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Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 20 (@L3)

7 September 2021 Leave a comment

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6 September: Day 20 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 801

Cases in ICU: 6 (4 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: 1 (Total since first infection in Aotearoa: 27)

Twenty new cases today – the same as yesterday. Not a drop down – but not a rise either.

Meanwhile, as reported, Aotearoa New Zealand :

“… outside of Auckland, will move to alert level 2 from 11.59pm Tuesday 7 September.

Auckland will stay in level 4 until 11.59pm next Tuesday, 14 September.

Cabinet will review the alert level settings for all of New Zealand next Monday, 13 September.

It’s a positive move which reflects that this risk-averse government accepts we are on the right track.

Meanwhile, business interests – notably the trucking industry – is bleating like stuck pigs – at requirements for truckies to be tested as they move from Auckland to the rest of the country.

Because these never happened:

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— right?

The grim prospect of an infected truckie driving the length and breadth of Aotearoa New Zealand, transmitting Delta along the way, does not bear thing about. One infected truckie could plunge the country back into Level 4 lockdown, giving the trucking industry more headaches than a simple nasal swab test.

Time to grow up, fellas.

And speaking of immature, self-entitled, plonkers of the worst sort:

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Seymour this morning released a written statement with an attached image displaying the priority access codes, which allow Māori and Pacific people to receive the vaccine at Whānau Ora locations without needing to book ahead.

“The virus doesn’t discriminate on race, so neither should the rollout,” the statement said. “Access to vaccination has been the same for people of all ethnic backgrounds. If fewer Māori are vaccinated it can’t be a problem with access, but this move by the government insinuates that Māori have trouble making a booking.”

However, the virus does discriminate. The New Zealand Medical Journal has found that after controlling for age and underlying conditions Māori and Pacific people have 2.5x and 3.06x higher odds of being hospitalised for contracting Covid-19 than other ethnicities.

Researchers estimated risk of death for Māori from Covid-19 was at least 50 percent higher than European New Zealanders and infection rates are also significantly higher while vaccination rates have languished.

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“The virus doesn’t discriminate on race, so neither should the rollout” – he doesn’t even understand the basic science behind infection; underlying co-morbidities; and heightened risks. His wilful ignorance is Trumpian, to put it politely.

Look, I get that the two right-wing parties are scrapping over the diminishing red-neck voter demographic. There are probably a few hundred thousand right-wing voters which could mean a couple of extra MPs for either ACT or National.

But if National and ACT are going to get dirty with their politicking, and put us at risk of a raging pandemic, I doubt they will endear themselves to the majority of New Zealanders.

What David Seymour did was so wrong that it reveals an immoral aspect to his nature that makes him unfit to be anywhere near political power.

A person who exploits a minority for political gain is the last thing this country needs.

We already have one deadly germ to deal with. We don’t need another.

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 821

Cases in ICU: 6

Number of deaths: 1 (Total since first infection in Aotearoa: 27)

So ended the twentieth day of our journey to beat this thing.

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References

Newshub: As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak –  Sunday, September 5

RNZ: Covid-19 update – 20 new community cases reported in New Zealand today

The Border Mail: Truck driver in isolation with COVID, exposure site listed at Henty

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – Truckie’s ‘guilt’ after spreading Covid-19 in Victoria

WA Government: COVID-19 update 27 August 2021 – NSW truck drivers test positive to COVID-19

RNZ: Māori vaccine equity scheme criticism blows back on Seymour

RNZ: Covid-19 Delta outbreak day 20: How it unfolded

Other Blogs

A Phuulish Fellow: Down to Level 2 – 2021 Edition (+ Rant about Australian Plague)

The Standard: Seymour undermines vaccine roll out for Maori

Previous related blogposts      

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 1  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 2  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 3  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 5 & 6  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 7 & 8  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 9 & 10  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 10 (cont’d) & 11  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 12  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 13 & 14  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 15 (@L3)  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 16 (@L3)  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 17 & 18 (@L3)  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 19 (@L3)

