strict 2 metre distance protocol), I will be staying home. No going out. No recreational activities. No pretending that this global pandemic doesn’t affect me because [insert daft reason here].

I just wish others were following the rules.

As wits superior to mine have pointed out;

“Our grandparents faced World War 2, rationing, shortages, and their loved ones going of to war and die.

Our job is to stay home and watch TV.

Let’s not fuck it up.”

Lives depend on it.

Meanwhile, one Twitter-user made this witty observation about the unending, gormless, repetitive questions from those who, as another user described as, “people looking for a rule or for a loophole”;

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References

The Spinoff:  Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris – You’re waking up in lockdown New Zealand. Here’s how it works

Twitter: Bex – 27.3.20

Twitter: Dr Bex – 27.3.20

Additional

Mediaworks/Newshub: Former Prime Minister Sir John Key praises Jacinda Ardern’s ‘faultless’ COVID-19 communication

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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Life in Lock Down: Day 1

27 March 2020 33 comments

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Lock Down: Day 1 – A photo essay with observations

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Day one of the Level 4 nationwide lock-down (or, DefCon 4 as I sometimes cheekily call it) started at 11.59PM on 25 March. For a moment, most of the nation held it’s collective breath. In that brief moment, as the countdown moved to one minute to midnight, everything changed.

Those of us not doing a graveyard shift went to bed knowing that tomorrow morning we would be waking up into a changed world.

We were not to be disappointed.

Just after 9AM, I left the house. Carrying my packed lunch; my work satchel containing – amongst other things – a letter from my employer identifying my role in the health sector; and most important, my third coffee for the day. Jump into the car and crawl out of the driveway. Driving past the normally packed Park & Ride carpark, there is only one car sitting alone in a large barren expanse of bitumen.

On the motorway, the traffic was almost non-existent. At any moment there were no more than three or four cars travelling either in my direction or on-coming.

Most jarring was the neanderthal moron who – on a near-deserted highway – decided to tailgate me for several kilometres. Note to the driver of silver Toyota Van ELJ368, the cloth/paper facemask you wore whilst driving a few metres behind me at 100ks won’t help you much if I suddenly have to brake. Dick.

Despite the supposed order to stay at home, two bicycle riders along SH2 and a lone middle aged male walking along the harbour-side of the motorway, obviously decided that the global emergency did not apply to them. It was an indication of things to come, unfortunately.

The entire trip took half the time it normally did. The Terrace Tunnel was empty bar a couple of on-coming vehicles.

And then, Wellington City. Unnervingly near empty streets. I was thankful for the few cars and pedestrians who were present. Total emptiness would have been too much and I would lost it.

Victoria Street, looking north;

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Looking south,

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Cuba Street, looking north,

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Vivian Street, looking back towards the Terrace Tunnel,

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Taranaki Street, looking north,

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Looking south,

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New World in Miramar – embarrassingly plentiful carparking,

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Even more deserted at Kilbirnie Pak N Save – and nary a toilet paper hoarder in sight,

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Likewise Countdown in Kilbirnie. Singing, “Where have all the shoppers gone, long since bought up large…”

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Who’s feeling silly now, I wonder?

Onepu Road, looking south,

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Looking north, toward Wellington CBD,

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Newtown, Constable Street, looking east toward the airport,

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Adelaide Road, looking north toward Wellington CBD,

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Looking south, toward the Zoo,

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These guys got the memo on social distancing,

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Another jogger who thought lock-down obviously translated to “time-for-a-run-because-this-shit-don’t-apply-to-me”,

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Adelaide Road toward the Basin Reserve,

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Kent and Cambridge Terraces, looking north,

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At around 10.30AM it suddenly dawned on me…

I had seen joggers, bicyclists, a couple of skateboarders and random individuals and couples out and about. There were a few cars, vans, and even a couple of camper vans (who were on the move to carry on their holidays? More on that shortly.)

But no police.

Not a single police constable or vehicle until the first policecar was seen turning a corner into Cambridge Terrace.

Courtney Place, looking east,

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And west,

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Despite the above two images showing an apparently deserted street, there were people strolling along. “Stay at home”? Not likely.  And for the most part, when passing each other, the two metre distancing rule was not followed.

Lambton Quay, looking south. The “Golden Mile” is normally jam-packed with traffic, buses, office workers, and consumer-citizens on their holy mission to Shop. Today, it was a scene from ‘The Quiet Earth‘ with only Bruno Lawrence in his white negligee missing-in-action,

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Looking north, a lone bus was on a forlorn search for passengers,

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As I took the above image, there was something else I began to notice. Parked on either side of the road; cars.

And in the side streets from Lambton Quay,

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Why so many cars?

