COVID-19 DIARY – LOCKDOWN POSTCODES

SES volunteers set up a gazebo in a street on a sunny day

 

June 29

Monday I was on holidays and so didn’t go into work.

In Victoria things were beginning to escalate.

People who were in hotel quarantine who refused to get tested were going to be kept in quarantine for another 10 days.

10 suburbs were going into lockdown in Melbourne with only four reasons for people to move in around or enter those postcodes.

Premier Andrews had also announced that some parents had refused testing for their children for the nasal swab test and so a saliva test would be available.

Ten suburbs received a testing blitz, Keilor Downs, Broadmeadows, Maidstone, Albanvale, Sunshine West, Brunswick West, Fawkner, Reservoir, Hallam and Pakenham.

There had been daily double digit increases in COVID cases for each of the previous 13 days.

There were 70 Australian Defence Force members deployed to help.

 

June 30

Premier Daniel Andrews announced ten postcodes were going into lockdown for the next month.

There would only be with only four reasons for people to leave their homes, for work or school, for caregiving, exercise or to get food or essentials.

In these hotspots gatherings will be limited to family or two people, cafes and restaurants were back to take-away only and gyms, swimming pools, cinemas, playgrounds and community activities were over.

These suburbs were back in lockdown while the rest of the country enjoyed a different way of life.

Hotel quarantines or people returning from overseas were no longer going to be coming into Melbourne.

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SURGING AHEAD

 

Calls to nominate departing CMO Brendan Murphy for Australian of ...

 

It’s been few weeks since I wrote my blog, I had over a dozen posts scheduled for the entire month of July and that covered right up until what was then up to date events of the 21st of June.

Then I went on holidays and started a secondment and four weeks have gone by in the wink of an eye and I am back playing catch-up. This time I wonder, particularly given the secondment if I will catch up.

I never planned for this site to regurgitate the news or to be political but it has always been personal and it has been fascinating to write about things from the perspective of a few days after the events.

COVID is going to be with us for at least a year or two in a very consuming way.

Do I really want to write about all of that?

I guess I do so I will just have to try. Thank you all for reading.

 

June 26

Friday.

I had worked in the office all week. With leave planned for the following week, the numbers continued to rise in Victoria.

The Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy and the Prime Minister strode up to the microphones on the 26th of June for what would be the last time. They were wearing scarves in support of Australia and New Zealand’s successful bid from the night previous to host the Netball World Cup. Their jovial mood reflected some relief in what they had shared together.

It was now over three months since COVID cases had really taken off in Australia and while developments in Victoria were of concern they did not prove to give people pause.

There had been 63 cases in the state in the previous 48 hours. Out of 30 cases from the previous 24 hours, five were travellers quarantining in hotels, seven were linked to clusters already identified, five from routine testing and a final 13 were still being investigated. 

Professor Murphy was moving on to Secretary of General Health, a promotion delayed due to the crisis. His position having unexpectedly elevated into a more public role had not suited the reserved Doctor but his consistent demeanor throughout had been of some comfort and would be missed.

Bracing for surge, PM announces billions in health measures

 

COVID-19 case numbers were taking off in the third world and this was not lost on the Prime Minister.

On, obviously, a more serious note, there are a million new cases being reported of COVID-19 around the world every week. We are seeing the virus take hold in places like South America now at a level difficult to imagine and we are anticipating similar types of scenarios in Africa and other parts of the world as the virus makes its way. The challenge being faced globally only gets more complicated, more complex, more difficult. And against that backdrop, Australia’s performance is remarkable, and that is a tribute to all who are involved.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought to assure Australians that outbreaks were to be expected and that the government was prepared to respond and that while the outbreak was currently in Victoria that it could easily be somewhere else in another instance and that we had to show solidarity.

And what this should say to Australians should be a message of confidence. There will be outbreaks. What matters is the response. There will be outbreaks and what matters is that we continue to build our capability to deal with those outbreaks. As you see the response on the ground, that is a reassurance to Australians all around the country that we can deal with this, and we will continue to deal with this.”

The outgoing Chief Medical Officer also had a few things to say.

So as the PM has said, this virus is accelerating around the world. We are in a very fortunate island, but we will remain at risk of importation of cases for the foreseeable future. Every day in Australia we have cases in hotel quarantine, mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, because they’re taking the lion’s share of that hotel quarantine hotel. Hotel quarantine is never going to be 100 percent perfect and importation our borders, whilst we have done so well with borders, we can’t be absolutely sure that there won’t be more and continuing imports of cases. We also, as we’ve said, can’t be sure that there isn’t small amounts of virus circulating in parts of the country. So the outbreaks, mini outbreak, we’ve seen in Victoria is what we predicted.”

“What we planned for. When I took to the National Cabinet the plan for reopening, removing restrictions, we assured National Cabinet that the likelihood of outbreaks was high and that we were ready to respond to them. And that is exactly what the Victorian health authorities are doing right now. They have a huge team, they’re contact tracing over a thousand people. They’re testing extraordinary numbers of people. And that’s a way to bring a localised outbreak under control, to go to where the problem is, engage with the population test, isolate, quarantine, standard public health response.

There was also a change in policy with returning citizens and permanent resident going into hotel quarantine advised Professor Brendan Murphy.

We are going to start testing people on entry to quarantine and testing people before they leave quarantine to see whether a testing regimen might help in the future to modify that quarantine in certain circumstances. But at the moment, even though we know it’s a burden on our returning citizens and permanent residents, it’s something that the great majority are very happy to put up with because they know it’s protecting their fellow Australians from the importation of this virus.

The Prime Minister also spoke on our behalf in thanking Professor Murphy for his work.

Outside of that, this is the Chief Medical Officer’s last briefing is the Chief Medical Officer. He’s been in the living rooms of Australians now for many months. And I know, Brendan, you have been a person of great assurance to Australians with your calm way of explaining what are often very complex things. You’ve given Australians, I think, a great peace of mind. Brendan is taking up the role of Secretary of the Department of Health, which we delayed because of the seriousness of this issue and his keenness to continue on in that role and until he was in a position to now hand it over to Dr Kelly. And so I want to thank you very much, not just for the way you’ve reached out to Australians, Professor Murphy, but the outstanding leadership you’ve shown across the AHPPC, the medical expert panel, and the unfailing advice that you’ve provided to me and to my ministers and to my Cabinet. And so we thank you very much.

 

The ABC’s excellent program Four Corners did an episode on nursing home Newmarch house in Sydney which that week which I watched that weekend.

The program was saddening in how we had failed to take care of our elderly in these vulnerable nursing homes.

As residents got COVID-19 they were all isolated in their rooms and not allowed visitors. Staffing was an issue and despite measures put in place the virus spread through the home.

The level of care suffered in the home as well which meant often the last days of the residents were lonely and full of ill health regardless of COVID itself.

In the aftermath the Anglicare Sydney’s Chief Executive Grant Millard, which runs Newmarch house, conceded more should have been done even NSW Health were not looking to take aged care residents into hospitals automatically.

“Look, if I had the time again, I would be insisting people who are COVID-positive go to hospital,” Mr Millard told ABC Radio.

“In hindsight, that would have been my preference.”

In the end 19 residents died in Newmarch house, the last on the 2nd of May. Her name was Alice Bacon and she was the 100th Australian to die from COVID-19. Two of those 19 residents who died after recovering from COVID-19 are not counted towards the national tally.

Alice Bacon’s daughter Mary Watson told Four Corners, “I don’t believe for a minute that the infection in the residents or in the staff occurred from that one person initially. There had to be cross-infection across the way. They didn’t want it anywhere out of there. They wanted whatever was going to happen to stay at Newmarch and be contained and not have it any spread anywhere else in the community.

There is a little bit of shame in me for not really having cared too much about those poor souls dying in nursing homes or their families cut off from and worried about them.

 

On the 26th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been in Australia 7,558 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 37. There had been 104 deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there had been 102,242 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 279. There had been 8,484 deaths with a daily increase of 30.

In the United Kingdom there had been 307,984 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,118. There had been 43,230 deaths with a daily increase of 149.

In India there had been 490,401 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 17,296. There had been 15,301 deaths with a daily increase of 407.

In Russia there had been 620,794 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,800. There had been 8,781 deaths with a daily increase of 176. Hmmm…..???

In Brazil there had been 1,188,631 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 42,725. There had been 53,830 deaths with a daily increase of 1,185.

In the United States of America as case numbers declined in the states first and worst hit by the pandemic numbers began to surge in the south and mid-west. California got no respite either. There had been 2,367,064 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 37,061. There had been 121,645 deaths with a daily increase of 690.

Numbers were on the rise in South America, Africa and South East Asia as Europe began to see a decline.

For what it is worth, stay safe everyone.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – IT’S HERE

What to know about social distancing strategies amid coronavirus ...

June 18

Monday 15th of June I was sick with an ear ache. The 16th I worked from home and the rest I was in the office, unexpectedly on the Wednesday, as planned for the Thursday and Friday.

In Queensland there were three active cases.

Yet on the 19th of May when discussing a case that had no traceable source Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young had said, “These are the cases that worry me.”

This is why we cannot assume we have beaten this virus — we haven’t. It is unlikely that we will, ever. We’ll have to find ways of managing it and the hope of course is for a vaccine to assist us in that.” she warned.

As we waited to see if there was a bump in cases following protests things were comparatively stable in Australia.

There was even hope to be found in the stats coming out of nations hit very hard by the pandemic.

But that was not the case everywhere.

On Thursday I was driving into work listening to the news on the radio when I heard that new cases in Beijing appeared to show a mutation of the virus.

That got me worried. What kind of mutation? Was it airborne? I think I had heard somewhere weeks earlier that the science didn’t bear that out as a likely scenario but a mutation was not good news.

A quick google search told me the mutation had apparently led to a longer incubation period, this meant it could stick around longer and infect more people particularly within a household.

Not great news but not where my deepest fearful thoughts had led me.

We didn’t need this disease to get much deadlier, as the week came to a close two things were being reported.

While finally the curve was flattening across Europe, America was still suffering and in South America and Africa the disease was on the ascent.

Continents1Continents2

India who had gone into lockdown quickly was being left to white knuckle its way through the virus as it became the country with the fourth most number of confirmed cases in the world.

Brazil crossed a million cases and Chile and Peru were also seeing numbers skyrocket.

After a decrease in numbers Iran, one of the first countries hit hard outside of China, was now suffering a second wave.

With three actives cases in Queensland if you thought this thing was over you were not paying attention and you were a fool.

For weeks I had worried about what would happen to the third world when this virus hit them.

That threat was no longer on the horizon – it was here.

Coronavirus morning headlines as worldwide death toll passes ...

June 19

In the United Kingdom they moved from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3.

Schools and non-essential retail continued to gradually be re-opened. There was talk of social distancing measure going from 2 metres to 1 metre.

Boris Johnson had previously said, “As we get the numbers down, so it becomes one in 1,000, one in 1,600, maybe even fewer, your chances of being two metres, or one metre, or even a foot away from somebody who has the virus is obviously going down statistically, so you start to build some more margin for manoeuvre.

In Wales people still have to stay within five miles of their home but it was announced that schools would re-open 29JUN2020 and travel to and from Wales could go be allowed come 06JUL2020.

Retailers, houses viewings, non-contact outdoor sports and accommodation were planned to re-open the following Monday 22JUN2020. There was no announcement guidance yet for when pubs, cafes, restaurants and hairdressers would re-open.

The British government is scheduled to review its new quarantine policy on the 29th of June at the 3 week mark.

That policy requires people arriving in the UK should drive their own car to their destination and not use public transport or taxis.

They must not go to work, school or public areas or have visitors except for essential support.

They must not go out to buy food – where they can rely on others. ?… I’m not sure what happens if they can’t rely on others.

The fine for being found in breach of this £1,000 pounds in England, Northern Ireland Wales. In Scotland it is £480 with the maximum fine for repeat offenders in Scotland £5,000. No idea how any of this is enforced.

Scottish Coronavirus Cases Could Already Be 50,000, CMO Says ...

Yet already the government was trying to secure travel corridors with other European countries that would be exempt from this. Even though Europe had suffered a high volume of cases and deaths.

Was it possible that the travel industry in the UK was not prepared to take this lying down and was bringing considerable political pressure to bear?

Here in Australia 97% of the airline industry business has disappeared. Airlines are facing bankruptcy and the tourism industry which is such a massive part of our GDP has lost over half of its business and its international business isn’t looking to come back anytime soon.

Domestic tourism is certainly crying out for state border restrictions to be lowered in time for the winter holidays. The ski season is going ahead in the very two states that have the highest number of cases.

Yet the decisions being made currently by Whitehall in regards to international travel are simply flabbergasting to me. You’ve finally got this thing receding, don’t fucking blow it for some money! People’s lives are more important than that!

Coronavirus in Scotland: latest update as number of people ...

 

June 21

Throughout the week new cases were on the rise in Victoria. 21 on Wednesday, 18 on Thursday, 13 on Friday and 25 on Saturday.

On the eve of lowering restrictions Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews held a press conference and advised that there would be a change of plans.

He cited the case increase was not due to recent mass protests but that people who were supposed to be self isolating but rather going to family gatherings and going to work.

Sometimes they were doing this after they had been advised that they had tested positive for COVID-19!

There was no exact breakdown but we were told that over half of cases since April in Victoria had come transmissions within a household.

With that in mind gatherings were going to see tighter restrictions come back in. Only five visitors to a household at a time. Only gatherings of ten at an outside family gathering. Down from 20.

Interestingly limits of gatherings in restaurants, pubs, community halls, public libraries, Churches and museums were going to remain at 20. They were due to see an increase come Monday but that was now off the table.

The Premier said there would be a push-ahead with re-opening of gyms, cinemas, pubs and TABS with a 20 person limit.

Perhaps most interestingly the Victorian ski-season was going ahead with facilities open albeit with screening and safeguards in place.

Also flagged was the idea of locking down specific hotspot areas if need be.

 

 

 

June 21

There were now 45 new cases recorded over the weekend alone in Victoria.

In Queensland it was decided that except for “a limited number of essential purposes” anyone returning from 36 hotspots area in and around Melbourne would need to quarantine for 14 days upon landing in Queensland.

In Queensland there were currently three active COVID-19 cases, two of them in the Gold Coast.

What Victoria’s case numbers meant for plans to lower state borders in the coming weeks remained to be seen.

Australia Late June

In America Trump held a rally in Tulsa. With thousands of Americans dead, the economy in recession and his polling numbers down there wasn’t a high turn out for the American leader.

Plenty of excuses were offered, there was after all a pandemic on and there had been weeks of protesting across the country.

There were protestors and police present and plenty of Trump supporters.

Just not 40,000 expected to fill an over-capacity area outside for a second speech nor enough to fill up the 19,000 capacity BOK centre.

Trump didn’t talk too much about COVID-19 but he did mention that one of the downsides of testing so many people is you find out a lot of fucking people have it.

Seth Meyers GIF by Late Night with Seth Meyers - Find & Share on GIPHY

This is good news for most leaders, it means you can identify hotspot areas, carry out contract tracing, isolate those who have it, treat them in hospital in order to preserve their life and eventually the hope is with a lot of testing and these follow-up kind of obvious measures you stop the virus spreading and you know you therefore stop people dying and hell after a while you even start to lower some restrictions and get people back to work and having the economy moving.

It’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. It’s a necessary thing and it’s an obvious thing.

