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Life in Lock Down: Day 10

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April 4: Day 10 of living in lock-down…

I wake up to a fine Saturday morning which normally would be like an early Christmas. But it’s Day 10 of Level 4 Lock Down. What  will my fellow New Zealanders be doing on a day like this – staying home in lock-down, or venturing out en-masse to every park, walk-way, beach, river side they can find? The TAB won’t be taking bets on that question (if they were open).

Today would be a perfect day to mow the lawns. As someone kindly pointed out to me recently, I’ve neglected them for two weeks too long. Mind you, the damp micro-climate on my back yard “lawn” has produced half a dozen mushrooms thus far…

Today is not lawn-mowing day. I’m filling in for a colleague who has been pulled off duties with our clients when it was realised his wife worked at a major supermarket and he helped out on-site. In effect his “bubble includes our six clients; six of his colleagues (including me) and several hundred Wellingtonians who are customers at the supermarket his wife works at.

“Not optimal” would be an understatement. The masks, latex gloves, hand-washing, and wiping our shoes’ soles with disinfectant would be meaningless with the extent of his contact with so many other people.

So I’m doing his shift this afternoon/evening, making it a six day working week.

If any of us catch the virus, I suspect we’ll all be pulling a six or even seven day working week. Best not to think about it.

Wake up in time to catch Simon Shepherd on Newshub Nation on TV3.

First up was Grant Robertson. While I have utmost respect for the gentleman and the hellish job (matched only by our own Wonder Woman, Prime Minister Ardern), he doesn’t add much new to what we already know.

There’s some persistent questioning about why the government didn’t step in to buy Bauer Media Group’s magazines (The Listener, Metro, Woman’s Weekly, et al) that it closed on 2 April.

Bizarre. It has taken an unseen micro-organism to bring down the mighty pillars of neo-liberalism, with a  clamour that the State acquire (for $1!) part of a magazine empire. The blessed irony of it all; state-owned media! Only a handful of other countries exist where the State owns or controls media publications.

In only thirtysix years the neo-liberal edifice of the free market has come crashing down. To paraphrase H.G. Wells, the free-market neo-liberal system was…

“…slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all [progressive movement’s] devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.”

This time, the “humblest thing” that slew the free market was not bacteria, but an even smaller, more distant cousin, the virus.

Even the Soviet Union last twice as long.

To drive home the point of the utter failure of the neo-liberal system, Finance Minister Robertson pointed out just how fortunate we were that the mania for “small government” by the Right had not been implemented in this country.

Host Simon Shepherd asked;

Simon Shepherd: “Is there a risk that at the end of this we’re going to be a nation with has a massive public sector and not much private enterprise?

Grant Robertson: “No, I don’t believe so. The New Zealand private sector was robust and strong and full of innovative people coming into covid19, and it will be on the other side.

I think what we have learned out of this is that having a robust public sector is vitally important when you have a crisis like this, and so that will be important.

Grant Robertson also made it clear that the tourism sector would have to change after this crisis was over. We certainly need to wind back the foot traffic currently trampling over the countryside. Add to that the hyper-commercialisation of our tertiary sector which is heavily reliant on students from other countries to pay our education bill (and is often a back-door conduit for  high levels of immigration which our infrastructure is ill-designed to cope with).

Perhaps it’s little wonder that Simon Bridges’ earlier strident calls for tax cuts had fallen on deaf ears. People could see with their own eyes what was happening in China, then Europe, and now the United States. A strong collective response – in the form of The State – could be the only viable defence against a fast-spreading pandemic. People understood that a few extra bucks in our wallets/purses was hardly going to protect us from an invisible enemy.

Simon Bridges didn’t just “not read the room” – he was in the wrong bloody building.

Newshub Nation presented a wide range of interviews and the case of Jess Delabarca was an example that the contagion could affect any of us, young or old. The young may be “bullet proof”, but not “virus proof”.

One of the two panellists, Professor in Politics and International Relations, Jennifer Curtin, expressed her shock at Bauer Media Group’s sudden closure. She also pointed out it was difficult for the State to buy/bail out one private media company  – without then supporting the entire sector. In effect, the free market model would be utterly turned on it’s head, with the State acquiring one distressed company after another.

The late Robert Muldoon’s dire warning in his “Dancing Cossacks” political ad that “one day the State would own everything and you know what that’s called” – was wrong in only one respect. The companies themselves were clamouring for a State/taxpayer buy-out.

The capitalists were jumping ship, having hit an invisible viral iceberg.

At the conclusion of the programmwe, Host Simon Shepherd announced that Newshub Nation was taking a “break for Easter and would be back in two weeks. Which, considering that the entire world is facing an apocalypse, was an optimistic view. Hopefully there will be a live audience to watch his programme in two weeks time.

On the way into work, it was another moment to observe the streets around me…

The railway Park’N’Ride carpark was empty;

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The white motorhome, first noticed on 31 March parked on a major thoroughfare toward SH2 was still parked in front of the same property – but had moved – now facing the opposite way;

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Spotted long the way; three ambulances; a double-tandem gravel-hauling truck; a “New World” delivery van; a “Pacific” double-tandem fuel tanker; a patient-transfer ambulance SUV; “Fulton Hogan truck; and a “Newbolds” van.