I hoped that they were from inner city apartment dwellers – and not office workers sneakily coming in to work, ignoring the lock down. If people are sneak-working, their unmitigated selfishness is endangering the entire country, economy, and other workers’ jobs.

And then there were these two muppets in their campervans. All campers/travellers have been ordered to stay put. But obviously the entire country can go get f****d, because by Thor these self-entitled morons were determined not to let a global pandemic and the deaths of thousands of people interfere with their jolly nice time in Aotearoa.

If either one of these camper vans contained a person with covid19, they will be spreading the disease along their travels. Every place they stop, they could potentially spread infection,

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Or maybe they have immunity to covid19? I want me some of that!

Just before mid-day, I park up on another near-deserted street in Johnsonville. Lunch is pre-made; left-over cold pork slices on Roggenbrot Rye, with picked figs from my tree. No coffee… I stare at my empty coffee cup longingly. I think Churchillian thoughts of self-sacrifice…

I stay in my car; a cocoon of steel and glass, (hopefully) impenetrable to the virus. Unless the virus has mutated to penetrate through glass and metal, I’m safe. I listen to RNZ; a story of a widow who will be spared the ugly spectacle of the trial of the Christchurch terrorist (whose name shall not be mentioned). Grim… and still hard to comprehend that one demented individual could destroy so many lives.

And still no cops to be seen.

Until – Johnsonville. I see a police vehicle slowly crawl into the Mall carpark and park. Three constables alight and disappear into a nearby store,

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They enter a shop that was open to the public. Snatches of conversation indicate they were questioning the store owner. The store owner could be heard explaining that MPI had given them permission to open,

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The store is a ‘specialist’ retailer stocking imported grocery items (store name deleted to deter possible harassment). It does have a considerable range of goods (far wider than The Warehouse, for sure!) and probably constitutes a ‘superette’ not dissimilar to a ‘Four Square‘. The sign at the entry stipulates one customer to enter at any given time,

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Tough call. The police seem satisfied and leave. Some cynics may question if police have “nothing better to do than harass law-abiding shop-keepers”.

Screw that.

We are living in perilous times and if we don’t all act in unison, then we – as a thinking, rational (*cough*) species – will be defeated by a microsopic mindless organism that isn’t even aware of itself or us. The more some people “piss” around, the longer this goes on.

After the shenanigans from The Warehouse, and other businesses “trying it on”, the role of the Police will be vital to prevent the lock-down turning into a massive, leaking sieve. Otherwise, this;

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Few people I saw out and about could have reasonable excuses. Certainly not grocery shopping. (The lack of groceries; grocery bags, or a near-by supermarket kinda gave it away.)

Those who were out jogging, biking, strolling casually through the streets of Wellington were indulging their whims at the expense of others. The longer some people treat this lock-down as a holiday for recreational activities, the longer the virus circulates through the country and the longer the state of emergency will last.

What do we need to drive this home? Dead bodies? No problem; the virus will eventually oblige us.

And throughout all this, police presence was minimal. During my drive from the Hutt Valley to a client in Miramar and then to Johnsonville, I spotted one police vehicle turning into Kent Terrace; one Police “paddy-wagon” turning from Harris Street in to Jervois Quay at about 11AM; a parked (empty) police car near the Police National HQ, and finally the police action in Johnsonville.

If this lock down is not to collapse into a dangerous farce, with foolish people treating it like an impromptu holiday, the Police need to “up their game”. Their presence must be felt if they are serious in deterring flouters of the lock-down. Jobs, our economy, and lives are riding on this.

The public are the ones meant to be on “lock-down”, not the New Zealand Police.

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“You can go for a walk or a bike ride around your neighbourhood to get some exercise. You can go out to get essentials like food. But stay away from other people. No stopping to chat – even if you are two metres away from each other. Just give a wave and keep moving. Because the virus can live on surfaces for up to three days, don’t take your kids to the playground. Stay at home.” –  Siouxsie Wiles, 26 March 2020

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Note: The author works in the wider Health sector and is part of an essential service; with specific clients to attend to. During the weekend, the author will be on lock down at home.

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References

Democracy Now: Madrid’s Ice Rink Turned to Morgue as Spain Exceeds China in Coronavirus Deaths

RNZ: Widow -“I am relieved we won’t have to sit through a trial”

The Spinoff:  Siouxsie Wiles & Toby Morris – You’re waking up in lockdown New Zealand. Here’s how it works

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 28 March 2020.

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The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

27 March 2020 1 comment

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24 March 2020

9.46AM

Number of covid19 cases in Aotearoa New Zealand: 102

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As of 11.59 on Thursday, most of New Zealand will go into “lock down”. People will be expected not to travel to work; not to socialise; and to stay home.

I will not be one of those people.

