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A Tale of Two Schools…

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two schools

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Two stories which appeared almost side-by-side on RNZ’s website.

Parent, Miranda Cross, was quoted as saying;

“I think the expectations are that we can at least send our kids to school where they will receive an education.”

An American parent would probably demand;

“I think the expectations are that we can at least send our kids to school where they will survive the day and come home alive.”

It’s not a bad country to live in when the most toxic thing that could potentially harm our kids is mould – whereas the United States has bullets flying.

But what else can we expect from a nation that is at perpetual war with itself?

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References

RNZ: Reports of shooting at Knoxville, Tennessee high school with one dead and multiple victims – police

RNZ: Hutt Valley High School principal ‘beyond angry’ as classrooms close due to mould, leaks

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Is Air NZ the Covid re-infection problem? Possible evidence points to national airline

. air nz .

A shroud of secrecy surrounds isolation facilities used by Air New Zealand international flight crews.  Until recently, Aucklanders were not even aware that Air NZ had begun to use hotels in the CBD to isolate returning flight crews.

Furthermore, it was revealed that returning Air NZ were leaving their rooms to exercise outside of their isolation CBD hotels by jogging through Auckland’s busy central-city streets,

Newshub journalist, and formerly with Radio NZ, Zac Fleming, uncovered the story;

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air nz flight crew isolating in auckland cbd

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As reported by Zac Fleming;

Air crew were originally staying at the Ramada Hotel at Auckland CBD and Manukau, but switched to the Grand Windsor on Auckland’s Queen Street on Friday.

After the switch, they were told by Air New Zealand via a staff bulletin: “As per the MoH guidelines you will be able to leave the hotel for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day.”

This means the crew returning from the US over the weekend could have checked into the Grand Windsor and then left and gone for a run through the middle of downtown Auckland.

It would not be the first time returning flight crews had been given permission  to exercise outside their isolation facilities.

From an Air New Zealand web-page dated 19 August 2020, flight crews were allowed to venture out for up to an hour each day in several “medium risk” overseas cities;

Air New Zealand has worked closely with Ministry of Health officials in implementing the measures in place today. High, medium or low risk destinations are set by the Ministry of Health and this risk matrix is reviewed regularly. Measures include:

[…]

For medium risk layovers, including Narita, Hong Kong, Shanghai

[…]

    • Air crew isolate in hotels, limiting trips outside to 1hr per 24-hour period

In a web page document dated 24 December 2020 – and which is still publicly visible – the Ministry of Health issued these guidelines for returning aircrew;.

Aircrew are only permitted to leave their place of self-isolation:

[…]

• to do any outdoor exercise (except at any shared exercise facility, such as a swimming pool

[…]

Aircrew are not permitted to leave their place of self-isolation for anything other than the reasons described above. Any time aircrew leave their place of self-isolation for these reasons, they must maintain physical distancing and wear PP Eat all times.

Moh: Requirements for air crew ordinarily resident in New Zealand to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission (24 December 2020)

Additional requirements for aircrew who travel internationally on designated ‘higher-risk’routes and for pilots undergoing flight simulator training in Australia

[…]

4. Aircrew are only permitted to leave their place of self-isolation:

[…]

• to do any outdoor exercise (except at any shared exercise facility, such as a swimming pool)

[…]

Aircrew are not permitted to leave their place of self-isolation for anything other than the reasons described above. Any time aircrew leave their place of self-isolation for these reasons, they must maintain physical distancing and wear PPE at all times.

The guidelines are complex, attempting to cater for every possible situation flight crews will experience overseas.

And it was reported on 22 January, this year;

Until Monday [January 22], [Air New Zealand] aircrew had the choice to self-isolate at home in New Zealand.

TVNZ has reported that every week about 80 pilots and cabin crew on high-risk flights are now being driven to a hotel where a private healthcare team tests them for Covid-19.

If they test negative, they can leave after 48 hours.

[…]

“We’re not going to have security on the door. We do trust the airlines to follow the rules,” Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins told 1 News.

[…]

The ministry said the hotel where the aircrew stay, which they would not name or identify its whereabouts, is not managed isolation/quarantine (MIQ) facility.

However, aircrew are required to follow isolation requirements, which includes staying in their rooms until the result of their test is available. Meals are delivered to their rooms during this time and they are permitted to exercise outside provided they maintain social distancing and wear personal protective equipment (PPE).

[…]

1 News said it had been told some cabin crew were suspected of breaking self-isolation at home and [Minister Chris] Hipkins was aware of the claims.

“It’s difficult to respond to anecdotes rather than actual evidence that people haven’t been following the rules,” he said.

It was then first revealed on 9 February this year that returning flight crews had switched from a Manukau isolation hotel, to the Grand Windsor in down Auckland’s Queen Street;

Air New Zealand crew were allowed to leave a quarantine hotel to exercise on the streets of Auckland’s CBD for nearly three weeks, Newshub can reveal.

Up until three weeks ago, the airline’s crew could isolate at home for 48 hours after an overseas trip, but on January 18 it became mandatory for crews who had been to the United States to isolate in hotels – because it’s deemed a high-risk country.

Despite the ‘high-risk’, Ministry of Health guidelines were still allowing them to leave their hotel to exercise for up to 90 minutes a day.

The Ministry of Health says it was only aware of and gave guidance for Air New Zealand staff to leave a hotel in Manukau to exercise, and its guidelines did not allow for staff to leave a CBD hotel to exercise.

Air crew were originally staying at the Ramada Hotel at Auckland CBD and Manukau, but switched to the Grand Windsor on Auckland’s Queen Street on Friday.

After the switch, they were told by Air New Zealand via a staff bulletin: “As per the MoH guidelines you will be able to leave the hotel for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day.”

This means the crew returning from the US over the weekend could have checked into the Grand Windsor and then left and gone for a run through the middle of downtown Auckland.

In response, the airline’s attitude to the problem was;

AirNZ does not believe there was a problem in crew having been allowed to leave the Ramada for three weeks between January 18 and February 5.

But there clearly is a problem.

In March last year,  Aotearoa New Zealand moved from Level Alert 2  to Level Alert 4 within four days. On 11.59pm on 25 March, the country was under a State of Emergency.

However, nature and the viruses it produces wait for no-one and our rules do not not apply. On the same day Aotearoa New Zealand moved to Level Alert 2 on 21 March, a wedding and reception at Bluff was held the same day. An Air NZ flight crewmember attended – a person infected with covid19.

Air NZ issued a comment at the time;

“Air New Zealand’s employee, as all operating cabin crew, adhered to the Ministry of Health’s guidance which includes hygiene and PPE measures.”

The “Bluff Cluster“, as it became known, resulted in 98 people becoming infected, including one fatality. (Note: this blogger does not attribute any blame to the AirNZ flight crew member, who was following rules at the time. The entire country had yet to learn the lesson that covid19 was about to teach us.)

Eight months later, another Air NZ flight crew member was found to be infected;

Air New Zealand is investigating after one of its crew members tested positive for Covid-19 in China.

The staff member tested negative to the virus in New Zealand on November 18 but on arrival in Shanghai on November 22 returned a positive test.

Air New Zealand said the person was well and had no symptoms of Covid-19 – all other crew have returned negative results.

Other cases followed;

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air nz

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By 22 April, Air NZ confirmed that thirty of it’s workers had been infected with the virus.

The cry for more stringent  testing and isolation protocols came from Air NZ staff themselves;

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Covid-19 testing, isolation needs urgent attention – Air NZ staff

19 August 2020

Air New Zealand staff say there are a multitude of loopholes in the airline’s border controls – and Covid-19 testing and isolation requirements need urgent attention.

The Health Minister today met with Air New Zealand to discuss ways to tighten Covid-19 restrictions, after saying he was concerned with their procedures.

While returning travellers must undergo strict 14-day isolation requirements, the air crews bringing them home are largely exempt.

One person working on Air New Zealand’s international flights told Checkpoint there had been unease for sometime among crews about the current rules, which mean only those returning from America are required to self-isolate, have a Covid-19 test on day two and continue to self-isolate until that test comes back negative.

“I think there’s a multitude of loopholes, and some of them are due to the way the airline operates but also unfortunately, I believe that the loopholes and the vulnerabilities at the border, are due to the way things have been designed by Ministry of Health rules.”

He recently returned from a long haul flight which was not to America, so he is not required to self isolate.

“However, I’m doing that, because… it’s the right thing to do. So I am managing the quarantine at home.

“But many crew have difficulty with that, they might have flatmates or they might have the situation so that they cannot physically isolate at home without putting people at risk.”

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Air NZ crew remain at risk while they are not required to isolate for 14 days, as are all other Returnees and essential workers permitted to enter the country. Air NZ management state that there are not sufficient crew to staff aircraft  if they were isolated for the full two weeks.

Instead, if air crew are returning from high-risk destinations such as Los Angeles, they are required to self-isolate in a hotel for only 48 hours;

One staff member has told Newshub the airline is putting “profit before people” and staff are “afraid” as a result.

[…]

Air NZ crew returning to Aotearoa have to enter managed isolation, just like the passengers they are transporting, but are allowed to leave if they return a negative test after 48 hours.

However, crew on the domestic MIQ flights are only required to wear standard facemasks, and aren’t isolated or tested for the virus once they finish their shift.

Once the MIQ flight is over, the domestic crew is then stood down for a period of 48 hours.

Air NZ’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Ben Johnston confirmed that while the crew aren’t allowed to work in the air for that period, they are free to do what they want.

However, any shortage of air crew can be laid fairly and squarely at the feet of Air NZ management:

Around 380 of the cabin crew on the 787s are being made redundant...

“There are people in the quarantine facilities right now so pretty much on the day they get out of that two week quarantine will then be made redundant, so this is the last two weeks of their job at Air New Zealand is sitting inside a hotel waiting to see if they’ve got Covid.”

This has impacted on other higher-risk Air NZ flights requiring volunteer crews;

Some of those hotels are located in Rotorua, Wellington or Christchurch and to get to them, the returnees fly out of Auckland on flights including specially chartered Air New Zealand turboprop services.

Despite working alongside the same inbound international passengers as their long-haul colleagues, the crew on the turboprop domestic flights aren’t protected by the same restrictions or protocols as those who work on flights from overseas.

Air NZ crew returning to Aotearoa have to enter managed isolation, just like the passengers they are transporting, but are allowed to leave if they return a negative test after 48 hours.

However, crew on the domestic MIQ flights are only required to wear standard facemasks, and aren’t isolated or tested for the virus once they finish their shift.

[…]

The MIQ flights were originally staffed on a voluntary basis. But due to the health risks and the likelihood of earning less money, many Air NZ staff have declined to work on the special flights.

[…]

In an email to staff that has been seen by Newshub, Air NZ said the reason the flights would now be rostered like any other flight was because they were running out of volunteers.

“While we have always been supportive of these flights being crewed on a volunteer basis, the challenge we now have with only having a limited amount of crew volunteering, means that potentially some of these crew would lose overnight duties and the associated allowances,” the email reads.

However there have also been alleged instances of staff breaches of strict covid protocols;

Air New Zealand says it’s investigating after allegations a flight attendant breached Level 3 lockdown to fly as a passenger from Auckland to Wellington.

A former Air New Zealand flight attendant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told 1 NEWS multiple complaints have been made to the airline after a flight attendant allegedly flew from Auckland to Wellington on August 15th to visit a friend.

Level 3 rules stipulate people leaving Auckland should only be doing so under very specific circumstances, for example doing essential work, or returning home.

The former flight attendant said she and some current staff are “disgusted” by the alleged behaviour.

“She had disclosed to operating crew on the flight NZ691 on 15 August that she was flying down to operate a duty however the crew checked the passenger manifest and noticed she was on leisure travel.”

“I am disgusted at this abuse of privilege at putting others at risk when many Aucklanders and New Zealanders are working so hard to abide by lockdown.”

“It makes me so sad as I know many fellow crew who have lost their job and would never even consider abusing power as she has and putting our national carriers reputation at a huge risk.”

Bearing in mind that isolation for returning air crews is not as lengthy as other Returnees, and essential workers permitted to enter the country, it came as a shock that Air NZ had changed it’s isolation facility from Manukau to central Auckland;

Some Air New Zealand crew members arriving back in New Zealand are isolating at Auckland’s Hotel Grand Windsor [on Queen Street, downtown Auckland], with taxpayers footing the bill.

[…]

New Zealand-based aircrew arriving into the country from “higher risk” Covid-19 destinations as part of their work duties are required to enter 48 hours’ self-isolation at a hotel. They must return a negative test before they can leave isolation.

San Francisco and Los Angeles are currently classed as “higher risk” routes, while deaths from Covid-19 in the US exceed 450,000.

Around 70 pilots and 18 cabin crew return each week from these destinations, an Air New Zealand spokeswoman said.

[…]

Air New Zealand began using this facility on February 5 as its previous hotel couldn’t accommodate the number of crew required to isolate under new health guidelines.

Meanwhile, changes have been made after it was revealed by Newshub that Air New Zealand crew were able to leave an isolation hotel to exercise on the streets of Auckland’s CBD for almost three weeks.

The guidance given to crew has since been clarified, with the crew advised to stay inside and spare rooms at the Grand Windsor being transformed into gyms.

The Ministry of Health was unaware of the  change in isolation facilities until the media began asking questions;

Newshub can reveal the Ministry of Health (MoH) had no idea our highest-risk airline crew had stayed at a hotel in the middle of Auckland’s CBD until we reported it last week.

Air New Zealand didn’t tell the Ministry the high-risk crew were there – so the Ministry thought they were staying in Manukau and near the airport.

[…]

“That clearly imposes risk of transmission,” University of Otago epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker told Newshub.

[…]

“This current system seems to have these major weaknesses in terms of people being allowed out to exercise during that period,” [Dr Michael Baker] says.

“We need them to keep flying so we’re working very closely with them to make sure they can keep flying,” Hipkins adds.

As pointed out above, Air NZ’s isolation hotel was the Ramada. A second hotel remains un-named, and its location unknown. In an email to this blogger on 17 February, Air NZ Communications (public relations) confirmed;

Air New Zealand aircrew were previously using two hotels in Manukau to complete hotel self-isolation after returning from high risk destinations such as Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Attempts by this blogger to uncover the name  of the other airport have been unsuccessful, with strong secrecy surrounding it’s location. The oft-quoted reason has been fears that isolation hotels used by airlines would be harassed by a mob or that the privacy of airline crews somehow threatened. However this has not been the case of the new isolation facility at Hotel Grand Windsor in Auckland CBD. Nor has this been “an issue” for Returnees and essential workers granted entry visas.

In the same email, the AirNZ Comms spokesperson said;

Under the MoH guidance our crew completing hotel self-isolation after returning from a high-risk destination are unable to leave the hotel premises to exercise. Instead, aircrew have been provided an area within the hotel to get fresh air and complete low impact exercise – they are required to book the space to ensure they can achieve physical distancing and wear masks while they exercise.

Air New Zealand aircrew were previously using two hotels in Manukau to complete hotel self-isolation after returning from high risk destinations such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. Under the previous health order aircrew were permitted to leave hotel premises for a short period to exercise provided they wore a mask and physically distanced.

Air NZ flight crew are no longer permitted to leave their isolation facility.

As at publication of this story, an email to Minister Chris Hipkins has not received a response (aside from an automated acknowledgement). In the email, this blogger requested the location of any isolation facility/ies used by Air NZ.

Why is the location of Air NZ’s isolation facilities – both past and current – a matter of interest?

The recent cluster of covid19 centers around a worker from LSG Sky Chefs, a company situated in Māngere, not far from Auckland International Airport.

The Auckland August Cluster, last year, was an outbreak of covid19 involving a worker from Americold in Mt Wellington. There is an Americold branch in Māngere near the Auckland Airport. A series of maps puts all three into context;

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Americold:

Americold

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LSG Skychefs

2 - Americold - LSG Skychefs

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And Auckland International Airport:

3 - Americold - LSG Skychefs - Akld Intl Airport

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The close proximity of Americold to Auckland International Airport could be considered a coincidence.

But add LSG Skychefs to Americold and the International Airport – and there’s a pattern.

The only two missing pieces remain;

Missing Piece 1: Is/was there a second Air New Zealand Isolation facility  within the LSG Skychefs – Americold – Auckland International Airport precinct? What was it’s location? And if it did exist; did isolating Air NZ flight crew members take their exercise outside the facility “as per the MoH guidelines you will be able to leave the hotel for up to 90 minutes of exercise per day”?

Missing Piece 2: Did an employee from Americold Mt Wellington (where covid infections were detected) have direct contact with the Māngere Branch, thereby placing themself at “Ground Zero”?

What we do know is that the “index case” of the Auckland August Cluster was a  “person in their 50s who lives in South Auckland”, according to MoH.

Americold NZ’s Managing Director, Richard Winnall, insisted that the “Index Case” man’s position at the company meant he did not leave the office and he had not been in contact with employees at any of the three other local branches in Auckland, according to an ODT report.

And yet, “Index Case” contracted the virus from someone.

There has been suggestion that the strain of covid (B.1.1.7) detected in the worker at LSG Skychefs may have been infected by a Returnee who had a similar strain and passed through a MIQ facility in December last year. Whilst Dr Bloomfield did not outright dismiss the possibility, he thought it unlikely;

“Whether there was a potential link from that case through one of the guests who may have left through to our cases that we found on the weekend seems very unlikely because of the time period and what would need to have happened to create that epidemiological link while at the same time we were finding no other cases out in the community.”

Instead, Dr Bloomfield suggested;

“The airport precinct seems the most likely route of infection of our original case and we just need to get to the bottom of how she may have been exposed… “

Though the worker was near the “airport precinct”, she apparently had no direct proximity with crew, Returnees, or other travellers;

The LSG Sky Chefs employee works in a team of nine in the company’s Māngere catering and laundry facility.

She is responsible for washing and ironing linen, napkins, blankets and sheets from incoming flights.

Despite earlier suggestions, it has been clarified the woman does not handle international aircrew’s uniforms. She also has no face-to-face contact with crew or travellers, nor access to the airport.

Which, if true, would suggest that if the worker did not place herself into a risky situation – then someone else was in proximity to her.

It is a fact that Air NZ flight crew are not required to isolate for 14 days as are Returnees, sports people, entertainers, or essential workers. They are only required to “return a negative test after 48 hours”.

University of Otago Medical School epidemiologist, Sir David Skegg, has questioned reliance on the 48 hour test;

Of course a single negative test does not prove that a person is not infected, especially early in the course of their illness.”

Dr Ashley Bloomfield also admitted that tersting was not 100% reliable;

“First of all because the tests do have a false negative rate of somewhere around 20 to 30 percent but also because it’s part of our departure planning for people to confirm that they don’t have the virus.”

False negative results have been reported on the Ministry of Health website. On 20 September last year;’

The second imported case reported today is a man in his 20s who arrived from India via Singapore on September 12. He returned a negative test for COVID-19 around day 3 of his stay in managed isolation at the Grand Millennium. The man was moved to the Auckland quarantine facility as a close contact of a confirmed case, retested, and has returned a positive result. 

Had this man been an Air NZ flight crew member, he would have been tested on Day Two of his isolation. If a negative result returned, as above, he would have been allowed to return to the community.

It would be interesting to know how many false negative returns are made after Day Three of Returnees in MIQ.

On the latest LSG Sky Chefs cluster,  Sir David Skeggs suggested;

“I think the most likely thing, and obviously this is speculation, is that this woman was infected by one of her colleagues at work who has been going airside … and perhaps was in contact with someone who in transit who was infectious but wouldn’t have been tested here in New Zealand.

“But, of course, if it was someone passing through the airport, we may never find a link with the original case.”

He added;

“I don’t think we should see this as a surprise, I’ve been saying this all along. There will be more lockdowns in 2021 I’m afraid.” 

The last two cases have proven Sir David correct. But more troubling is that the outbreaks all seem to involve Auckland International Airport directly or (as in Americold’s case) indirectly.

The government’s decision to exclude AirNZ from quarantining airflight crews for the full 14 days – which Dr Bloomfield has described as “The Gold Standard” – seems to fly in the face of the Ministry’s own pronouncements.

It is obvious that Air NZ has been allowed to operate withouit the restrictions faced by other industries. Especially those industries clamouring to bring essential workers into the country.

It should be remembered that Air NZ is currently 52% owned by the government. There would be disastrous repercussions if it collapsed because it could no longer operate with even minimum profits.

Executive Director of Board of Airline Representatives New Zealand (BARNZ), Justin Tighe-Umbers, may have been speaking on behalf of the government when he made it clear where his priorities lay;

Executive director Justin Tighe-Umbers says New Zealanders shouldn’t be fearful of the risk from air crew, but should be worried about the economy.

“They should be worried about the economic shock if airlines pull out of the country should conditions become too stringent for them to operate.”

The Ministry of Health was even more explicit in government support for unrestricted air travel;

Because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from a 14 day isolation or quarantine period as long as they meet certain conditions – both in flight and during layovers

Unfortunatelty, Air NZ’s privileged position  to avoid full quarantine for it’s flightcrews – even as it made hundreds of it’s staff redundant – may be a cost borne by the rest of this country’s businesses and workers who lose their jobs.

Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins may have been uncannily prescient last year when he said;

“I’m meeting with Air New Zealand today to make sure that that’s as tight as a drum. I’m not 100 per cent convinced that it is at the moment. I’m going to be absolutely boring into that. There’s no time for rest here. I’ve been doing this job for seven weeks. Every single day I’ve woken up thinking about Covid-19.”

If the next outbreak of covid19 is in the same area as Auckland International Airport, Americold, and LSG Sky Chefs, the the conclusion will be inevitable: there is a gap in our borders.

A gap big enough to fly an airplane through. A plane with a koru on it’s tail.

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Additional Notes

COVID-19: Aviation sector

12 Feb (page up-dated 13 Feb)

The COVID-19 Public Health Response (Required Testing) Order 2020 requires routine testing of specified aviation workers for COVID-19.

You are required to continue testing once every 7 days if you are:

    • Aircrew members

You are required to continue testing once every 14 days if you are:

    • Persons who spend more than 15 minutes in enclosed spaces on board aircraft that arrives from location outside New Zealand
    • Airside government officials including (without limitation) personnel from Immigration New Zealand, New Zealand Customs Service, Aviation Security Service, or Ministry for Primary Industry
    • Airside district health board workers
    • Airside retail, food, and beverage workers
    • Airside workers handling baggage trolleys used by international arriving or international transiting passengers
    • Airside airline workers who interact with passengers
    • Airside airport workers who interact with passengers
    • Airside cleaning workers
    • All landside workers who interact with international arriving or international transiting passengers

Workers can be exempt if an aircraft has not arrived at the affected airport from a location outside New Zealand for a period of at least 14 consecutive days. 

[…]

Because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from a 14 day isolation or quarantine period as long as they meet certain conditions – both in flight and during layovers.

The Minister of Health has agreed that this exemption to the Air Border Order now includes non-operating air crew returning to New Zealand on a flight after performing in-flight duties (repositioning crew).

[…]

The Director-General has now designated Los Angeles and San Francisco as higher risk routes.  This designation is available on the New Zealand Gazette website

[…]

Because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from a 14 day isolation or quarantine period as long as they meet certain conditions – both in flight and during layovers.

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References

Newshub:  Coronavirus – Air NZ crews allowed to leave quarantine for exercise in Auckland CBD

Newshub: Ministry of Health had no idea Air NZ’s highest-risk crew were staying in Auckland CBD hotel

Air New Zealand: Air New Zealand provides clarity on safety precautions for staff

MoH: Requirements for aircrew ordinarily resident in New Zealand to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and transmission

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – International Air New Zealand aircrew must now isolate in hotels

Stuff media: Coronavirus – Air NZ steward linked to Bluff wedding cluster ‘deeply upset’

Scoop media: Nation Steps Up To COVID-19 Alert Level 2

RNZ: Coronavirus – Covid-19 updates in NZ and around the world on 25 March

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus: -Air NZ steward ‘deeply upset’ by Bluff coronavirus outbreak

Ministry of Health: COVID-19 – Source of cases – Cluster Details

Stuff media: Covid-19 – Air New Zealand crew isolating after testing positive in China

Newshub:  COVID-19 – Air New Zealand crew member who tested positive visited six Auckland shops

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Eight Air New Zealand staff test positive for the virus

NZ Herald: Air New Zealand air crew member tests positive for Covid-19

ODT: Air NZ crews hoping to stall redundancies

RNZ:  Covid-19 testing, isolation needs urgent attention – Air NZ staff

Stuff media: Transit passengers and air crew are considered possible Covid-19 sources. How are they kept safe?