As if a weekend from the 1970s, there appeared to be few commercial vehicles on the road. What little traffic consisted of mostly ordinary motorcars.

The traffic on SH2 was still light; approximately four cars ahead, and a similar number behind me. Traffic became lighter to the north of the Melling lights. Arriving closer to Wellington on the motorway, traffic thinned out even more, with perhaps three or four cars ahead, and similar to my rear.

The day was beautifully sunny, a near perfect summery day though we’re now feeling the chills of autumn. Though the harbour was placid and calm there were no recreational boats of any kind on the water. Yachties and other recreational boaties seemed to be heeding the call to stay of the water.

At the Terrace tunnel, there were six on-coming cars, nothing to my rear.

Driving through Wellington, vehicular traffic was light to non-existent. Not the busy times pre-Lock-down, when roads were busier on Saturdays than during the working week. Bicyclists were out and about, with two or three around me at any one time. There were plenty of strollers enjoying the lovely weather but not many observing the two metre rule.

Approaching Chaffers Street New World supermarket, I noticed shoppers carrying their re-usable shopping bags and – fresh cut flowers? A brief stop at New World confirmed my observation – the supermarket was selling flowers;

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A florist was supplying the retailer with fresh flowers. An “essential” service?! Oh hell, why not. Sex shops , weight loss industry,  and golf courses all think they’re essential as well. In capitalism, everyone thinks their business is essential. The stench of self-entitlement – like affluent yachties flocking to their holiday homes – is pervasive.

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The longer people willfully flout the lock-down the longer this crisis will be with us. The longer law-abiding citizens will have to live with the massive upset to their lives whilst others are enjoying their impromptu holiday. The more people will get sick.

And the greater the likelihood that the death toll will rise.

I liken those who flout the lock down as those who drink and drive. They endanger others with their recklessness.

If this worsens, it’ll be time to borrow a leaf from our Aussie cuzzies and go hard on those who are putting the rest of us at risk;

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I don’t care what excuses – usually concern for poor families – are put forward. Having retail outlets such as The Warehouse open for public trading will be an open conduit for the transmission of the virus. If low income people need blankets, heaters, and other winter-ralated goods, let them be distributed free of charge by the State. The greater the need, the lower the cost should be commensurately.

If the State can subsidise private companies and their employees we can assist those at the bottom of the socio-economic  heap.

Continuing my drive to work, I took the Oriental Bay route. I saw a light-sign asking people;

“Enjoy your beach walk but don’t linger”

— clearly a reference to people previously congregating on the beach, often in close proximity, and adding to the threat of viral transmission.

Most people were doing the right thing, with only a couple of dozen people on the sand and two in the water;

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As I drove around the bays, another observation struck me. Where pedestrian numbers were heavy, the 2-metre physical  distancing rule was mostly ignored. Where pedestrian traffic was more sparse, people made more effort to walk around each other.

In effect, where physical distancing was most needed, it was less employed.

Another reason to minimise and restrict retail outlets opening and recreational activities that attract crowds.

I also noticed a fair number of bicyclists riding on the footpath, making it harder for pedestrians to physically distance themselves from the riders. Which was mystifying considering the near lack of vehicular traffic on the roads. At this point in time, bicyclists could practically “own the roads”.

Arrive at work. Carry out formal sanitising protocol before entering premises; sanitise hands; wipe shoes with disinfectant; send call to unlock gate. Inside, re-wash hands with hot water and soap. Routine completed, work begins. Remember to re-stock my satchel with latex gloves and ASTM Level 1 mask. (The latter offers minimal protection. Practically pointless to wear it when outside. But with so many people flouting lock-down protocols, any protection is better than going out “naked”.)

The afternoon and evening passes quickly. All clients are reasonably health, except one. He is diabetic T2, obese, and in poor health. He is suffering diabetes related complications. He is nil symptomatic of covid19 but if he caught it, my belief is that it would be a death sentence. Luckily the facility is in total lock-down – even management are banned from entering (and this has been rigorously enforced).

I work in close proximity to him. If he is infected, it will be on my conscience.

It is night by the time I leave.It is again deathly quiet. No pedestrians. No vehicular traffic. No sound of cars, trucks, or motorbikes. The airport is silent. It is a deathly silence I’m still finding hard to get used to.

Except for the lights on in houses along the street, I could be the last human on Earth.

And something else… smells I never noticed before. Without low vehicle and almost no aircraft emissions, the air is cleaner than ever. There is a subtle sweet smell in the air. Flowers? Perfume?

I sanitise my hands in the car.

The trip home is uneventful. Along the motorway I do a rough count of  vehicles-per-kilometre: two.

I see four ambulance on my trip homes. One bus. Three police cars (two of which are attending an incident by the Kilbirnie Fire Station). There is a Hyundai radar-van parked on the side of the motorway just south of he motorway. Pointless, considering the near non-existant traffic. It’ll be slim picking tonight for traffic enforcement/revenue gathering. Another police car sighted on SH2, lights flashing, parked behind a car that may have broken down.