But Ballbag had a different take.

When you do testing to that extent you’re going to find more people. You’re going to find more cases, so I said to my people, ‘Slow the testing down please.’

Of course the liberal bias media fixated on that and of course the White House asserted it was all in jest in regards to the horrible media coverage the President was getting.

I like to fix there were a lot of good people in Tulsa that night, braving a pandemic, showing support for an embattled leader that they believed had not only their best interests at heart but those of their country and their fellow Americans.

I saw a man in a wheelchair, young aspirational couples, black people. I’m sure there were veterans, nurses and teachers in that crowd.

I don’t meant to offend them when I voice my own personal opinions about him.

So please turn away for a second….

Trumpy this country needs what only you can provide…your absence.

Or in other words.

 

 

That afternoon I was with my in-laws celebrating a birthday. We were able to spend time together as a family, it was something to feel grateful for. So many people didn’t have this right now, so many people had lost loved ones, so many more were facing dire prospects.

On the 21st of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,436 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 27. The number of deaths 102, a figure reached on the 24th of May.

Having reached six figures in case numbers on the 20th of June, in Canada on the 21st there had been 100,629 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 409. There were 8,346 dead with a daily increase of 46.

WHO6-12

In Turkey there had been 186,493 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,248. There were 4,927 dead with a daily increase of 22.

In Germany there had been 189,822 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 687. There had been 8,882 deaths.

In Iran there had been 202,584 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,322. There had been 9,507 deaths with a daily increase of 115.

In Chile there had been 236,748 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,355. There were 4,295 dead with a daily increase of 202.

In Italy there had been 238,275 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 264. There were 34,610 dead with a daily increase of 49.

In Spain there had been 245,938 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 363. There were 28,322 dead with a daily increase of seven.

WHOTop6

In Peru there had been 247,925 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,537. The number of dead were 7,660 with a daily increase of 199.

In the United Kingdom there had been 303,114 confirmed cases with a  daily increase of 1,295. There were 42,589 dead with a daily increase of 128.

In India there had been 410,461 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 15,413. The number of dead were 13,254 with a daily increase of 306.

In Russia there had been 584,680 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 7,728. There were 8,111 dead with a daily increase of 109.

That day Brazil had reached more than one million cases with there having 1,032,913 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 54,771. The number of dead 48,954 with a daily increase of 1,206.

The United States of America having reached over two million cases on the 13th of June, now on the 21st there had been 2,208,829 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 36,617. There were 118,895 dead with a daily increase of 690.

Having reached 8 million cases on the 17th of June, on the 21st globally there had been 8,708,008 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a daily increase of 138,926.

There had been 461,715 deaths with a daily increase 4,743.

That’s right…

461,715 people had died from this fucking thing and it was only getting started.

Yet again, I asked myself what are you going to do and I hoped I would find an answer however meagre, however small but something.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY STELLAROSSA TOOWONG

 

group (002)
Pictured: Stellarossa staff member Andrea and author with the Director of Medical Services, Jim Houston and the General Manager Sean Hubbard of The Wesley Hospital on the 12th of June, 2020. Copyright The Wesley Hospital.

June 12

I’ve worked in a lot of different places and sooner or later every office worker finds the local café that makes their coffee just the way they want it. Ever since I started working at Toowong in 2018 it’s been the Stellarossa café for me.

I’ve seen a few young baristas come and go, young people moving onto the next big adventure but every single one of them has been a star at their job and as a person.

My first year the Owner/Manager gave me a Christmas card.

When the coronavirus took off in March it was them who told me Tom Hanks had it.

It was the Manager who looked off in the distance two weeks later when I asked him how was business and he replied it had slowed down.

I remember one morning standing in front of those young baristas advising I may not be in next week. We were all feeling the uncertainty of the times and I wanted to offer something more than words.

When I came back after Easter having worked from home I had already been putting notes in the tip jar.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 24th of March they had been doing take-away only and there was a new owner, Kate, who had taken on the business at the height of the pandemic.

With business down she was trying to ensure all of her staff got at least one shift each week. Some of them were not eligible for assistance even if they needed it.

As a former hospital wardsman, I had wanted to give something back to nurses.

In March there were questions about whether we would have enough PPE for our health staff, if the disease would continue to spread and at some point if our health care system would be overwhelmed.

Our nurses were putting those concerns aside to be there for us even if it meant they may end up facing what doctors and nurses had faced in Lombardy and Barcelona and New York.

When I read about the BuyThemACoffee initiative in an article written by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt on Weekend Notes, I knew I had found a way to thank our nurses. Founder Kaylie Smith had been advised by nurses what they really wanted was a coffee.

After donating to the BuyThemACoffee initiative, I later wondered if I could do something similar involving Stellarossa Toowong.

I got in touch with the BuyThemACoffee initiative to get advice from them on what I should do. Then I contacted the nearby Wesley Hospital and things quickly began to take shape.

The Wesley Hospital advised they would like to receive gift vouchers for their staff which would keep the logistics of the exercise simple.

The Wesley Hospital, is part of UnitingCare Health (UCH), a not-for-profit private hospital group operated by UnitingCare Queensland, which provides health and community services on behalf of the Uniting Church.

The Wesley is one of the largest private hospitals in Queensland with over 2,000 staff who provide highly specialised care to their patients.

I set up a GoFundMe page on the 21st of April, 2020 to hopefully raise $250 for Stellarossa Toowong.

GoFundMe Page

 

I wrote on the GoFundMe page.

Local small businesses are doing it tough due to the economic slowdown of COVID-19.

At the same time health care workers are on the frontline of dealing with this global pandemic, facing increased workloads and risk.

Inspired by the BuyThemACoffee initiative, I got in touch with the Wesley Hospital near my workplace and they advised some coffee vouchers for staff would be appreciated.

Local cafe Stellarossa, which serves the best coffee in Toowong, will be on hand to provide the coffees from the vouchers.

Anybody who works near Toowong Village will be aware of how tough local businesses are doing at the moment, trying to take care of staff and keep their workplace running in these uncertain times.

As a former hospital wardsman, I can attest to how selfless and hardworking all hospital staff are.

This is a chance to do something kind for those whose kindness and courage always shines through, but particularly in times when we’re hurting.

This is chance to support workers and their workplace through the economic downturn. 

Our aim is to raise $250 but whatever final goal we reach. you can be certain your donation will put money in the cash till of a small business and a coffee in the hand of a health care worker.

Both will be grateful for your donation which will make a difference in their lives.”

As a former wardsman,  I was planning for the cards to go to nurses and doctors, volunteers, admin staff, allied health, doctors, cleaners and kitchen staff.

Stellarossa HQ swung their weight behind it showcasing the GoFundMe page on their facebook page on the 12th of May. A few flyers were handed out and put up around the store.

Stellarossa Facebook

Friends, strangers and work colleagues at the Queensland College of Teachers (including The Social Club) and even one of these young baristas (Hannah) who I had partially set up the page to help did the rest. I am truly touched by their generous spirit.

These types of business have been likely to have a daily turnover of $300-$400 during the height of restrictions.

By the 21st of May, at a time when nobody has not been financially impacted these wonderful donors had raised $450 to help Stellarossa Toowong and to give thanks to heroes we should never take for granted and are always there for us when we need them.

I was away sick as a precaution during this period but on the 4th of June I was able to give the manager/owner of Stellarossa Toowong $450 in cash on behalf of all those generous donors.

The manager advised me the money raised would be enough for 112.5 coffees but she had chipped in the rest of the money to have enough for 200 cards.

That is the calibre of the people I’m talking about here.

In the coming days, things were arranged with the Wesley Hospital to deliver the 200 gift cards.

 

Kate who was keeping her business running and supporting her staff through tough times was too shy and busy to attend.

Instead I went over to the Wesley Hospital with one of the young baristas Andrea who is in her second year of studies as a physiotherapist.

The General Manager, Sean Hubbard and the Director of Medical Services, Jim Houston was on hand to take delivery of the vouchers from us and to thank us.

Photos were taken from their media team including of the delivery of the vouchers to staff around the hospital which were uploaded to The Wesley’s facebook page.

102719225_4109112469129135_12993997068733842_n
Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook page.
102726022_4109113169129065_2346376196660069628_n
Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.
102902853_4109110982462617_2715678710478134037_n
Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.
103395096_4109111932462522_4210030721977281101_n
Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.
103464282_4109110489129333_3997717405587783455_n
Courtesy of The Wesley Hospital Facebook Page.

Wesley Facebook

Friends, work colleagues and strangers had done a wonderful thing and I feel so fortunate to have just been a part of it.

 

June 13

That Saturday I picked up Karen from a shift.

She had gotten some unexpected work for the university in place of exam invigilation which had been wonderful news.

We were late for our nephew’s eighth birthday.

It was the first whole family gathering we had with all of my in-laws together since the crisis started.

Everybody maintained social distancing but it was good to be with everybody.

The reclaiming of what had been put on hold continued.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART III

Tim Peake shares stunning pictures of the UK from space on his ...

 

Originally I was going to work from home Monday and Tuesday but ended up working in the office the entire week from Monday the 8th of June to Friday the 12th of June which I really enjoyed.

We’re still rotating staff between working from home and working in the office and working to maintain a high level of customer service.

Restrictions have lowered, case numbers are down but our day to day existence is still not back to the way it was and it is not expected to be for a long time.

 

June 11

I went to Jetts Fitness at the airport where I work out just after 9pm only to discover the gym was closed from 8pm to 5am currently. I called my gym the next day and established I wouldn’t be charged any fees but it would be a while yet for me and shift workers until we could return to the gym. …and I was feeling so inspired after watching The Last Dance.

 

June 12

Restrictions are being lowered faster than you would have expected back in March.

Pressure mounts for states to re-open their borders and the recent mass protests seem to be a tipping point.

If mass outbreaks of the disease don’t follow these mass gatherings there is no question all state governments will look to open the borders and lower restrictions even more.

That means a window of about two to three weeks.

Say July 10.

On Friday the Prime Minister held a meeting with National Cabinet and a press conference afterwards.

The Deputy Premier of Queensland Steven Miles says Queensland will look to lower border restrictions on July 10.

South Australian Premier sets 20JUL2020 for borders being re-opened having closed the borders almost four months earlier on 24MAR2020.

Western Australia does not make any firm commitments.

There is advice that in stadiums with a capacity of over 40,000 crowds at 25% capacity

A limit of 100 in attendance at indoor gatherings will be scrapped in favour of 4 metre distancing. Having walked around supermarkets lately I’m not sure how you’re going to enforce 4 metre distancing but good luck.

On Friday afternoon in a press conference Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked a question about the current removal programs from streaming services in recent days like Gone With The Wind in America on HBO Max.

Also closer to home shows like Little Britain and Summer Heights High where white actors had performed black characters in comedy shows in black face which has severe historical connotations.

His answer which also alluded to a recent debate about statues showed where his priorities were.

“I’m worried about jobs. I’m worried about 800,000 Australians going on to JobSeeker in the last three months. I’m not interested in what they’re showing on streaming services,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

On the 12th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,410,510 (more than 7 million were confirmed on the 9th of July) confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with a daily increase of 136,572. The number of dead were 418,294 with a daily increase of 4,925.

In Australia there had been 7,825 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18. There had been 102 deaths in Australia.

In Canada there had been 97,125 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 472. The were 7,960 dead with a daily increase of 63.

In India there had been 297,535 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10,956. There were 8,498 with a daily increase of 396.

In the United Kingdom there had been 291,413 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,266. There were 41,279 dead with a daily increase of 151. The only silver lining to be found was that currently there appeared to be a downward trend in the number of daily increase of cases.

 

UK Figures

 

In the United States of America there had been 1,988,646 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20,315. There were 112,810 dead with a daily increase of 832.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – ISOLATE FOR 14 DAYS, THERE’S A GOOD CHAP

Coronavirus: Grounded planes and deserted airport terminals - BBC News

 

June 7

I had a bit soreness in my muscles on Sunday, the 7th of June so out of an abundance of caution I went back to the Fever Clinic at the Prince Charles where there was quite a bit more of a line-up this time.

The nurse wasn’t as gentle this time around with the nose swab, I suppose that was fair, I was no longer a virgin.

I remember staggering out afterwards trying to find the door.

The result came back thankfully negative.

June 8

In the United Kingdom the British government unveiled a quarantine plan for all returning travellers including British citizens to give their details and self isolate for the next 14 days.

Similar arrangements were put in place on the 18th of March in Australia as covered in a previous diary entry. On the 25th of March the Australian government placed returning travellers in quarantine in hotels across the nation for 14 day periods. If you got off a place in Australia being trusted to self isolate was no longer an option as covered in a previous post.

On the 18th of March there were 510 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 96. There had been six deaths with a daily increase of one.

On the 25th of March in Australia there had been 2,423 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 287. The number of deaths eight.

On the 8th of June in the United Kingdom when these measures were put in place there had been 286,198 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,326.

The number of deaths 40,542 with a daily increase of 77.

510 cases versus 286,198 cases.

The press was already reporting that Whitehall was looking at opening up travel to Europe again by mid-July.

6 as opposed to 40,542.

My God.

The Foreign Office was advising against all but essential international travel.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ALL LIVES MATTER

 

 

20200606_150919
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

June 06

Saturday.

In 1944 this was the day allied forces landed in Normandy and began the liberation of Europe.

In 2020 this was the day in Australian capital cities across the country protests were held for Black Lives Matter. They were held for American George Floyd, for 432 Aboriginal deaths in custody and for what some call systemic racism.

The crowds were full of hippies and hipsters.

Young people who had the look of Humanities students more than Law and Commerce ones.

A few even clearly budding media students trying to capture this historic event.

Aboriginal people who have been marching all their lives for their rights suddenly joined by crowds they had never experienced.

People of all races and backgrounds, not necessarily all of the exact same opinion but all united in opposition to inequality.

There were 30,000 in Brisbane at a time when public gatherings in Queensland could be no more than 20.

No fines were handed out as police closed down the streets for the march.

There were no riots although across the country there were examples of minor vandalism and exchanges of pepper spray and arrests.

It appeared almost everybody was wearing a mask and hand sanitisers were on hand as well but given the large numbers – social distancing simply  could not have been maintained at all times no matter how much people tried to respect each other’s space.

Following the weekend Queensland MP Nick Dametto of the Katter Australia Party called on the government to revoke all social distancing fines.

By not getting out there and fining some people gives a very dark message: you’re allowed to break the rules if you have enough people breaking the rules at the same time.” he said.

 

 

He had a point of course, but then again the fines he was talking about had mostly been handed out during a higher proportion of active cases in Queensland to people who wanted to muck around in the park not protest the unjust murder of black people.

I suspect Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk will be holding on tight in the coming two weeks to see if there is a spike in cases before making a final decision on lowering border restrictions amongst others.

I for one think the authorities made the right call in not choosing to escalate the situation, I’m relieved the protests were not hijacked by troublemakers.

I regret that the protesters felt this was the only way their voices could be heard and went against the health advice of the time.

I really regret that.

The protests were held to address racism, their most immediate impact maybe the hurried lowering of restrictions and the undermining of a possible return to them should the need arise.

The protests will remain a divisive topic, one can only hope race one day will not.

On the 6th of June there were four known active COVID-19 cases in Queensland.

The World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,251 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 11. There had been 102 deaths.