Newshub: Air New Zealand crew claim they’re being ‘forced’ to work on COVID-19 quarantine flights

RNZ: Covid-19 – Anxious wait for Air NZ staff in isolation

TVNZ: Air NZ investigating allegations of lockdown breach by flight attendant

NZ  Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Air NZ crew isolation arrangement ‘under review’

Newshub: Ministry of Health had no idea Air NZ’s highest-risk crew were staying in Auckland CBD hotel

ODT: Covid 19 – Money company, cool store at centre of outbreak

Stuff media: Covid-19 – Kiwis face months-long wait to come home as border controls are tightened

RNZ: Checkpoint – Potential Covid-19 link to MIQ weeks ago highly unlikely – officials (audio link)

RNZ: Covid-19 – LSG Sky Chefs employees ‘following all the rules’ – union

MoH: COVID-19 – Aviation sector

Wikipedia: Index Case

MoH: 4 cases of COVID-19 with unknown source

Newsroom: Questions raised over international aircrew rules

MoH: 4 new cases of COVID-19

ODT: ‘There will be more lockdowns’: Otago expert unsurprised by outbreak

MoH: COVID-19 media update, 1 July (transcript)

Air New Zealand: Frequently Asked Questions – Who owns Air New Zealand?

TVNZ: Air NZ investigating allegations of lockdown breach by flight attendant

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Health Minister Chris Hipkins’ concerns over airline crew coming through the border; new details of Rydges hotel case

MoH: COVID-19 – Aviation sector

Additional

The Spinoff: The ultimate guide to New Zealand quarantine and managed isolation hotels

Stuff media: Covid-19 – A guide to managed isolation hotels, and what to do if things go wrong

MIQ:  Facility locations

NZ Herald:  Auckland students fly out to Otago despite lockdown

Previous related blogposts

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus

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. air nz covid Acknowledgement: Guy Body

This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 February 2021.

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2020: The History That Was – Part 2

19 January 2021 7 comments

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2020 to 2021

 

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America: The Empire Strikes Back (at itself)

 

Further to my comments in the first part of 2020: The History That Was, the following should be considered regarding the current state of the US. They most likely will be by future historians pondering the critical decades of the 1920s and 2020s.

On at least two fronts, the world is witnessing – in Real Time – the United States eating itself alive.

The Not-So Invisible Enemy

As this is written the pandemic in the United States continues to wreak havoc with rising numbers, hospitalisations, and death toll;

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US covid cases

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The most technologically advanced nation on this planet seems powerless in the face of a viral pandemic. Like scenes from Third World and developing nations with minimal resources, American hospitals are creaking under the weight of surging covid cases requiring hospitalisation;

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The pandemic has exploded under a presidency that has been more concerned with it’s own political survival than the crisis affecting 380 million Americans. Even the roll-out and distribution of the much-heralded vaccine has been ineffectual;

More than two-thirds of the 15 million coronavirus vaccines shipped within the United States have gone unused, U.S. health officials said on Monday, as the governors of New York and Florida vowed to penalize hospitals that fail to dispense shots quickly.

US healthcare workers are not only over-worked and near burn-out, but have started to fight back against ineptitude and lack of meaningful leadership over the vaccine roll-out;

Protests erupted Friday at Stanford University Medical Center Hospital in California, where frontline medical residents and fellows staged a walkout in frustration over the hospital’s botched Covid-19 vaccine distribution.

[…]

Demonstrators accused the medical center of prioritizing more senior doctors and other medical workers who don’t directly interface with patients over employees at the highest risk of contracting Covid-19 from patients.

The nation that sent human beings to the Moon through 384,400 km of cold vacuum in a space craft that was little more than a small, fragile steel can; to the crushing, frigid depths of the planet’s oceans; that developed atomic weapons that could obliterate an enemy; and a myriad of other technological and scientific achievements – is losing it’s greatest challenge since it entered WWII against the might of the Axis powers.

The Enemy Within

Alongside America’s leadership paralysis is the vocal, and often right-wing covid-deniers and mask-refusers. Led by an ignorant narcissist in the Oval Office, refusing to follow even the most basic of health precautions has become a political statement against the so-called “liberal establishment”;

For progressives, masks have become a sign that you take the pandemic seriously and are willing to make a personal sacrifice to save lives. Prominent people who don’t wear them are shamed and dragged on Twitter by lefty accounts. On the right, where the mask is often seen as the symbol of a purported overreaction to the coronavirus, mask promotion is a target of ridicule, a sign that in a deeply polarized America almost anything can be politicized and turned into a token of tribal affiliation.

The virus – unsurprisingly – cares little for our political affiliations and ideologies;

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covid 19 coronavirus get sick

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Hyper-individualism has been well canvassed by Dr Ronald Pies, examining the phenomenon in the Psychiatric Times;

I argued that, up to a point, this rugged individualism serves as a useful counterweight to the communitarian impulse—the belief that the community is a “bearer of rights”, to which an individual’s interests may have to be subordinated in some cases. But carried to an extreme – what I called, “hyper-individualism”—the “Don’t Tread on Me” mentality can become an insidious force for societal disintegration.

In my view, many mask refusers are acting out of a debased form of individualism that some would call “toxic masculinity,” and which I would call machismo. I hasten to add that I am using the latter term in a broad, generic sense, and not as a trait endemic to “Latin” culture or society. A very useful definition of machismo is

“Exaggerated pride in masculinity, perceived as power, often coupled with a minimal sense of responsibility and disregard of consequences.”

In my view, this brand of American machismo helps explain the behavior of many (though not all) mask refusers. In effect, refusal to wear a mask in public settings has become a mark of being “a man’s man” – someone who won’t be pushed around or “muzzled” by governmental “tyranny”.

Dr Pies also refers to the “eternal child” or “American man-child”, quoting Jungian analyst, Frith Luton;

“. . . is used in mythology to designate a child-god who is forever young; psychologically, it refers to an older man whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level . . . He covets independence and freedom, chafes at boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable.”

How many times has a certain Orange-hued President been referred to as a “man-child”? A Google search using the parameters “Trump man child” yielded “621,000,000 results”.

The Other Enemies

One thing that has not been well traversed is that the US has demonstrated itself to be utterly unable to stem the advance of an implacable enemy. This is a lesson that has not been lost on those who would happily see either the destruction, or neutralising, of the United States as a functioning power. To paraphrase H.G. Wells from The War of the Worlds;

“No one would have believed in the early years of the twentyfirst century that this super-power was being watched keenly and closely by intelligence agencies as effective as America’s; that as Americans busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinised and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinise the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water…

…Yet across the gulf of oceans, minds that are to American’s minds as theirs are to their rivals, intellects calculating and cool and unsympathetic, regarded American hegemony with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against them.” (Apologies to H.G.)

America is vulnerable. It’s savage, internecine political in-fighting; it’s crazy and deadly culture of hyper-individualism; the spreading toxic cancer of conspiracy fantasies impacting on Real Life events – have revealed an Achilles Heel to this super-power’s defences that no amount of atomic  megatonnage can ever hope to over-come.

America’s enemies will not have failed to notice this dangerous, critical weakness from the planet’s greatest super-power.

The next pandemic to strike the United States may not be a product of nature. A lone malevolent operative, flying a small phial of a new deadly micro-organism into New York airport, would be infinitely more devastating than flying planes into buildings.

Postscript

Those who shrug and dismiss the above scenario as not affecting Aotearoa and therefore none of our concern should recall how quickly covid19 was transported across borders from China to our very first infection detected on 28 February last year.

We would simply be “collateral damage”.

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References

New York Times:  Coronavirus in the U.S. – Latest Map and Case Count

Washington Post: Coronavirus death toll in U.S. increases as hospitals in hot-spot states are overwhelmed

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Overwhelmed US hospital treating Covid patients in car park

Reuters:  U.S. under siege from COVID-19 as hospitals overwhelmed before holidays

CNN:  200 hospitals have been at full capacity, and 1/3 of all US hospitals are almost out of ICU space

USA Today:  ‘It’s what we feared’ – Hospitals from Georgia to California face surging COVID-19 cases, staff shortages and rising deaths

New York Post:  Map reveals how US hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients

Reuters: Most U.S. COVID-19 vaccines go idle as New York, Florida move to penalize hospitals

NBC News:  Stanford apologizes to doctors after protests erupt over botched vaccine rollout

Politico:  Wearing a mask is for smug liberals. Refusing to is for reckless Republicans

Metro UK: Covid denier admits he was wrong after being hospitalised with virus

ABC News:  Louisiana Congressman-elect Luke Letlow dies from COVID-19

5NBCDFW: Oak Cliff Woman Admits She and Her Father Were COVID-19 Deniers and Now Her Father is Dead

Psychiatric Times:  Masks, Machismo, and the American Man-Child

RNZ:  New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

Additional Reading

Vice/Motherboard:  US Power Will Decline Under Trump, Says Futurist Who Predicted Soviet Collapse (12 July 2016)

Bellingcat: The Making of QAnon – A Crowdsourced Conspiracy (7 January 2021)

Previous related blogposts

Life in Level 2: Two Tier Welfare; A Green School; Right Rage, Wrong Reason

2020: Post-mortem or Prologue?

2020: The History That Was – Part 1

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lost votes

Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 January 2021.
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2020: The History That Was – Part 1

8 January 2021 1 comment

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2020 to 2021

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American Burlesque

As I write this (Wednesday evening, 6 January), the US Presidential election is all but resolved, confirming Joe Biden as the next President of the (Dis-)United State of America. Trump’s turbulent political career has lasted just four years – one of the few single-term US presidents in recent history.

Trump’s failure to secure a second term has come as a result of his erratic, divisive, and controversial behaviour; his apparent reluctance to condemn far-right militants; alleged corruption, and his disastrous inaction to control the covid19 pandemic that – at time of writing – has claimed 354,000 American lives out of 21 million cases.

The Presidential election results have taken much longer to resolve with narrow margins separating Trump and Biden. Far from a “blue wave” of total repudiation that many –  myself included – expected, surprisingly just under half of voters still cast their ballot for the Republican incumbent.

America has barely dodged the fascist bullet – this time.

But the underlying causes that created the fertile ground for a vacuous, reactionary, lying, corrupt narcissist like Donald Trump still exist.

Make no mistake, free trade agreements – the cornerstone of the Neo-liberal Experiment – still export jobs from the United States to low-wage nations like China, Vietnam, India, etc. The same has occurred in other western nations, including our own Aotearoa New Zealand.

Globalisation – one of the mainstays of neo-liberalism (the others being de-regulation, tax cuts, and privatisation) began in earnest in the 1980s with Thatcherism in the UK, and Reaganomics in the United States.

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Thatcher and Reagan - neoliberal acolytes (2)

Thatcher and Reagan – Apostles of the neo-liberal “revolution”

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Check your shoes: they almost certainly originate from China. As do the clothes you are wearing. Or the electronic devices in your home. Probably even the peanut butter in your pantry (unless its “Sanitarium”, “Pics”, etc).

In the United States, once high-paying jobs, industries, and services have been “exported” to low-wage societies. Manufactured goods from those same industries are then re-imported into the US to sell to American consumers.

Unfortunately, as those high-paying jobs – especially in the “rust belt” states – vanished, so did workers’ spending power. Meanwhile, corporate profits increased, leading to higher shareholder’s dividends and share buybacks. The much-vaunted, promised rewards of trickle-down economic theory never eventuated, except for a privileged few.

Writing for Investopedia, Will Kenton and Charles Potters point out;

Trickle-down policies typically increase wealth and advantages for the already wealthy few. Although trickle-down theorists argue that putting more money in the hands of the wealthy and corporations promotes spending and free-market capitalism, ironically, it does so with government intervention. Questions arise such as, which industries receive subsidies and which ones don’t? And, how much growth is directly attributable to trickle-down policies?

Critics argue that the added benefits the wealthy receive can distort the economic structure. Lower income earners don’t receive a tax cut adding to the growing income inequality in the country. Many economists believe that cutting taxes for the poor and working families does more for an economy because they’ll spend the money since they need the extra income. A tax cut for a corporation might go to stock buybacks while wealthy earners might save the extra income instead of spending it. Neither does much for economic growth, critics argue.

This has led to a steadily widening chasm between worker’s wages and corporate profits, with the trend accelerating from the 1980s onwards. As this graph, constructed by Robert B. Reich, Thomas Piketty, and Emmanuel Saez demonstrates;

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The Great Prosperity, The Great Recession

The Great Prosperity, The Great Recession

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The worsening trend continues unabated;

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The gap between productivity and a typical worker’s compensation

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Meanwhile, unsurprisingly, corporate profits continue to soar. When comparing Employee Compensation/GNP with Corporate Profits/GNP, the disparity is glaring;

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Corporate-Profit-Margins-and-Employee-Compensation-Q2

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Note where recessions are marked with gray columns. Note how the immediate consequence of each recession – on the main – are wages down and corporate profits up.

Similar infographics abound throughout the internet.

As Erik Sherman writing for Forbes.com put it succinctly;

“…every financial crisis somehow manages to become an additional upward transfer of wealth. At least it isn’t the downward transfer that so many fear from a coming “socialism” that never arrives.”

Yes, socialism. The great bogeyman of American politics, as current Republican senatorial candidate, Kelly Loeffler recently “warned” her countrymen and women on the Georgian campaign trail;

“We’ve got to hold the line. We’re the firewall to stopping socialism in America.”

Except… Trump is not in office to serve the common wage-earning man and woman. His policies have continued to enrich corporations and the wealth of the top 1%;

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US billionaires got richer

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As Ben Steverman wrote in the above article;

Millionaires and billionaires had far more to celebrate. A Republican overhaul of the tax code left wealthy investors and corporations paying lower overall tax rates than most working professionals. It’s also never been easier to avoid the U.S. estate and gift tax, and pass on wealth to heirs. When Covid-19 hit, the Treasury and Federal Reserve propped up markets, primarily benefiting the top 1%, who own the majority of stocks held by U.S. households.

Rex Nutting, writing for “Marketwatch“, was even more blunt;

With unemployment still in the stratosphere, wages and salaries are depressed. Fewer people are working, and the ones who are working aren’t getting raises. According to separate report released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wages in the private sector have increased just 1.7% in the past year, only half as fast as prices have been rising.

So Friday’s news is grim, but it’s not really news, is it? Everybody knows the fight is fixed, as the poet has sung. “The poor stay poor and the rich stay rich. That’s how it goes, everybody knows.”

And that, readers, is at the core of the social crisis that allowed a corrupt, amoral, semi-intelligent human being like Trump to be elected; “Everybody knows the fight is fixedThat’s how it goes, everybody knows“.

74,223,251 Americans certainly know it and were prepared to vote for a man many acknowledged as deeply flawed and repellent to them.

The rage from Trump supporters is not on their President’s behalf. It is a deep rage that “the fight is fixed” and even the power of their vote appears insufficient to change the system and improve their lot. The slogan “Stop the Steal” is ubiquitous at Trump rallies.

Of all the analysts who have examined how a parody of a human being could be elected to be a parody of a US President, American Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges‘ insights are worth considering. He has looked into the soul and psyche of his country and his findings are troubling.

As he recently pointed out with brutal crystal clarity;

“The physical and moral decay of the United States and the malaise it has spawned have predictable results. We have seen in varying forms the consequences of social and political collapse during the twilight of the Greek and Roman empires, the Ottoman and Hapsburg empires, Tsarist Russia, Weimar Germany and the former Yugoslavia. Voices from the past, Aristotle, Cicero, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joseph Roth and Milovan Djilas, warned us. But blinded by self-delusion and hubris, as if we are somehow exempt from human experience and human nature, we refuse to listen. 

The United States is a shadow of itself. It squanders its resources in futile military adventurism, a symptom of all empires in decay as they attempt to restore a lost hegemony by force. Vietnam. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Libya. Tens of millions of lives wrecked. Failed states. Enraged fanatics. There are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world, 24 percent of the global population, and we have turned virtually all of them into our enemies.”

As the empire wanes;

“The virtues we argue we have a right to impose by force on others — human rights, democracy, the free market, the rule of law and personal freedoms — are mocked at home where grotesque levels of social inequality and austerity programs have impoverished most of the public, destroyed democratic institutions, including Congress, the courts and the press, and created militarized forces of internal occupation that carry out wholesale surveillance of the public, run the largest prison system in the world and gun down unarmed citizens in the streets with impunity.

The American burlesque, darkly humorous with its absurdities of Donald Trump, fake ballot boxes, conspiracy theorists who believe the deep state and Hollywood run a massive child sex trafficking ring, Christian fascists that place their faith in magic Jesus and teach creationism as science in our schools, ten hour long voting lines in states such as Georgia, militia members planning to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia and start a civil war, is also ominous, especially as we ignore the accelerating ecocide…

…I speak to you in Troy, New York, once the second largest producer of iron in the country after Pittsburgh. It was an industrial hub for the garment industry, a center for the production of shirts, shirtwaists, collars, and cuffs, and was once home to foundries that made bells to firms that crafted precision instruments. All that is gone, of course, leaving behind the post-industrial decay, the urban blight and the shattered lives and despair that are sadly familiar in most cities in the United States.

It is this despair that is killing us. It eats into the social fabric, rupturing social bonds, and manifests itself in an array of self-destructive and aggressive pathologies. It fosters what the anthropologist Roger Lancaster calls “poisoned solidarity,” the communal intoxication forged from the negative energies of fear, suspicion, envy and the lust for vengeance and violence. Nations in terminal decline embrace, as Sigmund Freud understood, the death instinct. No longer sustained by the comforting illusion of inevitable human progress, they lose the only antidote to nihilism. No longer able to build, they confuse destruction with creation. They descend into an atavistic savagery, something not only Freud but Joseph Conrad and Primo Levi knew lurks beneath the thin veneer of civilized society. Reason does not guide our lives. Reason, as Schopenhauer puts it, echoing Hume, is the hard-pressed servant of the will.”

Chris Hedges understands the problem will not go away;

“Those overwhelmed by despair seek magical salvations, whether in crisis cults, such as the Christian Right, or demagogues such as Trump, or rage-filled militias that see violence as a cleansing agent. As long as these dark pathologies are allowed to fester and grow–and the Democratic Party has made it clear it will not enact the kinds of radical social reforms that will curb these pathologies–the United States will continue its march towards disintegration and social upheaval. Removing Trump will neither halt nor slow the descent.”

And therein lies the problem; the essential crisis confronting us, but which few have considered.

Trump is but a symptom of the decay of the United States.  As with the rise of the Nazi Party in the 1920s and 1930s, with social and economic upheavals brought on by the Great Depression; high levels of unemployment; defeat in World War One with humiliating loss of national pride, and punitive Treaty of Versailles demands – likewise Trump is the culmination of decades of corruption; political self interest; rising poverty and inequality, and worsening social and economic stresses.

The very fabric of American society is unravelling – and we are watching the spectacle in Real Time.

The election of Joe Biden will not make the poisoned soil that spawned Trump go away. Far from it, this is but a momentary respite.

Trump ended his political career and torpedoed his chances of a second term only because of a lack of self-awareness; self-discipline; and intelligence. He was an unsophisticated, ill-mannered, man-child trying to fill an adult’s shoes.

His successor, Trump 2.0, will likely have none of his obvious weaknesses.

The next Trump 2.0 will be less Chaplainesque and more shrewdly subtle at manipulating the American public at doing his bidding. If Trump could convince 74,223,251 Americans that he was fit for the most powerful role in the world – what could a competant, credible authoritarian figure achieve?

It is worth recalling that the US President who enacted neo-liberalism, minimal government, de-regulation, and globalisation was Ronald Reagan – a Republican.

The US President, who railed against neo-liberalism and globalisation, was Donald Trump – also a Republican.

The first offered neo-liberalism as a  “solution” to America’s ills.

Twentyseven years later, his successor offered a “solution” to the ills caused by neo-liberalism.

What will the next Republican president offer as a “solution” to Trumpism?

If Donald J. Trump 1.0 was the prototype, the next upgrade is already on its way. And the fertile ground of discontent has been well prepared.

 

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References

Wikipedia: 2020 United States presidential election

CNN: Trump condemns ‘all White supremacists’ after refusing to do so at presidential debate

Republic Report: Ten Reasons Trump is the Most Corrupt President in U.S. History

Wikipedia: Thatcherism

Investopedia: Reaganomics

Investopedia: Share Re-purchase (buy-back)

Investopedia: Trickle Down Theory

New York Times: The Great Prosperity, The Great Recession

The Economic Policy Institute: The Productivity–Pay Gap

Naked Capitalism: Corporate Profit Margins vs. Wages in One Disturbing Chart

Forbes.com:  Corporate Profits Skyrocket As Post-Holidays Look Grim For Millions

NBC News:  Trump throws grenades into high-stakes Georgia Senate runoffs in final stretch

Bloomberg Wealth:  U.S. Billionaires Got $1 Trillion Richer During Trump’s Term

Marketwatch: Corporate profits’ share of pie most in 60 years

The Atlantic: Why People Who Hate Trump Stick With Him

Wikipedia: Chris Hedges

Youtube: Chris Hedges – The Politics of Cultural Despair (transcript: Scheerpost)

Additional

Bellingcat: The Making of QAnon: A Crowdsourced Conspiracy

Feminist Giant: Feminist Killjoy Here To Wreck Your Parties

Washington Post:  Federal judge rejects GOP request to intervene in Clark County ballot-processing

Youtube:  President-Elect Joe Biden & Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris Address the Nation

Previous related blogposts

The seductiveness of Trumpism

The Rise of Great Leader Trump

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

Trumpwatch: Voter fraud, Presidential delusions, and Fox News

Trumpwatch: Muslims, mandates, and moral courage

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: “… then they came for the LGBT”

Trumpwatch: How Elon Musk can overcome Trump’s climate-change obstinacy

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

Trumpwatch: What’s a few more nails in the planet’s coffin?

2020: Post-mortem or Prologue?

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the rise of the swastika

Acknowledgement: Mr Fish

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 14 January 2021.

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Life in Level 2: The Curious Case of the Very Invisible Virus

22 August 2020 3 comments

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As at mid-day on 12 August, Aotearoa New Zealand went to Alert Level 2 and Auckland City to Lockdown, Alert Level 3.  This, the result of four infections discovered in a South Auckland industrial area.

The source of reinfection in South Auckland  is yet to be determined. Options are limited to;

  • Border staff at airports, ports, or quarantine facilities unwittingly picking up the virus
  • An incorrect test result allowing a positive infection to leave a quarantine facility
  • “Lurking” asymptomatic community transmission left over from previous months
  • Returning flight crew member(s) acquiring the virus overseas

The third option  seems unlikely. Where there is asymptomatic infection there are also symptomatic cases where people end up in hospital and ICU care. It seems unfeasible for one to occur, but not the other;

The other hypothesis doing the rounds is that maybe New Zealand never eliminated the virus and that it has been bubbling away undetected in the community for three months.

Professor [Epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of New South Wales] …thinks this is highly unlikely, and that at least some cases would have had symptoms and presented to medical authorities.

The last option is  the most disturbing. It is no secret that returning airline flight crews from foreign destinations are not required to quarantine for fourteen days, unlike other Returnees passing through our borders;

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The assumption that the new outbreak may have been the result of returning international flight crews is a possibility we should not quickly dismiss.  To test this hypothesis, it is necessary to look at relevant facts.

Firstly, the genome of the covid19 virus in this latest outbreak does not match those who are infected and in current quarantine. As Prime Minister Ardern stated on 14 August,

“This suggests this is not a case of the virus being dormant or of a burning ember in our community. It appears to be new to New Zealand.

So we can rule out the second option above, and part of the first option. There is also no indication of incursion through a port, or an Americold worker have any association with a port worker.

Next: according to Dr Ashley Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health, the genome of the virus indicates it may have originated from one of two countries;

“We are continuing with genome sequencing investigations. What we know so far is that there has been no exact link with a recent case in MIQ from the samples we have been able to genome sequence, however, genome sequencing of new cases resembles the genome pattern from the UK and Australia most closely.”

By contrast, genomic sequencing  points to the original appearance of the virus in late-February as having emanated from North America, not from Asia, Australia, or the UK.

Next: The facility where covid19 was first discovered is Americold NZ Ltd, situated at Mt Wellington. It is also the site where most of the cases have centred.

Suggestions that transmission occurred via importation of chilled/frozen goods between Australian and New Zealand Americold facilities were unequivocally dismissed by the company’s managing director, Richard Winnall;

Americold have investigated and we can completely rule out there is no transfer of product between these facilities in Australia or New Zealand,” Winnall told the Herald today.

We can completely rule out transmission through that speculation on freight. It’s just not possible because there is no freight or supply chain connecting those two properties [Mt Wellington and Melbourne].

In fact, for months and months [there has been no freight between Melbourne and Auckland]. I can’t tell you how long other than my Melbourne facility has confirmed they have no record of shipping to that Mt Wellington facility.”

Otago University professor and epidemiologist, Michael Baker, described the suggestion of viral contamination on imported goods as unlikely;

much less important than direct respiratory spread.