Then home. Shoes are removed and left outside (a habit I’ve always practiced); open door; straight into the bathroom to wash my hands. Keys wiped with disinfectant.

“Dinner” is light. It’s too late to cook anything so it’s cold left-overs.

Tomorrow, it’s a day off. Watch TVNZ’s Q+A; mow the lawns; go for a walk along my street. Rest.

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Postscript:

As the Bauer Group exploit the covid19 crisis lock down and close down a long list of well-known magazine titles, this letter to the editor in the April 4-10 edition (the last ?), by former Minister of Communications, Ian Shearer, was published. It appeared before Bauer Group made their announcement to shut down The Listener and reads almost like an epitaph dripping with irony;

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Acknowledgement: @BarbSturmfels

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Mr Shearer was a minister in the Lange-led government which initiated the mad craze of privatising state-owned (ie; owned by you and me) assets. Like The Listener.

Like privatising and re-nationalising Air New Zealand several times over, it hasn’t worked out well, has it?!

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Current covid19 cases: 950

Number of deaths: 1

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Grant Robertson hints at potential rent freeze for business

RNZ: Covid-19 – Major magazine publisher Bauer Media closing down

Wikiquotes: H.G. Wells

Adult Toy Mega Store

RNZ: Jenny Craig and storage facility staff told they are essential service

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Golf clubs could perish if greenkeepers barred from caring for greens

RNZ:  Resident furious outsiders ignoring lockdown to use holiday homes

Smart Company: Business owner fined $5000 as NSW Police enforce coronavirus lockdowns

NSW Gov Clinical Excellence Commission: Application of PPE in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

RNZ:  Covid-19 wrap –  What happened on 4 April

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

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

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 9

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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Life in Lock Down: Day 9

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April 3: Day 9 of living in lock-down…

Another late-start to my work day. Everything is temporarily upended as clients are shuffled around so we can minimise our “bubble” by reducing the number of people we help. One of my colleagues has been removed from his clients; his wife works for a super-market and he helps out with her work as well.

I feel sorry for him. But it’s too much of a risk. He could easily carry something back  to older clients – many of who have some serious underlying medical conditions. Several would not survive a covid19 infection.

As per my usual route, I drive past the Park’N’Ride carpark: only three cars.

The white motorhome is still parked where I first noticed it on 31 March.

Onto SH2 for the now quick ride into Wellington. It’s around mid-day. Traffic seems… marginally “busier”? By “busier”, I mean an increase from three of four vehicles on the road with me, to six or eight. And it seems to be more cars than commercial trucks, vans, etc. I hope it’s my imagination.

Noting commercial vehicles; an “InterGroup” branded truck carrying a holding tank and heavy pumping equipment; an ambulance;  a large, empty scrap metal haulage double-tandem truck (essential?! really?!); “Countdown-branded covered truck; a Highway Patrol police car parked on the side of the motorway (one of only two police cars I see throughout the entire day); a “Bidfood” truck; “McFall” oil tanker truck; a skip-bin truck (empty); 4 “Mainfreight” trucks; “ACM” security truck; “Steinlager” branded truck; a “Chemdry” van (carpets gotta be cleaned even during a virus apocalypse so we meet our Maker with clean shagpile); “Frost”-branded van; a fire-fighting appliance and fire service van, on the side of the motorway; two container-hauling trucks (empty); a “FMS – Food Machinary” service van; “New World” branded truck; a “Waste Management” truck; a hi-ab truck carting heavy metal/iron machine parts; “Beaurepaires” van; an empty hi-ab flat deck truck; “Hirepool” truck; more roadworks with “Fulton Hogan” vehicles, north of The Terrace tunnel; a “Bosco” heavy-gravel hauling truck; in the city, a “Dawson”s grease-trap truck; a SCL Wellington (laboratories) car; a MTA car; a “Cricket Wellington” car in Vivian Street.

In Miramar, a van branded with “Vital” is parked in a spot and I’m fairly certain it wasn’t there yesterday. The garish orange colouring makes it hard to blend in with other vehicles nearby and kinda gives it away. Another individual or business for whom the lock-down is non-applicable?

On the radio, RNZ was carrying a story that Moodys credit rating agency had left New Zealand’s sovereign-rating unchanged. As a foreign financial website reported;

In its latest review report on New Zealand’s (NZ) sovereign credit ratings, Moody’s Investors Service affirmed the NZ long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings at Aaa and maintained the stable outlook.

“The drivers behind the rating affirmation include Moody’s assessment of New Zealand’s strong governance, including sound monetary and fiscal institutions with track records of proactive and effective policymaking.

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Moody’s expects the New Zealand economy to remain resilient in the face of shocks, given its trade openness, diverse and competitive agricultural export base, flexible labor and product markets, high wealth levels, and favorable demographics, driven by robust migration trends.”

That made me smile. Aside from not being the news National would like to hear (because it made the Labour-led government look like sound fiscal managers) – it stood in stark contrast  for when the Key-led government racked up a massive debt of at least $71.6 billion by June 2011 – three years after it had taken office.

Splurging on borrowing billions after two unaffordable tax cuts in 2009 and 2010, two other ratings agencies (Standard & Poors and Fitch downgraded New Zealand’s sovereign credit ratings thereafter.