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Acknowledgement: Rod Emmerson

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Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 19 (@L3)

6 September 2021 1 comment

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5 September: Day 19 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 782

Cases in ICU: 7

Number of deaths: 1 (Total since first infection in Aotearoa: 27)

Another day spent mostly at home. Plenty of housework to finish, and a chance to catch up on some tree and flax planting I’d been meaning to get around to for since Lockdown. The front lawn is slowly becoming a micro-“Zelandia, with native trees and other plants gradually replacing flat grass:

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New flax plantings, and Whao (encircled in red)

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New ‘Whao’ (centre)

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The flax was obtained from a professional garden-maintenance team who were going to dump it. The flax was perfectly fine, simply needing to be split apart, pruned back, and planted.

As I was doing the work (surprisingly easy, as the holes did not require to be large or deep), I spotted a ‘friend’ high over-head on a power-line studying my exertions:

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Perhaps in a few decades, when my ‘mini-Zelandia’ garden has become more mature, Kereru, Tui, and other native birds will choose to roost in branches that are only a few metres from my lounge.

How cool would that be?

Trimmed other trees around my property. Much needed, as they were over-growing a pathway, and entangling each other.

Went to ‘Repco” for car engine oil. The contactless-service was well designed; a table at the back of the retail outlet; roped off; masked retail attendant; QR codes well displayed; sign-in sheets filled with names and details of customers: a responsible corporate citizen.

Waited until after the 1PM press – more on that at the conclusion of this blogpost.

Phoned my partner. We chatted. Hoped that the North Island outside Auckland would drop to Level 2 this week. She had been gardening as well. If the nationwide lockdown lasted long enough, the entire country would have the most well manicured gardens on the planet.

Waited until 8PM to do grocery shopping. At this time, the supermarket was not as busy as usual, and social distancing was a simple, non-stressful matter.

A day where I managed to do the things I’d been meaning to do for months, but always managed to deflect my attention elsewhere.

Jarring note for the day, unsurprisingly, came from TV3’s Tova O’Brien, in an exchange that beggared belief. Ms O’Brien asked Dr Bloomfield this bizarre question about exemptions for funerals:

“Funeral directors are pushing for that because there’s this inconsistency where under Level Four, strangers can be socially distanced in a supermarket queue and they can be socially distanced on the waterfront, but they can’t be socially distanced at a burial outdoors at a cemetary.”

The utter incoherent stupidity of that question/assertion cannot be over-stated.

Firstly, it is not an “inconsistency”. Many businesses and services have either closed or been forced to offer reduced services.

Secondly, it defies rational understanding that Ms O’Brien compares a supermarket queue or people on the waterfront with a funeral service. Strangers at a supermarket, standing in a queue, do not – generally speaking – comfort each other in a heightened emotional state of grief. Strangers passing by on the waterfront, likewise, rarely grab each other for a ‘comforting’ hug.

Thirdly, comparing going to a supermarket for a loaf of bread with a funeral service where a family’s loved one is being buried or cremated, is offensive. Who makes such comparisons?!

As Dr Bloomfield explained – with the sainted patience of a teacher addressing a six year old:

“Indeed, one of the comments I would make and I know the Prime Minister has made it before, is that funerals and tangihanga tend to be places where people like to comfort each other and so its… that’s a very important consideration here where it may be more difficult for a whole lot of reasons for people to maintain physical distancing, but of course we’ll continue to keep talking with the funeral director groups. If the request comes through we’ll assess that on it’s merits.”

Ms O”Brien followed up with a loaded question that can only be described as appallingly bad taste:

“Do you support the arrest of grieving families at a ceremony if they were socially distanced?”

If she was looking for headlines, thankfully TV3/Newshub’s news-editors wisely decided against it. Little wonder that public irritation with some individuals in the mainstream media has increased throughout the covid crisis. And little wonder that social media lit up with outright disgust at her inappropriate line of questions.