University of Otago professor of infectious diseases, David Murdoch, said;

I think on balance it’s probably less likely, but certainly worth exploring.

Epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina, Rachel Graham, pointed out;

“Even frozen, on a surface like that, you’ll see the virus desiccate and dry out, which renders it completely non-infectious.”

And executive director of the World Health Organisation’s Health Emergencies Program, Michael Ryan, stated;

“There is no evidence that food or the food chain is participating in transmission of this virus, and people should feel comfortable and feel safe,” Ryan said in a press briefing on Thursday, adding, “people should not fear food, or food packaging or processing, and the delivery of food.”

Next: Mr Winnall made this salient point;

“We believe that was just two employees that contracted Covid-19 from outside the workplace, that happened to be employees of ours.”

This is where things get… “interesting” (but hopefully not in a Gerry Brownlee kind-of-way).

Americold also has a second facility, at Manu Tapu Drive, only a few kilometres from Auckland Airport;

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One of the Americold workers tested works at the Manu Tapu Drive facility. The results of this person’s test remains unknown as at publication of this story. A Ministry of Health media release dated 13 August stated;

Two of the AmeriCold sites, Mount Wellington and Auckland Airport, have been closed, and all staff from the Airport site have now been tested.

That was three days ago, and the MoH website has no update as to the results of testing of staff at the Auckland Airport Americold site.

The first recorded Americold worker’s (not at the facility near the Airport) was on 31 July.

Working backward from 31 July, the first worker would have been infected roughly fourteen to sixteen days prior to presenting with symptoms. That takes into account approximately 12 to 14 days to incubate; one day presenting; and another day to test and determine a positive result.

The MoH website for covid cases yields the following result for Returnees flying home from Australia;

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Recall that this strain of virus most likely emanated from UK or Australia.

Whilst the evidence above should be regarded as circumstantial, the possibility that an airline flight crew returning to Aotearoa New Zealand carried the covid19 virus and transmitted infection to an Americold staff-member should not be dismissed out of hand.

This country has already had one such instance of returning flight staff carrying the contagion across our borders into the community – with fatal results.

Equally alarming, is that flights from Australia and elsewhere continue to arrive to our country;

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auckland airport arrivals

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None of the flight crew staff are quarantined.

Postscript

Meanwhile, the re-emergence of covid19 outside our quarantine facilities should squash further irrational proposals that we re-open our borders to others apart from returning New Zealanders;

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covid19 nz

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Key’s assertion that;

“We don’t really have a health crisis in New Zealand because we don’t have community transmission; we have a financial crisis that is coming, not a health crisis.”

– defies common sense and should be discarded as the misguided ‘reckons’ of a man with unbalanced priorities. People like Key, David Seymour, et al, should be regarded with derision if we value human life above money.

 

*** UPDATE ***

 

From RNZ:

Covid-19 testing, isolation needs urgent attention – Air NZ staff

19 August 2020

Air New Zealand staff say there are a multitude of loopholes in the airline’s border controls – and Covid-19 testing and isolation requirements need urgent attention.

The Health Minister today met with Air New Zealand to discuss ways to tighten Covid-19 restrictions, after saying he was concerned with their procedures.

While returning travellers must undergo strict 14-day isolation requirements, the air crews bringing them home are largely exempt.

One person working on Air New Zealand’s international flights told Checkpoint there had been unease for sometime among crews about the current rules, which mean only those returning from America are required to self-isolate, have a Covid-19 test on day two and continue to self-isolate until that test comes back negative.

“I think there’s a multitude of loopholes, and some of them are due to the way the airline operates but also unfortunately, I believe that the loopholes and the vulnerabilities at the border, are due to the way things have been designed by Ministry of Health rules.”

He recently returned from a long haul flight which was not to America, so he is not required to self isolate.

“However, I’m doing that, because… it’s the right thing to do. So I am managing the quarantine at home.

“But many crew have difficulty with that, they might have flatmates or they might have the situation so that they cannot physically isolate at home without putting people at risk.”

He said it was vital there was a stand down period and testing between every international flight, especially because the burden was placed entirely on the crew themselves, and staff could fly home domestically to self isolate after completing a long-haul flight.

“In my mind, every flight is similar risk and it’s regardless of how many days you’re over in those destinations – they all carry the same amount of risk and I don’t know why the Ministry of Health or Air New Zealand is able to justify having lower testing requirements for certain trips.”

The Ministry of Health website states that because of the importance of maintaining international air routes, New Zealand-based international air crew are mostly exempt from requirements for isolation if they meet certain conditions.

They include wearing gloves and masks when in passenger areas and full PPE when dealing with a sick passenger suspected of having Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said those requirements were agreed on by Air New Zealand and the Ministry of Health, but there was nothing to indicate air crews had been the source of any issues.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said he met with Air New Zealand this morning to discuss their testing protocols and they were working through those practicalities.

The staffer told Checkpoint while Air New Zealand is doing the right thing most of the time, isolation and testing on every international flight has to happen.

“They have a fiscal imperative, which is weighing very heavily on everyone and they would not want to have the extra cost of the stand down between every single flight and the testing. But it’s the only way to be [able] to have better surety protection from the virus getting back into our community.”

Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran said he was supportive of the government considering options for improvements to their current testing regime, and adds the protocols the airline currently has in place are proving to work, because there has not been a case of Covid-19 in the airline since early April.

 

From NZ Herald:

Covid 19 coronavirus: Health Minister Chris Hipkins’ concerns over airline crew coming through the border

19 August 2020

The Government admits it has concerns around the testing of airline crew coming through the border, amid claims from Winston Peters that a “second border breach” led to a hotel worker contracting the virus in central Auckland.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins said this morning he was concerned about protocols for international airline crew, and the risk of the virus entering New Zealand.

“I’m meeting with Air New Zealand today to make sure that that’s as tight as a drum,” Hipkins told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking. “I’m not 100 per cent convinced that it is at the moment. I’m going to be absolutely boring into that. There’s no time for rest here. I’ve been doing this job for seven weeks. Every single day I’ve woken up thinking about Covid-19.”

 

If there is one thing we have learned about this virus is that it is ‘tricky’ and that it will exploit any gap in our defences. The gap can be as small as… a virus.

Air New Zealand is obviously concerned about it’s “bottom, line” and how quarantining will impact on it revenue and profits to shareholders.

When it comes to shareholder returns vs the lives of my fellow New Zealanders, I’ll pick the latter Every. Single. Day.

 

*** UPDATE 2 ***

 

From RNZ:

Aug 20, 2020 1:25 PM
RNZ Live
The initial sampling shows that additional work at Americold is not currently warranted and it does appear that contamination of imported chilled packaging was not a likely source of infection at this point and therefore the investigation into finding the source remains open, Dr Bloomfield says.

Aug 20, 2020 1:16 PM
RNZ Live
No virus has been found on any of the swabs taken from the Americold Wiri site. ESR did find very low levels of the virus on four of the 35 gauze swabs taken at the Mt Wellington site. Dr Bloomfield says the positive swabs were from surfaces expected to be touched by a person with the virus.

So that’s that.

The remaining options rely on human-to-human transmission.

The question remains: who was the source of transmission for the Americold worker exhibiting symptoms on 31 July?

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References

ABC News: New Zealand races to track down the source of the Auckland coronavirus outbreak

Stuff media: No quarantine rule for Air NZ international crew after new Covid cases

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

Otago Daily Times:  Quarantine exemptions granted to small number

NZ Herald: Covid 19 Coronavirus – Air NZ crew and airport staff to be tested

Ministry of Health: 14 new cases of COVID-19 – Media release 13 August 2020

RNZ:  New Zealand confirms case of Covid-19 coronavirus

Stuff media: Coronavirus – New research reveals how Covid-19 came to New Zealand

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Two new cases at Americold factory; wait on results of 14 others continues

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Americold director can ‘completely rule out’ NZ’s virus cluster came from Melbourne facility

Stuff media: ‘We’re leaving no stone unturned’: Did New Zealand’s outbreak come from a Melbourne coolstore?

RNZ: Covid-19 – Imported goods as outbreak source an unlikely theory – Professor David Murdoch

Business Insider Australia:  Imported frozen foods may have caused New Zealand’s new coronavirus outbreak. But it’s very rare to get sick from such packages

Mediaworks/Newshub: Coronavirus – Gerry Brownlee denies COVID-19 questions make him a conspiracy theorist

NZ herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Two new cases at Americold factory; wait on results of 14 others continues

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus lockdown – Jacinda Ardern to announce next moves at 5.30pm tomorrow

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases details – 1:00 pm, 16 August 2020

Otago Daily Times:  Bluff groom’s father one of Covid-19 deaths

Auckland Airport: Arrivals

Mediaworks/Newshub: New Zealand must consider opening borders soon says Helen Clark, Peter Gluckman and Rob Fyfe

Stuff media: Relax border restrictions to soften Covid-19’s economic blow, Sir John Key says

TVNZ News: David Seymour says second Covid-19 lockdown not the answer and it’s time to ‘learn to live with it’

Additional

RNZ:  Covid-19 testing, isolation needs urgent attention – Air NZ staff

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus –  Health Minister Chris Hipkins’ concerns over airline crew coming through the border

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

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cartoon murdoch

Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 17 August 2020..

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Life in Level 1: The Doom of National

25 July 2020 7 comments

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The Martians had no resistance to the bacteria in our atmosphere to which we have long since become immune. Once they had breathed our air, germs, which no longer affect us, began to kill them. The end came swiftly. All over the world, their machines began to stop and fall. After all that men could do had failed, the Martians were destroyed and humanity was saved by the littlest things which God and His wisdom had put upon this Earth.” – H.G. Wells, “War of the Worlds

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National will lose in September. And most likely in 2023 if the pandemic has not been defeated. Their laissez faire approach to government and economics has been revealed to be utterly inappropriate for the challenges in the Age of the Virus.

National has been caught out – like the proverbial  possum frozen in the glare of oncoming headlights – as the human race struggles to adapt to the new norm of responding to the spread of contagion.

There is an inexorable inevitability to how politics has begun to change radically with the advent of a global pandemic.

More than ever, the State is required to navigate societies through these stormy pandemic waters. The “free market” is not only incapable of dealing with a deadly virus – it actually aids and abets the spread of contagion.

Sweden, Brazil, Victoria, and the US (especially states such a Florida, Texas, California, et al)  are a brutal warning  when humans fail to heed and respond to a viral threat. The virus will mercilessly seek out every crack (or in the case  of the US and Brazil, gaping holes) in Humanity’s defenses and, like water in 100-year old pipes, seep through.

Humans have only one defense against plague: our intellect. Failure to use what natural evolution has gifted us leaves us at the mercy of whatever challenge Nature throws against us. In this case, a virus that is neither aware of us, nor cares about us. Like background radiation or clouds in the sky, it simply IS.

How we deal with it, using our remarkable abilities, will be the crucial difference between prevailing and succumbing.

React with political expediency (and a lethal dose of outright ignorance) like Trump or Bolsanaro, and the virus will exploit that ignorance to maximum lethal advantage.

One lesson we have learned is that the virus is no respecter of political or economic ideologies. It attacks  central-planned and liberal free market economies alike. China and the US proved that.

But unlike the US, China managed to contain the contagion by acting swiftly and decisively. By locking down Wuhana city of eleven million  people – they controlled and reduced transmission.

Only the power of the State could control transmission. The free market and it’s twin sibling, Hyper Individualism, could not cope. The dictates of free market profit-making (unyielding demands by share-holders) in tandem with selfish Me First individualism, was diametrically contrary to crucial collective strategies required to control transmission.

In an act of sheer stupidity and political expediency, Trump has insisted that all schools in the US reopen. School children are to become the new vectors of a deadly contagion so Trump can present an illusion of “normality” in  time for the November presidential election.

The virus is now effectively out of control in  the US and Brazil. The death toll is escalating, killing young and old.

Despite the lessons from other nations there have been calls for Aotearoa to re-open our borders to foreign students and even tourists. Some have suggested that Universities could manage isolation/quarantine of students – despite even the government falling short in this critical area.

The National Party and business pressure groups have joined in a whining chorus of agitation to open our borders. Their number one priority is “business as usual”.

Recently, three “prominent” New Zealanders – former chief science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman, former prime minister Helen Clark and ex-Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe – joined the agitation to re-open our borders “some time in the near future we have to have a strategy in place of gradually opening the border, because we cannot [keep it closed] indefinitely“.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson spoke for the vast majority of New Zealanders when he rejected those demands;

“Growing our capacity for quarantine that we have absolute confidence in requires facilities that will need to be very carefully designed and used.

Moving toward an international student market for that will take some time.”

Two days later, finally reading and understanding the mood of the nation, then-Leader of the National Party, Todd Muller walked back National’s calls to re-open our borders;

“What I was framing up was a criteria that could exist in the future, when clearly that can’t happen in the current context … what I was talking about was a critique of the government’s lack of transparency or visibility around what the next step is in terms of opening up our border. 

There’s no appetite – from me or any New Zealander – for the border to be open today, partly because of what’s happening overseas and partly because of the shemozzle at the border.”

And on 12 July, appearing as a guest on TVNZ’s Q+A, Mr Fyfe –  one of the trio of “prominent New Zealanders” –  also seemed to be having second thoughts on loosening border controls;

“Personally, I’d be nervous opening to any country until we have our testing and trace capability to the standard it needs to be at and in my mind we’re not there yet […] no country has really solved the tracing challenge.”

Even Helen Clark, another of the “trio of prominent New Zealanders” voiced the obvious concerns felt by most people;

“We’re nowhere near through the end of this, some people say we may not see any widely available vaccine for at least two and a half years, it may then not be fully efficacious, it may not stop us getting it, it may mean it mitigates symptoms.”

As if to underscore the point and drive home the stark, unvarnished realities we were facing, Jacinda Ardern summed up it up succinctly, and in doing so, spoke for nearly the entire nation;

“Right now as this pandemic is surging and while the technology and testing is as limited as it is, now is not the right time.”

Wigram Capital Advisors economist, Rodney Jones, who has been tracking the spread and effects of the contagion repeated the warning;

“We only need to look to Victoria, New South Wales, Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea to see examples of other places that like us had the virus under control at a point in time only to see it emerge again.”

With this virus, we have to live with uncertainty and risks that we’re not accustomed to. This is new for all of us.”

In simple terms, most of us were in no mood to undo the victory we had achieved in nearly two months of lock-down. Not for all the tea in China or all the gold in Fort Knox.

Prime Minister Ardern spoke for most of us when she categorically refused to yield to calls to loosen our border controls;

“Right now as this pandemic is surging and while the technology and testing is as limited as it is, now is not the right time.”

Which leaves traditionally pro-market; pro-globalisation; pro-individualistic political parties with nowhere to go.

With tourism and the education export industries effectively “dead”, traditional market-driven ideologies have been ham-strung – not by their left-wing ideological counterparts – but by an unseen enemy that is not even aware of our existence.

Aside from trade in commodity goods, National cannot campaign on market liberalisation of the free movement of people with skills and/or wealth. Those days are behind us.

Thus far, National’s strategy for re-election appears to be based on regurgitated roading and tunnels under/through/over mountains and throughout the North Island (an asphalt fetish, as David Slack described it) and treating Kiwi Returnees as a cash cow by billing them for quarantining.

Aside from the sheer questionable legality of imposing what is effectively a border tax on New Zealand citizens and Permanent Residents returning home, how is that remotely reconcilable with their promise not to introduce new taxes in their first term?!

No less than three successive National Party leaders have promised: no new taxes;

We will not introduce any new taxes during our first term.” – Simon Bridges, 29 November 2018

There will be no new taxes from the next National Government, and that could not be more distinctive than what the Labour-Greens will serve up for this country.” – Todd Muller, 29 June 2020

This is not the party that is going into adding more cost to businesses and more cost to people who earn income and who are actually keeping this economy going. We are not the Party of taxing people any more than we need to.” – Judith Collins, 15 July 2020

Only Judith Collins’ unspecific assurances leaves “wiggle room” for introducing a new cost to Returnees – effectively a tax. So, “no new taxes” – except, maybe, perhaps…?

It’s a “levy”, not a tax?

It’s a “charge”, not a tax?

It is this mish-mash of rehashed policies; vague, un-costed promises;  and incoherent populism that voters will look askance at.

As free market economics takes a back seat to the collective needs of society, National finds itself on the outer, a Party in search of a new raison d’être. In a post-pandemic world it cannot be “business as usual” because the virus – an implacable, unrelenting, impersonal enemy – will not allow it.

By contrast, Labour has been more or less consistent in responding to the new dictates of the crisis to the approval of the majority. There is  an admiration – even from some National-leaning voters this blogger has spoken with – that PM Ardern has done what has needed to be done.

Some would go even further, so the government sits nicely in the middle as the measured, calm voice of reason.

But more importantly, the ideological mania of “small government” has been shown to be a dangerously naively fallacy – especially when confronted with such a crisis as a pandemic. When faced with a nationwide or global emergency – whether biological, environmental, etc – only the State can muster the required resources to meet such a challenge head-on.

People have long memories and they will remember calls from a succession of National party leaders; business “captains of industry”; and various other commentators, to re-open our borders.

Then they will see the mess across the Tasman in Victoria (and now escalating in New South Wales).

They will appreciate how incredibly fortunate we were to have a government that was cautious and valued lives over commercial dictates.

And they will vote accordingly.

Because National has failed to adapt.

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References

Quotes: War of the Worlds

CTV News: Florida reports a record 156 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours

TVNZ News: Texas reports 10,000 new cases as Covid-19 continues to surge around US

Apnews: How California went from success story to virus hot spot

Live Science: China just lifted its lockdown on Wuhan

Washington Post: Despite pressure from Trump, major districts say schools will stay closed in fall

Mediaworks/Newshub:  University head begs for return of international students

Stuff: Coronavirus – Managed isolation Covid-19 testing failures lead to buck passing but no answers

Otago Daily Times: NZ should open borders to countries with Covid – Muller

RNZ: Border reopening must be priority – Business NZ

RNZ: NZ must consider opening borders – Gluckman, Clark, Fyfe

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Majority of Kiwis want to keep borders closed, but are concerned about economy, jobs

NZ Herald: Grant Robertson – Don’t expect return of foreign students in 2020

RNZ: Checkpoint –  2 July 2020

TVNZ: Q+A – 12 July 2020

RNZ: Covid-19 review ‘challenging’ because pandemic ‘ongoing’, Helen Clark says

RNZ: Economist warns risk of another Covid-19 outbreak rising

TVNZ News: ‘Right now is not the right time’ – PM responds to further calls for NZ’s borders to reopen

Twitter: David Slack – 11:55AM Jul 17, 2020

RNZ: Covid-19 – National to charge for quarantine

NZHerald: National leader Judith Collins unveils $31b transport plan to crush Auckland’s congestion

Otago Daily Times: National – No new taxes in the first term

Mediaworks/Newshub: Todd Muller rules out wealth tax under National, says Labour-Greens will drag New Zealand into debt

RNZ:  Judith Collins on her plans for National (alt.link)

TVNZ News: NSW at ‘crucial point’ in the fight against Covid-19 as new clusters emerge

Twitter: @FoxyLustyGrover – 6:53AM  Jul 1, 2020

Previous related blogposts

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

Life in Level 1: Cunning Plans, Unanswered Questions

Life in level 1: Newshub Nation, Q + A, and the end of Todd Muller’s leadership

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Acknowledgement: Guy Body

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 July 2020.

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Life in Level 1: The Taxpayer’s Coin

29 June 2020 5 comments

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Plague town?

There are two things right now in Aotearoa New Zealand that are guaranteed to piss people off.

Firstly, it’s National playing silly-bugger politics with the covid-19 pandemic. This cost Simon Bridges his job as National’s Leader.

Lately, Michael Woodhouse has been playing fast and loose with revelations that he waited a day before informing the Ministry of Health (MoH) that two sisters had been allowed out of quarantine without testing. The two women later tested positive for covid-19.

Mr Woodhouse chose first to talk over the tip-off from his source with his Party leadership. Later, after some strategy had no doubt been engineered (with Matthew Hooton’s involvement?), Mr Woodhouse went public.

In his interview with RNZ’s Suzie Ferguson, Mr Woodhouse was at pains to point out that it was not his job to inform MoH or the government that two untested returnees were travelling the length of the North Island and who later tested positive for covid-19. Evidently, the risk that the pair could have infected others; put people in hospital; potentially killed someone; and further harmed the fragile state of our economy – was not a matter worthy of consideration for Mr Woodhouse who has aspirations to one day be a government Minister.

As he put it so eloquently to Ms Ferguson;

“I’m not part of the cheerleading team.”

Mr Woodhouse criticised Health Minister David Clark as being “completely disengaged from his role [as Minister of Health]” and demanded his resignation.

The same charge could equally be levelled at Mr Woodhouse for playing politics with a disease that has destroyed so many lives.

It’s a moot point which is worse; incompetence or politicising a lethal pandemic.

The second thing that has roused the ire of New Zealanders is the constant flow of media stories of a small number of returnees who have whinged at aspects of their quarantine, or expected special treatment to attend family members who are near death, or funerals. (And I write this as someone who understands all too well what it feels like to face the ghastly frustration of seeing a loved one dying and not being able to do a damn thing about it…)

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Or the non-stop media stories of businesspeople who demanded exemptions and wanted to continue trading during Level 4 and Level 3 lockdown .

Nothing quite says “Batshit Crazy” as a weight-loss company  so full of it’s own self-importance that they think they are an essential service during a global pandemic;

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Because if you’re on your death-bed from covid-19 – about to meet your Maker – no doubt losing a few kilos is first and foremost on your mind…

Three months later, and we have a new contender for Self Important Entitlement: Scenic Hotel Group’s managing director, Brendan Taylor.

Mr Taylor was apoplectic that *HIS* town, Rotorua, would be hosting additional quarantine facilities;

“It is a concern to a lot of New Zealanders travelling as to which hotels are being used as isolation hotels and which ones aren’t.

Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so I would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels.”

Yes, Mr Taylor was mightily concerned that “Rotorua and Taupō have been doing really well with weekend business so […] would’ve thought Rotorua would probably start to suffer a bit with accommodation being turned into isolation hotels”.

So no concerns then about pandemics? Or re-infection if we don’t begin to get our act together with stringest quarantine procedures. Or the lives that could be lost. Or that returnees were our fellow Kiwis.

Mr Taylor’s point-of-view was that hotels were “doing really well with weekend business“.

That’s not all he’s done “really well with“. Interestingly, Mr Taylor has benefitted fairly well accepting the taxpayer’s coin;

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Thus far, Mr Taylor’s company has taken $1,512,379.20 of the taxpayer’s coin for wage subsidies. That’s our taxes going to his company to pay his staff’s wages.

The least he could do is not whinge  and understand that this government is doing what it must to assist New Zealanders to return to this country safely, and in a way that does not bring contagion back into our community.

Because it may have escaped Mr Taylor’s attention that if covid-19 returns and the second wave is even more disastrous for our economy – he may not have much a hotel chain left to be Managing Director of.

Instead of  being self-indulgent, perhaps he could return the generosity of the taxpayer by asking; “what can we do to assist”?

As for Radio NZ which carried the story – this is not the first tale of self-indulgent, woe-is-me, “grief journalism” they’ve engaged in. Or badly mis-represented a story.

In this case, the headline carried the ominous warning;

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Except… there was no reference within the text of the story to any “potential travellers” being “wary”.

Or “weary”, as their Twitter version suggested;

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In fact there was no mention of “potential travellers” full stop. Just the “reckons” of one businessman more concerned  with “doing really well with weekend business” than his fellow countrymen and women.

One could also question RNZ using the phrase;

“As the school holidays approach there is concern people may put off plans to travel to Rotorua where two hotels were commandeered for quarantining returning Kiwis at the weekend.”

This is immature tabloid journalism and not the standard we expect from RNZ.

The commentary after RNZ posted a link to the above story on Twitter was scathing. One could have been forgiven that people were commenting on the latest confused ramblings from Mike Hosking, Kate Hawkesby, or Sean Plunkett, and not this country’s most respected media outlet.

Not good, RNZ:

D Minus. Can do much better if they apply themselves.

Pay-To-Stay?

Today (23 June), the government floated the ‘kite’ of demanding co-payments from returnees to Aotearoa New Zealand. The co-payment would be charged for their 14 day quarantine;

“What we need to consider as a government is the fairness of a potential co-payment system, so we need to factor in a whole range of issues and keep in mind we cannot stop New Zealanders from coming back to the country where they are a citizen, and so that will have to underpin all of our decisions.” – PM Ardern

Human Rights lawyer, Michael Bott, was damning of the suggestion;

“I would say, potentially, it’s in breach of the Bill of Rights Act, because you have a right of entry in terms of your country and to impose a cost on New Zealand citizens who are overseas and wish to come back home… is something which may be considered disproportionate and severe.”