All the while, the current government will be borrowing at least $25 billion to keep the economy afloat.

The lesson from this is simple enough; the capitalists on Wall Street were not impressed with National having to borrow to sustain their promised tax cuts. (In effect, National borrowed other people’s savings to put money into our back pockets. A quasi-socialist money transfer under the cloak of “tax cuts”. )

The capitalists on Wall Street, however, recognise that the current government is borrowing, not for consumption, but for stimulus. The difference is subtle, but nevertheless, real.

Meanwhile, focusing back on the road…

Despite only emergency road works supposedly permitted during the lock down, a roading gang with vehicles was operating just north of the Ngauranga inter4change. “Downer” vans were parked nearby.

Driving in toward the city, a low cloud-fog had enveloped most of the entrance to the harbour and eastern suburbs. Irony of ironies, even without covid19, the airport would have been closed this afternoon;

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The Terrace Tunnel which, in the last few days was almost empty, had more traffic today. At least six or eight cars were present any one time as I drove through.

There seemed fewer people on the streets. Hardly surprising; it was a gray, over-cast day and entering the city it began to lightly drizzle. Not a day for a casual stroll through the city, lock down or not.

At Kilbirnie Pak N Save, a client required assistance with their shopping. This is not a task normally assigned to us – but these are unusual times requiring different solutions. Even with careful management by Pak N Save staff, to prevent over-crowding in the supermarket aisles, there were still “bottlenecks”; places where popular products were kept on shelves.

The two-metre phyical distancing rule became also impossible to maintain. This was not just because a small number ignored the protocol – but because one person in the middle of an aisle effectively blocked it with their two-metre “bubble”.

Which was sufficient to give real cause for concern to let smaller retail outlets open, or even larger outlet which had narrower aisles than a supermarket.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t just butchers, Jenny Craig, storage facilities, and sundry assorted other businesses clamouring for the coveted title of “essential service”.

Next in line; golf courses;

As of Monday, the Covid-19 website’s list of additional services stated: “Turf maintenance is not considered an essential service and should not be undertaken at this time.”

NZG have asked for essential and critical maintenance to be carried out in a solo manner by an individual, who either lives on course or outside the golf facility.

[…]

“We know the government is trying to save lives here. Obviously growing grass isn’t that, but we’re worried about the damage at the end of it,” Murphy said.

“If we can do a little bit of essential maintenance by individuals doing solo work, we think that’s a reasonable exemption.”

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“Our greens are our babies and if we stay away from those for too long there will be repercussions down the other end with job losses and probably club closures,” New Zealand Golf Course Superintendents Association president Steve Hodson said.

Is there anyone in Aotearoa New Zealand who isn’t running an “essential service”?!

Who is next in line? Sex toy shops?

Oh, wait… it had to happen.

Meanwhile, as some people have yet to understand the full deadly nature of this disease, there are now over a million cases of covid19 worldwide, and nearly 53,000 people have died.

By sheer fortune, we have (thus far) escaped the worst of it.

Golf courses can be fixed up. Jenny Craig can temporarily halt peddling its illusory promises of a svelte figure. None of which is worth a single human life.

Tonight, after I left Wellington, heading home, I realised I could no longer avoid going to the supermarket for my own grocery needs. Like something out of a Stephen King supernatural thriller, supermarkets have become a place of dread. Especially as we learn how easily the covid19 virus can be transmitted by a cough or sneeze. Or even – as it may be the case – by exhaling.

For the second time today, I “suit up” in my most-basic hazmat protective gear: a pair of blue latex gloves and a paper face mask that may or may not work.

And there’s three more weeks (at least!) of this to go.

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Current covid19 cases: 868

Number of deaths: 1

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References

FX Street:  Moody’s affirms New Zealand’s Aaa rating, maintains stable outlook – NZD/USD retests highs

Fairfax/Stuff media: Government debt rises to $71.6 billion

New Zealand Debt Management Office: New Zealand Sovereign Credit Ratings

Fairfax/Stuff media: Coronavirus – Government doubles borrowing forecast as economy worsens

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Exclusion of butchers as essential service will cause ‘animal welfare crisis’ says pork sector

RNZ:  Jenny Craig defends stance as essential service

RNZ: Jenny Craig and storage facility staff told they are essential service

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Golf clubs could perish if greenkeepers barred from caring for greens

Adult Toy Mega Store

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Confirmed global cases pass one million

Science News:  Just breathing or talking may be enough to spread COVID-19 after all

RNZ:  Covid-19 update – 71 new cases, down from yesterday’s high, but clusters increase

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

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

Previous related blogposts

Questionable assumptions ‘bad for small democracies’

It’s official – National is a poor manager of the Economy.

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 4 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

3 April 2020 3 comments

For those folk who find my other Lock-Down Diary versions too “negative” or otherwise unpalatable…

Here’s a photo of a pretty flower,

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Better?

Tomorrow’s Sanitised Version: a cute animal video.