Very different numbers to other countries that had seen protests too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – ISSUES IN THIS SPACE

Scott Morrison told by Queanbeyan local to get off lawn

June 04

In a week when the US leader was clearly protestors from their public city with the full might of police force so he could stand around doing an unplanned photo op where he couldn’t even find some words to say of merit.

My national leader was taking it in all his stride when yelled at by a disgruntled home owner.

Talking up a reno scheme he was assembled in front of a property with press journalists lined up on someone’s lawn to film him.

That wasn’t bloody good enough for the guy inside his house, waltzing out in thongs and tracksuit jumper he asked the journos to move. The Prime Minister didn’t waste a second to apologise and encourage getting off the man’s lawn.

Both the lawn enthusiast and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison exchanged apologies gave each other the thumbs up.

After all the man had just re-seeded!

The disparity between the two images was incredible.

A lone man telling his Prime Minister to move his press conference with a quick apology and thumbs up.

Contrast that with hundreds protesting the injustice of racial inequality of their country only to be forcibly moved so their President could try and save face for his failings.

I’ve often commented on the bulldoggish nature of Morrison as a virtue and a flaw. There was none of that on display here. He couldn’t have risen higher in my estimations.

 

 

On the horizon though was another issue for the Prime Minister which would prove more testing. Black Lives Matter protests were starting to take place here in Australia with a march already on Tuesday in Sydney having taken place when public gatherings were limited to 20 people.

On Wednesday there was a candlelight vigil in Brisbane.

Speaking to Ray Hadley on 2GB radio Thursday morning the PM warned against “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia.” while acknowledging that Australia had problems “in this space” that it needed to address.

He was not wrong, there had been over 432 deaths of Aboriginals in police custody since a Royal Commission was held in 1991.

As the week went on it became clear our political masters were choosing to let mass protests go ahead rather than risk further unrest. This would lay bare either the danger had passed or that the protestors had initiated a new break out. Either way it would undermine their ability to enforce rules going forward as most of them were in a rush to lower restrictions anyway.

We stood at a precipice.

Once again the Prime Minister called on our better natures “We don’t need the divisions that we’re seeing in other countries – we need to stick together and look after each other.”

 

 

I was back at work in the office on Thursday too having been away for two and half weeks. I took the chance to pay the money that had been raised on the GoFundMePage to Stellarossa Toowong.

The manager told me the money raised would pay for roughly 112 coffee vouchers but they had gotten 200 and would chip in the rest themselves.

You have to marvel at the kindness of people sometimes.

I started making arrangements with the Media Team at the Wesley hospital to make delivery.

On the 4th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,229 confirmed cases in Australian with a daily increase of eight. The number of dead 102 with a daily decrease of one. That would be Blackwater Miner Nathan Turner.

 

 

In the rest of Europe there were plenty of protests too and in London they were turning ugly with reporters assaulted by protestors or just plain crazy people.

As I watched Nine News Europe Correspondent Ben Avery and camera operator Cade Thompson needing to make a run for it as the crowd attacked them even with a security guard.

Europe Correspondent Sophie Walsh was accosted by a random man who was chased away by her cameraman Jason Conduit.

I urged my sister to stay inside in the coming days.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE CLEARING OF LAFAYETTE PARK

A Walk Meant to Convey Grit Evokes Trump's Dark Side Instead - The ...

June 1

Over the weekend protests and riots had spread across America at one point Trump was taken to an underground bunker at the White House.

As chaos reigned on the streets the American President sought to reclaim them by force if necessary.

America has a long standing history of riots followed by the National Guard being called out. The National Guard is also called out in times of great crisis to search for missing persons, clear towns devastated by natural disasters and provide security when the Emergency Services are no longer enough to quell unrest.

For Trump the call out of 5,000 National Guard troops across 15 states on the 31st of May was not nearly enough. He started talking about the use of full time military.

On Monday before the curfew set in Washington it was announced that Trump was going to hold a press conference.

Police on site started pushing back protestors to increase the perimeter around the White House. Channel 9 Australian reporter Amelia Adams was on site braving rubber bullets, chemical irritants and fired up protesters.

Ms Adams was there and reported at different times that the more peaceful elements of the protest had gone home in lieu of the curfew and then at other times that bad elements were there and at other times the better elements were still present. The footage showed emotions were high but also that the protestors for the most part were urging calm.

The footage nonetheless shows on the ground shepherding of the crowd away from the White House in a show of force. It was later clarified that tear gas was not used but more pepper spray. For protestors suffering the effects the distinction held no relevance. The canisters were also shown to be thrown back by some protestors and it appears to me that firecrackers may have been dispersed by them as well along the ground.

 

Channel 7 U.S. correspondent Amelia Brace was there too with her cameraman Tim Myers who were assaulted by police clearing the area and struck by rubber bullets.

“A police officer’s face came around that corner and just really went for us and I was screaming ‘Media! Media! Media!’ because, obviously, the media is not meant to be getting caught up in this — we’re not meant to be getting targeted,” the Sunshine Coast local told the ABC.

“And despite that as I ran away, clearly stating that we were media, with my cameraman with a camera on his shoulders, I was hit across the back with the baton.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker cited 100 incidents involving journalists including 20 arrests and 60 assaults over recent days covering the protests across the country.

 

 

Once the crowd was cleared Trump strutted out with his Secret Service and held The Bible up in front of St John’s Church.

The rioting and protesting is distressing for many, myself included. It is natural to want to protest for social justice, to get off your ass and to actually stand for something.

When the protests turn into riots it is also natural for people to want to see law and order restored.

As reporters are assaulted, police and protestors are killed, businesses are torched there are no clear answers. Trump’s call to put down rioters and make the streets safe to walk again appeal to some. A show of force is part of that.

Yet for many – leaders don’t divide, they pull us together, they acknowledge wounds that need to be healed and they don’t make it about them.

 

Lieutenant Gen. James N. Mattis, Commanding General, U.S. Marine ...

 

June 3

On the second of June, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sporting a COVID beard was asked to comment about the scenes in Washington he took a 21 second pause before answering “We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States. It is a time to pull people together, but it is a time to listen.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said in a speech at Philadelphia’s City Hall on the 3rd of June about Trump holding up The Good Book  “if he opened it instead of brandishing it, he could have learned something.

“The President of the United States should be part of the solution – not part of the problem.”

Gathering far more press coverage and proving far more damning were comments made by General Mattis in a statement that was published in the Atlantic magazine.

General Mattis had served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1969 to 2013. His last command was U.S. Central Command. He joined the U.S. Marine Reserves during the Vietnam War and earned his commission through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps while completing a Bachelor of Arts at Central Washington University. He went to war for the first time as a full bird Colonel in the Persian Gulf. He was a General during operational service in Afghanistan and Iraq which included the Battle of Fallujah. Persistently apolitical, he was known for being well read and a blunt talker.

Trump hired him as Secretary of Defense upon winning the election in 2016 and unlike most of those hires General Mattis was still around two years later. As disagreements between the two grew General Mattis eventually resigned and in response Trump sped up the end of his tenure. Mattis never discussed their disagreements and never publicly criticised President Trump.

Until the 3rd of June 2020.

In the Atlantic he wrote, “Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander in chief, with military leadership standing alongside.

Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us.

David Lauter on the 5th of June wrote in the L.A. Times that Trump’s act “appears to have been a fateful miscalculation.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 3rd of June that in the United States of America there had been 1,798,330 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 14,692.

The number of dead Americans due to COVID-19, 105,008 with a daily increase of 761.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – STEP 2 IN RE-OPENING

Dr. Anthony Fauci says Americans who don't wear masks may ...

1 June

In America on Monday the 1st of June when Dr Fauci was asked by a reporter if he was still meeting regularly with Trump.

No … As you probably noticed, the taskforce meetings have not occurred as often lately. And certainly my meetings with the president have been dramatically decreased.” he answered.

He admitted the last time he was with Trump was during a teleconference with Governors on May 18.

Previously there had been calls for Trump to fire Dr Fauci and he even retweeted such a call seemingly as a threat. He also previously talked the need for the Taskforce to continue as thousands of Americans were dying due to the virus.

As Trump pushed to re-open the country Dr Fauci advised on 13MAY2020 in testimony before the U.S. Senate, “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you might not be able to control. Not only leading to some suffering and death, but it could even set you back on the road to get economic recovery.

My concern it that we will start to see little spikes that will turn into outbreaks,” said the 79 year old who has led the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

News that Trump may not be listening to Dr Fauci certainly did not sound like good news for many people but then again Trump has been keen to dial back press conferences when such helpful musings from the 23rd of April were taken out of context by the fake news outlets.

 

In Australia as my symptoms subsided I worked from home Monday through to Wednesday and was due to return to the office on Thursday and Friday which I was very excited about.

More exciting was the Queensland’s government decision to move to Step 2 of the National Three Step Program ahead of schedule from June 12 to 12pm June 1.

You could now have a gathering of 20 people or more in your home or a public space.

The number of guests at a wedding could be 20 and the number of people attending a funeral could now be 50.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants could also seat up to 20 patrons.

Sports clubs, gyms and yoga studios could also open up to 20 people.

As could museums, cinemas, art galleries, amusement parks, theatres, zoos, tanning salons and tattoo parlous.

You could go on holidays anywhere in the state except for restricted area due to biosecurity or remote indigenous communities at risk. With accommodation able to be booked for all travel.

This was a huge life line for struggling businesses and their workers. It was a hopeful return to more of life as we had once enjoyed it.

It now remained to be seen if this would lead to further outbreaks and whether we could maintain social distancing discipline.

On the horizon were events that would suggest otherwise.

On the 1st of June the Queensland Government reported 5 active cases of COVID-19 in the state.

In Australia the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,195 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10. 103 Australians had died.

Globally the number of cases broke past 6 million. There had been 6,080,963 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 124,080. The number of dead were 370,160 with a daily increase 3,751.

Canada: military reveals “horrific” conditions in aged care homes ...

In Canada there had been 90,516 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 775. The here been 7,092 deaths with a daily increase of 96.

In India there had been 190,535 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,392. The number of dead were 5,394 with a daily increase of 230.

In Italy there had been 233,019 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 355. The number of dead were 33,415 with a daily increase of 75.

In Spain there had been 239,429 with a daily increase of 201. The number of dead were 27,127 with a daily increase of 2.

In the United Kingdom there had been 274,766 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,936. There were 38,489 dead with a daily increase of 113.

One of the deaths was a man named Brian Cushion. I never met Brian but he was a lifelong friend of a man named Pete Johnson. Again someone I never met but I’ve been blogging with BeetleyPete as I know him as part of my blogging community for 4 years.

A former ambo Pete has always struck me as a good man and one who has weathered the ups and downs of life with a stoic attitude. Thrpugh his eyes i saw that Brian was a good man, a loving father, a blues performer, a keen golfer and a loyal friend.

Brian’s passing made COVID-19 personal for Pete and in a way that made it just a little bit more personal for me.

As the number of cases continue to lower in Australia I often think of Pete and John and Paul and Alex and Vinnie and my sister in London. About her in-laws in Canada good people that I have met and consider family,  along with Jay and Sean in Toronto. Cindy in Arizona, Don in Minnesota and GP in Florida, John and Le0pard in L.A., Jet in San Diego and even Paol in Victoria or Eric in …say Eric where you from?

And I just want to say you’ve given me a great deal of joy and confidence over the years and this might sound selfish but I’m going to have to insist that you continue to do that in the years to come okay.

In Russia there had 414,878 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 9,035. The number of dead were 4,855 with a daily increase of 162.

In Brazil there had been 498,440 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 33,274. The number of dead were 28,834 with a daily increase of 956.

In the United States of America there had been 1,757,522 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 23,482. The number of dead 103,554 with a daily increase of 914.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – AROUND THE GROUNDS

Hospital del Mar is taking recovering COVID-19 patients from the ICU to the seaside as part of their recovering process aiming to humanize its Intensive Care Units in Spain.

May 31

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised two millions deemed clinically extremely valuable that they could now leave their homes once a day for a little exercise and could even meet with a person from another household if there was only one of them. The advice was not to go to shops or crowded places and that services providing delivery of food or medicine would continue.

“I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last 10 weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement.

With the announcement of the easing of restrictions members of Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group (SAGE) urged that the track and trace system had only launched last Thursday and was not fully operational.

SAGE’s John Edmunds told Sky News, “Track and trace was only launched the day before yesterday, so we can’t be sure that that is working effectively yet and yet we’re going ahead and making these changes anyway. I think that that is rather dangerous.

Plans for the English Premier League to start up again on 17JUN2020 to empty stadiums receive government approval. This follows on from teams resuming training for the past two weeks.

On the 31st of May, the World Health Organisation reported 272,830 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom with a daily increase of 1,604. The number of dead were 38,376 with a daily increase of 215.

Mass protests have broken out across Spain over the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the worst hit countries from the pandemic, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was able to strike a deal to extend the state of Emergency Lockdown for a final two week period expiring June 21.

The lockdown in place since March 14 allowed people to only leave their home to buy food or seek medical attention or jobs where you could not work from home.

The last extension had met with demonstrations in the streets and parliamentary opposition. Thankfully Pedro Sanchez had prevailed probably ensuring many lives saved.

On the 31st of May the WHO reported in Spain there were 239,228 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 664. The number of number 27,125 with a daily increase of four.

In Italy there were 232,644 with a daily increase of 416. The number of dead 33,340 with a daily increase of 111.

Rwanda reports its first fatality due to COVID-19, a 65 year old driver who had returned home from a neighbouring country when he fell ill.

He passed away from severe respiratory complications while being treated at a specialised COVID-19 centre.

In Rwanda the WHO reported there were 359 confirmed cases with a daily increase of four. There had been that one death.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19: Rwanda Confirms 2 New Cases As Region Goes On Alert – KT ...

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN THE MAN COMES AROUND

May 29

It was Friday.

That was the day.

The World Health Organisation reported in America there were 1,694,864 with a daily increase of 19,606.

There 100,304 DEATHS with a daily increase of 1,415.

Former Vice President Joe Biden who has experienced real loss in his life posted a message of consolation on Twitter.

 

In Minneapolis protests were escalating. on the 28th of May Australian journalist Tim Arvier for Channel Nine News was reporting from the scene. The footage was surreal and riveting, a black man had been stabbed by a white man in a crowd of protestors.

The police had taken all morning to come down in force, the white man was arrested and the black man was picked up and retreated down the street.

A fellow blogger who lives there later advised me that there were white supremacists in the area to incite violence. This situation could possibly have been an example of this, then again maybe not.

During the incident bricks and water bottles were thrown at police and police fired tear gas at the crowd. Tim Arvier’s courage under pressure along with his cameraman was something to behold.

 

 

I watched with sadness and despair, knowing that night the city would burn.

And burn it did.

 

 

I hadn’t watched the footage of George Floyd yet, I just felt very sad. The country had sufferred so much from COVID-19 and now it was going to tear itself apart and I just felt so disappointed.

There’s a part of me that believes protesting just isn’t possible during a pandemic certainly given the number of cases currently but for many Americans enough was enough.

It almost felt like the murder of George Floyd may have been the trigger but there was something sadly inevitable about all of this.

That if there were so many people out of work, struggling to get food, without welfare, unable to get health care that sooner or later they would take to the streets to have their voices heard.

Or maybe people were fed up with being on the wrong side of a racial divide. As an outsider it is not for me to say but as person who loves America and Americans.