Because most people with at least a modicum of comprehension realise how – during a raging pandemic – funeral services can be potential super-spreaders leading to more covid cases; more hospitalisations; more ICU patients, and ultimately, more deaths:

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I don’t know what Ms O’Brien thought she was doing, but it wasn’t journalism.

But to end the day on a good note, there were only twenty new cases today (same as yesterday); no covid viral particles detected in wastewater outside Auckland and Wellington.

And no one died.

There’s your headline, Ms O’Brien: no one died.

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 801

Cases in ICU: 6 (4 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: 1 (Total since first infection in Aotearoa: 27)

So ended the nineteenth day of our journey to beat this thing.

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 wrap for day 18 of lockdown      

Facebook: COVID-19 update – 5 September 2021 (video, @ 25:22)

BBC: Coronavirus doctor’s diary – A super-spreading funeral that led to three deaths

Fox4: Texas funeral becomes ‘super spreader’ event after 40 people contract COVID-19

ABC News: Health authorities fear Wilcannia funeral could be a ‘major’ COVID event as NSW Far West cases climb

France24: Fiji’s capital enters lockdown after Covid-19 ‘superspreader’ funeral event

Newshub: As it happened: Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak –  Sunday, September 5

RNZ: Covid-19 update – 20 new community cases reported in New Zealand today

Previous related blogposts

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 1  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 2  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 3  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 5 & 6  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 7 & 8  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 9 & 10  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 10 (cont’d) & 11  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 12  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 13 & 14  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 15 (@L3)  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 16 (@L3)  

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 17 & 18 (@L3)  

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Acknowledgement: M David

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Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 17 & 18 (@L3)

5 September 2021 2 comments

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3 September: Day 17 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 736

Cases in ICU: 6 (3 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: –

It started of as a great day.

The covid lockdown was working. Yesterday there had been 49 new cases.  Today. the number was down to an an amazing 28 new cases. This would give the anti-lockdown cranks here and abroad (especially where covid is rampant; hospitals are failing to cope; and the corpses are mounting) something to get hysterical about.

There are plenty of covid-cowards who cannot abide our success at controlling this deadly disease. They would rather that we fail – as their leaders have utterly failed. It rationalises their own deficiencies.

Even National’s Covid Spokesperson, Chris Bishop, found good cause to cheer from the sidelines:

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Greater Wellington had one of the finest days since… last summer. With a bright blue sky and not a single cloud in sight, it was the promise of summer to come. (Chillingly, little did I know as I took those pictures that dark clouds were gathering over Auckland…)

Along Oriental Bay, Wellingtonians made the most of this perfect Spring Day:

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Oriental Bay, looking north

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Perhaps the loveliest sky in the entire Solar System (Ok, with possible exception of Saturn, with it’s dazzling rings)

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Southwest, toward the city

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Mask wearing could have been better, as I estimated only around two thirds (?) bothered.

That afternoon, before 3pm, reports started coming over the radio: an incident at LynnMall in New Lynn, Auckland. People had been hurt, one person dead.

As events unfolded it became clearer. Aotearoa New Zealand had been struck by another terrorist extremist. He had attacked and injured six shoppers at the supermarket (later, it was announced there was a seventh victim/survivor).

He had used a knife.

Acknowledging the horror of this incident and the deep harm caused to the seven people; their families; and to supermarket workers – there was an immediate thought that crossed my mind.

Thankfully he had not the same access to firearms that the Christchurch terrorist had.

The contrast in blood-letting was staggering. The Christchurch terrorist had used firearms and shot dead 51 people. The LynnMall terrorist had only a knife, and had not succeeded in wounding more than seven. All seven are still alive (though three remain in Intensive Care in critical condition), and hopefully none will lose their life.

We can be thankful to this government that semi-automatics have been mostly (but not all) eliminated from this country; that gun licensing has been tightened up; and that this deranged individual was under constant surveillance.

On a day we should have been rejoicing and being insufferably smug to the rest of the world, it felt as if the rug had been pulled out from under all five million of us.

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 764

Cases in ICU: 9 (3 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: –

So ended the seventeenth day of our journey to beat this thing.