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Categories: Various Tags:

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

3 April 2020 2 comments

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April 2: Day eight of living in lock-down…

Today, my work day starts late. Our rosters and clients have been dramatically changed, lessening (theoretically) the number of people in our work “bubble”.  If just one of us catches covid19 the impact could be considerable as Grey Base Hospital recently discovered. Yesterday I received a pandemic “pack”. Latex gloves (good); one small bottle of hand sanitiser (good – but won’t last long); and paper face masks (useless). Better than nothing, I guess.

Checked emails. We’re advised a list of protocols to follow travelling from client to client. One is disinfecting our shoes… I’m going to have to find some disinfectant.

Breakfast; coffee, weetbix, soy milk, and fresh chopped figs.

I have a tip-off questioning whether a rather curious business is authorised by MoBIE to be operating. The business claims to have authorisation to do so, but I’m dubious. I make enquiries.

Chatted to some passers-by walking past my house (a good three metres distance between us). They’re a couple in their 60s,  intrigued by my fig tree. I tell them  to help themselves; there’s plenty there. (Otherwise the wax-eyes will get them)

We discuss the lock-down and how well people are adhering to the rules. They say most are following the lock-down rules, but some of their neighbours are making them angry. Especially as the gentleman is diabetic and in a vulnerable age with an under-lying medical condition (like this blogger). They’ll be using the dob-in line, they tell me.

We discuss HBA1C blood sugar levels. His is in the mid-40s, lower than mine. He offers a few suggestions how I can better self-manage my blood sugar. Some very good suggestions which I take onboard.

She picked half a dozen figs. I suggest he is careful how many he eats; they are so ripe they’re high in sugar (wasps have been attracted to the fruit, en masse).

On the way to work, in the late afternoon (late start, late finish) the Park’N’Ride has only one car. Good sign, so far.

The white motorhome is still parked up where it’s been for the last few days.

From  the Hutt Valley to the Eastern suburbs, around a 40km trip, I see… one police car.

On the motorway there appears to be more car traffic than commercial vehicles. The commercial ones I spot include Fulton Hogan; a double tandem gravel-hauler; a stack of beehives on a flat-deck light-truck; a “Pacific”-branded fuel tanker; “Gator”-branded heat pumps van; a Downer truck; “Eurofins” Laboratory car; “Hawkeye”-branded ute; “Red Wolf” security ute; WEL (Wellington Electricity)  van; 3 Mainfreight trucks; an emty container-haulage truck; “Budget” rental van; “Spotless” catering van; 2 fully-laden container trucks; “Linfox” branded truck; “ACM” security van; Scania truck; and a “Chemdry” van (carpet cleaning business must be on the up and up?).

Traffic appears, on the face of it, “heavier” than the last few days. However, it’s a different time of the day (around 3.30pm), so people may be on their way home as I’m hoofing it to work.

More near-deserted streets in Wellington…

In Miramar, a gent in his 50s (60s?) is sitting in the open back of his van, cleaning a paint brush. Judging by the gear in the van, he’s a full-on commercial painter, not a DIYer. The house he’s parked in front  has scaffolding around it;

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I’m hoping the house he’s painting is empty and so is maintaining his bubble – by the look of his age, he’d be in the vulnerable age group.

It’s a long work day. My clients are still in lock down – most have underlying medical conditions as well as in the 50s – 60s age group. I doubt many of them would survive a covid19 infection. Protocol for entering; gate unlocked; hands washed immediately; soles of shoes wiped clean with disinfectant.

The evening passes quickly. Paperwork on-line is completed,  and it’s time to go home.

Outside, in the night, there is a fire engine with lights flashing down the street. No siren, just the red strobes of the emergency lights.  It reminds me that the true heroes of this crisis (as well as retail workers at supermarkets) are the fire-fighters, police, and medical professionals. We owe them so much – our lives, when you think about it.

As I stand on the footpath, it’s a windless night. No other cars. And no airplanes taking off from the nearby Wellington International Airport.

It’s just… silence. The Quiet Earth is here. This is civilisation’s “dial” wound back to near-zero.

The drive home is like the drive home last night, and the night before: a near empty motorway.

At home, I have my own protocol’s; shoes off outside; open door; straight to bathroom to thoroughly wash hands. Phone and other gear wiped down with disinfectant. Is it enough? Who knows. But it’s what we have to work with.

Tonight I skype my partner, “A”. We don’t live together so we have our respective “bubbles”. We don’t mix at all and I haven’t seen her since the Sunday prior to lock-down. We chat, swapping stories of our work day. It’s good to see her smile.

“A” pranks me by coughing and complaining of a sore throat. I’m alarmed for a second before I notice the expression on her face. *Bazinga!* She got me. It’s black humour, but by the gods it lightens the mood. (And it’s pay-back for the times I take the mickey with her.)  After half an hour, we’re both showing signs of weariness. It’s bedtime; say our goodnights; and sign off.

Tomorrow is another day. Let’s see what it brings.

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Current covid19 cases: 797

Number of deaths: 1

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References

RNZ:  Coronavirus – First death in New Zealand from Covid-19

RNZ:  Live Covid-19 updates from New Zealand and around the world on 2 April

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

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

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

Life in Lock Down: Day 8

Life in Lock Down: Day 8 (sanitised version)

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

2 April 2020 4 comments

For those folk who find my other Lock-Down Diary versions too “negative” or otherwise unpalatable…

Here’s a photo of my cat,

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Better?