I shook my head. I was so sad.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART II

Queensland border restrictions in Darling Downs - Darling Downs

There was another great Four Corners episode this week from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that covered what had happened on the last cruises of the Diamond Princess in February in the North Pacific and the Ruby Princess in March in the Trans-Tasman Sea.

What was pretty concerning wasn’t just the disembarkation of passengers in Sydney on the 19th of March.

What was more concerning that the cruise had ever been allowed to leave Sydney given how COVID-19 had spread through her sister ship in Asia in February. Or the lack of precautions that were made during the cruise when an outbreak was clearly occurring.

For many of us the initial news reports coming out of that part of the world were perceived as something happening over there like previous diseases SARS and MERS.

As the situation escalated at some point the actions of Carnival Corporation become troubling. And people died.

It’s quite a heartbreaking tale.

 

May 27

In Blackwater a town of less than 5,000 in Central Queensland the late miner aged 30 returned a positive postmortem test for COVID-19. In the days ahead with the set-up of fever clinics and contract tracing in the town a second test came back negative.

Nathan Turner had underlying medical conditions that had meant he had been unable to work in recent months due to illness. At age 30 he came the youngest fatality in Australia of COVID-19. The second test was good news for the town in terms of COVID fears but his death remained a tragic loss of one so young.

 

 

There were 484 active cases in Australia on the 25th of May.

On the 17th of March there had been 410 cases which was on the eve of the Ruby Princess docking and ceasing international air travel.

Allowing that changes were in place that weren’t then and awareness from the general populace was different there was a growing push to re-open the economy.

However Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of NSW advised the same day “Given that there is that, we should be waiting for 14 days … to get to zero and then add those two incubation periods before we start hopping on aeroplanes or coaches or cars to states and territories that have been exemplary in getting their numbers to zero“.

Two days later Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Channel Nine Today show, “The National Cabinet has never agreed that there should be borders closed in Australia,” Mr Morrison said. That was never the medical expert advice that came at any time. Premiers and their governments in states, whether it is South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, have all made their own decisions and so they have got to justify those decisions.

The Federal and State governments have worked hard through their differences at all times during the crisis at unprecedented levels. NSW and Victoria pushed hard to shut down schools and now there were disagreements about the borders.

In the early days of the crisis as the state borders shut it was considered that it may be until September before they were opened again. Now the momentum was shifting.

There is no doubt that those sort of borders do harm the economy, they do harm jobs and it is important that we get those removed as soon as possible. I want to stress, the national medical advice that came from the expert panel that has driven all the other decisions never recommended closing borders.” said the PM.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk noted “These are really hard decisions everyone, I have sleepless nights, I understand people are hurting, I understand people have lost their jobs. I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible. But if I don’t do it safely it could cripple our industry for years to come.

Other states were holding firm too. The Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein advised “I won’t comment on the way the Queensland premier deals with her borders nor how the NSW premier deals with hers. It’s quite obvious the federal government has a view but my job is to protect the best interests of Tasmanians.

The Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said “The interstate border will stay. It’s a small inconvenience … it won’t be forever. Our hard borders with the east and our isolation have worked to our advantage and we must keep it that way for now.

This was on the 28th of May, history was about to push the trajectory of these plans in another direction.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE ECONOMIC ROAD AHEAD

View from The Hill: Can Scott Morrison achieve industrial ...

May 26

Tuesday.

The Prime Minister did an address at the National Press Club in Canberra talking about the tough road ahead economically with a plan to stick with the National Cabinet meetings over the previous COAG meetings.

Reform to vocational education was on his mind and bringing unions to the table for industrial reform.

The Prime Minister outlined the road to recovery would be a long one taking between three to five years. The unprecedented actions of Jobkeeper and Jobseeker set in place for a financial quarter would not continue indefinitely with the PM warning “At some point you’ve got to get your economy out of ICU.”

The ABC article also editorialised “The blunt comments are expected to further dash hopes that the Government will bow to pressure and extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to more workers who missed out on the $1,500 fortnightly payments.

He also announced a new JobMaker scheme.

There was no push to have Australia turn more inward, while the Prime Minister defined us as a sovereign trading economy he sought to create an educated workforce that would mean competitive and modern manufacturing, agricultural industries while still trade of natural resources would play a big role.

Firstly, we will remain in Australia an outward-looking, open and sovereign trading economy.

We will not retreat into the downward spiral of protectionism. To the contrary, we will continue to be part of global supply chains that can deliver the prosperity we rely on to create jobs, support incomes and build businesses.

Our economic sovereignty will be achieved by ensuring our industries are highly competitive, resilient and able to succeed in a global market. Not by protectionism.

While a trading nation, we will never trade away our values or our future for short-term gain.

These remarks were not without context, Australia did call for an independent enquiry into the source of COVID-19 in Wuhan and in the weeks since China has placed tariffs and seen a reduction in importing Australian barley and wheat.

As China has grown into the a economic powerhouse it has started flexing abroad in trade and in military excursions. No different than other superpowers before it but surely any calls that could help in combating this global pandemic should not lead to bullying tactics.

As the ABC reported the country faced a record deficit, debt exceeding 30% of Gross Domestic Product, unemployment hovering around 10 per cent and a fall in foreign investment by up to 40 per cent.

 

The national leader relayed all the work that had been done to build up medical stockpiles, hospital capacity and testing numbers and contract tracing abilities.

The virus was not going anywhere and on our comparative good fortune the PM stressed, “We should not downplay this, this achievement and pretend like the risk never existed, or that our preparations or our precautions were unwarranted. Let me assure you, Australia, the risk was great and uncertain and it still is.

The fact our worst case scenarios have not been realised is cause for great relief, not apathy.

In his speech the Prime Minister outlined more than 5 million Australians were directly benefiting from his government’s welfare measures.

At a now anticipated direct cost of more than $150 billion in just six months, all borrowed, all of it, against future tax revenue. These supports can only be temporary.

It was William Green, the leader of the American Federation of Labour who said during the Great Depression in 1934: “we cannot indefinitely support one sixth of our population on money borrowed against future taxes”.

That was a Labour leader in the Great Depression.

Now here was a mainstream conservative leader steering through a once in a century health crisis, a budding trade war and a looming recession who had outspent all previous Prime Ministers.

The expense the welfare packages running long term came with a hefty price tag. Long term it was just not feasible even for the biggest bleeding hearts amongst us.

Which drove home the gravity of the situation, if Jobkeeper and Jobseeker continued for only the next quarter and the economy didn’t re-open to a certain extent by then…

Then what?

On the 2nd of June, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told us what we already knew, Australia was in a recession.

On the 26th of May however the Prime Minister was focussed on the positives. Citing that with a hopeful completion of the 3 Step Plan by mid-July for re-opening the economy across the country there would hopefully be 850,000 jobs ultimately restored.

He did acknowledge the idea of flicking a switch and turning the economy back on was simply not plausible.

Success in this current phase will certainly not be easy. It cannot be assumed as we go through this process. It will not be business as usual. Opening up will be harder than closing down.

We will all have to have to retrain, to live and work in a way that creates a sustainable COVIDSafe economy and society as you are indeed doing here today.

All of us are in uncharted territory. There will be inconsistencies, there will be frustrations. There will be trial, there will be error.

During this time we can also sadly expect unemployment and underemployment to rise before it falls. Debt and deficits to rise sharply, as costs rise and revenues fall.

This will test our confidence and our resolve.

That is why the reopening of our economy must be followed by a concerted effort to create momentum and to rebuild confidence.

If there was hope to be found in the speech it was when he said “We should be encouraged that we have restored jobs and rebalanced our Budget before. So Australia, we have done this before and we can do it again, together.

 

One could get cynical about these things, there is after all a political purpose behind them. A number of highly paid staff curating and writing the brief and deciding what goes in and what doesn’t make it.
I would remind you that in these words the Prime Minister is talking about real people and in these few individuals he is seeking to talk about all of us and not just Australians but all people.
About people who have lost a lot and the grace and courage they display in these moments that came from within them and lies within each and every one of us.
We will need this courage and grace and so we need these words to be said by our leaders now more than ever and we need to believe in them.

Almost 100,000 Australians have written to me in the past couple of months.

So many have suffered and they continue to hurt, right here and right now – lost jobs, reduced hours, seeing their family businesses shut, having to close those doors, or retirement incomes shrink. Loved ones kept apart.

It has been a time of great uncertainty as Australians have had to come to terms with the sudden and profound changes happening to their lives.

Greg is a chef with six kids in Sydney, he wrote to me about his business suffering from the restrictions, saying that everything he has worked for is at risk.

Sue from Jimbooma, told me that other than a first home owners grant, she had never received a cent from the government. JobKeeper has saved her business, she said, and she just wanted to say thank you.

Anthony, not the one you’re thinking of, but quite genuinely Anthony from Western Australia, he sent me his wedding photo. His wife of 50 years had just passed away. He said his wife “was the most caring person you could ever meet” and he was absolutely heartbroken that he couldn’t give her the send-off she deserved. Of all the things, of all the decisions we have taken, that was undoubtedly the hardest.

And I received an email from three children in Western Australia that completely floored me, their father is terminally ill. They told me they understood their Dad’s funeral would have to be small. They wanted me to know they were ok with that – because it will help keep the hospitals available for other patients with cancers and diseases.

That’s incredible, our people are amazing.

And there was Rebhecca, a young woman, who is also terminally ill and sent me a handwritten letter, just wanting to let me know she was praying for me every day.

And I am praying for you every day too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – I GOT A FEVER AND THE ONLY PRESCRIPTION IS A FEVER CLINIC!

20200525_133306
At the entrance to the Fever Clinic at the Education Centre of the Prince Charles Hospital. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

25 May

From the 25th to the 29th of May I worked from home as a precaution.

I also went into a Fever Clinic at the Prince Charles Hospital to get tested for COVID-19 before returning to work.

Because I was confident I just had the cold attending the clinic took on the form of a matter of curiosity.

The reality for many is it is a very anxious time where isolating before the test results means less paid work at best and at worst real concern that they have the virus and they have passed it on to others. I felt very fortunate that I was getting tested out of an abundance of caution for flu like symptoms.

But of course many people have felt this way and received some bad news.

It took 90 minutes all up. I was taken into one room and filled out a form and had my temperature taken.

I noticed a wardie came in and wiped everything down once somebody had left a seat to wait in. There were masks on each seat to put on.

I was then taken to another room to wait.

 

 

 

Then a swab went down my throat on the left and right hand side then down a nostril.

I coughed at the last bit and apologised. The nurse assured me that’s why she had on the full face mask and gown.

Out of curiosity beforehand I asked her the length of the swab and I think she took it easy it with me thinking I was worried about the swab. I was really just interested for you gentle reader.

All throughout Queensland school students of all ages returned to school.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 25th of May there were 7,109 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of three. There were 102 deaths.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – I CAN’T BREATHE

George Floyd honoured at first memorial service in Minneapolis ...

 

25 May

On the 25th of May a 46 year old in Minneapolis paid for goods at a local convenience store with a counterfeit 20 dollar bill.

Parked in a car, the local store staff came and confronted him about it.

They then left and called the police.

A squad car arrived and the two police pulled the man from his car and handcuffed him.

The man was tall and big, strong and heavy but he was compliant for the most part if anxious and unsteady on his feet.

When taken to be placed in the squad car the man fell to the ground and cited claustrophobia.

Another squad car arrived.

Two further police officers came to aid in the arrest.

One of them knelt on the handcuffed man’s neck as a group of people observed and started to protest what was happening.

The man called out for his mother and said he could not breathe. He passed out.

The people nearby urged the police officer on his neck to take his knee off the man’s neck.

When they moved towards him he pulled out his mace to scare them back.

This was the only real action and vocal engagement the officer with his knee on the man’s neck did with the group.

He sat with his knee on the neck for the most part with his hands in his pockets.

Aware he was being filmed he appeared calm, like he had done this before, like this was no big deal.

Paramedics arrived and as the EMT went to work checking the man’s pulse his knee remained on the neck for another two minutes.

When the man was finally loaded on a stretcher he lifted his knee.

That knee had been on that neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. 

The man George Floyd died.

He was a father. He was a husband. He was a truck driver and bouncer by trade.

He was also a convicted criminal who had in 2007 invaded a home and held a gun to a pregnant’ woman’s belly to steal.

He served five years in prison and became reformed upon release.

This murder in Minneapolis involving a small group of people kicked off by a counterfeit $20 dollar bill would have far ranging impacts in the days ahead around the world.

Particularly in the United States of America at a time when the nation was suffering greatly already.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – I THINK I’LL GET A SPOT OF GOLF IN BEFORE WE REACH 100,000 DEAD

May 24

In the United States of America Trump went and played golf on Saturday the 23rd, on the weekend that America neared 100,000 deaths.

Trump was quick to point out he hadn’t played golf since thousands of Americans had started dying.

Of course it rang a little hollow because he had criticized former President Barack Obama for playing golf in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak of that year in the States.

It also rang hollow because the number of dead of Americans was such a catastrophic number.

It also rang hollow because Trump had played a lot more golf than President Obama had this far into his first term.

It probably also rang hollow because Trump is a liar, a hypocrite, a narcist, adulterer, swindler, spoilt brat, self-involved fat fuck who has presided over the greatest loss of American lives during a crisis since the second world war.

Did he apologise, own up to his hypocrisy, talk about how he weeped for those Americans lost? Not on your fucking life or more specifically their lives.

No apparently it was all about turning the corner, the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kick-off the American summer and re-starting the economy.

Why did the liberal media have to be so negative over such a significant milestone?

Couldn’t they see what a great job he had done and all those democrats calling him racist for the travel ban from Wuhan in February? Thank God he hadn’t listened.

Thank God, we could have had 300,000 dead at this point if not for such a fearless and whipsmart leader.

You know lots of people were telling him to just ride it out, I mean not any of his health experts or chief advisors but still he was thinking it – worried about the potential economic impact and how it would affect him.

Hell we’re only talking 94,011 / 334,534 of all the deaths reported in the entire world had occurred in America.

On the 24th of May the New York Times ran a front page full of death notices from across the country of close to 1,000 people.

Most could not remember a front page from The Times that did not feature a photo.

Assistant graphics editor Simon Landon stated the intent was to personalise “the tradegy as readers and staff developed data fatigue from the constant reporting of the pandemic.

Still Trump was arguing it could’ve been a lot worse….

I mean he could have ignored Dr Fauci from day one.

Wasn’t it time to get back on with getting the economy back to normal?

After all cases and deaths were down in the coastal elite states, so what if the numbers were trending upwards in the majority of states?

You could say that Trump was showing Americans how to get back to living their lives.

That it was for morale purposes.

You could say he’s worked hard during a crisis and at some point everybody deserves a break.

While I’m sitting here bemoaning stats, how much have I sat on a couch and watched Netflix? What have I done besides buying a jumper off a celebrity for the American people? You could say what have I done that allows me to be a critic of a world leader?

You could say that and you’d be making a good point.

There’s 100,000 Americans who can’t and that’s my point.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS

As corona casualties mount, Putin keeps a low profile – POLITICO

 

21 May

Thursday.

Australia reached 100 deaths due to COVID-19.

During this week the numbers only got worse for America and the United Kingdom.  which moved ahead of Spain and Italy. Russia and Peru also became hotspots and the number in India continued to skyrocket.

On the 21st of May the World Health Organisation reported globally 4,904,313 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 103,210. The number of dead 323,413 with a daily increase of 4,478.