 

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4 September: Day 18 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 764

Cases in ICU: 9 (3 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: –

A day off. Have not gone out – I still take Level 3 lockdown meaning precisely that: stay at home.

Another beautiful day outside. Breakfast time: feed companion animal. Feed myself.

Watched ‘The Nation‘ on TV3. A Tauranga port worker interviewed, demanding his right to choose whether or not to get the vaccine. I wonder if the virus will offer him the same choice to be infected or not? I’m 100% certain the virus will respect his right to decline infection.

Viruses are nice like that. They ask permission first.

Tova O’Brien interviewed Associate Minister of Health, Peeni Henare. When the issue of the recent absconder from Novotel & Ibis Ellerslie MIQ facility was raised, Ms O’Brien suggested to the minister:

“Your focus also has to be on your constituents in Tamaki Makaurau and keeping them safe.”

Considering Minister Henare is not a police constable on-the-beat on the streets of Ōtāhuhu, it is unclear how he could have intervened directly to apprehend the absconding idiot. She might as well ask him why he can’t walk on water.

On a lighter note,  this exchange took place between National’s Caretaker Leader Collins and another Twitter-user on the social-media platform. A subtle ‘burn’ if I ever saw one:

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*Ouch!* That reposte would sting.

And worse still, the Twitter-user had more “Likes” to his post than the Official (Caretaker) Leader of the New Zealand National Party.

Some work to do around the house; a week’s worth of laundry (done); hang-out to dry (done); change kitty litter box (done); do dishes (done); have fun jousting with RWNJ trolls on Twitter who have been harassing another Twitter-user (done)…

The 1pm figures are released and it is more happy news – tinged with tragedy. My fear has come to pass; we have had a loss of life due to Delta, the first for this current outbreak.

We have now lost 27 souls to this pandemic and 27 families (if not more) are grieving.

The sadness makes the good news harder to appreciate. Only 20 new cases of Delta infections. Less than half the number from yesterday. I should be punching the air in triumph and giving a whoop of delight.

But we’ve lost a fellow New Zealander.

If the Universe is playing a joke on us, I don’t get the punchline.

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 782

Cases in ICU: 7

Number of deaths: 1 (Total since first infection in Aotearoa: 27)

So ended the eighteenth day of our journey to beat this thing.

 

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References

Stuff media: Covid-19 outbreak situation report – what happened today, September 2    

RNZ: Covid-19 case numbers – 28 new community cases in NZ today

Stuff media: Covid-19 outbreak situation report – what happened today, September 2

RNZ: Covid-19 case numbers – 28 new community cases in NZ today

Twitter: @cjsbishop – 89,000 new vaccinations – 3 Sept 2021

RNZ: Man shot dead at Countdown supermarket in Auckland

Stuff media: Auckland terror attack – Victims aged between 29 and 77, three still in critical condition

Stuff media: Covid-19 – Man who allegedly fled managed isolation was given ride home by friend

Newshub Nation:  Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare promises priority for Māori should COVID-19 vaccine stocks run low

RNZ: Covid-19 wrap for day 18 of lockdown

Additional

TVNZ: Covid-19 wrap for day 18 of lockdown

Other Blogs

Bryan Gould: A Grim Future for National

The Standard: Judith’s very bad two days

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the messaging to the vaccine hesitants

Previous related blogposts

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

Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 1

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 2

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 3

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 5 & 6

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 7 & 8

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 9 & 10

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 10 (cont’d) & 11

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 12

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 13 & 14

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 15 (@L3)

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 16 (@L3)

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Acknowledgement: Guy Body

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Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 16 (@L3)

3 September 2021 3 comments

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2 September: Day 16 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 687

Cases in ICU: 8 (3 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: –

Woke up to RNZ’s ‘Morning Report’ to not one – but two stories! – of people wanting to travel and whining that they haven’t been allocated MIQ rooms. Both were classic cases of entitlement with the latter an unbelievable whinge. (Trigger warning: both are irritating to listen to.)