Tomorrow’s Sanitised Version: a pretty flower.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 7

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April 1: Day seven of living in lock-down…

This morning I had a brief chat with one of my neighbours, “D” (social distance between us, a good three or four metres). I learned he had resigned from his previous job and had been hired by another company – just as the country went into Level 4 Lock-down.  His new employer had declined to honour his commitment to hire my neighbour. This leaves “D” in limbo with a wife, four weeks away from delivery of their first child.

I suggested his new employer should be able to access the government wage subsidy? “D” will follow that up. In the meantime, “D” has advised his  landlord he cannot pay the rent until his finances are sorted – and the landlord has expressed understanding of his situation.

Later that morning, as I sip my third (or fourth?) coffee, I’m staring out the window, planning my day. It’s a fine, clear autumn say. My companion animal is asleep on the pathway handrail enjoying the sunshine;

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As I drink my coffee and state out the window, a big red coca cola branded truck rattles past. Considering everything I’ve written about them the last few days, I’m wondering, “Ok, now they’re trolling me?!” I smile wryly to myself: it’s a  weird way to start the day.

At the nearby Park’N’Ride, there are only two cars parked – half of yesterday’s tally.

On the main thoroughfare to SH2, the white motorhome is still parked on the side of the road. The owners have either decamped, or have parked up and are taking the “Stay where you are” edict seriously.

SH2 has only light, sporadic traffic – and at several points is utterly empty;

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I turn right at the Kelson lights turn-off to dump some cardboard at the recycling station. I forgot: the recycling bins for cardboard and glass were removed shortly after Aotearoa went into Level four lockdown. There’s nothing there. Even the remaining two clothing bins have been turned around so people can’t deposit unwanted clothes;

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Back on the motorway there is marginally more traffic near the Melling lights-interection.

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It thins out again, as I proceed further south toward Wellington.

During the half hour drive, I see a police car at Silverstream; another big red coca cola branded truck; STMS (Shepherd Traffic Management System); a Fisher & Paykel truck; a red “Jina’s” fruit and veg van; a Mainfreight double-tandem; an Armourguard car; AEL; Booths Management truck; two Waste Management trucks; two  Downer vans; three more Mainfreight trucks; a “Service Foods” branded car; a container-laden truck; a ute marked “Interstall”;  two firewood laden trucks at Melling; a Naylor Love van; ambulance; Fulton Hogan truck; a car transport carrying three cars (really? that’s “essential”?!); a scrap metal truck fully laden (again, essential?!); a Gilmour’s truck; Linfox truck; Bidfood truck; and a “V” energy-drink truck.

The Terrace Tunnel is empty save for one on-coming SUV;

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It is late morning by now, so what constitutes “rush hour” traffic in these strange times has long since disappeared.

Exiting the tunnel, I get into Wellington and Vivian Street is deserted;

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The only thing missing from the scene is a tumbleweed rolling across the road…

Looking back toward the tunnel, more of the eerie emptiness;

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The “Z” fuel station in Vivian Street has it’s fuel-price board dark for the third or fourth (?) day in a row. Either it doesn’t want to publicise outrageously expensive fuel or the signage has malfunctioned and they’re finding it difficult to get an electrician to repair it;

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Returning to my car, I see three or four vehicles exiting the Terrace Tunnel. For some reason, I find it reassuring;

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The dead quiet – novel at first – starts to wear on the nerves. It is human nature to seek out others and perhaps more so in a city that should be teeming with other people.

It’s just after mid-day. Radio NZ’s Mid Day Report is on; it’s a warm sunny day,  and I decide to take the alternative route through Oriental Parade. I want to check out if the beaches are once again beginning to fill up with people.

Oriental Parade has pedestrians strolling the wide walkway with joggers zipping past them. Everyone is valiantly trying to maintain the two metre protocol and (as I discover later that afternoon), the message seems to be getting through.

Both beaches are empty;

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And they’re not empty by accident. Two constables are on duty, and I spot them just as they finish chatting with two other people;

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The two are on obvious patrol and are willing to stop for a brief chat. Both agree to pose for a photo and they’re happy when I tell them it’s for The Daily Blog;

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As we part, they thank me. Shaking my head, I reply,

“No, thank you! Good to see you both here.”

In a way, two constables out on the streets is a return to old-school community policing when, once-upon-a-time (and not that long ago) we had the Bobby On The Beat. Walking amongst us, they are a part of the community. Our community.

It is unfortunate that we need policing resources diverted from their more critical work because some a too complacent to realise the deadly nature of the enemy confronting us. As covid19 cases globally have reached 862,234, with 42,404 deaths, we can’t afford to take this lightly.

Not unless this is the scenario we want for our country;

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Let’s hope the gentle reminders of our police will serve to remind people to behave appropriately. As infectious disease epidemiologist, Jonathan Smith wrote recently;

“Stay strong and in solidarity knowing that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people continue getting sick and dying.

[…]

This outbreak will not be overcome in one grand, sweeping gesture, but rather by the collection of individual choices we make in the coming months. This virus is unforgiving to unwise choices.”