In Australia there were 7,079 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11. There were 100 dead with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there were 79,502 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,003. The number of dead 5,955 with a daily increase of 98.

Peru to build hospital in the Amazon amid rise in Indigenous ...

In Peru there were 99,483 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,550. The number of dead were 2,914 with a daily increase of 125. Peru was now of the hardest hit countries in the world listed individually on the WHO’s website overview of numbers.

In Peru many have been dying from a lack of oxygen equipment in regional hospitals. Loreto which borders Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador and is the largest and least populated region in the country has been the worst hit by the virus.

In India there were 112,359 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,609. The number of dead 3435 with a daily increase of 132. Their national lockdown which began on the 24th of March, had been extended on the 4th of May and was extended on the 17th of May for a further two weeks until the 31st of May.

In Iran there were 129,341 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,392. The number of dead were 7,249 with a daily increase of 66. Iran had been one of the earliest countries to be hit outside of Asia with significant numbers.

In France there were 141,312 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 353. The number of dead were 28,081 with a daily increase of 109.

In Turkey there were 152,587 with a daily increase of 972. The number of dead were 4,222 with a daily increase of 23.

In Germany there were 176,752 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 745. The number of dead were 8,147 with a daily increase of 57.

In Italy there were 227,364 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 665. The number of dead 32,330 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 161.

In Spain there were 232,555 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 518. The number of dead were 27,888 with a daily increase of 110.

What had happened in Italy and Spain was horrible but there was a slither of hope to be found in the daily increases going down.

In the United Kingdom where I have family the numbers were all too scary as the United Kingdom came to be listed as the country with the fourth most number of cases in the world. There were 248,297 confirmed cases with a daily decrease of 525. The number of dead 35,704 with a daily increase of 363.

In Brazil there were 271,628 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 17,408! The number of dead were 17,971 with a daily increase of 1,179.

Photos: Sobering images show Brazil's mounting coronavirus death toll

In Russia there were 317,554 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,849. The number of dead were 3,099 with a daily increase of 127.

In the United States of America there were 1,501,876 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 24,417. The number of dead were 90,203 with a daily increase of 932.

 

22 May

Friday there was a push for state borders to be re-opened by the likes of New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the federal government.

New South Wales and Victoria had more cases. As the states that had shown leadership to urge more restrictions like school closures they were now angling for the borders to become open.

With less cases in their own states the leaders of WA, NT, ACT, SA, TAS and QLD understandably took a different view.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk facing an election in October has a tight rope to walk.

Why Annastacia Palaszczuk could win political points in the ...

She can’t carry out actions that may lead to a second wave but as numbers remain low part of the population will urge caution and the other half will push for the borders to open up.

Plenty of border resident/workers would certainly like to see an end to the inconvenience.

South Australian Premier Steven Marshall explained that with less COVID cases the faster local businesses can open more freely aiding in the economic recovery.

I promise you we can create thousands more jobs in South Australia by keeping our borders closed at the moment.

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan whose popularity is riding high following COVID-19 wondered aloud “It’s odd, New South Wales is saying don’t catch public transport in Sydney … yet they’re saying ‘why can’t New South Wales people fly to Western Australia.

When push came to shove McGowan didn’t mince his words, “New South Wales had the Ruby Princess — I mean, seriously? And they are trying to give us advice on our borders, seriously?

 

 

I personally feel there is too much of a rush to lower restrictions as quickly as possible and we always seem to be moving ahead of projected schedules.

I am in no rush for the borders to open before July or even later but it seems that may end up happening.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WALK ON SIR THOMAS MOORE

Tom Moore stands with a walking stick on a sunny day in his garden, with his walker nearby.

 

19 May

Monday I started feeling some mild flu like symptoms and it only got worse on Tuesday so as a precaution we decided I would work from home the whole week. Originally it was expected I would be coming in Thursday and Fridays.

The national broadcaster’s program Foreign Correspondent ran a great piece  about how COVID-19 was affecting the lowest paid workers in India.

At the best of times, living conditions in slums will cause people who live in better conditions to feel sadness, shame or horror.

In the slums of Mumbai a bathroom will be shared by 80 people in a daily basis, under such circumstances it is easy for a virus to spread.

People had moved from the regions to work in those slums for corporations that once the country shut down no longer paid them. Many just started walking home with public transport shut down. They will walk for days with the possessions they have.

With COVID-19 in full flight the disproportion of wealth in any society is being made more apparent.

I don’t have any answers but this episode reminded me yet again how lucky I am and wonder about what I could do to help others.

 

 

 

Tom Moore

20 May

Some people leave their run late.

Nobody would have felt Tom Moore had much else left to do on the eve of turning 100. A veteran of World War II he had served in Burma and come back home and raised his family and lived a good life.

Yet when the grandfather who had been born in the time of the Spanish flu pandemic started to live through COVID-19 he set himself a task.

He would walk 100 laps of the 25 metre loop in his garden with the aid of his walking frame before his upcoming 100th birthday on the 30th of April in the hopes of raising $1,000 pounds for the UK National Health Service (NHS).

As he completed his laps and promised “Tomorrow will be a good day,” his determination captured the heart of his nation and the world.

With Michael Ball and NHS Voices of Care Choir he recorded a version of You’ll Never Walk Alone which topped the UK Charts.

On April 16 when he completed his 100th lap the 1st Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment were on hand to provide him with a guard of honour.

 

 

On the day of his 100th Birthday the Royal Air Force’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flew over his home in Bedfordshire.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/embed/p08bzts4/52735192

At the end of his efforts he had broken a Guinness World Record for most money raised by an individual through a walk. His fundraising total $33 million pounds! (61.8 million Australian dollars) for the NHS whose workers he refers to as “national heroes.

He was made an Honorary member of the English Cricket Team which is not nearly as good as being an Honorary member of the Australian Cricket Team but probably means a lot to him as an Englishman.

The retired Captain was made an Honorary Colonel.

Then Boris Johnson decided fuck it, let’s give him a knighthood and the Queen thought yeah well we bloody well should. Overwhelmed by the honour he tweeted thanks to the Prime Minister, Her Majesty The Queen and the Great British public.

I will remain at your service.

It’s unknown how the ceremony will go ahead or when.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Moore said, adding, “I hope she’s not very heavy-handed with the sword, because by then I might be rather a poor old weak soul.”

Captain Tom wears glasses, blazer and war medals with a thumbs up in front of cakes decorated with planes and tanks.

Every time I read about this man I just cry.

I cry because it’s not really what he did that matters, it’s what he inspired in others that does.

He stood for certain values we are afraid we are losing.

Last month he said “Let’s all carry on and remember that things will get better. We have had problems before — we have overcome them — and we shall all overcome the same thing again.

He demonstrated in his resolve and spirit what we can all do and others have picked up his example.

One and half million followers and donors and countless more making a decision every day to be a little bit more like Captain Tom.

Arise Sir Moore and God bless you.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ONE YEAR ON

Australia's Election Did Not Involve a 'Populist Wave' | National ...

 

18 May

A truck driver had made deliveries to twelve McDonalds while asymptomatic.

Out of caution McDonalds closed the twelve stores and had staff present on each occasion isolate at home for two weeks and get tested.

This was part of the cluster that originated with a store in Fawkner, Melbourne and affected 1,000 staff. At the time only twelve cases of COVID-19 related to this incident.

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned “We’re going to see more of these outbreaks.”

The Cedar Meats Abattoir linked to 100 COVID-19 cases earlier in Victoria was now partially re-opening.

For me it did highlight as we began to get to low number of active cases in Australia that the virus was still going to be with us, that we were going to have break-outs and that the rush to get back to levels of activity pre COVID carried a far greater risk. In my mind the spread of these break-outs we were seeing could be minimised by lower levels of social interaction.

 

A McDonald's restaurant with a closed sign on the door and red and white tape around a "now hiring" sign.

 

May 18 held significance for another reason that really didn’t receive a lot of focus in the media.

A year earlier I had worked for the Australian Electoral Commission on Election Night counting votes in a warehouse somewhere.

I had done temporary work for the AEC in 2016 before doing temporary work for the ECQ.

Karen had worked all that day at a polling station like she does at local and state elections.

In 2016 I had worked as a driver on election day, three years later I stated clearly an interest to do further work counting. I feel fortunate to have this extra work as I try to get ahead in life and this was even more so 18MAY2019 when I remained on contract.

I was in the warehouse just before sunset and left around about midnight.

On my way in I drove past what I knew to be the venue where my parents had their wedding reception. A lot had changed since then so my parents had never really taken us there.

After my shift I walked into the main bar area and looked around for a big staircase with a chandelier. There were not a lot of people around. I walked upstairs and found myself at a doorway of a function room.

Inside were a few people in red T-shirts looking sad. This was my first indication of the election results and then up on the screen was Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announcing he had congratulated the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

I drove home and my amazing Karen served dinner even thoigh she had worked a very long day.

 

 

On the screen Morrison stood with his two cute daughters and beautiful wife on stage. They looked like the middle class families who had voted him in.

In an age of economic uncertainty and identity politics this image of a regular family man was part of the appeal.

The Labour party had put forward an ambitious platform of reform and change just like the conservative campaign of 1993.

A former marketing guru Morrison had reinvented himself from the hard man Immigration Minister he had been, pushing himself as a point of difference from Bill Shorten who knifed two Labour Prime Ministers in a row and his immediate predecessor the urbane and statesman like Malcolm Turnbull who had never won an outright electoral victory to leverage his party room into backing his more ambitious and progressive intents.

 

 

Despite this Morrison had polled badly against Shorten throughout the campaign and so on the 18th of May he quite rightly proclaimed “I have always believed in miracles.”

A year later it may seem hyperbole but Prime Minister Scott Morrison may be steering us through the most difficult times this country has faced since World War II.

 

General Douglas MacArthur | MacArthur/Curtain Alliance | General ...

 

Prime Minister John Curtin broke from Britain and faced imminent invasion in 1942. Like Roosevelt he died in office before the war ended.

There have been other wars and times when the country seemed to be tearing itself apart. There have been great reformers and leaders who saw us through a crisis or two and pushed through unpopular policies that bore out in time. Menzies, Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd. They’ve all got something to be proud if not many things.

 

Don't change gun laws, John Howard tells Liberals

 

Yet in the twelve months since 18MAY2018 Scott Morrison was heading us towards an economic surplus. When the bushfires started in September he was up at a Canungra sharing a cry with a local resident.

 

Bushfire survivors get cash boost as weary volunteers face fierce ...

 

Then he went to Hawaii, then he came back and forced handshakes at Cobargo.

 

What Scott Morrison can take from Jacinda Ardern | Stanthorpe ...

 

Then he called out the military and attempted to re-write history in press interviews about what happened when the Australian people knew better.

When his father passed after a lifetime of service to the community as a policeman and politician you could see Morrison was hurting but it was hard to drum up sympathy given the anger those lies stirred within.

 

Scott Morrison's father John dies at 84 | St George & Sutherland ...

 

Yet the bulldog  in him sucked it up and got on with the job. This personality trait may prove his undoing but it has also seen him through some tough times.

Since March, Prime Minister Morrison has sacrificed his economic good fortune to ensure all Australians have a roof over their head and money for food and medicine. He’s given lifelines to numerous businesses and while we were arguably a week or two behind putting in place restrictions in comparison to other countries Australia so far has come through.

That can’t be attributed to all one man nor would he want it to be but we have to give credit where credit is due.

A year ago Scott Morrison would never have been able to imagine what he would have to deal with in the next 12 months as Prime Minister.

So far he has proven himself capable and I for one am hoping he will continue to do so.

A trade war is looming with China, international tourism and investments are seriously impacted by COVID-19 and with a slowed down economy not everybody is going to go back to their pre-COVID earning capacity.

There is going to be real suffering in our country and around the world but so far Morrison has managed to keep cases numbers and the spreading of the disease low, provide a safety net for most of the populace and plan ahead as best he can.

I hope for all of our sakes, his second year in office proves less stressful.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – NATURAL BRIDGE REVIEW AVAILABLE AT WEEKEND NOTES

20200517_161248
Karen and I at the Natural Bridge. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

17 May

On the 16th of May certain National Parks in Queensland opened up again.

On Sunday Karen and I headed out on the Pacific Motorway for a drive and a walk that I had been intending to make several times over the years to no avail.

I had hoped I could talk friends or family members into it but they were all so hike adverse that a 1km circuit gave them pause.

I had fixed the puncture in my tyre, now was the time to hit the road.

We took the Nerang exit and drove on for kilometre after kilometre. As we neared out destination there were road signs warning that the NSW border ahead was closed.

I asked Karen to check, I was sure our destination was in Queensland – it was barely.

We were driving to the Natural Bridge circuit which took you to a natural arch and cave in Springfield National Park.

People will be familiar with previous hikes in national parks that I have blogged about but the appeal of this walk is how short it is and how impressive the arch is in itself.

I was lucky enough to have an article I wrote about our trip be published 05JUN2020 on Weekend Notes which you can read here https://www.weekendnotes.com/natural-bridge-rainforest-circuit/

Weekend Notes 19

This is the first piece of writing I have had published since 16MAR2020 my review of Dave Hughes show at the Brisbane Comedy Festival. One more sign perhaps that things are gradually improving in our corner of the world.

It was also interesting for since it’s been a while since I have been published with Weekend Notes and it is the first time I have supplied photos and written about a walk rather than a show for them.

There a few people around enjoying the walk even though there had been some light showers. The nearby Natural Arch café was shut.

On the way home, Karen and I bought some Thai on the southside of town.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

As April had become May we had seen some people social, I had been back in the office and now we were able to travel and go out a little bit.

Would this be a fleeting reprieve leading to further lockdowns or part an ongoing management of living with the disease?

Only time would tell.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – STEP ONE IN RE-OPENING

COVID-19: U.K. calls on the engineering industry to produce ...

11 May

Monday I was away sick from work on the 11th of May.

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the a move from Stay Home to Stay Alert.

BJ flagged schools wouldn’t re-open until June and that hospitality no earlier than July.

The country had been in lockdown since 23MAR2020 with leaving your home limited to essential goods, medical needs or exercise around your neighbourhood.

Now BJ urged you can travel across the country and go out in the parks as long as you maintained social distancing.

People working in construction and manufacturing should return to work because those jobs could not be done by home.

Schools and non-essential shops would remain closed.

Hospitality would not be expected to start up again at least until July.

The infection rate had to stay below 1.

Prime Minister Johnson cautioned “We have been through the initial peak — but it is coming down the mountain that is often more dangerous.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a news conference on coronavirus.

The leaders of Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland urged their people to stay home still.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Irish and Welsh counterparts said they would not be droping “Stay Home, Protect the NHS, Save Lives.”

First Minister Sturgeon advised people could exercise more once a day.

“For Scotland right now, given the fragility of the progress we have made, given the critical point we are at, it would be catastrophic for me to drop the stay at home message.” she said.

Furthermore she added she would not change Scottish advise “In favour of a message that is vague and imprecise.

At different times during its history education has expanded in Scotland at a rapid rate.

On the 11th of May in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland the World Health Organisation reported there were 219,187 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,923 on the day Prime Minister Boris Johnson decided to lower restrictions.

The number of dead stood at 31,855 with a daily increase of 268.

How Clean Air Cities Could Outlast COVID-19 Lockdowns

 

12 May

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked from home.