Especially as, in the same morning, it was clearly reported and explained that the Delta outbreak in Aotearoa New Zealand was already placing our MIQ facilities and hospitals under considerable strain.

It is unclear what purpose was served by airing those two stories about New Zealanders demanding to travel. While it is understandable that people may want to travel to see elderly parents, now is not the time during a global pandemic. (I would dearly love to visit my parents and family overseas!)

Especially – and RNZ failed utterly to make this point – Kiwis travelling through countries to visit elderly, vulnerable, or sick family is not a wise idea. In fact, it’ds downright dangerous. Picking up Delta and then infecting elderly parents would most certainly finish them off.

RNZ failed to probe whether international travel was wise.

This is ‘grief journalism’ we can do without.

The day was chilly and overcast.

Curiously, traffic appeared to be less than preceding days. In parts of Kilbirnie (away from the supermarkets) traffic was actually more like Level 4 Lockdown last year; sparse.

Only half of pedestrians were wearing facemasks. Disappointing.

The second best news of the day? We had 49 new cases, in contrast to yesterdays depressing ‘blip’ of 75. The downward trajectory resumes – hopefully – as long as all New Zealands act responsibly.

And the best news of the day? Despite over 700 cases, no one has died. (“Don’t ‘jinx’ it, Frank!”, I hear you all scream at me!) Despite everything that has happened since this outbreak began, our preternatural Kiwi good luck has continued.

Please may that not end.

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 736

Cases in ICU: 6 (3 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: –

So ended the sixteenth day of our journey to beat this thing.

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 update – 75 new community cases in NZ today

RNZ: Covid-19 – Overseas Kiwi distraught at MIQ vouchers pause

RNZ: Covid-19 – MIQ virtual lottery on the way, but bookings on pause for now

RNZ: Covid-19 – Delta cases outstrip hotel quarantine

Newshub: As it happened – Latest on COVID19 community outbreak – Wednesday, September 1

Stuff media: Covid-19 outbreak situation report – what happened today, September 2

Previous related blogposts

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

Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 1

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 2

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 3

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 5 & 6

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 7 & 8

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 9 & 10

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 10 (cont’d) & 11

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 12

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 13 & 14

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 15 (@L3)

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Acknowledgement: Tom Scott

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Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 15 (@L3)

2 September 2021 5 comments

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1 September: Day 15 of living in lock-down…

Day’s beginning.

Current covid19 cases: 612

Cases in ICU: 8

Number of deaths: –

Day 15 of Level four lockdown in Auckland and Northland. For the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand, the first day of moving down to Level 3 – or Level 4 with takeaways, as others describe this alert level.

It’s a beautiful spring day outside. There are few clouds in our over-carbonised, clear blue sky.  According to 9AM news bulletin on RNZ, traffic around Wellington is “near normal”.

As I leave for work around mid-day (Wednesdays at the moment are short work-days for me) for my one and only client, I drive past the local railway pak & ride. A lot more cars today, around ten or a dozen.

Out on the motorway and the level of traffic stuns me. It is almost as heavy as pre-L4 lockdown. And… roadworks are back. Damn.

Though I notice that road-working crews are all masked up. It’s a warm, sunny day, and these guys are klitted up with work clothes, safety boots; flouro-jackets, and face-masks. They must be bloody hot with all that kit.

These guys are heroic. I hope their employers slip them a little “something extra” in their Christmas pay-packet.

On the Hutt River-bank, a few people are strolling or lying in the sun.

In Wellington I took a slight detour around Oriental Bay. My suspicions are confirmed: the footpaths are busy with strollers and joggers. And the beach has attracted a few families and others:

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Oriental Bay – northward

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Oriental Bay-Freyberg beach

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Only around half or two-thirds maximum were masked up. (Note: the photos do not do justice to the actual numbers that were present.)

So much for staying home during Alert Level Three. Some folk must have missed that memo.

This blogger wasn’t the only one who noticed the apparent, unannounced drop down to Level Alert 2, seemingly skipping L3 altogether:

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No wonder the government was so cautious before moving to Level 3. They had to make absolutely certain that there was no community transmission outside of Auckland before dropping a Level.