At Evans Bay, I discover that public facilities have been closed for The Duration. The signages states;

“All facilities are closed temporarily to help stop the spread of covid 19.”

It’s obvious of course. The virus is highly infectious and public toilets may facilitate transmission. (A possibility I hadn’t considered until I read the signs. So many things we take for granted…)

At the round-a-bout on Cobham Drive, one of Wellington’s busiest thoroughfares servicing the Airport, the road is again eerily quiet;

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I have to wait a few minutes before vehicles eventually appear;

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What must the residents of Strathmore, Kilbirnie, and Miramar be thinking as air travel becomes practically non-existent, and near-silence descends over their neighbourhoods. Perhaps, if I have time I should find a way to interview some of the locals (without my physical presence, of course!).

Later in the day, as I’m out walking with a client in Strathmore, I begin to notice that nearly everyone is making a concerted effort to observe the two metre rule. Families have begun walking in single-file to lessen their “bubble” as others walk past.

There is plenty of considerate behaviour. No one is taking the mickey.

And another thing that suddenly occurs to me. There are families with young children out on bikes; Big bike for the adults; little bikes for the “littlies”. They’re mostly on the road.

I’ve never seen this before because up till now it has rarely happened. Up till last Wednesday, roads were dominated by vehicles and parents would rarely risk taking their young children out on bikes. But this afternoon, it was a common sight. It was safe. The roads were now for families.

Imagine if that could be the new normal.

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Current covid19 cases: 708

Number of deaths: 1

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References

Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE)

Mediaworks/Newshub:  First hearse arrives at Spain’s ice-rink morgue

Elemental: Hold the Line

Business Insider:  Spain’s coronavirus crisis is so uncontrollable that some care-home residents have been abandoned or left dead in their beds and Madrid is using an ice rink as a makeshift morgue

RNZ: Covid-19 lockdown – NZers in their 20s are ‘the ones that pass it on’ – PM

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

Life in Lock Down: Day 6

Life in Lock Down: Day 7 (sanitised version)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 2 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 6

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March 31: Day six of living in lock-down…

This time I managed to sleep a little longer and the alarm woke me at the pre-set time: 6.55am. Then remembered I was working a later shift and could’ve slept in. Oh well, there are things to do at home. Next time I look at the clock I have an hour and a half before my first client. Shitski! (As they say in Russia.) I better get a move on: it’ll take me 45 mins to get through traffic to get into town–

— then stop myself. I remember. It’s the New Reality. The roads are near-empty: there is no traffic.

I drive past the Kiwirail Park N Ride: four cars. Twice as many as yesterday.

On a main road; this motorhome;

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I’m fairly certain it wasn’t there yesterday.

At 8.30 tonight, as I drove past, it was still parked there. It will be interesting to see if it remains in-situ for the next three weeks.

Head into town. On the motorway, I’m looking at what little traffic there is. It’s a different time of the day than yesterday morning but it seems there may be a few more vehicles on the road. Certainly more commercial ones.

Just the ones I can identify travelling in my direction (the ones coming from opposite are harder to make out as they whizz past me) are; Farmlands (some sort of rural supplier); Dzign; a Chubb van; The Service Company van; BOC/Linde Group; four trucks hauling shipping containers (food? medicine? whiskey? – now that’s essential!!); a ute marked with a “Programmed” company logo; Mobile On Site Shredding Company (I kid you not – obviously essential for someone wanting some quick shredding of evidence unwanted documents); three Mainfreight trucks; two Chemdry vans (an obviously *essential* service); six road working trucks, marked “Capital Journeys” and Fulton Hogan near the Petone intersection;  Ablaze (firewood) truck; a large red coca cola* truck; “Argus”…

From the Hutt to the Terrace Tunnel, I spot one police car (tailing me – are one of my lights out? Then it turns off) and a police motorbike near the Ngauranga Intersection. I love the police motorbikes – they bring back nostalgic memories of old MoT motorcycle cops.  In Vivian Street, where the Chow Brothers had their brothel gentlemen’s club until recently (windows now boarded up, For Lease sign on the front) there are three police cars parked around another vehicle. A policewoman is taking photos.

I hope it’s because the driver was caught breaking “social distancing” and not something trivial like selling marijuana.

Again, the city is (mostly) empty. Some streets look like scenes from The Quiet Earth. Others have a light Christmas Day-like flow of a few vehicles. The day is fining up after a gray start; there are walkers and joggers around.

I decide to take an alternate route to the Eastern Suburbs, around the bays. Normally I avoid the route as it gets clogged with traffic. But New Reality, eh? (What will we do after three weeks if/when we beat this bastard virus and lift the Lock-down? How will we suddenly deal with a return to the Old Reality of slow moving traffic congestion?)

I have time to stop and check the main Oriental Bay Beach and it’s smaller “clone”, next to Freyberg Pool. The latter is empty, the former, has three or four people in the distance walking along;

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‘Little’ Oriental Beach

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Main Oriental Beach

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Certainly not the crowds mentioned over the weekend.

Along Oriental Bay Parade and into Evans Bay Parade there are pedestrians strolling and joggers. Some observe the 2 metre rule, some do not. People still seem to be struggling with the new footpath etiquette.