On the 12th of May Trump was having a press briefing in the White House Rose Garden.

After an exchange with Weijang Zhang he cut the conference short and stormed off like a little bitch.

Below is a compilation of the disgusting behaviour he has repeatedly shown in press briefings during the crisis.

 

On the 12th of May the WHO reported in the United States of America there were 1,298,287 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 26,642. The number of dead Americans was 78,652 with a daily increase of 1,736.

I wonder how many of those dead Americans would think it was fair to ask such negative questions when the situation in America was so clearly a positive one.

I wonder as their families stood at tombstones for loved ones they could not go and visit in the hospital or attend the funerals of had they thought “Yeah, those reporters should watch their tone!”.

What I wonder honestly sometimes is how a country that was born out of throwing off the rule of the most powerful Empire the world has ever seen is so divided now that it will argue on whether this individual is fit for office.

It kind of breaks my heart.

 

 

In Australia Treasurer Josh Frydenberg got tested for COVID-19. He had been tested following a coughing fit the day before in which he presented an economic update to Parliament. 11MAY2020 was originally intended to be the day he presented the National Budget but due to COVID-19 this has now been rescheduled to October.

The number of unemployed was cited as 10% or 1.4million Australians. This was the highest unemployment rate since the early 1990s recession in Australia and in which unemployment had risen at a far slower rate then during the pandemic.

The 10% won’t include underemployment or those who are technically employed but not working while under JobSeeker.

This was a big moment for the Treasurer to advice how dire the situation was but also all the measures he was putting in place and all the difference their unprecedent spending has done to help Australians.

Instead it was all about his coughing fit.

 

14 May

On Thursday I was back in the office.

A MacDonalds at Fawkner in Melbourne Victoria had 90 staff tested and isolated pending results after a break-out of eight COVID-19 cases from the fast food outlet including four staff members and four family members of a worker.

 

Coronavirus Australia: McDonald's worker in Melbourne tests ...

 

15 May

I was in the office on Friday and I didn’t know it at the time but this would be the last time I would be in the office for the month of May.

The National Rugby League announced they would have their season restart on the 28th of May.

Players took 20% pay cuts, there were compulsory flu jabs for all and all kinds of measures to put in place including a return to playing to empty stadiums.

New Zealand Warrior players accepted spending 18 days in quarantine and a relocation from Auckland to Gosford, NSW.

The Melbourne Storm will be based out of Albury-Wodonga. A town on the border of New South Wales and Victoria with a major Army presence.

Rucks were out and we were back to one referee but sports fans this was unexpected and something to celebrate.

From midnight Friday certain restrictions were lifting in Queensland specifically.

Ten people could now go to a cafe, pub or restaurant and dine in. They would have to sign in with their details in the event of a need for contract tracing. That meant starting Saturday places like Stellarossa Toowong would be able to have patrons dine in to a certain limit.

Other states were following similar paths but not the Northern Territory.

With no active cases reported in weeks and having been the first to close their borders the Territory from midday was opening up nail salons, massage parlours, yoga studios, cafes, restaurants and….. after 53 long days…..pubs!

On the 15th of May the World Health Organisation reported 6,989 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 14. 98 Australians had died and there was no daily increase.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND

Coronavirus: Melbourne protesters clash with police

 

9 May 

I had noticed earlier in the week that one of my tyres was deflating a little faster than my other tyres. On Saturday I went to Bob Jane T-Mart and got the puncture repaired.

While Karen and I waited we walked over to a nearby park. There was a sense that things were returning to normal a little bit.

On the way home I decided I wanted a proper cake with icing. I went to a local cheesecake shop and returned with this.

20200509_155557
A birthday cake for no one’s particular birthday except my tummy’s. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Now Karen was not upset that I had purchased a large cake for just the two of us at some expense. She was however perplexed by one thing. Whose birthday was it?

And yes we managed to get through it before it went off.

That afternoon we skyped my Mum for Mother’s Day with the family assembling across the globe. I was very worried about the escalating numbers in the UK.

 

 

10 May

Over the weekend I watched a great episode of Planet America which went into some detail around the welfare system in America and how many Americans were likely to get any assistance. It paints a picture of how desperate some Americans must feel to get back to work no matter the risk.

On Sunday I went to see my mother-in-law at her house. Each set of kids were visiting one at a time.

On the steps of Parliament House in Victoria hundreds of protestors gathered.

Some seemed to be protesting the roll-out of 5G, some were anti-vaxxers and others were against the COVID Safe App. An App Australians could choose to voluntarily download onto their phone.

The purpose of the App was in the event somebody became a confirmed case it will help greatly in the efforts to do contract tracing and hopefully shut down a break-out cluster faster.

Most Australians have a great deal of their daily lives monitored by corporations on their phones through apps and websites. That said in 2016 the Australian Census was hacked.

By 06MAY2020 the Covid Safe App had been downloaded over 5 million times. The protesters were also protesting the lockdown laws that had been in place since March.

Earlier on Friday the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews had advised he would make no announcements regarding the lowering of restrictions the state of emergency was lifted in Victoria on Monday.

Ten people were arrested at the scene and Victorian police advised those were directed at people who didn’t obey social distancing measures, assaulted police or threw things.

 

 

On the 10th of May the World Health Organisation reported 3,925,818 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 63,117. The death toll was 274,488 with a daily increase of 8,528.

In New Zealand there were 1,144 with a daily increase of 2. The number of New Zealanders who had died of COVID-19 were 21.

On the 27th of April New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced she would lift Restrictions from Level 4 to Level 3.

Level 4 had seen people stay home with only trips to the supermarkets. Level 3 would allow a limited re-opening of schools, retailers and restaurants. The transmission rate in

New Zealand at the time was 0.4 with the global average 2.5.

In Australia the number of confirmed cases were 6,929 with a daily increase of 15. Australia had reached a death toll of 97 from COVID-19.

In Ireland there were 22,760 confirmed cases with a daily increase 219. The number of dead were 1,446 with a daily increase of 17.

In Canada there were 66,780 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,381. The number of dead were 4,628 with a daily increase of 157.

Ontario reports 568 new cases of COVID-19, another 39 deaths ...

In India there were 62,939 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,277. The number of dead were 2,109 with a daily increase of 128. The country had been placed in lockdown for 21 days on the 26th of March when there only 649 confirmed cases. This had been extended on the 4th of May but despite these efforts the number of cases in India were climbing rapidly.

It was reported in China there were 84,430 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 14. The number of dead 4,643 deaths.

When you think about how many Chinese people have more likely died from this disease it makes me angry to type such a pathetic and clearly obvious lie as that figure.

My condolences to the families of all Chinese who did die from COVID-19 and to all the brave Chinese hospital staff who faced this disease first and any of who risked so much to try and get the word out about how serious this disease was.

The Chinese people have suffered bravely. Their country should honour their deaths. There is no shame in admitting how much they have endured as a nation and hopefully they have overcome the worst of it.

In Brazil there 145,328 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10,222. The number of dead 9,897 with a daily increase of 751.

In Russia there were 209,688 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11,012. There were 1,915 deaths with a daily increase of 88.

In the United Kingdom there were 215,264 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,896. The number of dead were 31,587 with a daily increase of 346.

In Italy there were 218,268 with a daily increase of 1,083. The number of dead were 30,395 with a daily increase of 194.

In Spain there were 223,578 with a daily increase of 721. The number of dead was 26,478 with a daily increase of 227.

In the United States of America there were 1,245,775 with a daily decrease of 99. The death toll in America reached 75,364 with a daily increase of 5,475. There were those in the country that desperately wanted to start re-opening but this seemed odd given the high numbers of cases and dead and while the rate of increase was slowing in the worst hit parts of America like New York it was steadily rising elsewhere.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – A 3 STEP PROGRAM

The Brooklyn 'disaster morgue' on sunset park pier, pictured on May 6 with the statue of liberty looming behind the trucks through the fog

May 4

It was Labour Day with me staying home due to a public holiday.

The rest of the week I was due to work from home as well.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that Prep, Year 1, 11 and 12 would return to school next Monday May 11. For the other grades it was planned for them to remain remote learning with a return to classrooms May 25.

 

5 May

For the first time since the pandemic took off 2 months ago, President Trump leaves Washington D.C. to visit a mask factory in Honeywell, Arizona. In a press conference he stresses that the country has to be re-opened soon mentioning the fact that death from drug use and suicide increase during unemployment.

People are dying the other way, too. When you look at what’s happened with drugs, it goes up. When you look at suicides, I mean, take a look at what’s going on. People are losing their jobs. We have to bring it back and that’s what we’re doing.

30 million Americans had filed for unemployment claims.

President Trump also said of the rising death toll due to COVID-19  “I always felt 60, 65, 70, as horrible as that is. I mean, you’re talking about filling up Yankee Stadium with death! So I thought it was horrible. But it’s probably going to be somewhat higher than that.

He also talked about dialling down the Coronavirus taskforce but over the next few hours that it would remain pivoting to focus on reopening.

 

7 May

It was fair to say things were getting better in Australia in early May. The danger was still present but there were days when states were not reporting any new cases. In comparison to what could  have happened and what was taking place in other countries Australians could breathe somewhat a sigh of relief.

The danger now was to not take this status quo for granted, to not squander our safety with rash decisions. A second wave seemed inevitable so how best to manage it.

April 7 Keep it under control

That week there was an all too clear example of how things could still escalate even with all the restrictions that had been put in place remaining.

In Melbourne, there was an outbreak at the Cedar Meats abattoir leading to 62 confirmed cases.

On Thursday the 7th of May there were 13 new cases reported in the state, twelve of them related to the meatworks. The number of cases in Victoria was 1,154.

The World Health Organisation reported the same day that Australia had 6,875 with a daily increase of 26. There were 97 deaths with a daily increase of one.

With talk of restrictions being lowered in other states the Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews advised he would not be lowering any restrictions until Victoria’s State of Emergency ended next Monday.

There isn’t a jurisdiction in the world that has gone that way that hasn’t had harder lockdowns the second time around compared to the first,” he said.

The Monday was the day after Mother’s Day.

Everyone wants to be with their mum but let’s be really cautious, let’s be really careful not to be spreading the virus. We’ve come a long way. Let’s not give it all back.

I can tell you what I’ll be doing on Mother’s Day. I will not be visiting my mum, even if it was lawful for me to do that. She’s in her mid-70s. She’s in good health but she has some underlying health issues and I just wouldn’t do it, [even though] I’d very much like to.

 

A temporary morgue using refrigerated trucks is set up outside of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

 

8 May

Australia’s good fortune clashed with what was happening around the world. I hoped the lessons from them could help us to not be so cavalier about the risk.

Another example of this was the parking of 50 refrigerated trucks in Sunset Park, Brooklyn as funeral homes and moratories were overwhelmed in New York City.

We had seen footage already of such trucks parked outside hospitals but the parking of them in a group even if not all were full underlined the amount of death occurring.

 

 

On the 30th of April Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had told us “Australians deserve an early mark for the work that they’ve done. We can’t keep Australia under the doona. We need to be able to move ahead.

He followed up this mindset in a press conference held the following Friday, the 8th of May.

There will be risks, there will be challenges, there will be outbreaks, there will be more cases, there will be setbacks.

Not everything will go to plan.

There will be inconsistencies. States will and must move at their own pace, and will cut and paste out of this plan to suit their local circumstances.

There will undoubtedly be some human error. No-one is perfect.

Everyone is doing their best.

To think or expect otherwise, I think, would be very unrealistic. This is a complex and very uncertain environment.

But we cannot allow our fear of going backwards from stopping us from going forwards.

Earlier he had offered words of encouragement stating.

That every Australian matters.

Every life, every job, every future.

And we have learnt some important lessons that we can meet the tests, as we have, and the challenges that we have so far confronted.

That when we have to, we can and we do pull together.

That we can focus on something bigger than just ourselves.

He then offered a 3 Step program on the road to what was hoped would be the successful lowering of restrictions.

Each step would be subject to review every three weeks to implement the next step but the situation would be constantly monitored and subject to change.

They’re not formal reviews — I’d describe them more as stocktakes as to where the framework is at, and looking at where all the states are, and how we’re going towards our ultimate aspiration of being [at Step 3] in July.” explained the Prime Minister.

Also the Prime Minister was leaving it up to each Premier to action the steps in line with the particular situation currently in each state.

New South Wales and Victoria had the highest number of cases. The Northern Territory and Western Australia the lowest.

Step 1 involved five people coming over to your house and gatherings of 10 people in outdoor parks, pools, restaurants, community centres, playgrounds, boot camps and public libraries.

There could be ten people at a wedding and 30 at a funeral. Queensland stipulated if it was outdoors it could be 30, indoors only 20.

You could drive up to 150 kilometres from your place.

Following his news conference South Australia committed to step 1 to be implement that Monday.

Victoria said it would decide on the 11th.

Queensland committed Saturday May 16 or specifically midnight next Friday.

Tasmania would lift some restrictions on the 11th and planned to do others on the 18th.

New South Wales with the most cases said there would be no changes yet. Half of all cases in Australia were in New South Wales.

The Northern Territory had already set a roadmap for themselves coming out of lockdown. When they started lifting restrictions on the 5th of May, 28 of all 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Territory had recovered and there had been no new cases for over a month.

The Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy flagged going to work sick, ” No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat. That’s off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at various times. I know I have. We’re all going to have to change that mentality.

Step 2 would involve gatherings of 20 people, the potential opening of gyms, cinemas, galleries, museums and beauty therapists. Distances of 250 kilometres from home.

Step 3 hoped to be reached in July would look at interstate travel, maybe even travel in the AUS-NZ bubble and gatherings of 100 people. Pubs and clubs would only be looked at for step 3. It seemed like only yesterday that the Prime Minister on the 13th of March had announced gatherings would be restricted to only 100 people in the country from the 16th onwards.

The announcement was made as Australia already had seen an increase in the total number of cases that week with 97 by Friday. Up from 78 the previous week. Yet the plan to re-open and the number of cases per capita in Australia were in stark contrast to Europe and the Americas where some national leaders like Trump were stating re-opening was imminent.

When the PM was asked by a journalist, “Prime Minister, you mentioned earlier that there will be outbreaks, you say that there will be clusters. Is it a case that the states, the territories and Australians will need to hold their nerve once they go down this path and not snap back to tighten restrictions?“.

He simply replied “Yes.”

Interestingly with the announcement that people would be able to return to dining soon we had already organised to catch up with friends over dinner via skype.

Including with a friend who had injured her ankle, it raised her temperature so she spent a night in a COVID ward.

She was now doing well albeit with her leg in a cast. She has gone out of her way to support local businesses during the economic downturn.

I had been in touch with people more on the phone recently but it was nice to have everybody conversing together.

I also pulled out the port but sadly ran out of Galway Pipe and had to make the switch to Cockburns which apparently I was mispronouncing.

Drinking GIF on GIFER - by Morardred

 

Stay safe everyone.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – OUR FIRST HOUSEGUESTS

India's economy risks a COVID-19 induced contraction | Markets ...

My brother-in-law celebrated his birthday ANZAC Day.

I am fond of calling him my brother from another mother. I say this because he really is a brother to me.

He was born a Sikh in India, fell in love with an Australian girl while studying here and that was the end of that.

Life hasn’t always been easy for him as an immigrant but I’ve never met a man who works harder, is more resilient and more loyal.