Government and Ministry officials understood that human behaviour being what it is, moving out of L4 would signal to people that there was no further imminent danger. To all intents and purposes, Level 3 and Level 2 are one-and-the-same for a significant portion of the population.

Danger over.

Slip back into complacency mode.

Time for fish and chips.

The Mystery of the Delta Strain

Yesterday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield admitted that government and ministry officials had no clear understanding of the source of the current outbreak:

Contact tracers have hit a brick wall in their efforts to find the source of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield explained all while evidence points to Auckland Crowne Plaza hotel managed isolation facility, the virus’ exact path remained a mystery.

“We’ve gone down a number of roads and they’ve all turned out to be dead ends so far,” Dr Bloomfield told a news briefing. “We may never find the exact way that the virus got from the facility into the community but we are very confident that’s the place where it came from.”

All that is known for certainty is that the Delta strain emanated from Sydney (or somewhere in New South Wales). The virus entered through a Returnee from Sydney (“Index Case”) in early August soon after the Trans Tasman bubble – originally strongly supported by the National Party – was closed on 23 July.

But the Ministry of Health has been unable to ascertain how the Returnee transmitted the virus to others.

There is one possibility that has not been publicly discussed: that the Returnee infected a member of the flight crew. This is a real option, as flight crews are not required to isolate for fourteen days at MIQs like everyone else.

They are provided with separate facilities at Heartland Hotel situated at 14 Airpark Drive, Māngere, some 3.5kms from Auckland International Airport; at Grand Windsor in down Auckland’s Queen Street, and Ramada Hotels at Auckland CBD and Manukau.

For more information, I refer the reader to two previous stories on this issue:

If the outbreak was caused by the “Index Case” transmitting the virus to a flight attendant, it will not be the first time an Air New Zealand cabin-crew member has been infected and transmitted the virus to others.

Whilst flight crews are not required to isolate in MIQ for the full fourteen days, that are required to provide a negative nasal-swab test before allowed to leave their facility:

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, as the most recent Delta case in Wellington showed, negative results are not always accurate. Not even two negative tests. Or three negative tests!

All but one of the cases reported on Wednesday were in Auckland, the other is a household contact of a Wellington case who had returned three negative tests and remains asymptomatic.

If that Wellington person had been an Air New Zealand flight crew member, they would have left their isolation facility after their first negative test.

For reasons that can only be guessed at – but may involve strong financial incentivess – Air New Zealand flight crews continue to be exempt from isolation rules that are strictly enforced for others.

Private Enterprise, a pandemic, and consequences

ACT Leader David Seymour is not short of ideas. Most of them impractical, to put it politely.

One such very dim “light bulb” moment – which government has thankfully dismissed as downright dangerous – is to allow private MIQ facilities to operate:

ACT’s plan for managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) – were it to be in Government – would be to allow private hotels to provide MIQ services under contract to the government as a way to relieve the shortage of MIQ beds. Governed under strict rules, both workers and guests in these facilities would have to be vaccinated.

“ACT has a plan to expand MIQ places and make it safer than what the Government is doing now. Under ACT’s plan, owners of currently mothballed hotels could seek a licence to operate MIQ according to strict criteria,” ACT leaders David said in a statement accompanying the release.

How successful would it be?

Who knows. But if two recent incidences are any indication: not very good:

Two students have now been caught breaching lockdown rules by flying out of Auckland, receiving fines for breaking the rules.

Over recent days, a Victoria University student flew from Auckland to Wellington without an exemption.

An Otago University student flew from Auckland to Dunedin.

Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said this was “disappointing”.

“These people should not be travelling, there will potentially be consequences for them, for breaking the rules.”

But more critically still, Minister Hipkins made it clear these students had breached critical security protocols to board their flights:

“They should be being checked even before they get into the airport terminal. Previous level four restrictions, and I just want to check to make sure this has absolutely operating as it has previously, have had people at the door at the airport terminal checking why people are entering the terminal, before they can even get anywhere near the plane.”