Put in plain english, this is a really terrible idea. It is the sort of money-grubbing we might expect from a National government  prepared to put money ahead of the well-being of our fellow citizens. This would be Labour’s moment equivalent to National raising prescription charges in 2012 from $3 to $5.

This would be the antithesis of the positive message that PM Ardern has steadfastly maintained these last few months;

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Yes, we are all in this together. The quarantining of hundreds – thousands – of returnees is not for their personal benefit. A postcard to Aunt Nellie showing their hotel room doesn’t quite have the same romanticism as a beach at Bali.

This benefits us all, from Cape Reinga to Stewart Island; the entire Team Five Million. We all stand to gain from returnees quarantining.

Just as returnees benefitted from the entire country going into lock down for six weeks.

To expect them to pay – even only a portion – would be like expecting people to pay for their own covid-19 testing. The idea would be ludicrous because when it comes to an infectious micro-organism there is no “Us” and “Them”. There is only “We”. As in, we’re all in this together.

I have no idea who came up with this short-sighted notion. It is quite mad. And I am surprised that it would pass PM Ardern’s “sniff test”.

I hope it is binned. Because there is nothing remotely kind about it.

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As at 23 June 2020:

Confirmed covid19 cases: 1,165

Active cases: 10

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

RNZ:  National Party on managed isolation bungle  (audio)

RNZ:  Travellers ‘shocked’ at last minute transfer to quarantine in Rotorua

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Kiwi in quarantine pleads with Government for right to visit dying mother

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Coronavirus – Kiwi woman desperate to see her dying mother denied isolation exemption

RNZ:  Covid-19 – NZer in quarantine appeals to government compassion to see dying wife

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Kiwi in LA begs for quarantine exemption to see dying dad in Christchurch

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Jenny Craig defends stance as essential service

RNZ: Isolation hotels making potential travellers wary

Work and Income:  Covid-19 Wage Subsidy Employer Search

Twitter: RNZ –  Isolation hotels making potential travellers weary – 23 June 2020

RNZ:  Cabinet to consider co-payment scheme for new arrivals

Stuff: Prescription cost to rise to help pay for Budget

ODT:  ‘We’re all in this together’

Ministry of Health:  Two new cases of COVID-19

Other Blogposts

The Standard:  Responsible politics verses Gotcha politics

The Daily Blog: Snakes and Mirrors – National Sat On Covid-19 Infection Information For Hours Before Dropping Political Bombshell In Parliament

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

 

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 24 June 2020.

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Life in Level 1: Reinfection – No, Dr Bloomfield!

26 June 2020 4 comments

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20 June

The bad news: Aotearoa New Zealand has two new cases of covid-19.

The good news: the two cases were picked up at an Auckland quarantine facility.

The terrifying news: had the story of the two women leaving quarantine without testing not broken four days ago – this couple and their child were due to depart the facility;

The couple returned to New Zealand on a repatriation flight from Delhi – AI-1306 – and arrived on 5 June. They also have an infant who has not been tested due to age.

The couple showed no symptoms and returned a positive result after being tested on day 12 of isolation.

They were tested on Day 12. Up until now testing had not been done or was haphazard.

The infuriating news: Dr Ashley Bloomfield needs to stop bullshitting us. At today’s presser, he made this statement. See if you can pick up the half-truth:

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@ 4:44 – 5:52

“Just a good time to remind everybody that we were always expecting to get new cases at our borders, as Kiwis return home from overseas.

And I guess the comment here is, we had several weeks where we didn’t get any cases at the border and now we are. And I’d like to reflect on the reasons for that.

First of all, we are seeing an increasing number of Kiwis returning to the country from around the globe.

The second is, just to reiterate the point that I have made, there is still a global pandemic raging offshore.

And only overnight the Director General of the World Health Organisation noted that the global pandemic is accelerating, with Thursday this week being over 150,000 new cases worldwide.

So there is an increased likelihood we will see Kiwis coming back, especially from countries where there are high rates of infection, like India. We also earlier in the week of course had those two Kiwis who’d returned from the UK where they’ve got high rate of infection.

So this explains why we are now detecting these cases at the border.”

Dr Bloomfield’s assertion that new cases of covid19 are being picked up because “we are seeing an increasing number of Kiwis returning to the country from around the globe” is not the reason.

The reason infection is being detected is because testing is now being carried out in earnest.

If personnel at quarantine facilities were still half-heartedly (or not at all) implementing testing protocols, all three recent cases (one returnee from Pakistan, and the couple from India) would likely have departed their respective facilities without having been tested.

They would be in our community – along with their viral “passengers”.

In fact, Dr Bloomfield may have revealed the magnitude of the potential crisis we might be facing;

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2400 people who had left a managed isolation facility but had not had a test“.

I fear our good luck is about to run out.

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As at 20 June 2020:

Confirmed & Probable covid19 cases: 1,159

Active cases: 5

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

RNZ:  Two new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand (alt link to video)

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – New arrivals to New Zealand told swab testing is not compulsory

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – NZ has another new case – a man in his 60s in a quarantine facility in Auckland

Ministry of Health: Two new cases of COVID-19

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

Reinfection: Labour’s kryptonite

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 June 2020.

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Life in Level 1: Reinfection – Labour’s kryptonite

24 June 2020 9 comments

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17 June

Labour’s “dream run” of being a competent manager during the Covid19 Crisis may just have come to a crashing end.

Recent revelations that some of the quarantine facilities (hotels converted to the task) have been shambolically mis-managed has raised alarm bells and widespread criticism;

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Travellers mingling with passengers from other flights

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A day later, on 12 June, former Police Commissioner, Mike Bush – in charge of the Government’s Covid-19 operational taskforce – stated that he was not satisfied with the lax procedures in the TVNZ story and promised to tighten adherence to protocols;

“That’s not good enough. We’ve got to keep those people safe … We need to get that right.

Walking groups have gone. Some hotels can bus people to another location. For others we’ve found another location on site where people can ensure that they’re not near any other members of the public.

We will put a new practice in place to make sure people on day one don’t mingle with people who have been there a lot longer. That is a difficult process.

The smoking area, we’re trying to make improvements there so we don’t have people there from day one with people from day 12.”

He specifically added:

“Now we’re in Alert Level 1, we will be having a new testing regime so people will be tested on day three and then on day 12.”

Yet, we now know that the two women who drove from Auckland to Wellington a day later, on 13 June,  were not tested.

When TVNZ ran the story above, I guessed even then that our lax border controls and complacent, half-hearted, quarantining would not end well;

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None of this was unknown to us. We knew flight crews were exempt from mandatory 14 day quarantining – despite travelling to covid-19 hotspots around the world.

This should not have surprised officials or Government ministers. As far back as April – two months ago – it was reported that isolation procedures at these quarantine facilities were being flouted;

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Which makes this random comment I posted on Twitter, on 15 Junethe day before the story broke in the media – eerily prescient;

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Little did I realise that my remark about “inept quarantining leading to another C19 infection in Aotearoawould become an unpleasant reality and headline news the very next day;

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Minister of Health and serial screw-up, Minister David Clark, reassured the public on RNZ’s Checkpoint that evening (16 June);

“They followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people … but nonetheless I am disappointed to learn they were out of the facility without testing negative first, because that was my understanding that that would have happened.”

According to Dr Bloomfield, speaking on RNZ’s Morning Report on 17 June;

“There was a, an agreed plan in place. As part of the approval process for the compassionate exemption, and that included for the travel arrangements.

So they had a private vehicle dropped to the hotel. They then drove together all the way to Wellington and had no contact with anybody else during that trip. And, uh, they didn’t use any public facilities and they also have been just with a single family member since they arrived in the Wellington region.”

I call bollicks to both statements.

Minister Clark assures the public that the two women “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“.

Unless he – or a Ministry staffer was travelling in the same car – how on Earth could he possibly know that they “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“?! [We now know they didn’t.]

On RNZ’s Morning Report, on 17 June, Minister Clark alluded to the fact that contact tracing was well under way, and he was “waiting for data overnight“.  He admitted that he “needed to know how many people” [had to be traced].

That clearly conflicts  with his  assurance the previous day that the two women “followed all of the instructions given to them and so they haven’t come into contact with a wider group of people“.

At least one of those women was infectious [as at 17 June].

We may see the resurgence of clusters potentially from Auckland to Wellington. It doesn’t get any worse than this.

Even more problematic is Dr Bloomfield’s assurance that “they then drove together all the way to Wellington and had no contact with anybody else during that trip. And, uh, they didn’t use any public facilities“.

Again, how does Dr Bloomfield know for certain that neither women “had no contact with anybody else“? Contact tracing is already under way – so clearly that must have been in contact with someone?

It also defies credulity that on a ten hour-plus drive from Auckland to Wellington that neither women “didn’t use any public facilities“?!

Modern vehicles have developed considerably since their early fuel-guzzling predecessors and are more efficient. A vehicle could make the Auckland-Wellington trip without having to re-fuel along the way.

But not so human beings. We’ve hardly changed much over the last 200,000 years.

I doubt very many human beings could make a ten to twelve hour drive without having to stop along the way to use public toilet facilities, at least once.

Dr Bloomfield should be fully aware of this – he graduated in medicine in 1990 and so should have a fairly good understanding of the workings of human plumbing.

So please Minister Clark and Dr Bloomfield: stop BSing us.

Neither of you can have any idea what those two did on their drive to Wellington.

It is inconceivable that they did not use public facilities along the way.

What about the other 200 people released from quarantine on “compassionate grounds”? Were they  tested before release?  Have they recently been re-tested?

Do we even know where they are?!

No wonder Opposition MP, Michael Woodhouse, questioned this government’s fitness to carry out health sector reforms after the Health and Disability System Review was released;

They haven’t been able to deliver anything else. I dare say a large reform of this nature is certainly beyond them.”

I’m starting to think the same thing.

Up until now, public support for this government has been stratospheric: between 80s and 90s in favourable percentage terms. But watch that support wither and fall away if – due to complacency and mis-management – the virus reappears in the community.  And watch it collapse altogether if Aotearoa New Zealand has to go back to Level Alert 3 or – Thor forbid – Level Alert 4. The public will not be happy.

Adulation can turn to animus pretty damn quickly.

When National’s Leader, Todd Muller expressed his anger;

“I’m as furious as I suspect most New Zealanders this morning.

This is clumsy and totally inappropriate when you consider what’s at stake here … we’ve spent a number of months locking our country down, we’ve got ourselves to the point where we’re Covid-free, we have systems in place that we expect to be followed and they simply weren’t.

We can’t have such a lax approach to our border when the stakes are so high.”

— he was reading the room and expressing a reaction shared by about 99% of the population. Unlike his hapless predecessor, Mr Muller got the tone 100% right. People are pissed off.

The incompetence of those managing our quarantine facilities was sheeted home when, on 17 June, Mike Bush was interviewed on RNZ’s Checkpoint. It was a class act of evasion, vagueness, buck-passing, and a startling inability to offer information to some basic questions. It reminded me of former Corrections Minister, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga‘s inept responses when interviewed on TV3’s The Nation, in May 2015 (an interview which, coincidentally, was also done by Lisa Owen).

Minister, Lotu-Iiga‘s responses had to be heard to be believed.

Likewise, when Ms Owen kept repeatedly asking Mike Bush who was responsible for failures, he kept deflecting to Minister Clark, Director General Bloomfield, et al.

He simply could not answer Ms Owen’s questions – because he was obviously ignorant at what was going on in the quarantine facilities. Mr Bush confirmed to listeners what most New Zealanders already suspected: no one was in charge; no one knew what was going on; and the people supposedly carrying out quarantine protocols and testing were not doing their jobs.

No wonder PM Ardern has had a gutsful and appointed Air Commodore Darryn Webb to take over.

However, PM Ardern cannot simply call this colossal clusterf**k  “an unacceptable failure of the system“. Assigning responsibility to a mythical creature called “The System” is a cop-out.

It wasn’t  “the System” at fault. It wasn’t System Bush, or System Bloomfield, or System Clark, or System Ardern in charge. Human beings were in charge.

The public knows this. When “The System” is blamed, there is a collective eye-rolling of five million pairs of eye-balls. People recognise “Politician Speak” when it is fed to them.

If PM Ardern wants to engage in “Politician Speak”, that’s her mistake to make.  Up until now, she has earned the respect of the nation as a Leader, not Just A Politician. Does she really want to be seen as Just Another Politician? I would have thought that was a step down in any person’s career path.

Someone screwed up. Someone in a position of authority where they should have been doing their job. Their. One. Job.

In fact, this government’s astronomical popularity has been predicated on them doing Their One Job: guiding Team Five Million through this crisis; doing the tough calls; ensuring all our resources were targetted at containing and defeating The Enemy.

They had one job. And they’ve been shown up not to have done it very well.

Expect Labour’s popularity to take a nose-dive in the next political poll. They will have earned the bollicking that the public is about to dish out to them.

But if we’re going to dish out the Finger-Pointing Pie, there is plenty to go around.

The Mainstream Media has amplified every “human interest” story of tragedy; people returning to Aotearoa New Zealand desperate to get out of 14 day quarantining to attend to dying relatives or attend funerals. (The six people who absconded from quarantine had attended a tangi in Hamilton.)

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Media amplification of these tragic stories – aka “grief journalism” – has no doubt put inordinate pressure on government ministers and Ministry staff. Whilst these stories are good click-bait and help sell advertising space (or attract listeners in RNZ’s case), they serve no other useful purpose.

Quarantines are not quarantines if people can side-step them because of tragic personal circumstances.  (And I write this knowing full well how it feels, as last year someone close to me died. The awful feeling of total helplessness cannot be adequately put into words.)

In one case, the Courts ruled to overturn a Ministry of Health decision to decline an exemption, saying;

“decisions to decline permission are on their face legally flawed” and the “exceptional” case “had the hallmarks of automatic rejection based on circumscribed criteria rather than a proper exercise of discretion.”

The media should take a long, hard look at itself and the role it played in undermining implementation of quarantine protocols.

And the Courts should decline to become involved in pandemic-control policies. Lest it need be repeating: the virus is no respecter of our human-made laws.

Next, the National Party and sundry business lobby groups with their relentless, irresponsible agitation  to move down Alert Levels and re-open our borders to foreign students, tourists, Uncle Tom Cobbly, et al;

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In the case of foreign students, National is particularly strident;

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Ms Kaye’s assertion that “…[National] have also proposed that education providers would handle quarantine procedures” did not age well. Four days later…

As I write this, there are over eight million confirmed covid19 cases in the world. The real figure is most likely higher as countries like Brazil have consistently under-reported their infection rate. The global death toll has passed 450,000.

That is the threat that vote-chasers in the National Party and profit-takers in the business world would expose us to.

National’s cynicism is nowhere more apparent than Opposition MP, Michael Woodhouse, who reported the case of two women leaving quarantine whilst infected with covid19 – several days after finding out from “a reliable source”.

As blogger “Mickey Savage” outlined the timeline of events in The Standard;

The timing in interesting.  According to this interview on Morning Report Woodhouse found out these details two days ago and yesterday spent time checking the veracity of the story.

He then discussed matters with his leader’s office.

He did not go to the Health Ministry and did not think he should.

He thinks this was necessary for presentation of the story.

In his view his job is not to work to improve the quarantine system but to hold the government to account and show shortcomings.

But as we are fighting a pandemic that has caused huge damage to countries overseas didn’t he have a duty to bring this information to the authorities as soon as possible?  So that these operational holes could have been filled?

I heard the interview. Mr Woodhouse did indeed insist it was not his job “to improve the quarantine system“. Also not his job to potentially save lives either, it appears.

So while National Leader Todd Muller was reflecting the anger felt by 99.99% of the country – one of his loyal MPs was reporting to him quarantine failings; potential re-infection throughout the country; and possibly ending in death – all from a “reliable source”. National Party priorities – certainly not saving lives.

But eventually, responsibility for this colossal mistake lies with those people whom we entrusted to safeguard us. We know who they are. Most have appeared nightly in our  homes; on our devices; encouraging us to do the right thing. Most New Zealanders followed their lead.

We rewarded them accordingly, singing their praises. And printing t-shirts bearing their image.

Those hymns of praise have stopped, to be replaced by the silent sound of bemusement, if not outright anger. The t-shirts may take a bit longer to sell.

The public will be in no mood to go back into any form of lock-down. In case I have to spell it out for Prime Minister Ardern; Health Minister Clark, Director General Bloomfield; Mike Bush, et al, the good will of the public has mostly evaporated. Faith has been replaced by cold fury.

The problem with being at the top? The only way from there is down.

Regardless of whether anyone takes responsibility for this failure, the ultimate decision will be taken from the hands of this government and its officials on 19 September.

As I wrote on 12 June – four days before the story of the quarantine failure broke;

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As at 16 June 2020:

Current covid19 cases: 1,156

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 22

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References

TVNZ: Travellers mingling with passengers from other flights, members of the public during Covid-19 isolation

TVNZ: Government to make changes to managed isolation facilities following 1 NEWS investigation

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 10.44PM Jun 11, 2020

Stuff media: Covid-19 – new cases as thousands fly in from Australia, Asia, Pacific Islands and US

Mediaworks/Newshub: Father concerned after quarantined son taken for walk with person with COVID-19

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 1.41PM Jun 15, 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Two new cases in New Zealand, both arrivals from UK

RNZ:  Two new Covid-19 cases in NZ visited dying parent – Bloomfield

RNZ:  Health Minister temporarily suspends compassionate exemptions from quarantine

RNZ: Covid-19 – Exemptions concerning after women test positive outside managed isolation – Baker (audio)

RNZ: No answers yet on why Covid-19 cases weren’t tested leaving isolation – Clark (audio)

The Spinoff: The face of the Covid-19 response – Who is Ashley Bloomfield?

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Exemptions concerning after women test positive outside managed isolation – Baker

Mediaworks/Newshub: Health and Disability System Review aims to end racism in New Zealand’s health sector

The Spinoff: Exclusive new poll: public support for Covid response remains sky high

TVNZ: Public sector’s reputation in NZ reaches record high amid Covid-19 crisis, survey shows

RNZ:  Government slammed after new Covid-19 cases revealed

RNZ:  Mike Bush answers questions over botched Covid-19 isolation

Frankly Speaking:  “The Nation” reveals gobsmacking incompetence by Ministers English and Lotu-Iiga

RNZ: Two new cases leaving isolation ‘an unacceptable failure of the system’ – Ardern

ODT:  Six people – not two – abscond to go to tangi

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Kiwi in quarantine pleads with Government for right to visit dying mother

Mediaworks/Newhub:  Coronavirus – Kiwi woman desperate to see her dying mother denied isolation exemption

RNZ:  Covid-19 – NZer in quarantine appeals to government compassion to see dying wife

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Kiwi in LA begs for quarantine exemption to see dying dad in Christchurch

Magic Radio:  Dr Bloomfield denies ‘blanket approach’ used for quarantine exemptions despite zero approvals

Twitter: @JudithCollinsMP12:44 PM · Jun 8, 2020 – Go to level 1

Twitter: @nikkikaye – 12 June 2020 – foreign students

Worldometer: Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Brazil stops publishing number of virus deaths

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Woman in the same hotel as new coronavirus cases ‘shocked’ at finding out via Ministry of Health press conference

RNZ:  National Party on managed isolation bungle

Twitter: @fmacskasy – 9:45AM  Jun 12, 2020 – no mood to go back into lockdown

Other Blogs

The Standard:  Responsible politics verses Gotcha politics

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 June 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

30 April 2020 4 comments

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April 29: Day 2 of Level 3…

It really was a good day today. Two new cases (ok, one confirmed, one probable) and no – zero! none! – deaths!!

The two cases is a fall from yesterday’s three, and the previous day’s five. It’s like a tantalisingly slow count-down, but with each number dropping day by day.

If those clowns at fast-food takeaways  (and other workplaces, but we’ll get to that in a moment) don’t spread the virus, it will be our good fortune to have beaten the little bugger.

Interestingly, there are only three cars parked at the local Park’n’Ride carpark. Unusual because the roads continue to be full of commercial and non-commercial traffic;

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The commercial traffic is heavy. Building sites are a hive of activity. At one site, I counted three concrete mixer-trucks parked on the roadside. It’s difficult to believe Treasury forecasts that GDP will contract with all the activity in  evidence.

On the motorway I glance to my left; a gang of workers are busy on the rail line between Melling and Petone. There are about a dozen men in their ubiquitous hi-viz orange gear. None of them are even close to being two metres apart from each other.

It’s a bright, sunny autumn day. There’s a noticeable chill as a weak sunshine tries vainly to warm the air. This may be a saving grace for us all.

Oriental Bay’s two beaches are mostly deserted except for a few souls willing to endure the brisk temperatures to sit on a luke-warm sand;

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Also at Oriental Bay Parade, another gang of workers – this time on road-works;

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Social distancing? Hah! Real Men don’t social distance!!

Not only were they not two metres apart, I’d doubt if there was even a metre between them.

So never mind groups of fast-foodies at burger joints getting close up together and potentially sharing their micro-organisms – what is it with males in physical occupations that closes down their minds to the concept of social distancing? Do they think they are immune to viruses, protected by their hi-viz orange gear?

Oh if only it were that simple.  Like green kryptonite to Superman, does covid19 shy away from the colour orange? No wonder Trump is still unaffected.

Further along Oriental Parade, as it approaches the bend where it becomes Evans Bay Parade, the ultimate sign in return to normality awaited: road works with lolly-pop signs and queues of traffic;

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Five weeks of minimal-to-non-existent road works had come to an end.

Meanwhile, NZ First Leader, Winston Peters, had kicked off his party’s de facto election campaign by disclosing Ministry of Health advice that  Aotearoa New Zealand should’ve been closed to returning New Zealanders so as to prevent the incursion of covid19.

The headline;

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But compare the headline on Collette Devlin’s article with the headline on the Stuff Politics directory-page;

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The article’s headline refers to Health MINISTRY. The politics directory-page; Health MINISTER. Big difference. (Hat tip:  @nealejones) Either that was a bit of sloppy work by a Stuff staffer (try saying “Stuff staffer” quickly, repeatedly!) – or a bit of juvenile mischief-making.

On the way home tonight, more traffic on the road. Not as busy as last night.. though… road works were in more evidence on SH2.

Only two days, and I’m already yearning for the Good Old Days of Level 4 lock-down.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,474

Cases in ICU: nil

Number of deaths: 19

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References

Bloomberg:  New Zealand Economy Gets Back to Work as Lockdown Is Eased

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Winston Peters says Health Ministry wanted to close borders to Kiwis

Fairfax/Stuff: Politics Page

RNZ:  Two new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Resources

Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus Resource Center

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

Life in Lock Down: Day 31 & 32

Life in Lock Down: Day 33 & 34

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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

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Life in Lock Down: Day 33 & 34

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April 27: Day 33 of living in lock-down…

Five more cases, only one of which has been confirmed. And another of our fellow New Zealanders has fallen to the virus, a woman in her nineties, a resident from St Margaret’s Rest Home in Auckland.

Today my partner and I have discussed merging our ‘bubbles’. It will have been over four weeks since we’ve seen each other, aside from ‘Zoom‘ video-calling.

The “catch” is that whilst her ‘bubble’ is only three people – mine is significantly larger. The risk from me is greater than from her.

On the ‘positive side of the ledger’, the Hutt Valley and Wellington DHBs have not recorded any further C19 infections. As at 9am this morning;

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And going back to last Thursday, still no new cases;

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At today’s press conference with PM Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, there was this “golden moment” at 33:54;

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The expression on Dr Bloomfield’s face: priceless. It was the non-verbal version of, “What the f**k?!

It was obviously a questioned geared to create headlines, which in turn would generate ‘clicks’. (Plus it was just plain dumb.) Dr Bloomfield would have none of it. The man has not spent decades of his life in the medical profession to answer gormless questions about something an orange Village Idiot, sitting in the White House, said when his walnut-sized brain was coasting in ‘neutral’.

It was up to the PM to bat the inane question aside, treating it with the contempt it deserved.

Tonight will be the last day/night of living under Level 4. Tomorrow, the “ropes” will have been loosened somewhat to allow businesses to re-open, though in a limited way, practicing social-distancing.

Though from what little I’ve seen of “social distancing” within supermarkets and road gangs, I am not filled with optimism.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,469

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 19

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April 28: Day 1 of Level 3…

The first day of Level 3 – a step closer to some semblance of ‘normality’. (Though much of what we Humans call ‘normal’ has ravaged the planet; consumed our resources; filled the atmosphere with greenhouses gases; turned out oceans into a vast garbage dump; created mass-extinctions; and ripped the guts out of our rain forests. Yet, so many of us yearn to return to that ‘normality’…

Hitting the road, I pass the Park N Ride as I do each day. The signs are good: only four cars present – one more than usual.

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Perhaps my forebodings are baseless and people will respect the necessity to stay home?