I work in a health-related industry and as such, have the questionable privilege of staying at work; helping those who rely on me; and not “hunkering down” with the majority of my fellow New Zealanders in the (relative) safety of their homes.

Which is ok. As I told one of my colleagues when our Prime Minister informed the country we were heading for DefCon 3, and later, DefCon4; “Now we really start to earn our pay...”

For most of Monday, we were busy contacting our clients; liaising with family members; and awaiting instructions. Much of what we accomplished we did using common sense; initiative; and a bit of slow, measured panic.

Our clients will be safe. They will be in lock-down. My colleagues and I have their backs.

As for our own vulnerability to this creeping, invisible, global horror… We don’t think about that. Best not to.

Until…

This morning, as I scrolled through my Twitter feed  for the latest info on covid-19, I came across something which not only shocked me deeply – but which left me exasperated and utterly disgusted. This;

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An unattributed statement to the NZX said;

“At this stage, it is more important than ever that we live up to our purpose of helping Kiwis live better every day by making sure that we show up for our communities in the way that they need.

In the past two weeks the group has seen unprecedented demand for essential items across all our brands. Goods sold included essential items to prepare themselves for the mandatory isolation period of at least four weeks.”

Pejman Okhovat, CEO  of The Warehouse said in a statement on 24 March;

“We’re encouraged by the Government’s continued efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. Today we wanted to let you know that The Warehouse stores and online site will remain open, with modifications, to ensure that you can continue to get the essentials and supplies you need. 

We have always been there for our customers and communities when needed, and our team is doing everything possible to make sure that continues. This includes continuing to provide essential products such as groceries, toiletries, winter essentials, blankets, clothing, stationery for home schooling and work from home needs. Our online stores will also continue operating to provide those at home and essential businesses with contactless delivery.

We are very proud of our team and the way they have cared for customers, themselves, and their families during this time. Our team members will continue to do everything possible to help keep The Warehouse stores safe for everyone. These modifications will include more frequent and thorough sanitisation of our stores, and strict personal hygiene guidelines being followed by all.”

He added,

“Our stores are open, with modifications

You will be able to get the essentials and supplies you need from your local The Warehouse store, whether you’re coming into the store or completing a Click & Collect order. We are practicing social distancing, and will be limiting the numbers of people in store.

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We are looking after our team members

We are protecting our team members with increased health and safety requirements. Our commitment to ensuring nobody misses out goes beyond being adequately stocked for customers. We value our team members and we have introduced a new COVID-19 care package for our team members, including the ability to apply for additional paid discretionary leave.”

It was mostly rubbish. Very little of Mr Okhovat’s claims of “social distancing, limiting the numbers of people in store“, “strict personal hygiene guidelines“, “modifications“, etc, were true.

How do I know this?

Because I went and looked.

This morning (24 March), I visited “Red Sheds” at Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, Petone, and Tory St. What I saw disturbed me profoundly and demonstrated the emptiness of the Chief Executive’s assurance.

In Upper Hutt…

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There was uncontrolled entry to the store;

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There were signs referring to two-metred tapes on the floor. But how well they stood out with all the other, similar-coloured signage, is questionable;

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The tapes on the floor, by themselves, meant nothing;

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Aside from which, customers in the narrow aisles – which are not two metres wide – meant they were practically rubbing elbows when they passed each other;

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The Lower Hutt Warehouse. Again, uncontrolled entry. Can you spot the covid-19 sign?

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The covid-19 sign, to the right of the entryway;

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The much larger Bag Search sign, on the left;

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The self-checkouts were not two metres apart. Nor was there evidence of “frequent and thorough sanitisation” promised by the CEO. Customers were using the checkouts one after another;

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Meanwhile, another retailer in the Westgate Mall, was doing things much differently. Entry was controlled; staff were wearing masks; ‘social’ distancing requested;

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At the Petone Warehouse, entry was controlled;

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But those queuing in line were hardly two metres apart;

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Unfortunately, the staffer at the door (pictured above) was more concerned with me recording the event than the futility of  people queuing in line in close proximity to each other.

At Tory Street, in downtown Wellington, Warehouse staffers were controlling entry but the queuing customers were yet again in close proximity to one another;

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And inside, at all checkouts, there was no evidence of queuing customers standing two metres apart;

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Whatever “assurances” Warehouse executives were issuing to the public were in stark contrast to the reality. Safety precautions were non-existent or inconsistent. The layout of the stores have not been modified. Aisles were still narrow, forcing customers to close proximity to each other.

Their was no evidence of any form of sanitisation taken place.

In effect, for The Warehouse it was business-as-usual.

It is concerning the The Warehouse believes itself to be an “essential service”. It is not. It’s grocery line is a side-line to its product lines and would  run out of stock faster than supermarkets. Aside from which, its food line is limited to little more than what a superette might provide.