So the Auckland airport terminal – a private company – had such poor security that two students were able to breach the facility and board their flights, without being detected?

If those two had been carrying the Delta Strain, Aotearoa New Zealand would now be facing new clusters of the virus in Wellington and Dunedin. It would cost the country billions more.

Would Auckland airport pay the bill for the economic damage that would result?

And if private MIQ facilities failed, allowing Delta (or a worse strain) into the community – would David Seymour take responsibility?

Did National take responsibility for the failed Trans Tasman bubble they pressured the government to open up?

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The answer to all three questions is a resounding “no”.

As the sign on the wall states quite clearly:

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Wiping the Debating Chamber Floor with ACT

National and ACT got their wish: Parliament sat yesterday. Though going by Hansard and video, National’s Caretaker Leader Collins and  ACT Leader David Seymour may be ruing that it happened at all.

A series of questions from Mr Seymour to Minister Hipkins resulted in hard answers that the former was perhaps not expecting. Minister Hipkins wiped the floor with the hapless ACT Leader.

But matters took a dark turn when Mr Seymour asked:

“Has he, his officials, or anybody in the Ministry of Health at all—or the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, for that matter—offered to pay additional money to Pfizer, as Canada has done, to get additional doses faster?”

Minister Hipkins made his response crystal clear; Aotearoa New Zealand would not be bribing its way to vaccinating the population ahead of other countries:

“Pfizer have been very clear: their production, the production that they have of the vaccine, is fully committed around the globe and they are not willing to offer rich countries the opportunity to pay more in order to displace countries who cannot afford to do that—which suggests that big pharma has a higher ethical and moral standard than the ACT Party does.”

Mr Seymour quickly changed his line of questioning.

For good reason. Various cranks around the country have been pushing the line that we should outbid other nations for the vaccine.

Former minister; ACT politician; and relic from a by-gone age, Richard Prebble made the same disturbing demand in a NZ Herald article*:

“The government is innumerate. They are willing to spend $685 million on a harbour cycleway with negative cost/benefit but not $40 million for an early vaccine rollout to save billions of dollars and possibly many lives.”

As did NewstalkZB ‘host’ and right-wing fellow-traveller, Heather du Plessis-Allan who said on 7 July:

“Why did we agree to $56 and then baulk at another $10 to get it earlier? Why would we say ‘nah we’d rather be right the back of the queue thanks, literally last in the developed world’?

[…]

I do not buy the government’s argument that it’s unethical to pay more to vaccines ahead of others

We didn’t elect them to prioritise citizens of other countries, they’re elected to look after us

[…]

But isn’t it an insight into the lack of urgency behind the scenes. For a mere $10 a person, we might’ve actually been front of the queue, instead of dead last in the developed world”

A free marketeer Twitter-user also called for jumping the queue by paying a “premium” (a polite way of calling an outright bribe):

“Of course you can. By drug companies selling to the highest bidder, they increase their resources to ramp up production. ECON 101 which this government, and its defenders don’t understand”

The only people who do not understand “econ 101” are neo-liberals who are so blinded by their simplistic ideology that they cannot see the consequences of their reckons.

Let me oblige them.

Assume that pharmaceutical companies auction of their vaccines to the highest bidder(s). What would be the consequences (because free-marketeers/neo-libs must accept that everything has consequences, whether intended or not)?

As I pointed out to the ACT-supporting Twitter user:

Firstly, it is just plain wrong. It is neo-liberal, hyper-individualist self-interest taken to it’s deadly conclusion. Even if we could, is that the soul of Aotearoa New Zealand?

Bidding for what’s already available just pushes up the price & we WILL lose out every time to richer nations. There is no avoiding that reality. 

There are 49 other countries richer (GDP, 2017 figures) than us. Calculated per capita, there are thirtyone wealthier nations ahead of us. Imagine entering a bidding war with the US, China, UK, France, etc. This would be the scenario confronting us if certain foolish people had their way. We would end up with nothing.