Fat chance. These *are* humans, after all.

On the roads leading to SH2, the increase in traffic is obvious. Last week there would have been three or four cars – it’s way more.

Then out onto SH2. I start recording the commercial vehicles with my voicecorder, and given up after five minutes. Traffic is heavy, both commercial and non-commercial. In fact, it’s fairly similar to any given day at around 11am before anyone ever heard of ‘novel coronavirus’ or ‘covid19’. The Melling Interchange was as busy as ever;

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The red ship that had anchored in the harbour, within view of the motorway, had gone. It’s fourteen days quarantine must have included it’s ocean-going time spent on the high seas.

This raises questions how freighters will deal with quarantine protocols in future. With air travel limited, will a fourteen day mandatory quarantine for sea-going freighters be uneconomic? It will certainly be a long time before anyone is bold enough to step foot on a cruise-liner again.  The owners of those floating hotels/petri dishes couldn’t give those tickets away.

After exiting the Terrace Tunnel and queuing with other traffic at the lights;

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It was “all on”. If the Prime Minister was watching out the windows of her Ninth Floor office, she must have had her head in her hands, shaking it in despair.

This wasn’t Level 3, 2, or 1. This was pre-Level Anything. Whatever these New Zealanders had heard on the radio, TV, or internet was completely opposite to how I understand Level 3 to operate.

Even the motorhomes were on the move again, like this one that pulled up in Hataitai;

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Driving along the southern coast and Lyall Bay, it suddenly struck me that bicylists were again a vulnerable minority. The dominance of the automobile had returned.

One plucky father had two children (5? 4?) on their little bikes trailing behind him on Hamilton Road, with cars zipping past. (I braked to a crawl, to slowly over-take, probably irritating drivers behind me. F**k’em.)

In the days to come, as car drivers reassert their dominance on the roads, bolstered by a tonne of metal, glass, rubber, and fabric, bicyclists will come to remember the brief month that their mode of transport ruled the Ways. It may be a tale they pass on to their grandkids…

At 1PM, we get the good news: only three new cases and – thankfully – no additional fatalities. Well, that’s the positive side. The downside? This;

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Can you spot two-metre distancing outside the Burger Fuel outlet? No, neither can I.

Just one asymptomatic carrier of covid19… that’s all it takes. Just. One. Person.

This scene will be repeated around the country and become more common as people become more complacent.

Cue sequel: The Virus Strikes Back.

My drive home tonight, at about 8pm was no different. Traffic. Lots of it. In fact, it seemed as if there were more vehicles on the motorway than usual at that hour of the night.

And one more thing.

The smell.

There was a “new” acrid smell in the air. The smell of burning fossil fuel had returned. In time my nostrils would become accustomed to the odour again and not register to my senses.

But I will also have lost the smell I’d enjoyed only up until last night – clean air.

Postscript

Meanwhile, the lack of new cases in Wellington and the Hutt Valley mercifully continues;

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Current covid19 cases: 1,472

Cases in ICU:  1

Number of deaths: 19

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References

Day 33

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases – 27 April 2020

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases – 23 April 2020 (via Wayback Machine)

Youtube:  Ministry of Health update on Covid-19 – April 27

RNZ:  One new confirmed case of Covid-19 today, but one further death

Day 34

Twitter: Richard Hills – Burger Fuel – covid19 – queue -28.4.20

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases – 28 April 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 latest update – Three new cases in NZ, no further deaths

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Resources

Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus Resource Center

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 – current cases

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

Life in Lock Down: Day 31 & 32

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Emmerson covid 19 pandemic

Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on day month year.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 31 & 32

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April 25: Day 31 of living in lock-down…

It’s ANZAC Day. I was planning to get up early to stand outside… but didn’t wake up till much later. I guess that’s my body telling me it had other plans (mostly involving rest).

It’s another work-day so prep accordingly and hit the road. It’s reassuring that there are no cars at  the nearby Park N Ride. With it being a fine, sunny summer-like day, it will not bode well if people decide to flock to parks and beaches.

And traffic did appear to be slightly heavier than during the week. Which meant people were making the most of a fine Saturday/ANZAC Day to get out and drive somewhere. Not good.

In the harbour, the red freighter was still sitting where it had first been spotted;

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It seems a double-standard that the crew of the freighter are expected to be in quarantine whilst flight crew on Air New Zealand flights are exempt from the same protocols.

Traffic around the Terrace Tunnel  was definitely busier than during the working week (such as it is).

Queues at Chaffer Street New World stretched around the block. Good  personal distancing on the footpath. Though as my experience at other supermarkets showed, people struggled to maintain that distancing in the aisles. Some forgot; others couldn’t care less.

Both beaches at Oriental Bay were largely deserted;

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Campervans at the Evans Bay Marina carpark had changed; some had gone; others had arrived.

Question; do these campervans have GPS tracking? If so, the companies leasing these vehicles should be able to determine when they are on the road, flouting lock-down.

Meantime, in another example of lazy thinking mixed with self-entitlement, the owners of Black Sands Lodge seem unable to understand what lock-down and stay at home means in simple english;

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The Lodge owners asserted,

Owners of an Auckland lodge offering a “get-away” escape during alert level 3 say they are well within their rights to do so because they are an essential service.

More like taking-the-piss.

Businesses that are scrupulously respecting the lock-down and suffering because of lost income must be spitting with fury at outfits like Black Sands Lodge and it’s owners.

When I start taking  holidays again (and by Thor, I need one), it won’t be at Black Sands Lodge. Like, ever.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,461

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 18

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April 26: Day 32 of living in lock-down…

Day of from work. But housework remains; dust and dirty laundry wait for no man, woman, or virus.

It’s still lock-down so I stay home. Though I wonder if I’m the only bugger doing it. Glancing out the window, my neighbours (couple in their late 20s) are loading up their car with household items, including what looks like camping gear.  At around 1pm they drive off.

It’s the 1pm daily announcement; there are nine new cases but mercifully no deaths.

The couple return about an hour later. They’ve dropped of the items to god-knows-where.

On Radio NZ, epidemiologist Michael Baker answers questions from listeners. Thankfully, RNZ has weeded out the more gormless ones from conspiracy theorists nutcases and the question and answer session is productive.

The issue of Sweden’s light-handed approach to the pandemic is raised. Sweden has opted for no lock-down and instead left it to individuals to keep themselves safe. It’s a libertarian’s masterbatory wet-dream.

Swedes are paying for their light-handed approach in blood. According to  Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center global data-base, as at 5.00PM on 26 April, their death toll stands at 2,192;

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Sweden’s population is approximately ten million, just a little over twice Aotearoa New Zealand’s. But the death toll from covid19 is nearly 122 times ours.

There those who would makes excuses that such a death toll is a worthwhile price to pay to open up the economy again. The usual refrain is that fatalities are mostly amongst the old who would be dead anyway soon from old age and/or age-related causes.

Which is untrue, as covid19 also kills younger people. The youngest, to date, was a six week old baby.

A lax approach demands a high price which will be paid by others than mercenary capitalists, and their political puppets, who are desperate to see consumers spending their dollars again.

It’s ironic that the cries of over-reaction by critics to the government-mandated lock-down are able to do so only because that lock-down has been (relatively) successful. When idiots like David Seymour assert;

“That really I think is not quite right. I think the risk posed by the virus is not as great as it was sold to us.

The Prime Minister said tens of thousands of people would die if we do nothing. I don’t think there was any plausible scenario given what we know now about the virus in general – especially in New Zealand – where that would happen.

If we know that the virus was not as bad as we thought, and the lockdown is worse than we thought, then the right thing to do is to actually change the balance between the lockdown measures and the virus.”

— they are playing with people’s lives for political gain (votes).

And when populist, right-leaning media such as Newstalk ZB misrepresent statements from experts;

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— then it compounds confusion in the public mind.

In fact, Dr Wiles did not say “NZ is unlikely to see a coronavirus outbreak“.

Within the text of the article, beneath the staggeringly misleading headline, her actual statements are published;

Auckland University’s Siouxsie Wiles says we are likely to see cases here due to the high number of overseas cases, but told Mike Hosking the number of cases is likely to be limited.

“We don’t have the same population density and when small number of cases come in, they can be easily isolated and stopped.”

The misleading headline has been quoted ad nauseum by rightwinger trolls on social media who have either not read the actual text of the article, or have willfully exploited the lie to sow uncertainty. (Many of the trolls are pathologically misogynistic in their smears against Dr Wiles.)

When government hands out taxpayer’s dollars to prop up the msm, I hope they by-pass NewstalkZB. A media company that peddles outright lies is not fit to survive.

With nine new cases in Aotearoa New Zealand, the question begs to be asked; where and how are transmissions taking place? We have passed through two cycles of transmission/symptomatic of the virus. How is it being spread?

If, as I suspect, people are breaking their ‘bubbles’, then they should be held to account. They are holding the entire country to ransom.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,470

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 18

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References

Day 31

Fairfax/Stuff media: Beach lodge offers discount ‘get-away’ accommodation during coronavirus Alert Level 3

RNZ:  Covid-19 update 25 April – Five new cases, one death

Day 32

RNZ:  NZ’s responses to Covid-19 and polio vastly different

RNZ:  Time will tell on Sweden’s relaxed approach to Covid-19

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Six-week-old US baby youngest to die with COVID-19

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Siouxsie Wiles claps back at David Seymour’s claim coronavirus risk ‘not as big as it was sold’

NewstalkZB:  Siouxsie Wiles on NZ is unlikely to see a coronavirus outbreak

Twitter: @JintyMcGinty35

Twitter: @miscreantinc

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Nine more cases, no new deaths

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

Resource

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

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Acknowledgement: Royston

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 27 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 29 & 30

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April 23: Day 29 of living in lock-down…

Three new cases…  but two more deaths. It’s a cruel act of Fate that success and good news is tempered with tragedy and death. With each of those deaths, families are left grieving for the loss of someone who has been entwined in their lives.

There are times I wish that those agitating and making shrill demands to re-open the economy, should be made to be in the room with those grieving families. No amount of money and economic growth can make up for the loss of a loved one who we shall never see again, and lives on only in our memories and photographic recordings.

The day starts of as many have in the last four weeks. Drive past the railway station Park N Ride – still three cars in the open expanse of a carpark built for a hundred times that number. (Yesterday there were four cars present.)

On the main road to SH2, the white motorhome is still in place. It’s become a ‘fixture’ my gaze automatically looks for in the first ‘leg’ of my drive to work.

It was a cloudy, mild, autumn day.

On the highway, a Wellington Electricity van; ‘JETS’ van; ‘Phoenix Transport’ van; an unbranded double-tandem truck (unbranded commercial vehicles  seem more common than I have ever noticed, previous to the lock-down); ‘Kaibosh’ van; a fully laden ‘PBT’ container truck; ‘Jina’s’ fruit & veg van; a police car; a light truck marked ‘Dandy Candy’ (really ?!); ‘Waste Management’ truck; an unbranded light truck carrying gas cylinders; ‘Placemakers’ ute; ‘Chorus’ ute; ‘Precision’ glazing van; ‘Paint m& Plasterer’ ute; ‘Good Shed’ light truck; ‘L.G. Anderson’ covered truck; ‘Steinlager’ branded covered truck; a firewood truck (company logo not discernible); ‘Gilmours’ truck; ‘Arobake’ van; a fully laden ‘KAM’ container truck; another police car; ‘Coca cola’ branded truck; towtruck wagon carrying a car; ‘Bundaberg beer’ branded SUV; ‘PBT Transport’ truck; ‘Toll’ double tandem truck; ‘Print Link’ truck; ‘Arrow Hygiene’ van;  ‘Budget Rental’ covered truck; truck carrying two waste-bins; ‘Commonsense Organics’ van; ‘Enviro waste’ rubbish truck; ‘Dimond’ building ute; ‘Inter Waste’ truck; an unbranded fully laden container truck; an ambulance; a skip bin truck; scaffolding truck; ‘Red Cross’ blood van; ‘Gilmour’s’ truck; ‘Cushman & Wakefield’ real estate services van; a police car; ‘Tip Top’ refrigerated truck…

Traffic on SH2 was light; about half a dozen vehicles around me.

The red ship still lay where it was first spotted;

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Definitely under fourteen day quarantine.

Meanwhile, another large freighter berthed near the Interislander wharf, spotted the previous day, was gone. If mandatory quarantine does not apply to that vessel, hopefully it’s a coastal trader, restricted to Aotearoa’s waters.

The road works gang with ‘Wellington Pipelines Ltd’ trucks and digger in attendance, were still digging up the footpath. Still no sign of any  social distancing being practiced.

Meanwhile, ‘Z Energy’ has made itself out to be practicising high levels of corporate bastardry by getting rid of unwanted fuel stocks back on to the world market. The reason? To keep local fuel prices high.

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So there we have it; Z Energy’s  chief executive, Mike Bennetts openly admitting that allowing cheap fuel into Aotearoa would result in “too much fuel that will affect us by way of having to sell“.

Anyone still  believing that the rules of the free market apply in any way, shape, or form, is deluded. ACT – the so-called party of the free market – made no comment on this blatant manipulation of  fuel prices. (Quite the opposite, in fact. ACT has been calling for more corporate welfare – paid by taxpayers.)

The next time David Seymour or any of his ACT cronies bleats on about “market forces” – point them to this story. Then watch them do “mental gymnastics” to explain how/why such a thing could happen in an open market like ours.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,451

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 16

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April 24: Day 30 of living in lock-down…

Back up to five new cases *AND* another death. With only three more days until we move to Alert Level 3, we better start hoping that contact tracing is working.

The railway station Park N Ride had the same three cars – but there the similarities to previous days, weeks, ended. In my driving to Wellington, and around the city, there was a marked increase in both commercial and non-commercial traffic on the roads. The fact it was a fine, sunny day – more like summer than autumn – also brought a few people out.

Commercial traffic was definitely higher than before. And whereas there there moments on the open highway when my vehicle was the only one present – today there was a constant flow of traffic around me. Still not as heavy as in normal times – but still noticeably heavier than at any time in the last four weeks.

On my way home tonight, again,  traffic at around 8pm was the highest I’ve seen it since Level 4 lock-down began at 11.59pm, Wednesday, 25 March.

People are starting to revert to “normality”.

Meanwhile, the roadworks in Vivian Street, downtown Wellington, had ended; as had roadworks at the Miramar ‘cutting’; and new roadworks this afternoon in William Street, Hataitai. I watched the roadworks gang – at no point was social distancing evident. It was business-as-usual.

If the police fail to monitor holiday ‘hot spots’ as they are promising to do this weekend,  it will be a free-for-all for people to be on the move.  In which case, Professor Shaun Hendy’s prediction of a “re-invasion” by the virus could become a reality.

Back to square one. Or rather, back to Alert Level Four.

Meanwhile there are the usual click-bait headlines highlighting bizarre ideas. Such as Aotearoa prostituting itself to become rich white men’s “bolt hole”. Or billionaire Trump supporter and founder of data-collecting company, Palantir, Peter Thiel, wanting to offer his services to help track covid19.

That’s a ‘Yeah,nah,piss off” to both those suggestions.

And while we’re about it, could someone in this government look to stripping Peter Thiel’s  New Zealand citizenship? Mr Thiel bought his citizenship (the price is unclear) in 2011. Millionaire John Key gave Billionaire Peter Thiel citizenship – even though the latter had only briefly visited this country on a few occassions.

There is no clear reason why this gentleman should hold New Zealand citizenship. Aside from his money, maybe.

The one headline I want to see is not “Billionaires flock to New Zealand and buy up North Island” – but rather, “No new covid19 cases today“. I know which is worth more to us.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,456

Cases in ICU: 1

Number of deaths: 17

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References

RNZ:  Z Energy selling fuel back to world market

ACT: News

ACT: Good call, now set clear rules and support Level 3 losers

RNZ:  Covid-19 – What happened in New Zealand on 23 April

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Three new cases in NZ, two further deaths reported

RNZ:  Covid-19 alert level 3 – What you need to know

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Police checkpoints at the ready ahead of Anzac weekend, Covid-19 level 3

RNZ: ‘The possibility of reinvasion of the disease is very strong’ – Shaun Hendy

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Rich migrants not solution to New Zealand’s Covid-19 problems, economists say

RNZ:  Controversial tech firm Palantir had talks with govt on Covid-19

NZ Herald: Citizen Thiel

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Five new cases of Covid-19 in NZ, one further death

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

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Acknowledgement: Slane

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 25 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 28 – An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

23 April 2020 3 comments

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April 22: Day 28 of living in lock-down…

An Open Letter to Prime Minister Ardern

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Kia ora Ms Ardern,

Firstly, let’s set one thing pretty well straight before launching into the point of this letter to you. You, your government colleagues, and hard working civil servants have done an amazing job in navigating us through this crisis. History will remember the strong but compassionate leadership our country has had the great fortune to have.

We could just as well have had the likes of Bolsonaro, Orbán, or Trump leading us.

You have led us through ‘Hurricane Covid19’ nearly flawlessly, considering humanity hasn’t experienced an event like this since the 1918 Influenza pandemic. Nearly flawlessly. There have been ‘stumbles’ along the way. The problem of issuing PPEs is an irritant that refuses to go away.

But perhaps the ‘stumble’ that may yet be the worst is the exemption given to Air New Zealand not to isolate flight crew after they have completed an overseas assignment.

This first came to my attention on 21 April on RNZ’s Checkpoint. The story, in brief;

The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver. 

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule. 

To say that I  was utterly gobsmacked would be an understatement. I listened to the unfolding story with a growing horror; a rising anger; and a deep disappointment.

Let me explain. For the last four weeks we have been in Level 4 lock-down. This has separated friends and families. Closed non-essential businesses. Curtailed recreational and sporting activities. Borrowed billions to keep our economy afloat and society intact.  And thousands have lost their jobs.

The vast majority of New Zealanders heeded your call to stick to our “bubbles”.

You called on us;

“New Zealand, be calm, be kind, stay at home.

We can break the chain.”

You minded us time and again;

“Stay home, save lives.”

And you challenged us;

“… you may not be at work, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a job. Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home, and breaking the chain.”

And the people you cheerfully referred to as “our team of five million” responded;

“Hell yeah, let’s do this!”

And we did. For the most part, people responded and made the sacrifices we knew in our hearts and minds were necessary to save lives.

But it was a battle that was not without many casualities. So many people found themselves suddenly unemployed. Some lost the businesses they had worked long hours to establish. And fourteen of our fellow New Zealanders lost their lives.

We retreated to our homes, venturing out only for food and exercise. Some of us – like myself – carried on working as we were as essential service. Which often meant our “bubble” became necessarily inflated to encompass our colleagues and those we cared for. Some of us were not successful in dodging the viral ‘bullet‘.

But we carried on, because, well, it had to be done.

As the lock-down progressed, there were calls to loosen the restrictions and allow more exemptions. Golfing greens (which was eventually allowed); surfing; hunting; butchers… There was quite a list. Aided and abetted by yammering voices from the National and ACT parties.

Though as any sensible person will tell you, the more businesses and recreational activities are open, the more ‘porous’ the lock-down becomes until it is a lock-down in name only. Cue covid19 to become rampant through the entire country.

Which was something wiser heads in our communities understood with crystal clarity;

“I don’t want the Muslim community to look like [they’re] insensitive, inconsiderate over the Covid-19 issue – that they’re just worried about the meat situation.

That is a picture I don’t want New Zealand to get because there there are people in the Muslim community who are actually worried about saving people’s lives in this state of emergency.

We should go with the available options because there are many people who are missing out on what they like to have. It’s not only the Muslim community who are missing out on halal meat, there are other communities missing out on what they want.” – Usman Afzali, 31

Mr Afzali was opposing calls for specialised Halal butchers to be given an exemption to the lock-down. Mr Afzali understood the consequences of permitting endless exemptions. He knew the price that would be demanded by the virus – and it would be a cost met by lives lost.

And I understand that. I really do. I’ve even supported my colleagues in a work situation where management who were not part of our facility’s “bubble” were point-blank denied entry. We have vulnerable clients and non-essential people were barred – no exemptions.

My ‘bubble’ consists of my flatmate; four colleagues (down from six) in our facility, plus our clients. (My flatmate’s ‘bubble’ is tiny, as she hardly knows anyone in the Greater Wellington Region.) My partner, who has her own house, is not part of my ‘bubble’. For four weeks we have not seen each other, except through the ‘Star Trekkian‘ marvel of ‘Zoom‘ technology.

We have taken your call to keep to our “bubbles” with utmost seriousness and urgency. We have not deviated. We have been staunch.

So after reading all that, you can understand, Ms Ardern, how absolutely gutted I felt when I read that Air New Zealand flight crews were returning to our country; disembarking from their aircraft; and… entering our community.

No fourteen week quarantine.  Nothing.

When challenged by RNZ, Air New Zealand responded;

“This is expert medical advice for all airlines to follow in New Zealand. If there are general concerns or questions about this advice then that is a matter for the Ministry of Health as they have established these standards.”

So the entire country is asked to go into stringent lock-down and when asked a legitimate question why Air New Zealand flight crews are exempt, we are given that corporate  gobbledegook-speak?!

Did anyone send a copy of that particular memo from Air New Zealand to the virus?

An un-named (for damned good reason) Air New Zealand employee reminded us;

“On 19 March, NZ5 arrived at Auckland from LAX on which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19, at least two crew later tested positive. A crew member from that flight, before testing positive, went down to Bluff to attend a wedding, and now we all know about the ‘Bluff cluster’.”

A person died from that ‘cluster’: the groom’s father.

The following day from that initial RNZ story, Air New Zealand disclosed that thirty employees have tested positive for covid19.

And yet you still allow Air New Zealand to be given an exemption?

Tangata whenua  going into the bush to shoot food for their whanau is considered a risk to transmission of covid19 – and it’s banned?

Whilst flight crews returning from Los Angeles, Shanghai, and god knows where from – are not exempt?!

Ms Ardern, I struggle to understand the logic to this, I really do. I’ve looked at it from every possible angle and all I can come up with is that Air New Zealand is part-owned by the government, with a massive $900 million bail-out loan extended to the company by Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

I really hope it’s not about saving an asset that the State has high stakes in. I really do. That would seem to be beneath your dignity to be party to such a venal deal.

So my question to you should be fairly obvious by now – or rather, two questions;

(1) Why:  does Air New Zealand have the privilege of enjoying an exemption to a fourteen day quarantine when – out of all the businesses in this country – it is the riskiest one that could re-introduce covid19 to our shores? What makes Air New Zealand safer than someone going out shooting in the back-blocks?

(2) Why:  have I bothered with my ‘bubble’; securing the facility where I work with vulnerable people; and foregone seeing my partner for nearly an entire month – when Air New Zealand flight crew could, at this very moment, be infected and spreading their contagion in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch?! Why have I bothered?

I really, really hope your reconsider the justifications you  offered at your 1pm ‘presser’ today (22 April). I really do.

Because if we manged to eliminate covid19 from our shores, only to have it reappear with new infections brought in by Air New Zealand flight crew – then it’s all been for nothing. Our efforts have been undermined because – and this is critical – no matter how many times we eliminate the virus, it will be reintroduced by flight crews who remain exempt for reasons that are beyond my understanding.

Singapore should be a clear lesson to us that this virus can return if we allow it even the smallest opportunity;

Fears have resurfaced about the ability of coronavirus to surge again after lockdowns are eased, as Singapore confirmed a sharp rise in new infections.

One of the worst-hit countries when the virus first spread from China in January, Singapore’s strict surveillance and quarantine regime helped slow the outbreak, but recent rises in locally transmitted cases have raised fresh concerns. Singapore reported 142 new infections on Wednesday.

When we move to Alert Level 3 I will be seeing my partner again. I’m even tempted to go to the beach, if we’re lucky to have any fine days left.

I’ve done my bit. God knows I have.

But this is beyond me.

Please reconsider Air New Zealand’s exemption. It’s not worth it.

 

Current covid19 cases: 1,451

Cases in ICU: 2 (0 critical)

Number of deaths: 14

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References

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

RNZ:  Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption (video)

NZ Herald:  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern – ‘Your job is to save lives, and you can do that by staying home’

BBC: Coronavirus: How New Zealand relied on science and empathy

Newsroom:  One third of new Covid-19 cases are health workers

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

Change.org: Allow Responsible Surfing in New Zealand

RNZ: Covid-19: Whānau relying on hunting for food should have exemption – leaders

Rural News:  Pork farmers want butchers to start trading

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – Community safety trumps access to halal meat, Muslim man says

RNZ:  Father of groom in Bluff wedding dies from Covid-19

RNZ:  Covid 19: What happened in New Zealand on 22 April

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

RNZ: Coronavirus: Government offers $900m loan for Air New Zealand

The Guardian: Singapore coronavirus surge raises fears of post-lockdown breakouts

RNZ:  Six new cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, one more death

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

RNZ:  Bubble-bound: Data shows most people obeying rules

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day

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covid19

 

Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 23 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 27 – and it’s been a shit day.