He is a wonderful husband and to his family in India a dearly missed son. Having a sister living in the UK means I know a little of how they feel.

We went over to where he and his wife lived and sat in spaced apart chairs out the front of their place. We just talked but gosh it was good to see them.

Municipal workers disinfect health workers after their visit to a containment zone in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Saturday, April 18, 2020.

 

April 26

The next day the whole family skyped to celebrate his birthday.

The same day four of the largest airline planes in the world A380s landed in the centre of Australia in the very dry Alice Springs.

 

27 April

Working from home Monday morning I read an e-mail mentioning we had a few people sick in our team from my supervisor.

I sent him an e-mail asking if there is anything I could do in support and he replied yes – could I read the text message he had sent me almost an hour prior.

After reading the text sent earlier I got in my car and spent the day working in the office.

That night Karen and I spoke to an old friend of our’s. An accomplished academic it seemed like a lifetime ago when we had heard she was getting a gig working at HARVARD!

Based there for almost a year she was one of the early few sounding the alarm on social media about the danger of this disease.

As things got worse in America she saw footage of international travellers returning to Australia bundled together with no social distancing.

The days passed and she relayed hearing sirens go past outside her residence throughout the day. She finally arranged a flight coming back to Australia, worried about her American friends who she was leaving behind.

When we spoke she was in the midst of the 14 day quarantine in hotels for returning travellers. A yoga practitioner and a marathon runner she had no complaints about her confinement.

Her thoughts were with all the people confined to ventilators breathing their last breaths.

She had come through and we were glad to hear she was all right.

DPH officials announce 8 new deaths from COVID-19, 5,752 total ...

Boston ER doctor reports an alarming trend of COVID-19 patients ...

 

30 April

Thursday.

I ended up only working from home that Wednesday grateful to be back in the office for most of the week. Traffic was still not so bad and I was so happy to be with my colleagues again even most of us were still working from home.

One of them was going on maternity leave, someone who I had worked with last year during my secondment.

Somebody who will be a great parent.

Someone who is so amazing in everything she does that I refer to her as lightning in a bottle.

We wished her well in a skype morning tea that I was lucky to attend.

The Queensland Premier had announced that week that come the weekend you would be able to travel 50kms from your place of resident.

One of my work colleagues said she was driving to Fernvale that weekend.

Another asked, “What’s in Fernvale?”.

“Don’t know but that is as far as we can go so we’re going there,” she replied.

Last year I had flown over Fernvale at a height of a few hundred feet.

20190802_065347
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

02 May

We don’t entertain a lot in our house.

It’s too hot for most of the year and we never got around to having the place exactly how we want it for entertaining.

But on Saturday the 2nd of May, Karen told me her brother and his girlfriend was coming around and that was that. So they brought tacos for dinner and we had a wonderful time.

This night along with seeing my brother from another mother were our first social engagements in almost two months outside of phone calls and skype.

I may have erred on the side of caution if consulted but once the train was on the tracks I really didn’t want to take this away from my wife. She lets me have my way on most things.

I realise a lot of people around the world have gone without socialising even longer and will even longer still if their governments show any sense.

So I know I have been very fortunate it had been only a few weeks but I must admit it was really nice to have the dinner.

After the main I offered some port for everyone and while I don’t often drink I decided I would have some more port. Galway Pipe.

It was really nice to have the dinner.

Best Funny Drunk GIFs | Gfycat

In most parts of the world things were only getting worse but here in Australia things were getting just a little bit better.

 

On the 2nd of May, the World Health Organisation reported globally there were 3,272,212 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 90,578.

The death toll 230,107 with a daily increase of 5,805.

We reached 1 million confirmed cases on the 4th of April, 2 million on the 17th of April and 3 million on the 29th of April.

4 million was reached on the 11th of May and 5 million on the 23rd of May.

Knowing how fast this thing can spread, either the measures we’re putting in place are working or some of the numbers coming out of countries aren’t accurate.

On the 2nd of May the WHO reported 6,767 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of five. There were 93 deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there were 53,657 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,601. The number of deaths 3,223 with a daily increase of 141.

158 Canadian soldiers died in the war in Afghanistan.

In India there were 37,336 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,293. There were 1,218 deaths with a daily increase of 71.

527 Indians died in the Kargil conflict.

Coronavirus: 7 Indonesians test positive in Telangana, tally ...

In the United Kingdom there were 177,458 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,201. There were 27,510 deaths with a daily increase of 739.

In World War II during The Blitz from September 1940 to July 1941 it was estimated 40,000 civilians died from the bombings.

On the 30th of April the United States of America reached over 1 million confirmed cases. On the 2nd of May there were 1,067,127 with a daily increase of 31,774. The number of deaths 57,406 with a daily increase of 2,069.

58,318 American military personnel died in the decade long Vietnam war which shook the country to its core.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – ANZAC DAY

File:Simpson and his Donkey statue in Canberra.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Every country has a myth that informs its people and culture.

In Britain it was Empire. Now I think it’s Michael Caine, Twiggy and The Beatles.

In America it is the taming of the West.

In Australia it is a failed military campaign far from our shores against men fighting to defend the territory of their nation from a foreign invader.

We served alongside British, Indian and French soldiers who made up the majority of the numbers in the fighting force and in the casualties.

It is known as Churchill’s blunder of World War One – the Dardanelles campaign.

In Turkey on March 18, they remember fighting in the port of Canakkale from the same campaign where the Royal Navy was repulsed with similar reverence.

In Australia we remember the landings on April 25th at a place called Gallipoli.

Part of the 4th Battalion and the mules for the 26th (Jacob's ...

Despite Australian forces serving in the Boer War at the time of our Federation.

Gallipoli was seen as the blooding of our newly formed nation.

Despite success from General Monash on the Western Front with significant victories late in the war or the cavalry charges at Beersheba, Gallipoli has always been remembered first and foremost.

Appropriate given that it was a failure, all the better to commemorate what is lost in war by not revelling in a victory. Sometimes I worry if we are forgetting.

In World War II Australia had a population of 7 million people and 1 million of them were in uniform.

076972

 

Conscription saw many participate in Korea and Vietnam.

Now the military community is a very small part of the Australian population and yet its people have borne the brunt of long ongoing operational deployments in the past twenty years in East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now the majority of Australians marvel at the myth of the ANZACs unable to fathom what they endured for us long ago and yet right now there are veterans who need their help as we lose more to suicide than we ever did to combat.

If it can be remembered for the right reasons, ANZAC Day still holds a lot of lessons for us every year and now more than ever as we face this global pandemic.

It is not without significance that ANZAC Day ceremonies were cancelled across the country.

There is no more sacred a day in this country.

Yet somebody got the bright idea for people to go down to the end of the driveway and the Light Up The Dawn campaign caught on.

I often don’t attend Dawn Services but this one I couldn’t miss. I got out of bed at 4:50am not too much off the mark from when the first boats were coming ashore in 1915.

Karen and I got dressed and made our way down to our driveway. It was still dark.

A woman walking by told us she was on her way to a nearby street where someone she knew was going to play The Last Post.

She said there would be plenty of room to maintain social distancing but if we stayed we could probably heart it from here. We thanked her.

Our next door neighbours came out with their young daughter. I saw him loading up something on a tablet and asked if he was looking for a service to play because I had one ready on my phone and was happy to share. We agreed but kept our distance.

Down the road I could see candles lit. A street over there were two families outside two houses.

I think in modern times we remain communities of people but on most ANZAC Days we travel many kilometres to be with those communities (family, friends, colleagues) together.

Now here we were engaging with our actual local community. It was nice.

Off in the distance a lone bagpiper played.

Then I hit the service to play on the RSL website on my phone prompted by a handy countdown clock on it.

Then we heard The Last Post being played that street over just like we were told we would.

 

I stood with my head bowed.

At the end we said good day and retreated to our apartment.

In our block of six nobody else had come out to join us.

On April 25 the World Health Organisation reported in Australia there wer 6,687 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20. There were 79 deaths with a daily increase of three.

In New Zealand there were 1,117 confirmed cases with a daily increase of three. The number of dead were 18 deaths with a daily increase of one. New Zealand had gone into lockdown on the 25th of March.

In Papua New Guinea as of 27MAY2020 there have been only eight confirmed cases and no deaths reported by the WHO.

In South Africa there 4,220 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 267. The number of dead 79 and with a daily increase of four.

In Germany there were 152,438 confirmed cases with a daily increase of  2,055. The number of dead 5,500 with a daily increase of 179.

In Italy there were 192,994 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,021. At this point 25,969 Italians had perished to COVID-19. The daily increase was 420. The number of days with increase of cases was thankfully becoming less and less.

In Japan there were 12,829 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 441. The number of dead 334 with a daily increase of 17.

In China there were 84,324 confirmed cases reported by the WHO with a daily increase of 12. The number of Chinese who had died at least 4,642.

In South Korea there were 10,718 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10. The number of dead 240.

The WHO have reported zero confirmed cases and zero deaths in North Korea.

In Malaysia there were 5,691 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 88. The number of dead 96 with a daily increase of one.

In Indonesia there were 8,607 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 396. The number of dead were 720 with a daily increase of 31.

In Vietnam there were 270 confirmed cases reported with a daily increase of two. So far no deaths have been reported.

In Zimbabwe there 29 confirmed cases with a daily increase of one. Four deaths have been reported.

In Namibia there were 16 confirmed cases and no deaths.

In Cambodia there were 122 confirmed cases and no deaths so far.

In Somalia there were 390 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 62. There were 18 deaths with a daily increase of two.

In Rwanda there were 176 cases with a daily increase of 22. No deaths have been reported so far.

In Timor-Leste there were 24 confirmed cases and so far no deaths have been reported.

There have been zero cases reported and no deaths in the Solomon Islands.

In Afghanistan on the 25th of April there were 1,463 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 237. There were 47 deaths with a daily increase of seven.

In Iraq there were 1,708 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 31. The number of dead were 86 deaths with a daily increase of three.

In Turkey there were 104,912 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,122. The number of dead 2,600 with a daily increase 109.

There is a quote often ascribed to the first Turkish President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk who served at Gallipoli.

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours…

You the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

-Lloyd Marken

Full Credits:

Travelin’ Soldier by Bruce Robison

Performed by the Australian Army Band.

Vocals – Musician Rachel MacCallum
Backing vocals – Lance Corporal ‘AJ’ Johnson / Musician Jade O’Halloran
Violin and Mandolin – Musician Evan Patrick
Piccolo – Musician Sam Hennessy
Electric and Acoustic Guitars – Musician Sam McDonald
Bass – Lance Corporal Mansell Laidler
Drum Kit – Musician Aaron Austin

Recording by Warrant Officer Class Two Peter Bell / Sergeant James Duquemin / Corporal Justin Kennedy / Corporal Jaiden Redman.
Edited / mixed by Warrant Officer Class Two Peter Bell.

COVID-19 DIARY – WHAT MATTERS

Maryland nurse who joined N.Y.'s COVID-19 front lines says it's ...

April 20

On Monday the 20th of April, the bulk of staff at work had been away for two to three weeks. We now found ourselves back in the office to get our flu shot and get back to working from home.

One of them, a particularly beloved colleague dropped off snacks for everyone which just speaks to why we love her.

While arrivals and departures were staggered you could feel it in the air. People were happy to see each other again if only fleetingly.

I was fortunate, I was there to work all day.

I enjoyed all the creature comforts of my office desk and but more so being around some of my colleagues whom I had missed. It was good to get back into the rhythm of working in the office and efforts were underway to see if some staff could rotate.

Nevertheless for the rest of the work I worked from home.

Across the State, Term 2 started and for many students it started remotely in the home.

There was a fantastic episode of the ABC program Four Corners that night that covered the early days and decisions from Australian governments at all levels to help their citizens through some dark days.

 

Image

April 21

Taken with Arnold Schwarznegger’s social media posts and his pets Whiskey (the minature pony) and Lulu (the donkey) I decided to buy a new hoodie he started selling.

All proceeds from the sale went to the charity he helped create – After School All Stars. It runs after-school programs for students across the country particularly in poor communities that need it even more.

There are 19 chapters helping over 90,000 kids across 468 schools in 60 cities from 13 states.

The charity had pivoted with the lockdown, knowing some of the kids involved in their programs get their best daily meals from the meals at school – they resolved to provide food for these families.

That was enough for me.

I belaboured figuring out what would fit me in US sizes trying several internet sources and it’s quite possible the Hoodie won’t arrive until September at which point temperatures will be rising in springtime Brisbane.

Doesn’t matter.

If one American child eats a meal based off my poor fiscal responsibility then that’s alright with me.

 

 

Of course if I had been completely selfless I could’ve just donated directly to the charity but I really wanted that hoodie. Although as restrictions relax I may look silly walking around outside with a hoodie that preaches to stay inside.

Some studies find that over 10% of America’s population live in food insecure households.

Kids can’t grow and can’t develop their minds if they’re lacking a balanced diet and it is estimated that could be as many as 16 million children each year.

America produces enough food to feed more than its population.

Food insecurity in America doesn’t come from a lack of food – it comes from people not having enough money to buy the food.

There are expectations that food insecurity in the country could easily double given the increasing amount of unemployed Americans.

30 million applied for welfare and unlike in Australia the amount of claims that will ultimately be approved and the length of how long they can be on welfare is limited.

On the 21st of April the World Health Organisation reported 751,273 cases in the America with a daily increase of 27,668. The number of Americans who died with COVID-19 was 35,884 with a daily increase of 1,681.

 

Closer to home in Australia the tertiary education industry was facing a daunting prospect with international student enrolment set to decline with a loss projected between 3-5 billion dollars.

I spent seven years working at the Queensland University of Technology on contracts and as a temp hoping again and again I might become permanent. Now permanent workers may need to worry about their jobs.

International students who have spent years studying here in Australia now find themselves struggling to pay rent and unable to afford flight homes. Over 500,000 international students were in Australia when COVID-19 hit.

On the 12th of April Education Minister Dan Tehan announced an 18 billion package for to shore up income from domestic students in universities. Yet a huge source of income for Australian universities were international enrolments with some projecting a decline between of 3 to 4.6 billion dollars this year alone.

Universities themselves were trying to assist students financially struggling due to loss of casual employment and unable to apply for support from the government. Up to $110 million dollars through hardship support funds.

Countries like the UK and Canada had put relief packages in place for international students.

In Australia the Prime Minister was suggesting it was time for them to go home and the price of a plane ticket would only be $10,000.

Those in the industry were of two minds.

It has once again been revealed how reliant we were on international student enrolment. Maybe this would push a reform where it was needed.

Yet universities carry out research and grow the minds and capabilities of our brightest who go out and work in industry and make innovative solutions. Could we really afford due to a loss of income to see our universities lose researchers, budding academics and students to the pandemic? Some of them international ones too.

Not to mention families overseas may remember how we took care of their children during this crisis.

After paying a lot of money for them to receive an education here, when they were cut off from them, when it was difficult and expensive to get home, when other countries provided for such students here we were shrugging our shoulders.

What would they think of Australia?

PhD Positions at Queensland University of Technology, 2016-2017

On the 12th of April, Universities Australia estimated 21,000 jobs could be lost in the next six months.

On the 21st of April, the Vice Chancellor of the Central Queensland University floated the idea of voluntary redundancies for some staff.

 

On the 21st of April the World Health Organisation reported Australia had 6,625 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 13. There were 71 deaths with a daily increase of one.