Bidding for vaccines creates a law-of-the-jungle instead of international co-operation. Again, there is no way small nations would benefit from a tooth-and-claw struggle with richer economies.

To assume otherwise demonstrates a childlike lack of understanding of international affairs and human nature.

Pharmaceutical companies are already producing at full capacity. A bidding war would not create more supply; just push up prices. (Our electricity supply has similarities.)

How would out-bidding poorer, developing nations to grab vaccines  benefit us? It wouldn’t. It would simply create vast breeding grounds of new mutant strains of covid. These mutations would likely end up with strains more infectious; more deadly, and more critically, more resistant to current vaccines.

In effect, bidding and grabbing vaccines would end up with covid spreading and evolving, becoming vaccine-resistant, and we would end up back at Square 1.

It is obviously from the witterings of the likes of Mr Seymour, Mr Prebble, Ms du Plessis-Allan, Mr Wrathall, et al, that none of them have thought this through. Their shallow thinking would doom us all to repeating cycles of vaccination; new mutations; new vaccines; new mutations; new vaccines, etc.

With a lot of dead people in body-bags along the way. But then, Mr Seymour is prepared for that eventuality:

“If vaccination doesn’t work, then we’re isolated forever. Clearly, we have to have a plan B from vaccination being the endgame. And if we’re not prepared to do it at the start of next year, then when are we prepared to do it?

That could mean living with Covid-19, even if that led to large outbreaks, more hospitalisations and even fatalities because the level of population is not high enough to keep health services from being overwhelmed.”

By Day’s End.

Current covid19 cases: 687

Cases in ICU: 8 (3 on ventilation)

Number of deaths: –

So ended the fifteenth day of our journey to beat this thing.

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* This blogger will not be linking directly to Mr Prebbes or Ms du Plessis-Allan’s articles. To do so would reward them and their media platform with “clicks” this blogger is not prepared to encourage.

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References

RNZ: Covid-19 update on 31 August – 49 new cases in the community

Twitter: @FranklNZwe missed the L2 announcement – 1.9.21

Newshub:  Coronavirus – Latest on COVID-19 community outbreak – Tuesday, August 31

Newsroom: Sydney returnee likely source of Covid outbreak

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Bluff wedding cluster – Air New Zealand flight attendant is possible origin

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

Stuff media: Covid-19 – 75 new cases in Delta community outbreak, but curve is ‘gradually bending’

Stuff media: ACT proposes private MIQ and ending ‘the four horsemen of bad regulation’

RNZ: Uni student who flew from Auckland to Wellington didn’t understand guidelines

Twitter: National Party – Sign the Trans Tasman bubble petition

Hansard: Seymour, David; Hipkins, Chris; Mallard, Trevor

RNZ: Week in Politics – Learning to live with the virus – or not

Twitter – @SteveHWrathalldrug companies selling to the highest bidder – 31/8/21

Twitter: @fmacskasy – Bidding for what’s already available – 1/9/2021

Worldometer: GDP by Country

Worldometer: GDP per Capita

NZ Herald: Covid 19 coronavirus – David Seymour -Open the borders next year regardless of vaccination levels

RNZ:  Covid-19 update – 75 new community cases in NZ today

Previous related blogposts

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

Does OIA evidence confirm possible Air NZ link to recent covid outbreaks?

Team 5 million vs Covid: Aotearoa on Three Strikes

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 1

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 2

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 3

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 4 – Caretaker Leader Collins, another rare mis-step

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 5 & 6

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 7 & 8

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 9 & 10

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 10 (cont’d) & 11

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 12

Life in lockdown, Round Two – Day 13 & 14

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Acknowledgement: Jeff Bell

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Liked what you read? Feel free to share.

Have your own thoughts? Leave a comment. (Trolls need not bother.)

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= fs =

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

7 March 2021 5 comments

. 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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Life in Lock Down: Day 2 of Level 3

30 April 2020 6 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

29 April 2020 2 comments

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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 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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