22 April 2020 4 comments

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April 21: Day 27 of living in lock-down…

The second-best possible news; testing has revealed only five new cases. If this keeps up, we might – might ! – be down to zero by the time we move to Level 3 at 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.

Except… the good news was marred by the death of another person; a 70 year old woman from a rest home in Te Atatu.

Also marred by an asinine response from our benighted Leader of the Opposition, yesterday, which has raised a storm of anger from thousands of New Zealanders.

And marred by a revelation that has raised my anger and left me wondering if I should have bothered with all the precautions and sacrifice that I (and hundreds of thousands of other New Zealanders) have made over the last few weeks…

My usual trip into town yielded my usual observations of commercial vehicles as well as ordinary cars. Traffic seemed sparse; no heavier or lighter than usual. Which is a good sign that people are not taking the planned move to Level 3 as an invitation to leave their lock-down en masse.

In fact, the number of cars at the nearby Park N Ride had dropped from the usual three to two. The wide variety of commercial vehicles, though, ranged from what were clearly essential to more questionable status. Such as the “Directionz” van parked outside a closed McDonalds outlet: “Directionz” deals in commercial signage, traffic signs, and graffiti removal.

The ship spotted in the harbour yesterday was still in position, station-keeping in the same spot;

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It may be there for quite a while: they have twelve more days of quarantine.

In town, there was road-works in Vivian Street;

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Essential emergency work?

And yet more roadworks in Wellington. This time at  The Cutting in Miramar;

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Note the photo immediately above. Look to the left of the white truck. Here’s a close-up;

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If that’s two metre social distancing in a workplace setting, then obviously I’ve been taught the metric system incorrectly.

This is why I reject calls from the National Party, ACT, and various sundry business lobby groups to allow all retailers to open, and let them practice “safe social distancing” while trading. I call ‘bollocks’ on that. I also share  similar reservations that safe social distancing can be managed during a Level 3 lock-down where non-contact business activity and trading will be permitted.

So far I see precious little “safe social distancing” even in the limited activities that are publicly visible. (See also busy aisles at Kilbirnie Pak N Save here:  Life in Lock Down: Day 23)

Then there was this from Opposition Leader Simon Bridges on his Facebook page;

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Take these two sentences;

“The public has done a great job of self-isolating and social distancing. The entire country has made huge sacrifices to ensure the four week lockdown was effective.

Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric.”

When Transport Agency data shows road traffic down between 73 and 82% from a year ago, that’s a fairly strong indication that the over-whelming majority of New Zealanders are doing the right thing.  It suggests they trust this government and the leadership to be implementing policies that will, in the long run, save lives.

The fact that new cases have been trending downward for the last two weeks, until we now stand at only five is a clear sign we are going in the right direction.

PM Ardern and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield have been in our living rooms for the last four weeks, almost night after night, and most New Zealanders have grown to trust them as a steady pair of hands.

So when Simon Bridges attacks the government and the leadership of the immensely popular Prime Minister and highly respected Dr Bloomfield, then he is basically “giving the finger” to the entire country.

Which is why around 82% of the stats to his post are in some way negative;

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The responses were ferocious in condemnation.

The country has been in lock-down for nearly four weeks. Our lives have been disrupted. Thirteen people have died (with one in Peru). Thousand have lost their jobs. Four weeks lock-down was an impromptu “holiday” – like being stuck in your hotel room while a tropical storm lashes your area for the entire time of your stay. Not much fun.

People are cranky. They are pissed off at those who flout the rules so they can have a good time while the rest of us tow-the-line. We want normalcy. We want to walk into a supermarket and not have to keep two sodding metres away from everyone – just in case.

So for Mr Bridges to lob his on-line “grenade” at the government was not just an attack on said government and Ministry officials – but also a snide dig at all of us. Despite stating “New Zealanders can be proud of the sacrifices they have made during this difficult time“, he was effectively dismissing those sacrifices as utterly meaningless.

Simon Bridges not only failed to “read the room” – he was in the wrong bloody building!

The more comments he makes along the lines of his Facebook post yesterday (21 April), the more entrenched will be the public view of him as someone not fit to lead us in time of crisis.

And then, this evening  on RNZ Checkpoint, came revelations that Air New Zealand air crew were returning from overseas flights – and not quarantining on arrival – despite several staff having been infected by covid19;

 

Air New Zealand is keeping secret the number of its staff infected with Covid-19 amid allegations it is not doing enough to keep its workers safe.

The airline’s crews who fly internationally continue to be exempt from the strict 14-day quarantine rules for people returning to New Zealand from overseas – with the exception of Los Angeles flights.

On Monday the airline confirmed crew members had been forced to self-isolate after some staff allegedly disregarded physical distancing rules during a layover in Vancouver. 

Documents obtained by Checkpoint show increasing unease and fear among flight crew staff about the exemption from isolation or quarantine, and the risk it poses to colleagues and the public.

Air New Zealand is currently operating 16 return international services a week. At the end of May it plans to add three return services a week to Shanghai to that schedule. 

For more than a week, Checkpoint has repeatedly asked Air New Zealand, the Ministry of Health and the Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield for the number of Air NZ staff who have tested positive for Covid-19.

[…]

New Zealand’s biggest Covid-19 coronavirus cluster is the Bluff wedding, where the virus has spread to nearly 100 people and killed two, including the groom’s father.

The cluster has been officially linked to overseas travel. An Air NZ flight attendant who had just returned from the United States and had already been exposed to Covid-19 was at the wedding reception. 

“On 19 March, NZ5 arrived at Auckland from LAX on which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19, at least two crew later tested positive. A crew member from that flight, before testing positive, went down to Bluff to attend a wedding, and now we all know about the ‘Bluff cluster’,” an Air NZ employee told Checkpoint. 

Four days before that, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced compulsory 14-day self-isolation for anyone arriving in New Zealand from anywhere in the world, excluding the Pacific. 

Despite the clampdown, Air NZ crew remained exempt at the time and have largely maintained that exemption throughout the pandemic.

On Monday 20 April, Air NZ’s Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson told Checkpoint it was his understanding the exemption had continued. 

That is despite employees repeatedly raising concerns that the lack of isolation for returning crews was endangering them and other people, Checkpoint has learned. 

A letter sent to Air NZ management earlier in April starkly laid out the issue: 

“An Air New Zealand flight arrived at Auckland from which three passengers tested positive for Covid-19. One in each class throughout the aircraft. Four crew later tested positive. 

“Another crew member from that same flight, before testing positive, attended meetings, then embarked on a four-night tour of duty. 

“One of those meetings was attended by yourself. If the 14-day separation rule was in place, that crew member would have remained in self-isolation at home and would not have placed other members of the community or colleagues at risk of Covid-19.” 

Ministry of Health guidelines exempt aircrew from 14-day stand downs between different flights as long as they appear healthy, but the same letter noted these protocols are minimum guidelines. 

 

Note the part where it says “as long as they appear healthy“.

From the Ministry of Health’s own website;

“Symptoms take up to 14 days to show after a person has been infected. A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”

I was dumbfounded when I heard the story. (Audio version here.) Dumbfounded and furious.

For the last four weeks my partner and I have studiously observed the lock-down rules. We  have kept separate “bubbles” (we do not live in the same houses). We keep grocery shopping to a minimum , observing the 2 metre distancing rule. We don’t go to the beach. We stay home. And when I go to work, I go directly to the facilities I work at; do my job; then come home.

But according to Air New Zealand, they permit their staff to work overseas and then return to this country and wander around freely.  Dozens  of their air crew staff are walking around our major cities. If any carry the contagion, they will be oblivious to it.

Some have already been stricken by the virus.

But Air New Zealand won’t tell us.

We could get the daily rate of new cases down to zero by Friday – only to have new infection clusters blow up at any time because an Air New Zealand crew member brought it back into our country.

Remember: “A person can pass on the virus to others before they know they have it – from up to two days before symptoms develop.”

Shareholding Minister Grant Robertson must act on this.

  •  We need to know how many Air New Zealand staff have had the virus.
  •  We need to have this practice of non-quarantining cease immediately.
  • And the CEO of Air New Zealand might as well take the next flight out of this country and not come back.

Once again, Air New Zealand has screwed us over. As if the Erebus disaster and subsequent cover-up hadn’t been enough of a stain on their reputation.

God help us, was Simon Bridges right?

“Unfortunately the Government hasn’t done enough and isn’t ready by its own standards and rhetoric”

Minister Robertson cannot ignore this shambles. It is putting us all at risk.

We’ve already had one death from a transmission by an Air New Zealand staffer.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,445

Cases in ICU: 3  (0 critical)

Number of deaths: 13

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References

Facebook: Simon Bridges – 20.4.20

RNZ:  Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption

Ministry of Health:  Covid-19 (novel coronavirus) – health advice for the general public

RNZ: Air NZ silent about Covid-19 cases as staff fears grow over quarantine exemption (audio)

RNZ: Covid-19 – What happened in New Zealand on 21 April

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog:  Simon Bridges horrifically misreads the mood of the Nation – he may as well urinate on an ANZAC grave

The Standard:  When Bridges’ social media goes wrong

Will New Zealand Be Right?

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

Life in Lock Down: Day 26

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Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 22 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 26

21 April 2020 1 comment

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April 20: Day 26 of living in lock-down…

Another day of to work. As usual. I’m observant of lock-down life around me. The sparse traffic; people’s movements; how close they are to each other. It’s a mix of curious interest and heightened caution…

The Park N Rise still has three cars parked. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re the same three cars that have been there the last twentysix days. The white motorhome still parked where it was left two days ago.

Traffic on the highway in to Wellington was not much different than past few weeks; light in the Hutt Valley and sparser closer in to the city.

One unusual sight that caught my attention; a cargo ship had arrived in Wellington harbour;

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It was unusual because I had not seen any seagoing vessels entering or leaving the harbour since lock-down – so this new arrival was immediately an object of curiosity. The ship was stationary (anchor dropped?)  and not heading for a berth.

Could it be that it was an unwelcome visitor with a crew that might or might not be carrying contagion?

It is a long time in Western history that a ship has been denied permission to berth because it could harbour disease. If the crew are expected to quarantine aboard their vessel for two solid weeks, it will not be a comfortable experience for them. No walking around their neighbourhood to exercise for them!

At 11PM on RNZ, the Nine to Noon Political Panel featured Neale Jones and Trish Sherson. Former ACT press secretary, Ms Sherson, made the readily-obvious observation;

“…This election is going to be one of the most […] I describe it as emotional that we have had for so many decades.

Because for decades we’ve had government moving out of New Zealander’s lives. Now we’ve had a rapid rush back in and so it’s going to be very intreresting to see how that plays out.”

If anything has shown the true bankrupt nature of the free market/minimalist government ideology – it is when an outside threat to the human race demands a collective response. The Chicago School of Economics has been humbled not by the progressive Left – but by something we cannot even see. It has taken a virus – a microscopic thing barely alive – to remind us of our true human nature that to survive, we must work together for the common good.

Neo-liberalism just caught a virus – and it may not survive.

This afternoon, we had the regular announcement from the Beehive: nine new cases. Same as yesterday. No new ‘clusters’ of infection. And mercifully, no new deaths.

Dare we hope that we may have turned the tide against our viral enemy?

The 4pm announcement from the Beehive delivered a ‘verdict’ from the Prime Minister;

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the level 4 lockdown will be extended by a further five days to 11.59pm on Monday 27 April.

“We have done what very few countries have been able to do, we have stopped the wave of devastation. Our transmission rate is now 0.48, overseas the average is 2.5 people,” Ardern said.

Changing alert levels region by region in future has not been ruled out, but for now, the country will need to stick together.

The education, construction, manufacturing and forestry sectors will be able to return to work next week when alert level 3 kicks in.

The basic principle of alert level 3 will again be to restrict contact with others, requiring people to remain at home in their bubble as much as possible.

In truth, she could not have made any other decision. We still need time to contain the virus so it is under control. Perhaps even eliminated from every part of our land. The extra five days not only gives us much-needed time – but it effectively includes the ANZAC Weekend in the Level 4 lock-down.

By keeping ANZAC Weekend under Level 4 instead of Level 3, there can be no ambiguity; no “grey areas”; no loop holes that will allow a small minority the chance to give the rest of us the One Fingered Salute.

I have no doubt the police will be out in force this weekend. There will likely be arrests and prosecutions of those selfish idiots who cannot be reasoned with to do the right thing for the greater good.

The extra time will also send a clear signal to businesses to start planning on re-opening – albeit for non-contact trading. No one in the business sector can claim they don’t know what’s going on. The PM has given the clearest possible message: start planning.

Personally, the prospect of not being able to see my partner (in person, not through the technological miracle of the Internet) is not something that fills me with joy.

But it has to be done. If we can’t submerge our own interests for the greater good, then the virus will be victorious.

The rest of my work day is subdued. My clients understand what our Prime Minister has delivered to us. The lock-down of the facility will be lifted any time soon. Movement in and out will continue to be restricted. Their lives may depend on it.

At 8PM, I’m on the motorway on my way home. As usual, there are few cars around me. One or two trucks. A police car whizzing past. Out in the harbour, the lights of the ship that arrived earlier today can be seen; it looks like a floating Wellington office-block, lit up with bright lights.

It may be there for a while yet.

Further along the motorway, I pass an ambulance, also heading north.

At Lower Hutt’s Melling Interchange, there are four more ambulances – heading south this time – and an ambulance/patient transfer SUV.

Six ambulances in one night.

New Zealand is so damned lucky and we are totally oblivious to our good fortune.

Had it not been for this government’s quick action in closing our borders on 19 March, those ambulances could have been hearses.

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Postscript

A Twitter poll initiated two days ago has yielded some interesting results. Agreed that such polls are not very accurate as they reflect more the beliefs of my “echo chamber”, but still nearly 79% want the lock-down extended (as at 10.50PM, 20 April) and a further number – around 9% – believe we should go with recommendations from scientists and medical professionals;

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Current covid19 cases: 1,440

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 12

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References

RNZ: Nine to Noon Political Panel commentators Jones & Sherson – 20.4.20

RNZ:  NZ to close its borders to anyone not a citizen or permanent resident, PM confirms

Twitter: @fmacskasy – L4 lockdown poll – 20.4.20

RNZ:  Covid-19 – What happened in New Zealand on 20 April

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

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Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 21 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 24 & 25

20 April 2020 1 comment

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April 18: Day 24 of living in lock-down…

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m pulling another covering shift in the weekend. (Covering for a colleague whose presence at the facility has been deemed to be too high-risk.) The Park N Ride has one car, evidence that those using it are (hopefully) solely essential workers.

… and the white motorhome is back in it’s parked position. This time facing the other way;

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On the motorway, commercial traffic was sparse, but comprised (in part); a “Chemdry” van; “Fulton Hogan” roadworks truck, with yellow hazard strobe-lights flashing; ambulance; “ACM” Security van; “Mainfreight” truck; a fully-laden light gravel-truck; some other commercial vehicles with indeterminate company signage…

Traffic on SH2 was either the same or even marginally heavier than during the working-week.  At the Melling interchange, there were about a dozen cars in sight. Hopefully this was not an indication of more people beginning to ignore the Stay Home, Stay Local edict. By the time  I drove past Aotea Quay, traffic was once again sparse.

It was a reasonably fine Autumn day and there were quite a few people out and about walking the city streets, enjoying the fine weather.

At 1pm, the usual government media conference is replaced with a press release. New cases are still trending downward: 13 this time. No new  deaths, which is a blessing But still two people in intensive care – not so good.

At Kilbirnie, at 2.25pm, this fellow was sighted in his campervan, driving from the shopping area; along Cobham Drive; and then turning off at Shelley Bay;

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If community transmission of the contagion continues to spread because some folk refuse to understand the niceties of Level 4 Lock Down, it could be people like the above campervan driver we’ll be ‘thanking’. Especially if we have to keep businesses closed and stay home longer.

A note was duly sent of to 105.police.govt.nz.

Meanwhile, the last few days of lock-down have been increasingly rough for my flatmate. She’s not an essential worker so doesn’t share my privilege of having a legitimate excuse for being out and about. She makes hand-made items she sells at street markets – but those have closed for The Duration. She has no family in the Greater Wellington region – they’re all up north in Rotorua.

Except for me she is totally alone (and I’m out of the house about twelve to fourteen hours each day).

She has respected the Lockdown and her mental health is not the best for it. No doubt there are many others like her around the country. (Since then her situation has been resolved with Ministry of Health intervention.)

So when I see people flouting Lock Down for their own selfish pleasure, it’s annoys the bejeezus out of me.

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April 18: Day 24

Current covid19 cases: 1,422

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 11

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April 19: Day 25 of living in lock-down…

My day off. Had intended to have a good sleep-in… but forgot to turn off my radio-clock. *Doh!*

Did some house work, laundry. Re-potted an avocado plant I’d grown from the stone-seed. Picked up feijoas blown off my tree by the Autumn equinox gales. Went for a walk around my block.

Skyped my partner this morning. I had downloaded “Zoom” last night and used it instead of “Skype”. Whilst the image is better than Skype, Zoom is not that user-friendly and is not very clear how to invite and initiate a video call. After a bit of faffing about we managed to make contact and had a good, long chat. We talked about her workplace and how dropping to Level 3-plus would affect her staff.

A lot of small talk. Some good natured ribbing. I hold my cat up so she can say ‘meow’ to my partner.

It’s good to see her face, her smile, and hear her voice.

One of my Facebook contacts sends me a link to an opinion piece by right wing commentator, Damien Grant. Mr Grant shares us his ill-informed “reckons”  about Director General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield. Headed;

Coronavirus: Ashley Bloomfield must step out of the Prime Minister’s shadow

— it‘s the usual idiocy from ill-formed rightwingers with a lot to say but precious little information, observations, or insights to offer. He makes the incredibly asinine assertion;

“Dr Bloomfield needs to assert his authority. He needs to step out of the Prime Minister’s shadow and remind the nation that these decisions are his and his alone.”

Which any school student will know is arrant rubbish.

Dr Bloomfield – whilst a very talented and highly respected professional – is a civil servant. He has responsibilities within the Ministry of Health.

But decision-making is the prerogative of Cabinet and the Prime Minister. They are our elected representatives. And whilst they take advice from good people like Dr Bloomfield, ultimately the decision-making rests with politicians. (That’s the way our system has worked since the Year Dot.)

Either Damien Grant has been badly informed on this subject or he is wilfully mischief-making for his National Party masters. Take your pick which.

Later, the PM and Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield hold their 1pm ‘presser’. The good news continues to hold: only nine new cases. Back to single figures! Hold my breath for the coming announcement of any new fatalities… none. (Though a death from last week has been re-designated covid19  related, taking our toll up to twelve.)

The PM announces that a decision will be made tomorrow at 4pm whether or not the Lock-down level will move at  Wednesday mid-night from 4 to 3-plus.  Personally, I would accept an extra week on L4. It means less “grey” areas of what people can do. And less inadvertent transmission by rule breakers.

Like this guy from 28 March (Day 3);

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— remember him? Dropped off two boys and then drove off.

Well, he was back again this afternoon. Dropped off the same two boys. Then left after five minutes. But in a different vehicle this time, minus his company branding;

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So the rules obviously don’t apply to some people? That’s a problematic lesson he’s teaching his young lads.

If we beat covid19, it will be in spite of people like that and the campervan driver yesterday. No thanks to them.

Meanwhile, I received an email from my employers. There was an attachment instructing optimal use for PPE gear; face masks, latex gloves, smocks…

I replied,

“We’re getting PPEs? Cool!

When?”

Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be flavour of the month.

Tonight, I’m going to forget about covid19, the pandemic, lock-down, etc.

I’m going to go “retro”  and watch the 1972 Arthur Jacobs movie, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. It’s about the world in the “future” in 1991. Apes have been brought into human households and ‘domesticated’ after all cats and dogs were wiped out by a pandemic plague…

Oh.

Bugger.

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April 19: Day 25

Current covid19 cases: 1,431

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 12

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Postscript

A light-hearted moment as a dozy right-wing American conspiracy theorist thoroughly demolishes his own  conviction that “covid19 is a lie” – by wearing mask, goggles, and full hazmat coveralls.

“B” for effort.

“F” for execution.

“A+” for LOLs.

(But still imminently suited to be next President of the United States.)

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Meanwhile, back to Reality. Remember folks;

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 – 13 new cases reported on Saturday

RNZ: Nine new Covid-19 cases – Community transmission key to lockdown decision

Must Read

NewstalkZB:  Heather du Plessis-Allan – This is a lockdown, not a holiday

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

Life in Lock Down: Day 23

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 20 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 23

18 April 2020 3 comments

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April 17: Day 23 of living in lock-down…

It’s a gray, cool, overcast Autumn day. Dead leaves are starting to cover my paths and lawns. Pretty much another ordinary Autumn day, like so many through my years, and years to come. Except it’s anything but ordinary as humanity experiences an event that will be a marker for the early part of the 21st Century.

It’s another work day. Same routine; drive past the Park N Ride; two cars. Along the main road to SH2 – and what do I see…?

A few days ago;

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This afternoon;

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One missing motorhome. Obviously the owner didn’t get the memo that it’s not Alert Level 2 just yet. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s back tonight, on my way home.

On the motorway, traffic seems marginally busier  than last week. Of course, it’s a subjective assessment based on observation, memory, and a bit of guesswork. Sighted; police car parked up on the side of the highway; Fulton Hogan roadworks truck; “ZAP” pest control van; “New World” heavy truck; “Toll” heavy truck and a “Toll” medium sized truck; a bin-hire truck with a skip-bin; a “Geeves” scaffolding truck; “Al’s Litta bins” flat deck truck; “Budget” rental light truck; “Precision” glazing van; “Packaging Products” truck; “Ministry of Plumbing” plumbers van; “Morepork” gravel-hauling truck; 2 “L.G. Anderson” container trucks; a gravel-hauling truck towing a small front-end loader; “Low Cost Bins” ute; “Beaurepairs” truck; an empty flat deck hi-ab truck; patient transfer ambulance SUV; “Downer” ute; “Westward” truck hauling various building materials; “Linfox” fuel tanker; “Central Group” forklifts and trucks branded truck; “Laser Plumbing” van; “Canon Hygiene” van; “Countdown” food delivery van; “MGI” van; “TIMG” van; “Allied Security” car; “ATMS” road works truck in Vivian Street, outside of Terrace Tunnel; “Spotless Catering” van; 2 police cars in Vivian Street; 2 “Cory’s” utes; Salvation Army Family Store truck; “ATMS” road works truck in Mt Victoria Tunnel; “Toll” truck in tunnel, “Owens” truck…

Traffic did seem a little heavier than previous weeks. Especially travelling through the Mt Vic tunnel, activity is on the increase, without doubt.

As I drove along Vivian Street headed toward the Eastern Subsurbs, I noticed how overgrown the green park was in front of the School of Architecture and Design building was starting to become. As in most post-apocalypse movies, urban scapes are soon reclaimed by nature’s relentless growth;

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Not quite the scene from the 2007 movie, I Am Legend

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— but given enough time…

This afternoon, more good news mixed with tragedy. New cases are the lowest since mid-March: eight. If this is accurate; if there are no asymptomatic cases floating around the country; and if the downward trend continues, Aotearoa New Zealand will have achieved what no other nation has: eliminating the virus from our borders.

This puts foolish, harping critics like  National’s Paul Goldsmith and ACT’s David Seymour in their proper place; as whining ‘Cassandras’ who are hell-bent on putting this country on a collision course with a virus outbreak along the lines of Italy, Spain, UK, USA, et al.

David Seymour made the astounding  suggestion that Australia was achieving “better results” than Aotearoa;

“Australia appears to be having its cake and eating it too, as it gets achieves better COVID-19 health outcomes than New Zealand with fewer restrictions on economic activity.”

Even the Mediaworks-Newshub article was misleading in its headline;

MPs question New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown as Australia’s lighter approach produces similar results

Misleading because it is not true. Australia has five times our population, but seven times our covid19 death toll;

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On 16 April, Australia had 6,447 cases of covid19.  As of 17 April, a day later, the figure had jumped to 6,523.

Australia’s death is also rising. On 16 April it stood at 63. As of today (18 April) covid19 has claimed 65 victims.

Yesterday, as our government was announcing plans to reduce our Alert Level from 4 to 3, Australia was announcing it was extending its lock-down by another four weeks. The UK was extending its lockdown by three weeks whilst Japan had declared a national state of emergency.

Mediaworks-Newshub reported;

National MP Paul Goldsmith is now questioning New Zealand’s approach, pointing out that the two nations have had similar results per capita.

Again, not true. The above infographic shows Australia’s death toll worse than Aotearoa’s. Mr Goldsmith is either ignorant of the facts; being mischievous for National’s political agenda, or is trying to use sheer will-power to magic-up his own version of reality.