As I near my first client, at about 12.30pm, I hear over the radio that the State of Emergency has been extended by a week. Does this mean self-isolation in our “bubbles” will be a week longer? (No, they are separate from each other, as Robert Reid from First Union informs me using Twitter.)

After my first client, I head further east toward Miramar. Along Cobham Drive leading toward the airport, I am the only car on the long, straight stretch of road. Until I see two vehicles in my rear-view mirror approach. They are moving at some speed, and pass me rapidly. They’re racing each other. I get only one of the rego plates – FBT 379 – a European import. BMW? Merc? The other car is long gone by the time I read the six characters on the rego plate.

At the far end, near the roundabout, I glance over to the road leading to the airport. It is deserted. Deserted as in: no cars at all. With little air traffic, the only vehicles now using that stretch would be residents driving to and from their homes, or the odd commercial vehicle. The residents of Kilbirnie, Strathmore, and Miramar must be getting their first nights of decent sleep within living memory.

Later that night, on the way home, I stop at Kilbirnie Pak N Save again. I’m loathe to go to supermarkets, but this time I need to top up my own supplies. The first thing I notice  is that there is a new type of rubbish on the ground;

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Ironically, with the closure of fast food takeouts and coffee shops, there are fewer coffee cups and lids, straws, and milkshake containers around – only to be replaced by discarded latex gloves. What is it with some human beings – are they genetically programmed to litter?!

At the check-out, there is still 2 metre social distancing but customers are sparse. Note to self: do shopping late in the evening! And on the shelf, dumped by a customer who perhaps had had second thoughts – toilet paper! A stack of three twelve-packs!

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Yes, toilet paper is no longer in vogue…

At the checkout, I’m served by a young man who looks tired and perhaps he wishes he was elsewhere. After hearing on RNZ Checkpoint about the vicious abuse thrown at supermarket checkout operators by some nasty types, I thank him for his service. I add, “You’re doing well, good on you, mate.

He barely acknowledges me. He’s tired alright – I hope he sleeps soundly tonight.

Back on road, the city streets have minimal traffic. Mostly cars. The motorway is again empty, and when there’s no other lights of cars in sight, I’m a ‘Bruno Lawrence/Charlton Heston/Will Smith’ inhabiting an empty city. The illusion is thankfully broken when the lights of occasional cars or commercial vehicles pass.

At Waitomo in Thorndon I stop and fill up my car. With everything happening; the lock down; the State of Emergency; looking out for my clients; wondering if today I ‘catch the bullet’ – I’ve utterly forgotten to even glance at the car’s fuel gauge. Luckily it’s  just under a quarter full.

The fuel price is $1.86 a litre. “Z” is still at around $1.94. Which is hard to fathom as oil prices are at their lowest in eighteen years. As we all know, prices at the pump are quick to rise… and infuriatingly slow to fall. (My next waka WILL be electric!)

On the way home, driving along the Hutt motorway, I pass a sole police car and then two ambulances heading south. No flashing lights. For some reason, I feel uneasy as they pass me.

At home, a few mundane minor house chores are done. Cat fed. Power bill paid on-line. This blogpost completed.

I’m missing my partner. The temptation is there to meet her at the Lyall Bay foreshore, though keeping a safe 2 metre distance. No hugging or walking hand in hand, enjoying a brisk Wellington evening ‘zephyr’. Which is about as much fun as drinking caffeine-free coffee or alcohol-free wine. I.e., not much.

I check my emails. There’s one from the office; there is now available a few face masks and small bottle of hand sanitiser for each of us. I smile when I read it. My company was woefully unprepared for this pandemic.

But to be fair, so was 99% of Aotearoa New Zealand.

 

Current covid19 cases: 647

Number of deaths: 1

Postscript

* Re the Coca Cola truck: yesterday (30 March) I made a Lock-down Diary entry about another large, red, coca cola-emblazoned truck on the motorway. I emailed Amatil NZ for a “Please Explain“. In what way were sugary soft drinks an essential product to be carting around the roads at this point in time?

This afternoon (31 March) I received a response from Amatil NZ’s Service and Sales;

Thank you for your email regarding our trucks out and about working hard over this lockdown period.

Coca-Cola Amatil New Zealand is considered an Essential Service by the New Zealand Government (MBIE). As such we are providing a delivery service to supermarkets and other stores, in order for them to retain necessary stocks including beverages such as water, juice and Powerade throughout the lockdown period.

Thank you for touching base with our team to clarify this, we are all in this together.

Please stay healthy and well.

Be safe – Kia haumaru.

Make of that what you will. (However I am assuredly more “healthy and well” since I stopped drinking their sugary beverages.)

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References

Fairfax/Stuff: Police issue warning after hundreds flock to Wellington’s Oriental Parade

Scoop Parliament: State of National Emergency extended

RNZ: Covid-19 – State of Emergency extended by 7 days

RNZ:  Supermarket staff describe abuse, stress of restocking shelves in Covid-19 lockdown

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Latest from around the world – Tuesday, March 31

RNZ: Covid-19 developments in New Zealand for 31 March

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 5

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 April 2020.

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