It is clear that the company is “trying it on”. At a time when a disaster is threatening the entire country, a bunch of executives thought it would be a clever idea to capitalise on and exploit people’s fears.  As First Retail Group managing director Chris Wilkinson put it;

“If The Warehouse is [able to] open then, by rights, Briscoes almost certainly should be open, and if Briscoes is open, where does that place the likes of Mitre 10 Mega and Bunnings who are also very strong [sellers] of resilience products. This creates an unfair playing field for other businesses who are all trying to do the right thing”

Damn right it does. Imagine if all other stores closed, with only  The Warehouse remaining open? That would not just constitute market dominance, but a near 100% monopoly.

Briscoe’s managing director Rod Duke probably summed it up best;

“We were not given any indication by anyone that if we chose to sell hand sanitizer and toilet paper we’d be allowed to open… and at the end of the day I think I’m a bit more interested in the safety and wellbeing of my staff rather than a few sales of toilet rolls.”

Not only would that create a monopoly position, but the nationwide lock-down would end up leaking like a sieve.

You have to wonder if New Zealanders are so barking shopping-mad that they would endanger themselves and others to pursue their recreational retail activties?

It is beyond belief that so many people thought this could possibly be a good idea. Having supermarkets open is enough of a risk without adding another retail chain to the mix.

In fact, why have a lock down at all?

Why should my clients have to lock down?

Why should I care about my job to help others, facing a virus that – because of my own diabetes and age group – puts me in the vulnerable group?

All so a bunch of self-entitled company executives can make a lucrative profit and a bunch of shopping-nuts can pretend the current pandemic doesn’t exist?!

As for the notion that The Warehouse will be providing winter goods to families in need – oh please spare me the hypocrisy. They are not providing something for nothing. They are selling goods.

The number of times families in need are used as an excuse by unscrupulous business interests has become a sick cliche.

Unsurprisingly, The Warehouse’s shares rose 42% at one stage today. How cynical can a corporate entity be, to be trading on a disaster to maximise their value?

If New Zealanders want to thumb their noses at the worst pandemic since the 1918 influenza, so be it.

They can climb over the corpses of their countrymen and women to stand in line to go shopping. Hopefully all those people who thought this was a good idea will be the first to go. (Gives whole new meaning to the old phrase, “Shop till you drop!”)

In the meantime, I will carry on with my duties. I have little choice in the matter. In the following four weeks, my movements will be restricted to working with my clients and the risk of doing their supermarket purchases for them. I have to go out and hope no one coughs or sneezes at me. Or I forget not to touch my face, just once. Or I miss a spot when washing my hands.

It’s the same with my colleagues, and others in the health sector, police, etc.

If the Warehouse went ahead with its lunatic idea, my job would be that much harder. The risk that the disease spreads further, engulfing me and other healthcare workers would escalate. In fact, it would be inevitable.

Did I mention that because my partner works elsewhere, and we live apart, I won’t be seeing her for four weeks? But as long as The Warehouse can make a ‘killing’ with its profits… Well, that’s disaster capitalism working as it should, I guess.

I wonder if The Warehouse Group senior executives will be self-isolating whilst their staff are at risk of infection. “Take one for the Team”, eh?

Good on ya, Warehouse.  You just managed to make Simon Bridges look good.

 

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24 March 2020

2:41PM

Number of covid19 cases in Aotearoa New Zealand: 155

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Postscript1:

This afternoon (24 March), I put the following questions to the media team at The Warehouse;

I understand that The Warehouse intends to keep its outlets open for the duration of the Level 4 lock down, as you consider yourselves an “essential service”?

Please advise how you intend to address the following;

1. Social distancing in the aisles of Warehouse outlets, most of which are far less than 2 metres width?

2. Social distancing in queues outside main doors, where people tend to clump together?

3. Keeping products clean after customers have picked up and touched them? The covid19 virus is estimated to live for 2 to 3 days on varying surfaces. How will this be addressed?

4. Will The Warehouse sell only essential goods (grocery items) or will customers be able to shop for any products they wish?

At the time of publication, I have received no response.

Postscript2:

The government has rejected The Warehouse’s plans.

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References

Beehive: New Zealand moves to COVID-19 Alert Level 3, then Level 4 in 48 hours

NZ Herald: Covid-19 coronavirus – The Warehouse says it will remain open during lockdown

The Warehouse: An update from us on COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

NZ Herald: Covid-19 coronavirus – Warehouse claims inaccurate, MBIE says

RNZ: Coronavirus lockdown – Is the Warehouse an essential service?

RNZ: Four cases of community transmission of Covid-19 in NZ

NewstalkZB: Coronavirus lockdown – Warehouse, liquor stores to close

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 25 March 2020.

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