Meanwhile, David Seymour continues to tout on behalf of business interests, picking away at lock-down-mandated closure of most retailers;

“It is not clear why a dairy with a one-in one-out policy can open, but other types of retail cannot and that will be damaging and in some cases devastating for those businesses for no clear public health gain.”

He says it’s “not clear”?!

Well, let me make it abundantly clear for Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour in simple, easy-to-comprehend terms;

“Germy bad. Make people sick. Germy make people die. Not good. People sad. Put people in ground. Other people cry.”

And here is a pretty crayon picture for Little David and Little Paul;

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There is very good reasoning behind the lock-down. The more people are out, the greater the risk of transmission. Spain, UK, Italy, and New York City have demonstrated with great clarity how transmission of this virus can explode out of control.

More retailers open means more people moving about in retail areas. The more people there are, the closer they get to each other. Social distancing is impossible when limited areas become crowded. (I have witnessed this on fine, sunny days around Oriental Bay when people flock to the wide footpaths to stroll, jog, and ride bikes. Social distancing quickly becomes unrealistic. And some just don’t care.)

Even supermarket’s can become become congested, as I discovered this afternoon (17 April) when shopping for groceries for an immuno-suppressed client.

This was the scene at the Kilbirnie Pak N Save Meats Section this afternoon at 2.30pm. No social distancing whatsoever;

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Worst still, this was the scene in just one aisle at Kilbirnie Pak N Save;

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Any notion of a 2 metre distancing (or even 1 metre!) became utterly unrealistic as clusters of people crowded the aisles. If one person in those aisles was carrying  covid19 and coughed or sneezed, it is likely several dozen shoppers would likely have been infected.

Ironically, there were staff at all entrances to the supermarket “controlling” entry. Yet, the aisles were crowded.

If Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour get their way, scenes like above will be repeated throughout the country, in every city, and every popular retailer. We cannot – must not – permit agenda-driven fools like Mr Goldsmith and Mr Seymour to have any influence with the government.

Or people will get sick.

And people will die.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,409

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 11

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  MPs question New Zealand’s COVID-19 lockdown as Australia’s lighter approach produces similar results

ABC:  Charting the COVID-19 spread in Australia

Sky News:  Australia in lockdown for another four weeks – PM

RNZ:  UK lockdown extended while Japan declares national emergency

RNZ:  Act Party leader David Seymour gives govt dressing down over retail sector restrictions

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Coronavirus developments in New Zealand on 17 April

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

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Acknowledgement: Steve Ditko (?)

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 18 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 22 – Is that a light at the end of a four week long tunnel?!

17 April 2020 2 comments

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April 16: Day 22 of living in lock-down…

Fifteen new cases reported today, definitely a downward trend. Best of all, no further deaths. Our government and our Prime Minister are on the right track.

Meanwhile, Barry Soper has joined a small, select group of foolish people (predominantly middle aged, privileged white men) who continue to belittle the government’s efforts – and considerable success – to contain and eliminate covid19. I won’t link to his Herald article. But suffice it to say he has joined a tiny, irrelevant-but-noisy clique of ‘cup-a-soup’ instant-experts who whinge that our success at containing the virus indicates our leaders “went to far”.

It indicates no such thing.

It demonstrates that our leaders did what they were supposed to. Unlike the Orange Moron who squats in the White House’s Oval Office, who rails against others; blaming them for the disaster over-taking the United States,  and refusing to accept responsibility for his gross ineptitude.

These armchair experts point to Australia and Sweden as models we should have copied.

Let’s look at Australia and Sweden, and compare to Aotearoa New Zealand;

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Australia’s population is five times ours – but their death rate is seven times higher.

Sweden, which opted for no lock-down (and may now be regretting it) has a population a little over twice ours – but their covid19 death toll is a staggering 134 times ours.

Which underscores the craziness of critics with agendas and armchair “experts” who claim Aotearoa New Zealand “over-reacted”. This graph – whilst not 100% scientific, is still a bloody accurate illustration of wilful human absurdity;

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Acknowledgement: @gdinwiddie

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Whatever garbage Barry Soper, Mike Hosking, Gareth Morgan, Simon Bridges, “Dr” Simon Thornley, et al, are peddling does not gel with the reality that our death rate is inarguably lower than Australia’s or Sweden’s.

In an exercise of bizarre reverse-logic, they have confused our success rate with the notion that we “over reacted”. Without doubt our low death rate is a result of considered measures based on sound science and mathematics.

If our lower death rate is a “failure”, I look forward to  celebrating a “failure” rate of zero new infections and zero deaths.

New Zealanders can count themselves fortunate we have the steady leadership of Prime Minister Ardern to guide us through this crisis.

Now imagine if Barry Soper, Mike Hosking, Gareth Morgan, Simon Bridges, and “Dr” Simon Thornley were in charge. No, I don’t want to either.

No details of any travel around the Hutt Valley and Wellington – today was a sick day spent at home.

But I did get the opportunity to watch Prime Minister Ardern’s 1pm public address this afternoon. Then RNZ’s Checkpoint. Unfortunately, what followed next were the usual gormless questions and whining; “Why can’t I go hunting if they can go swimming? Why can’t I leave my bubble to go live in my other home? Can I hug my mum? Why can’t my [insert business here] open?Why can’t I XYZ?”

Up till now I never realised just how childishly whiney some supposed adults can be. Even teenagers would roll their eyes in exasperation.  A zombie apocalypse starts to look like a refreshing, welcome change.

Personally, I doubt if we should be faffing around with jumping from Level to Level. For one thing it breeds confusion. The gormless questions read out by Lisa Owen on Checkpoint is plenty of proof of that. Secondly, it is hard to enforce. Level Four was more back and white. Level Three-Plus has a wide-ranging gray area.

We should stick to Level Four and drive this damnable virus to extinction (hey, it’s us or It!); and then come off the Level System entirely. That would provide more certainty. And drive Hosking, Soper, Bridges, Seymour, Thornley, et al, into fits of apoplexy. (Payback for having to hear/listen to their ignorant witterings over the last three weeks.)

Let’s hope our esteemed PM and her team know what they’re doing.

After which we can look at re-building what’s left of the economy; holding a Commission of Inquiry (not for blame-gaming but to see how we can do better next time); and reform welfare and/or implement a UBI. We had to do too much ad hoc tinkering to the welfare system as it groaned under the burden of thousands losing their jobs.

Though on the positive side, a whole bunch of middle class folk suddenly discovered that welfare was not the “luxury lifestyle” many right-wing pundits and polis have lied about.

The other issue for a Commission is to look at how well prepared our health sector was. I believe we got through this not by studious pandemic-planning by Higher-Ups, but by the sheer guts and initiative shown by health workers on the ground. And while we’re about it, let’s look into DHBs. Some of their behaviour needs scrutiny.

All too early, as yet, but after the crisis is over there will remain much work to do.

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Postscript:

Also agitating to open up our economy; this character. I’m guessing a bit of self-interest involved?!

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Current covid19 cases: 1,401

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 9

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References

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

RNZ:  Fifteen new cases of Covid-19 in NZ, no further deaths

Must Read

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

The Independent:  Is Sweden having second thoughts on lockdown?

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

Will New Zealand Be Right?

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

Life in Lock Down: Day 21

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 17 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 21

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April 15: Day 21 of living in lock-down…

Washing machine hose replaced, I can get through a week’s worth of laundry. Washed, hung out to dry. Though our world has been turned on it’s axis to a strange new reality, the mundane things in life (mostly) carry on. Dirty laundry waits for no virus.

Listened to to National Party Leader Simon Bridges this morning on RNZ’s Morning Report.

Firstly, Mr Bridges: for the love of Thor, please stop thrashing the word “agile”.

Secondly, his “mixed messages” of re-opening business “next week” and “and safely letting more business and workers get back onto it” should ring alarm bells in us all.

Without much doubt, he was representing, and speaking for, business interests:

“When we think about the health effect of staying in lockdown, I’m coming to a pretty clear view … that we should come out of lockdown next week and we should be working to safely to get businesses and workers back.

I do want to get to (alert level) 2 … we are trying to get that business and work back, but … I am realistic. I am not suggesting suddenly that we are going to be at 2 overnight. I do say though that we should be agile and trying to get there.

I’d say when the Cabinet makes the decision next week, I’d opt for coming out and safely letting more business and workers get back onto it because the consequences of not doing it are so harmful.”

The social and health consequences of rampant unemployment are intolerable.”

Mr Bridges pointed to the Australian experience with covid19 as some sort of model to follow;

“I do look at that Australian experience where baristas are still making coffee and builders are still building and they’re getting the same sort of health outcomes as us…”

When Corin Dann pointed out their death rate was highter, Mr Bridges dismissed the figures;

“Well, yes, look, you can make your comparisons… and, and, and, actually, you go, um, um, total numbers are very similar, fatalities I would argue are similar…”

No, Mr Bridges, you cannot “argue” with numbers. Numbers are numbers. “Six” is similar to “seven” only in that one follows the other. “Nine” is likewise not even remotely similar to “sixtyone” – they aren’t even close.

“Nine” is the number of deaths announced yesterday (14 April) in New Zealand.

“Sixtyone” is the latest number of deaths in Australia.

To put these numbers in context:

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Despite Australia being five times our population, their reported death rate is seven times ours.

Is that the country we should be emulating? One would have thought it would be the other way around. I know New Zealanders have a self-deprecating, cringe-culture thing going on, but looking at another country with a higher mortality rate than ours is taking that to a whole new lethal level.

We should be proud of what we have achieved. Not look overseas to model on a situation that has a higher death rate than ours. (Well, not unless Mr Bridges has a secret agenda to thin the population by knocking of Granny, Grandad, all the diabetics, immuno-compromised, and probably a few of the healthy ones and young’uns. Then it all makes perfect sense.)

I have mulled over Simon Bridges’ comments and his past utterances. He claims to be “tough” on covid19 by demanding more stringent border controls;

“Today’s move to limit mass gatherings was a positive step forward from the Government and I urge it to now go further and close our borders. The EU has closed its borders but it was too late to stop widespread community outbreak. We can’t make the same mistake. We are a small isolated nation and we should take advantage of our geographical position.”

Except… Closing our borders is a fait accompli. There is almost no more international air travel  except for military and mercy-flights. Tourism has collapsed. Governments, businesses, NGOs, non-profit organisations, etc, no longer send their people to conferences. Families remain separated.

The skies are all but empty. (Stand in Miramar, Strathmore, or Kilbirnie in Wellington in the evening. Hear anything? No, neither did I tonight. It was an eerie total silence not heard since the airport was built  in Wellington.)

There is no one to stop at our borders because (with the except of mercy flights) no one is coming. So in effect, Mr Bridges’ call is meaningless;  he’s demanding something that’s already happened. No real investment required in that particular decision making.

What is troubling is his call to re-open the economy and drop down to Level 2.

Make no mistake. Simon Bridges has gone from being a clownish, slightly-irritating figure we love to ridicule – to a frightening politician who could do irreparable harm and perhaps cause fatalities if he was anywhere near the Ninth Floor and his open-the-doors-at-any-expense policies implemented.

We should understand one thing: he has pressing concerns and a clear agenda. Very little of which includes our safety.

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This afternoon, we watched the Prime Minister and Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, give their daily 1pm public briefing. The news was good(ish). A slight rise in new cases – 20 –  but most importantly, no more deaths. There was a silent sigh of relief amongst us.

The fact that the contagion has entered aged care facilities  is troubling. While ours is not an aged care facility, our clients do have varying levels of health and under-lying conditions. I don’t quite know how, but we’ve dodged the viral bullet thus far.

On the way home tonight, I stepped out from the side door of the facility I work at. It was another still, unearthly quiet evening.

Except for some knocking on a door on some flats adjacent to us. A middle aged (late 50s, 60s?) pakeha gent, in working clothes and a red baseball cap was standing there, tapping away with his hands. As I walked past, he turned to look at me. I looked at him. Or rather, his red baseball cap. It was a “MAGA” cap.

The lettering was starkly visible in the porch light; “Make Ardern Go Away”.

I had not seen him at the flats before this night (and I’ve worked at the facility for over a year and a half). The “MAGA”-hat wearing fellow was almost certainly breaking his “bubble”.

I have news for him, and it’s not good. Ms Ardern will not “Go Away”. And it probably won’t make the virus go either.

Later this night, as I drove back home, I realised I could no longer defer my weekly shopping. Visiting the supermarket has now become a thing of dread. When did going to Pak N Save become like venturing onto a battlefield, fearing the next bullet or bomb that would snuff out my life?

Especially as I had latex gloves, but my remaining two face-masks were back at the facility I work at.

Of all the things that I find disturbing (aside from the deaths of people who’ve fallen victim to this invisible enemy), is venturing into a public place that I have little choice in visiting. The moment I walk through the sliding doors, my senses are on high alert. I have to be wary of people around me. Most keep to their two  metre space-bubble, but with difficulty. Even supermarket aisles are difficult to maintain that spacing.

Some don’t care or forget.

And if I’m 100% truthful, on one ocassion, I was in the latter group. I forgot the etiquette; and walked to closely past a gentleman who let me in on an adjacent check-out queue. I deserved the stare he gave me.

I don’t want this hideous wary-existence to continue. But if it’s to save lives, I’ll choose Level 4 over Level 2 any day.

So should Simon Bridges.

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Postscript

Check out the legend – TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrickwho publicly made a fool out of National’s Leader.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,386

Cases in ICU: 3 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 9

 

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References

RNZ:  National Party leader Simon Bridges calls for work to restart ‘safely’ after lockdown

BBC:  Coronavirus – Nurse Areema Nasreen dies with Covid-19

Gulf News:  Coronavirus – Healthy 13-year-old boy becomes UK’s youngest COVID-19 death

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus: Simon Bridges calls for complete border shutdown for all non-residents

Twitter: Chris Change – Kevin Kenrick – 15 April 2020

RNZ:  Covid-19 update – 20 new cases, no further deaths reported

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

Life in Lock Down: Day 20

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 16 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 20

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April 14: Day 20 of living in lock-down…

Today was a rotten day for four (at least) families. Four more people have succumbed to covid19. Despite recording only seventeen new cases – a cause for some celebration – knowing that families have lost loved ones to this virus dampens any notion of joyous celebration.

And I fear it will get worse.

Meanwhile there remains agitation from some quarters to lift restrictions and open up the economy. Whether it’s Matthew Hooton on RNZ’s Political Panel, or ACT’s David Seymour, or disturbingly chilling comments from senior lecturer in epidemiology at Auckland University Dr Simon Thornley on today’s [14 April]  Morning Report – there are clamouring voices who appear to take our limited success in containing the contagion as some sort of “green light” to throw caution to the winds.

Dr Thornley’s cool, calm, methodical voice belied the casual disregard he showed to the risk faced by the elderly and those with under-lying medical conditions;

“We believe that the lockdown is an over-reaction, we believe that it doesn’t match the threat posed by the virus. One of the world’s leading statisticians has said that the risk of dying of covid19 is about same as your risk of dying that year anyway.

It’s effectively like squeezing your risk into two weeks.”

Corin Dann asked what Dr Thornley’s modelling has shown on the risks of covid19, he um’d, ah’d, and replied;

“We haven’t done modelling to predict what is going to happen, but we’ve actually observed what has happened in other countries that have had less severe lock-downs…”

When Corin Dann pointed out that Dr Thornley was asking the vulnerable and the elderly in New Zealand to “shoulder a much bigger risk”, he couldn’t offer an answer. You could almost feel Dr Thornley “shrugging”.

Dr Thornley replied he was “sceptical of modelling and assumptions”. He glossed over high death rates until Corin Dann pointed out high death rates had hit certain countries hard.

Corin Dann returned to the elderly faced a greater risk of death from the virus. Dr Thornley replied that “the elderly unfortunately every flu season people die of seasonal influenza“.

So, that’s ok then. In effect, the premature death of people is acceptable as long as the number is below fatalities caused by influenza. Premature death caused by disease; automobile crashes; drug and alcohol abuse; poor safety practices in the construction, farming, and logging industries; murder…

Because influenza has a set death rate, it has become a bench-mark for Dr Thornley?

Corin Dann quite rightly pointed to influenza vaccines being available to protect the elderly and vulnerable.

Dr Thornley deftly side-stepped influenza and referred to Australia “weathering the storm” with fewer restrictions.

Australia has 6,500 covid19 cases with sixtyone deaths. Hardly a target we should be emulating.

Microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles, was not impressed  with Simon Thornley;

“To all the media listening to the 6 expert men, please ask them for the data which they say shows #COVID19 is “not the disaster we feared and prepared for”. Also please be mindful that Thornley did some spectacular cherry-picking last time he made the same claim.

It’s worth noting that the 6 experts seems to be saying that as vulnerable people would die at some point anyway, why not just let it be from Covid. My mum has a condition that makes her very vulnerable. But she’s fit & active & still leading a full life. Why should she die now?”

She quite rightly asked for the data from Dr Thornley;

Again. #COVID19 cases grow exponentially. So please Thornley, Schofield, et al. Show us your data. Because the data I’m looking at has plenty of countries digging mass graves.

But… according to Dr Mengele Thornley, mass graves are ok. As long as the number do not exceed influenza-caused deaths in any given year.  And anyway, victims of covid 19 were going to die anyway.

Much like you, reading this blogpost. Or me, writing it. And everyone else. We’re all going to die. Covid19 just does it in two weeks.

It strikes me as bizarre that – in a strange way – we are victims of our own success in dealing with this contagion. Because our elected representatives, the Ministry of Health, and legends in the  health sector  have achieved such incredible success in containing the spread of infection, somehow that has translated in the minds of some as an “over reaction”. That we should have been more relaxed. Let the disease take it’s course.

Because didn’t that work out well in China, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States?!

The irony is that these Doubting Thomas’s and Thomasinas  have the luxury to express such a view only because of our success. Had we gone the way of China, Italy, Spain, France, and the United States – the screaming would be from the other direction;

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Why didn’t you go sooner and harder?!”

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Typical of some New Zealanders to be so lacking in self-confidence that success somehow equates to failure.

Well, listening to our very own “Angel of Death” was a helluva way to start the morning off. And it went downhill from there…

The good news is that Hutt Gas & Plumbing were able to fix the hose on my washing machine.

The not-so-good news? The plumber (nice bloke buy the way!) had better PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) than I have in my job: full body protection suit; mask; gloves, the whole nine yards. He put the gear on outside; entered the house; replaced the munted hose; left; and removed his gear.

So to get good PPE you should be a plumber, not a worker in the Health sector.

Good to know for future reference.

Also good to know that DHBs should be sacked in future and replaced with Commissioners if they continue to withhold PPEs from frontline health workers;

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Another work day. Despite getting used to the restrictions of the lock-down, there are still frustrations. Food delivery to the facility I work at did not arrive today. Three hours wasted. Supplier promised delivery tomorrow at mid-day.

Running short on ASTM level1 masks. But on the positive side, our facility has plenty of blue latex gloves.

Maybe another facility that has spare face masks but is short on gloves can contact me and we can do an exchange?  Can throw in some feijoas from my tree as well, to ‘sweeten the deal’?

Or I can take up plumbing.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,366

Cases in ICU: 3 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 9

 

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References

RNZ: Nine To Noon – Political Panel

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – New Zealand should consider quitting lockdown early, David Seymour says

RNZ:  Coronavirus – Academics want much looser rules after lockdown

Twitter: Dr Siouxsie Wiles – Dr Thornley – 14 April 2020

Twitter: Dr Siouxsie Wiles – mass graves – 14 April 2020

Otago Daily Times:  Health workers call for urgency over protective gear shortages

Mediaworks/Newshub:  DHBs accused of charging doctors for personal protective gear amidst COVID-19 outbreak

RNZ:  DHBs accused of ‘rationing’ PPE say they’re working to distribute it

Fairfax/Stuff: Coronavirus – New national PPE distribution system introduced after faults and shortages

Newsroom:  Carers forced to wash and reuse masks

RNZ:  Four more Covid-19 deaths in New Zealand, 17 new cases

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

Life in Lock Down: Day 19

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 15 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 19

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April 13: Day 19 of living in lock-down…

Nineteen new cases – that’s the good news. (But only if the low testing numbers over Easter have not skewed the results downwards.)

Another death – the not-so-good news we all dreaded.

The daily 1pm pressers have become a quasi pandemic lotto announcement. We await new figures with all the morbid fascination of driving slowly past a car crash, and trying to make sense of the mangled metal wrecks.

Tomorrow will be a return to a normal (or what passes for “normal” these days) and the next few days will confirm if the down trend is an accurate reflection of what’s happening – or simply the result of a long weekend.

Meanwhile the roads continue to be near-deserted and the streets equally vacant. Coming home tonight, I played “Alargo: Central Plateau“, a haunting piece of music from New Zealand musicians Kingsley Melhuish and Alan Brown. An apt piece to play, driving home in the dark, streets emptied of vehicles and people by an enemy we cannot see, hear, or touch.

An acquaintance told me she’s  come to appreciate the lock-down. It has made her life simpler, taking her back to her childhood when things weren’t as commercialised and hectic as they were nearly three weeks ago. I recall the world we used to live in pre-1984; shops open five days a week; city streets near-empty; shops closed in the weekend except Dairies, petrol stations,  and movie theatres. Now we don’t even have the movie theatres (though super markets have slipped through the time warp).

And it’s true. Wellington under lock-down is pretty much as I recall Saturdays and Sundays before the advent of almost non-stop retail activity.

In the suburbs, families with kiddies barely able to ride their trikes or scooters have reclaimed the near empty roads. They literally have become family-friendly. That’s a good thing – right?

Also the quietness. Few trucks. Airplanes are rarely in the sky. There are moments when there is nothing except the rustling of trees or birdlife or a dog. And when you do pass people out for a walk – despite the two metre “social distancing”, we’re actually looking at each other and sharing that secret “we’re-in-this-together” knowing smile.

Covid19 has given us a glimpse of what living could be if we just slowed down a bit; if we hadn’t exchanged a less frenetic life for the dubious “freedom” to shop-till-we-drop.

Commentators have suggested that the human race’s momentary “pause” might give us all an opportunity to re-think our values and the kind of world we want to live in. I doubt that. The moment humanity is able to get back on the treadmill, it will do so – and sadly at a faster pace. The frentic, commercialised life we’ve been living has been like a drug; too alluring to give up easily. We may’ve had to temporarily give up our “fix”, but our “dealers” will be back once the dust has settled…

On a relatively positive note, the government has leased nearly a thousand motel unit to house the homeless during the lock-down;

Minister for Housing Megan Woods said nearly 500 units were already filled and each unit could contain one person or a family.

“As of Thursday evening, 962 motel units in 15 towns and cities across New Zealand had been secured and made available, and 496 units already have homeless and vulnerable people living in them,” she said.

Government agencies were working very closely with iwi, community housing providers such as Housing First, Māori organisations, and local government to fill the remaining units, Woods said.

She praised the various community groups for their dedication and speed.

“In the last two weeks, there has been a massive effort to connect people who are homeless and living rough, with accommodation and social services.

“Many have been living on the streets or in unsuitable places where social distancing was not possible.”

But as Piki Martini – homeless for eighteen months – sadly revealed;

We’ve been living in a car and a tent before here. It’s just quite sad that now everyone wants to worry about the homeless when this Covid-19 has come in, before then we were just everywhere.”

She has a point. Despite this government’s best (?) efforts, homelessness and over-crowding continues to be a blight on our society. It is troubling that the wheels-of-the-State move faster only when those Who Have may be threatened by Those Who Have Not, as potential disease-carriers.

Meanwhile,  National’s housing spokesperson Simon O’Connor, raised the same question: what happens after the pandemic is no longer a pressing crisis?

Unfortunately (for him) his faux-concern was little more than jaw-dropping, eye-ball rolling, stomach-turning hypocrisy;

“There’s a risk here that just if you house the homeless, in a few weeks or months time, the government makes them homeless again.” – Simon O’Connor, National Party Housing Spokesperson, 12 April 2020

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Let me just ‘put it out there’ that National should be the last to lecture us on homelessness. From 2008 until their admission of a “housing challenge“in 2016, National did nothing except open the floodgates to immigration, putting pressure on existing housing stock; reduce State housing by 7,400 units, and buy motels to put a roof over the heads of desperate families.

Mr O’Connor would do well to keep his head down. He and his former inept government exacerbated an ongoing housing crisis that will take a decade to fix.

His hypocrisy is unhelpful, to put it politely. Or if that doesn’t work, less politely.

Meanwhile, today, our Prime Minister – the Leader the rest of the world would dearly love to have as their own – continued to raise our spirits; keep hope alive; and admonish (like naughty children who’ve been pinching from the biscuit-jar) those who’ve been flouting the rules. As she rightly reminded us all, every time someone flouts the rules, the risk of transmission increases. And the risk of death to highly vulnerable people is made much worse.

As Ms Ardern reminded errant “children” for the umpteenth time, “it took just one case to spread among others“.

This evening, after coming home; stringently washing my hands, I made a light snack for myself. Indulged in eating too many feijoas from my tree, and Skyped my partner. Or rather, I could see her, but not vice versa. My camera? Skype itself? Gremlins in the system?

I teased her about her knitted beanie;

“It reminds me of Ena Sharples, from ‘Coronation Street.”

She promptly fired back;

“Filters, Frank, filters!”

Oh;

“Ah, yes, my filters.  Initiating Lie Programme…

Your. Beanie. Looks. Very. Nice.”

Humour. In lieu of a vaccine, it’ll have to do as our “best medicine”.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,349

Cases in ICU: 4 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 5

 

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References

NZ Musician: Alargo – Central Plateau

RNZ: Covid-19 lockdown – Nearly 1000 motel units available for homeless

TVNZ: Government paying to house homeless in motels during Covid-19 lockdown

RNZ: ‘Housing ‘challenge’ still not a ‘crisis’

Noted/North & South:  The economics of immigration in NZ

NZ Herald:  Govt to buy more motels to house homeless as its role in emergency housing grows

Washington Post: New Zealand isn’t just flattening the curve. It’s squashing it.

RNZ: Fifth death from Covid-19 in New Zealand reported

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 Mendacities of Mr English – No, I wasn’t told – Yes, I was told

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

Life in Lock Down: Day 18

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Acknowledgement: Jim Hubbard

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 18

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April 12: Day 18 of living in lock-down…

The news today sounds good; “only” eighteen new cases. The lowest so far in a week. However, with testing far lower than usual because of the Easter Weekend, the fear is that the low number is misleading and we simply haven’t picked up more. Tuesday’s 1pm “presser” will give us a clearer picture hopefully.

Sunday is my one day off and aside from a few activities, I plan to do – nothing. At 9am I watch Jack Tame present the week’s Q+A. Guests today are Dr Ayesh Verrall, an Infectious Diseases Physician and senior lecturer at the  Department of Pathology and Molecular Medicine in Wellington. She shares her knowledge and insights on covid19 and what we might expect from the contagion.

She is followed by Chris Hipkins, Minister for Education, on how schools will gradually re-open. There is talk of children observing the 2 metre rule. I shake my head at the naiveté of this. The only kids who isolate others are cliques who happen to be ostracising their chosen target-of-the-day.  Anyone who things kids will observe the 2 metre rules when many adults forget or can’t be bothered, don’t understand young people.

There is discussion surrounding foreign students (or lack thereof) and how schools and Universities will cope without their income. Jack Tame ask if government will pick up the tab for the shortfall.

The question should be why we ever allowed education to be corporatised and turned into a commodity in the first place. Oh yeah, tax cuts. Well, I think the fragility of relying on overseas students to top up our education funding has been exposed for the rort that it is.

Chris Hipkins may have let slip that the government intends to drop down to Level 3 Alert at some near stage by pointing out that “going from Level 4 to Level 3 doesn’t mean things get back to normal”.

Chris Hipkins is followed by James Shaw with discussion on planned water reforms. Evidently Federated Farmers want reforms put on hold because of the current crisis and it’s putting too much pressure on their members.

Wait, what?

But, but, but… I thought farmers were already doing the water reforms themselves?!

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James Shaw was asked about deferring the election from 19 September to November. His wise response: it’s up to the Electoral Commission to decide, not politicians. Which sounds fairly reasonable considering that bother NZ First and National want to defer the elections for purely venal,  selfserving reasons the good of the country, of course. *rolls eyes*

James Shaw was adamant that climate change was still a threat that must be tackled as urgently as before. He pointed out the massive costs to future generations of not just paying back the colossal debts incurred by the pandemic crisis, but also damage which will inevitably flow from climate change. Double hit to our children.

The panellists consisted of fellow Daily Blogger and Auckland City Councillor, Efeso Collins, and NZ Herald financial journalist, Fran O’Sullivan.

Efeso Collins pointed out the folly of lifting the lock-down too early and the resurgence of covid19 in countries where they had had prematurely.

Fran O’Sullivan was having none of businesses whinging that the government should be drawing up plans for them for the lifting of the lock-down. She told them to do their own planing and they should be doing it now. She was adamant that businesses have a responsibility for planning and not to rely on central government laying down the rules. (Oh, the irony…)

Fran O’Sullivan said that Simon Bridges and the National Party will have to re-calibrate their economics policy, in the light of the massive damage inflicted by the pandemic.

Efeso Collins agreed with Winston Peters that the election should be postponed to 21 November.

Both agreed that Prime Minister Ardern should have sacked David Clark on the spot.

After Q+A, some light lunch with feijoas off my tree; and then take the car to fuel up at the local Waitomo outlet.

Then a look at what’s been happening in the media…

RNZ reported a poll carried out by Research NZ that showed the over-whelming number of New Zealanders would agree to extending the lock-down by a further two weeks if it were necessary;

Agreed they would: 60%

Disagreed: 14%

Didn’t know: 26% 

Sixtypercent showed a high level of support.

The poll also disclosed;

…87 percent felt most New Zealanders were observing restrictions on movement. This week it has fallen to 79 percent.

“What that’s telling me is that more New Zealanders are thinking that other people are not observing the restrictions. Perhaps that’s got to do with some of the media coverage we are seeing.”

In relation to police getting tougher, 85 percent agreed and 72 percent said a 10pm curfew should be introduced to restrict any unnecessary travel.

When it comes to other people not observing the restrictions, it’s hardly surprising with the statistics released by Police;

847 breaches of the Covid-19 lockdown rules, comnprising of,

109 prosecutions

717 warnings

21 youth referrals

Those are disturbing numbers. Especially as they appear to be an increase from last week; “367 breaches on April 8, with 45 prosecutions and 309 warnings“.

What should be even more troubling is how many are escaping detection? If even one percent of those 847  breaches carried a covid19 infection, that’s potentially up to eight people wandering around spreading infection.

Worse still is Police time and resources being wasted by self-indulgent idiots, not just breaching lock-down, but holding full-on parties;

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And then, this fiasco and example of stunning moronic behaviour;

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It appears from various media reports that not only are people flouting the life-saving lock-down, but are taking the piss when it comes to the Police;

Over the duration of the lockdown period, police have received thousands of reports relating to Alert Level 4 restriction breaches and police have been following up this information, with enforcement action being taken in some instances.”

Glossop said officers cannot attend every job but priority is given to jobs where there is an immediate risk to people or property.

Vehicles were in the car park, where people often leave their cars before doing a loop track in the nearby Department of Conservation reserve. 

Ged Blackbourn, who lives nearby, said he had seen the car park full at times.  Police had occasionally visited to drive people away, but it quickly filled up again, he said.

When Police follow through on only 109 prosecutions out of 847 breaches – a 13% enforcement/prosecution rate –  what else do they expect the idiot to do?  Of course they will persist in flouting the rules.

Let me point out that if I’m 10kms an hour over the speed limit on the motorway and I get “pinged” by a radar van or police in a car, the ticket/prosecution rate is: 100%.

I do not get a warning. Not “advice” on how to drive safely. The ticket is issued without discussion.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could speed at 110kph if I’m late to work, knowing there was only a 13% chance I’d get prosecuted if caught?!?! So why treat the flouters of the lock-down any different?!

Maybe I’m not privileged enough. Like these guys;

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Note this bit:  “Officials are begging people who aren’t already on Auckland city’s islands to stay where they are.”

So if rule breakers are white Middle Class boat-owners, officials have to “beg” them to comply with the rules?

When is the last time WINZ/MSD “begged people” when it came to questioning their welfare entitlements?

If I may misquote from “Cool Hand Luke“;

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If/when we beat covid19, it will be no thanks to these people.

Next item on the agenda: the so-called “Taxpayers Union”, a thinly-disguised front for the National/ACT Party. The TU is calling for salary cuts in the state sector;

Campaigns Manager Louis Houlbrooke said “We’re asking the public sector to fairly share the burden of the economic crunch by cancelling all pay hikes until the economy has recovered. We’re also asking elected officials, public sector CEOs*, and their leadership teams** to take a 12-month twenty percent pay cut.”

“A temporary salary reduction for those paid the most in the public sector would be a prudent and compassionate response to the pressures faced by households and businesses across New Zealand. Business leaders predict unemployment to rise to around ten percent in the coming months, and private sector bosses are taking financial haircuts to limit the impact on lower earners.”

“The average public sector salary is around a third higher than that of the private sector. They also have the luxury of far higher job security. A twenty percent pay cut is a small sacrifice in these extraordinary times when so many New Zealanders are losing their jobs.”

Which is so ironic that it beggars belief. It was only 36 years ago that neo-liberalism swept through Aotearoa; state assets were privatised; and a corporate ethos introduced into government departments and local bodies. The parroted justification given by the Right when discussing high salaries for the State sector and Local Body bosses is that they have to compete with the corporate sector.

The Right introduced corporate-style “market rates” for state sector/local body bosses. Not anyone else. They did this.

Indeed, this was the very point of the State Sector Act 1988.

And now a bunch of Right wingers who have just accepted state funding – money from the tax payer

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–have the colossal cheek to complain about bloated state sector salaries?! Their hypocrisy, like our Universe, is boundless. They are not to be taken seriously; they are charlatans. [Hat-tip: Martyn Bradbury]

Meanwhile to cap off a day when we should have been celebrating the decline (hopefully) of a microscopic foe, this reminds us that where there is brilliance – there is also crass dumbness;

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— which – bizarrely – is the polar opposite to what he wrote on 23 March;

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Curious.

Are there two Gareth Morgans with differing opinions? (Poor cats!)

Has he been sipping one shandy too many, perhaps?

Or maybe, like Bob Jones, he’s just plain losing/lost the plot…?

As before, I am reminded that what I fear most is not a highly contagious virus that has killed over 109,000 people…

… but the irrationality of some of my fellow human beings.

But to end on a lighter note, I offer this witty piece from Andrew Gunn;

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Current covid19 cases: 1,330

Cases in ICU: 5 (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 4

 

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Big improvement by dairy farmers to protect waterways, says report

RNZ: Most New Zealanders willing to extend Covid-19 lockdown ‘pain’ – survey

TVNZ: More than 800 breaches of Covid-19 lockdown rules with 109 prosecutions

TVNZ: Six people arrested for fighting at Auckland party during lockdown

Fairfax/Stuff:  Ambulance stuck in sand after vehicle rolls at Foxton Beach during coronavirus lockdown

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – Boaties ignoring lockdown orders slammed as ‘pirates’

Scoop:  Campaign Launched – Public Sector Pay Cuts For COVID-19 Relief

NZ History:  The 1980s – 1988 – key events

Mediaworks/Newshub: Coronavirus – Taxpayers’ Union gives up ‘ideological purity’, accepts $60,000 in taxpayer wage subsidies

Twitter: Gareth Morgan – lock down – 12 april 2020

Twitter: Gareth Morgan – lock down – 23 March 2020

Fairfax/Stuff: Somewhere on the road between Tauranga and Wellington, a Zoom meeting

RNZ:  Covid-19 wrap – What happened on 12 April, Easter Sunday

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

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

Other Blogs

The Daily  Blog:  The Taxpayers’ Union, the great champions of the free market are taking Government Money

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

Life in Lock Down: Day 17

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Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch

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This blogpost was also published on The Daily Blog on 13 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 17

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April 11: Day 17 of living in lock-down…

The good news: new cases of covid19 is down again, to 29. That’s another fall since yesterdays unexpected spike of 44.

The bad news: two more people have passed away from the virus. Both in older age group and both with underlying medical conditions.

The hopeful news: that if new cases continue to drop until we reach nil, we may have driven this virus to extinction (at least here in in Aotearoa) by the time lock-down is set to lift on 23 April. After that, until a vaccine is created or – more unlikely – covid19 is eliminated from the face of this planet, the entire country will be in semi-self-isolation. International travel will remain but a fond memory as few people will want to be put into a mandatory two week quarantine after arriving here. (And there will be bleatings galore from David Seymour, the tourism sector – or what’s left of it – and vote-chasing mischief-makers in the  National Party and it’s fellow-travellers.)

Meanwhile, to counter the  irresponsible shrill clamour from National, ACT, and the business lobby, to re-open commercial activities before the four weeks lock-down is completed – or even portions thereof – Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has urged the world not to act precipitously by abandoning restrictions;

″I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone.

At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly.”

Do we listen to the science-based health professionals? Or vote-chasing politicians and profit-driven businesspeople? (That should not even be a question.)

This morning for me should have been one of my days-off weekend. But it was another work day as I filled in for a colleague whose “bubble” is simply too large and risky to allow him to interact with our clients. If covid19 got into our facility at least two, maybe three, people would not survive. And myself and five of my colleagues would be in self-isolation for two weeks. Six more pieces removed from the board, to use a chess analogy.

I’m not due to start till 3pm, so that gives me time to sort out a tap fitting/connector for my washing-machine. I realised later in the day yesterday that a visit to Mitre10 would be out of a question. They are restricted to tradespeople only (which I 100% endorse). So snap a few pics of the part I need; take measurements; look up the actual name, and then send through the info to Hutt Gas & Plumbing. I get a reply; they can provide the part on Tuesday. Sorted.

Next, at 11am I skype my partner. The internetty thingy is acting up and it takes several minutes to connect. Is this what the telephone service was like a century ago?

We finally connect and we soon chat away for the next hour. She’s been keeping stringently to her “bubble” and most of her day has been filled with an early morning walk around her immediate neighbourhood and working on her remnant stand of native forest “garden”. Kaka’s, Tui, Pīwakawaka, and other birds love her area.

Later this evening she will make her once-a-week visit to her local supermarket.

We have just under two weeks to go before we can do something as simple as have dinner together or go to the movies.

In the early afternoon, I hit the road. It’s a bright, sunny, warm  day with only a few clouds in the sky. The Park N Ride carpark is, again, empty.  People are about, walking. With such minimal traffic it’s quiet and peaceful.

The white motorhome is unmoved. Even after lock-down is over, whether extended or not, my gaze will now automatically be looking for this large vehicle parked on a main thoroughfare connecting my suburb to SH2.

On the road, traffic is light all the way into Wellington. There are only a handful of cars sharing the road with me at any given moment.  Vehicles noticed; 6 police cars; a skip-bin truck; a double-tandem “Pacific” branded fuel tanker; ambulance; a “Supreme” towing truck (the same clown who tailgated me yesterday, I wonder?); a “Linfox” truck-cab, minus it’s trailer; “Spotless Catering” ute; “EnviroWay” rubbish (or ecycling?) truck; a “Wellington Water” van”; several utility vehicles, company branded heading the opposite way; 2 “Countdown” food trucks; “Fish Factory” light truck, and a few others.

Traffic in Wellington was marginally busier than yesterday. The supermarkets will be open today, attracting people out of their homes. The weather was markedly cooler in town than the Hutt Valley; cloudier and chillier.

Outside Chaffers St New World supermarket, there was a long queue of people waiting to enter. Social distancing was well-practiced.

Both sandy beaches  at Oriental Bay were deserted;

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The Evans Bay Marina Carpark appeared to have the same number of camper vans as the last few days.

Between my home and Miramar, I had seen more police cars than any other given days since Lock-down.

At work, a colleague and I discussed the near non-existent pandemic protocols we had been operating under at the beginning of the Lock-down. Hardly surprising; 99% of the entire country (the entire world!) was unprepared. After cessation of the State of Emergency and lifting of lock-down, we considered that a full written de-brief would be essential so organisations like ours could put in place a ready-made plan for when (not if!) the next pandemic arose.

Management were woefully ill-prepared for the current emergency and the response – ad hoc as it appeared to be – was led by workers on the ground, at the coal-face. The moment Level 4 was implemented, our facility was sealed off to the public; non-permanent staff; and even management from our organisation. We had limited tools; a few boxes of latex gloves; some disinfectant; and three bottles of hand-sanitiser ‘squirrelled away’ in our Emergency Disaster Kit.

But what we did have plenty of were our wits; initiative; and commitment to get the job done. And all the while, carrying out all our normal duties as well as keeping our clients safe, calm, and reassured.

Righto, sorted.

(Management caught up with us a week later.)

The lock-down of our facility is now the “new norm”. Our clients are used to it – perhaps even reassured that the stringent measures we’ve taken is for theirs (and ours) benefit.

That night, on my way home, traffic was again light. Playing a “game”, I counted the number of vehicles I sighted whilst driving from Miramar to the Terrace Tunnel: around 45. It was a Saturday night, around 8.15pm.

Before heading home, I made my weekly trip to the supermarket. Not that I needed much, this time. Goods purchased I arrived home. First thing; leave shoes outside. Then, getting through the door, after dropping the grocery bags; a full 20 second hand wash. Then empty all items onto kitchen bench. Packaged goods studiously wiped clean with disinfectant. Fresh produce, washed under running water; shake of water; rinse again.

Then wipe entire bench with disinfectant. Cloth in soaking bucket.

Put the jug on for a cup of Chai Tea.

Relax.

Welcome to the world of 2020AD.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,312

Cases in ICU: 5  (1 critical)

Number of deaths: 4

 

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References

Mediaworks/Newshub:  Coronavirus – New Zealand should consider quitting lockdown early, David Seymour says

RNZ:  More industry and small businesses could reopen – National

SBS: Hasty virus lockdown lift could spark ‘deadly resurgence’ – WHO

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Coronavirus death toll rises to four in New Zealand

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

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Acknowledgement: @twisteddoodles

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 12 April 2020.

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Life in Lock Down: Day 16 – Bad Friday

11 April 2020 15 comments

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April 10: Day 16 of living in lock-down…

And the news is not good. Another death, this time an elderly woman in a rest home. With 44 new cases, a rise from the steadily declining numbers since Monday, the struggle is far from  over.

Friday is Good Friday, but there’s nothing much “good” about it. In normal times the roads would have been clogged with traffic last night and today. Far from it; they appear mostly empty. The Park N Ride in my area usually has between two to four cars each day since lock-down. Today it is empty.

On my way to the highway, I drive past the white motorhome. It’s still parked in position.

The few commercial vehicles I do spot; a light truck, unmarked, carrying firewood; a “Supreme” towing truck (which tailgated me for several kilometres – on an all but empty stretch of highway! Driver of tow-truck, rego, “WE TØW”, you need to learn to keep your distance! Otherwise your next rego plate may be “WE CRSH”);

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–a van marked “Optare”; “Pacific” branded ute; a Hyundai traffic radar van north of Belmont; “First Security” car; “Absolute Control” branded van; 2 ambulances; several recreational bicyclists; a police car heading my opposite way, north, with flashing lights and siren; more bicyclists on the harbour highway south of Petone; a “Mainfreight” truck; an ambulance; a “K9 Explosive Detector Dog” ute;

Commercial traffic on the roads is light; most of the traffic are cars. It’s a fine sunny day; barely any clouds in the sky. People are out and about, walking.At the SH58 interchange traffic is still light; three cars to me rear; one in front.  North of Melling Interchange traffic has thinned to maybe one or two cars in my field of vision. A few families are dotted along the Hutt River, on the stoney banks enjoying the autumn sun; all are well spaced apart. South of the Melling interchange, there were occasions when the highway was utterly empty of traffic.

The harbour was beautifully calm with plenty of sun shining over Wellington City;

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In normal times this would be cause for joy. But these are not normal times and fine weather bring out people onto the roads, footpaths, beaches, parks, etc. Not good places to be in times of pandemic.

It was reassuring that not one single recreational boat (or any other craft) could be seen on the water.

Approaching the Terrace Tunnel, traffic remained light, with perhaps only half a dozen vehicle behind me and nothing in front. This  is in stark contrast to normal holidays periods and weekend when the approach roads to the tunnel are actually busier than during the working week! The tunnel itself had one car in front and three behind me.

The “Z” service station fuel price board lights were still out; there was light foot traffic on the city footpaths; and car traffic was the lightest I’ve seen it all week.

Oriental Bay parade was busier, with a steady stream of bicyclists and pedestrians, though no one was lying on either the main or smaller beaches in the Bay;

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Evans Bay Parade was equally busy with walkers and pedestrians. Most kept to the two metre rule. A few did not.

A police car passed me on this stretch of road. That would be the only police seen until around 3 to 4pm. In Hataitai, these two police vehicles were seen parked side-by-side. The constables appeared to be taking a break; chatting with a young lady leaning on one car window (waaaay closer than 2 metres, folks!); or checking their devices;

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[Images have been redacted for privacy/occupational reasons.]

Perhaps one of the most bizarre things seen during this lock-down crisis is this sign on a “Four Square” shop (location not to be disclosed). The  white sign states;

“*NOTICE*

Maximum of 10 people allowed in store at a time. Please keep your distance of 2 mtrs from each other, Thanks, […] FourSquare”

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The reason the sign is utterly ridiculous? This particular “Four Square” is little bigger than your average Dairy. The aisles are hardly a metre apart and the small size of the store would make it near-impossible for ten people to keep a 2-metre distance.

This is why when businesses demand to open to the public, and promise – hand-on-heart – to implement safety protocols: Do not take them at their word.

If we had acceded to demands from  Universities NZ and Hospitality NZ to continue allowing foreign students to enter Aotearoa, and for bars and restaurants to remain open – while “promising social distancing” – the infection would have most likely spread like wildfire throughout the country.

This government is right to be firm in maintaining the lock-down. Lives depend on how we respond to the contagion.

On the way home in the evening, the city was the most deserted I have ever seen it. Except for street and commercial lighting, and a few vehicles, it was the closest I have ever compared it to a post-apocalypse movie. I spotted one ambulance and later, north of Melling, one police vehicle that had pulled over a late-model sportscar.

Wellingtonians seemed to be heeding the call to stay home and not venture out.

More than ever, we must all maintain the safety protocols; wash hands; maintain safe distance; restrict your “bubble”; don’t try to ‘cheat’. As infectious disease epidemiologist, Jonathan Smith, warned us;

The enemy we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not an opinion. This is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. Stay strong and in solidarity knowing that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people continue getting sick and dying.

[…]

This virus is unforgiving to unwise choices. As this epidemic continues, it will be easy to be drawn to the idea that what we are doing isn’t working and we may feel compelled to “cheat” with unnecessary breaches of social distancing measures.

Which is why the community must do it’s bit; the Police have to come down hard on those who flout the rules; and the business lobby (and their National Party allies) stops pressuring the government to loosen the lock-down rules. The lock-down is porous enough as it is.

In fact, I totally concur with Martyn Bradbury’s call to extend the lock down to six weeks;

The health math demands 6 weeks. Incubation time of the virus is 14 days, but there are cases where it has been 19 days and 27 days, so we went into lockdown on Wednesday 25th meaning the majority of infections will appear by April 8th in the second week of the 4 week lockdown, but we need to KNOW the damned virus has been completely eradicated, so that takes us out to April 21st for the last possible incubation date and we would need at least 2 weeks of no new infections to know the sacrifice had been worth it.

[…]

Death Cult Capitalists, Matthew Hooton, Mike Hosking & Gareth Morgan are all crying out that 30 000 deaths is acceptable as long as neoliberalism can get back to work so the stress on Jacinda to lift the lockdown at the end of the 4 weeks is building, regardless of the above public health math.

The simple truth is that Jacinda must extend the 4 weeks to 6 weeks because if we come back at 4 weeks and the bloody thing keeps spreading, she will get blamed.

It gives me no pleasure to advocate for an extension. I’m now working six days a week (to minimise the number of people required to work at a given work-place) and I miss my partner who I haven’t see for over three weeks. (We have our separate homes and “bubbles”.)

But it’s either extending the lock-down or ending it prematurely. The virus does not respect human being’s arbitrary rules. It thumbs it’s nose at us and our social and legal structures (if covid19 had thumbs and a nose).

And if the Prime were to cave  to pressures from the business lobby, as Martyn Bradbury points out, her political enemies and other sundry armchair experts would blame her for the consequences.

We need to go the distance. If necessary even , extend the distance. Don’t ever forget; we can out-think and out-wit covid19. That is our unique strength.

We just need to use our wits.

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Current covid19 cases: 1,283

Cases in ICU: 4 (2 critical)

Number of deaths: 2

 

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References

RNZ:  Coronavirus – Universities seek travel ban exemption for students

RNZ:  Covid-19 – Hospitality industry asking customers to sign in

Elemental: Hold the Line

Daily Blog:  Why Jacinda MUST keep us locked up for 6 weeks

RNZ: Covid-19 – What happened on Good Friday

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

Life in Lock Down: Day 10

Life in Lock Down: Day 11

Life in Lock Down: Day 12

Life in Lock Down: Day 13

Life in Lock Down: Day 14

Life in Lock Down: Day 15

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Acknowledgement: Evans

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