A guy I used to work with a few years ago in a part-time job I had was doing a push-up challenge to raise funds for mental health charity Headspace.

https://www.thepushupchallenge.com.au/pushuperer/65013?fbclid=IwAR3UCzdFCm5hvyW2Ud4w0rqBNeHpxoZVLUypX1NHusgdHtvMA8zTM9mQlz8

He set himself the goal of completing 3,046 push-ups over 21 days from 11MAY2020 to 31MAY2020. On day three he completed 326 push-ups alone. So I donated to his cause as well.

Headspace is foundation that helps young people and their families with their health in particular mental health.

 

I was also very inspired by the BuyThemACoffee initiative and got in touch with them. I was hoping to help out my local café at work Stellarossa Toowong but knew I couldn’t hope to raise as much as BuyThemACoffee. I asked them for advice which they very kindly gave and thanked me for my small donation. I got in touch with the Wesley Hospital near where I worked. They advised instead of delivering coffee for staff they would really appreciate coffee vouchers.

So I set up a GoFundMe Page to raise $250 to buy coffee vouchers from Stellarossa Toowong and have them delivered to the staff at the Wesley.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/stellarosa-coffee-for-wesley-hospital-staff

Work colleagues and friends immediately responded and over the next four weeks we were able to raise some money.

Closing out on any given day a business like this at this time might have three or four hundred dollars in the til. 

There was a new owner/manager at the store and at this point she was having one staff member work a day.

Most of the employees are young and find themselves ineligible for jobkeeper or jobseeker in some cases.

They’re great at what they do.

The new owner knowing this was treating them all fairly and spreading the work to all of them but there was not a lot of work to go around.

Despite this one of the baristas even donated to the GoFundMe page.

 

East Timor, war, coffee and Australia's 'debt of honour' - ABC News

ANZAC Day was also coming up that weekend and collections for support services for veterans and their families were not going to be able to carried out like they had been for the past 100 years. So I donated some money to the ANZAC appeal.

I don’t want to create the wrong impression, we need money.

Maybe I should’ve saved every extra cent I had.

But I have had a few thoughts over the past few weeks.

One that comes back to me occasionally is simply this.

What you do now – matters most.

 

ABC’s Foreign Correspondent ran an episode that day following Emergency Responders and Healthcare Workers through New York City.

In a week where Trump spitballed using bleach to cure COVID-19 here was a program showcasing American heroes.

 

 

It showed the Naked Cowboy still hanging out in Times Square bringing cheer and goodwill to passerbys.

I will admit I thought there was something foolish in him not packing up his bags and trying to avoid putting himself at risk.

Yet something touching in his desire to remain and lift spirits and risk the potential consequences.

I thought how American, that level of optimism and foodhardiness, that mix of courage and absurdity.

He was not the only one.

In the program we followed veteran Ambos, retired cops bringing supplies to those still on the streets, volunteer nurses who quit their jobs to come take care of the sick and dying in greatest city in the world.

And people were dying. Many, many, many people.

Yet here were these Americans trying to help.

WHAT WE DO NOW – MATTERS MOST.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NATIVES ARE STIRRING

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk speaks at a press conference

 

On Easter Monday, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk had announced students of essential workers could come to school when Term 2 started up  20APR2020. It was planned for this to be in effect until the 22nd of May with them to be reviewed come the 15th of May. For the first five weeks of term, the majority of students would learn remotely.

When Term 2 started up in Victoria on the 15th of April the advice was as many students to learn from home as much as possible.

In South Australia the decision was left with parents to make with school set to resume on the 27th of April.

With the same term start date, NSW and WA were not yet to make a decision but NSW with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country was having teachers prepare most strongly for remote learning.

Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory had the same policy as Queensland.

In the Northern Territory attendance of students at schools was expected from 20APR2020.

Post the long Easter Weekend I worked from home the rest of the week from the 14th of April to the 17th of April 2020.

I saw the narrative in the news and on social media shift.

People started asking how long until restrictions get loosened.

People would question the COVID-19 numbers which was fair enough. The old “Just as deadly as the flu.” belief from early March started making the rounds again. Do you know anybody who has it? If we’re allowed to go a supermarket, why can’t we got to a restaurant? How many active cases are there now in our state?! These and other questions were uttered. I understood the urgent need to get back to work for some.

However on the 14th of April I looked up the date of the highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases in Australia.

The date was March the 28th and it was 650 cases in one day.

It had only been two weeks since our daily increases had peaked in the country!

For the people seriously impacted by this financially I understood the need to go back to work.

However on the 15th of April there was a strong reminder of the need to make good choices in combating this virus.

New York City Mass Graves On Island Are Increasing Because Of ...

Just a kilometre or so away from the Bronx in New York City is Hart Island.

Known as Potter’s Field, it has been the burial site of those unclaimed by kin.

Stillborn, unidentified and the very poor are buried in Potter’s Field by prisoners and have been for 150 years after the city bought the land.

Those who died from the American Civil War, tuberculosis, AIDs and yes the Spanish Flu all rest here.

With morgues filling up, the time to claim bodies was cut from 30 days to 15 days.

Until recently prisoners from Rikers were burying the dead on an average of 25 a week. Contractors in safety hazmat suits have taken over in recent weeks and the weekly average of 25 has now become the number buried in a day.

On the 17th of April the World Health Organisation reported there were now more than two million confirmed cases globally.

There were 2,080,235 with a daily increase of 81,839.

139,507 people had died so far. The daily increase was 8,473.

There were 6,468 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 10. 63 Australians had died.

In Canada there were 28,884 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,344. There were 1,048 dead Canadians with a daily increase of 94 taking the death toll into four digits.

In the United Kingdom there were 103,097 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,617.  The number of dead in Great Britain was 13,729 with a daily increase of 861.

In Spain there were 184,474 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,400. The number of dead 19,130 with a daily increase of 551.

In the United States there were 632,781 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 28,711. The number of Americans who had died from COVID-19 tallied at 28,221 with a daily increase of 2.350.

I just hope that we remember that none of these numbers are acceptable, they’re not preferable to a larger number, they’re thousands of lives lost in a matter of days.

I realise I am very fortunate but I will always believe we needed to be safer rather than sorry.

As sorry as I am to see those bodies being buried in an island near the Bronx.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – HAPPY EASTER

The Light of the World | Art UK

 

April 10

Good Friday.

I was at home and realised unlike other Easter weekends, I would not be getting a free feed at family gatherings or going out to restaurants with friends. Fortunately Karen had already made plans, we survived.

A skype session has been arranged for my in-laws by my brother in law.

I skyped with my parents and then with my inlaws back to back in the afternoon. The difference a few extra people struck me immediately and I resolved to set up a skype session with all of my family including my sister over in England. We arranged it for Easter Monday.

It was a nice to see and speak to family while we were in social isolation. I had pushed for it with some foresight knowing how much her family means to Karen and her family had made it happen.

 

April 11

Easter Saturday

America overtakes Italy for the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world.

 

April 12

Easter Sunday

It was the reports coming out New York and their hospital system that made me take stock of nurses closer to home. I looked for something to do to support nurses here and came across BuyThemACoffee initiative through Weekend Notes which I have been published in over the years.

Sydney based Marketing Manager Kaylie Smith had been driven to do something and after consulting healthcare workers online she discovered all they really wanted was a cup of coffee.

Enlisting cafes that could use the business, during the downturn, she set about raising money on GoFundMePages to pay the cafes to make and deliver the precious java juice.

Since starting the initiative, it has spread to other cities across Australia and seen over 100,000 cups of coffee bought and delivered to our wonderful healthcare workers.

Kaylie Smith did not sit on the sidelines and critique from a social media armchair. She got involved, she dared to try and get an idea off the ground and she’s made a difference.

Well done Ms Smith!

Thank you also to prolific writer Nadine Cresswell-Myatt who wrote this great piece in Weekend Notes that caught my eye and allowed me to make a donation to the BuyThemACoffee initiative.

Fundraiser by Michelle Hogan : Buy Them A Coffee - Queensland

 

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is released from St Thomas hospital and gives a speech in which he said “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life. No question. It’s hard to find words to express my debt.”

And I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way. They’re Jenny from New Zealand Invercargill on the South Island to be exact, and Luis from Portugal near Porto.”

And the reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching, and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed. So that is how I also know that across this country, 24 hours a day, for every second of every hour, there are hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.

The 55 year old Prime Minister retreated to the county estate Chequers to recover.

His fiancée Carrie Symonds due to give birth in two months tweeted “Thank you also to everyone who sent such kind messages of support. Today I’m feeling incredibly lucky. There were times last week that were very dark indeed. My heart goes out to all those in similar situations, worried sick about their loved ones.

 

13 April

Easter Monday

Trump held a bizarre press briefing where he ran a powerpoint video of what a great job he and the administration was doing.

Trump had earlier retweeted a supporter’s tweet calling for Dr Anthony Fauci to be fired.

Dr Fauci has been a calm and consistent speaker during the crisis about what the risks may be and what suitable actions should be taken.

Dr Fauci was called to the podium earlier to explain comments in the press earlier where he pointed out quite correctly that if actions had been taken earlier there would have been a better outcome initially.

He labelled these comments a “poor choice of words.” 

“Hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty,” Dr Fauci.

When asked by a reporter if he had been forced to make the statement.

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shot his hands up and urged “Everything I do is voluntary. Please. Don’t even imply that.

For many Dr Fauci’s continued presence in tackling the crisis in America is reassuring and his courage to put ego aside and placate the narcistic Trump was one more measure of the man.

One day Dr Fauci will have quite the book to write if he wants to and I’d be very interested in reading it.

Trump has been anything but statesmen like in these press conferences held during a national crisis.

When asked questions he doesn’t like, he insults reporters and their networks while he still fails to answer the questions.

To provide answers for a country in need.

Struggling through prepared speeches he seems to barely comprehend and going off script with his usual patter at a time when only good and suitable advice should be conveyed.

On the 13th of April, one CBS reporter finally got one over him – her name Paula Reid.

 

I finished the day in a skype conversation that put me in touch with my sister on the other side of the world and involved four households. It was the closest I got to having my family over Easter and I was very grateful.

Many families have not been so lucky, many families have lost loved ones in the past few months. At the time of Easter I guess I took comfort in my faith, placed my faith in my God and tried to do good things and practice gratitude. I know many other people are doing a lot more and I thank them.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NEW NORMAL – PART II

20200408_165255
Me with work colleagues 08APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

In the lead up to Easter I worked from home from the 06APR2020 – 09APR2020, raged against Trump’s behaviour on the news, anxiously watched the stats across the world but particularly in the UK and generally got on with it.

In Australia there were no more restrictions to put in place, we appeared to be flattening the curve but we needed to keep on doing what we were doing.

This was the new normal, I found myself calling friends more and definitely watching more news.

 

Scenestr was moving completely online for now and launching their new TV show (first episode debuted 26APR2020) following having produced videos for years.

I was grateful to have a job. People I know including Karen either lost work or lost their jobs completely.

With a rise in unemployment comes a rise in domestic violence and suicide.

While domestic violence also happens to men I did note that it was my female friends who first mentioned concerns about DV and suicide was on my mind with the rise of unemployment.

With no commute, a reduction in gym fees, fuel costs, no socialising, and no lunch at work I had a little bit more money available despite a recent parking fine sent to me.

So that payday I donated to the Salvation Army who help the homeless, those fleeing domestic violence or struggling to buy food.

 

Donate to the Disaster Appeal | The Salvation Army Australia

Many years ago a Sally man had come out of the jungle at Jacqinot Bay, New Britain during the second world war. He cooked for the Australians stationed there, their first hot cooked meal in weeks.

His actions ensured that members of a family ever since have donated to the Salvos.

 

06 April

In Great Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson is admitted to hospital.

In America Trump peddles anti-malarial drug sounding like a snake oil salesman saying “What do you have to lose?” despite the fact that such drugs can have dangerous side effects.

 

 

07 April 

Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson is admitted to ICU.

 

09 April

On the 9th of April, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there were 6,052 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 96. There were 50 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In Ireland there were 6,224 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 515. There were 235 deaths with a daily increase of 25.

In India there were 5,865 cases with a daily increase of 591. There were 169 deaths with a daily increase of 20.

In Canada there were 18,433 cases with a daily increase of 1,384. There had been 401 Canadians die with a daily increase of 56.

In the United Kingdom there were 60,737 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,491. The death toll stood at 7,097 with a daily increase of 938.

In Italy there were 139,422 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,836. 17,669 Italians had died with a daily increase of 540.

In the United States of America there were 395,030 cases with a daily increase alone of 31,709! The number of dead rose to 12,740 with a daily increase of 1,895.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WE WILL MEET AGAIN

Queen Elizabeth II at 94: a look back at the life of the world's ...

I have to come clean with you about something.

I’m a monarchist.

Weird huh?

I mean the Royal Family is pretty rich and yet they receive taxpayers money?

They’re well off and probably look down at people like me. So why should I care about them?

I was 17 when Princess Diana died and I can tell there were a lot of people angry at the Royal Family then and wondering if they could survive.

Yet to paraphrase Julian Fellowes they are like any other family and like no other family. They reflect our times and hold up a mirror of ourselves going through them.

During the funeral in 2002 for the Queen Mother watching her grandchildren in naval uniform march behind her casket and hearing tales of the Royal Family during the war. I thought, “Yeah, I get it.”

At the Queen Mother's funeral, her grandchildren follow behind the ...

That need for pomp and pageantry may seem ridiculous and extravagant but it is needed. Look at America, they’ve been trying to replicate it with their Presidents and First Ladies but it seldom works the same.

Besides the Royals get to be above politics, part of how they endure and how they never quite seem to be important. But I believe they are and on the 5th of April Queen Elizabeth II proved my point.

A 94 year old who had lived through the times we were trying to draw inspiration from now summoned a new resolve and pride in us to come through this all too current and ongoing crisis. For her closing words the camera cut to a close-up that had been saved up until that point and the monarch eyeballed straight down the lens to the individual viewer.

With a steely optimism that spoke of our connection to her and the connection to our loved ones we were not able to be with she drew on words that evoked a famous World War II love song by Vera Lynn and she brought me to Goddamn tears. 

We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.

God Save the Queen.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NEW NORMAL

Nightingale field hospitals were not built in error to tackle ...

 

03 April 

I had concluded my first week working from home completely. We were in the new normal. On Saturday several national parks were closed down, one more setback for people wanting to stay in shape. Also we were told we were limited to our own suburbs.

Also I became aware that we were not supposed to leave our suburbs without good reason. Midnight drives to get out and about may see you pulled over by the cops. This apparently started back on March 22.

As a southside boy I drove across town to get Thai nervously. Others I knew grew concerned as they passed police cars on the freeway pulling people over as they went to get fish outside their local area. When the lockdown had started police had used a common sense approach rather than handing out fines. As time went on and people broke police barricades to go to the beach or had to shepherded from public parks like in Sydney on the 31st of March – fines started to get handed out. There was also mass confusion for people who didn’t see the restrictions from a play it safe perspective. Instead of if in doubt, don’t do it! They wanted clarity on the maximum allowance.

I was staying in an apartment with wifi and my income remained the same as my job was not in danger. There were no children to take care of. No concerns about food, toilet paper was starting to fill the shelves again. I didn’t miss movies or exercise, I was happy to finally being saving money.

This was not the comfort millions of Australians found themselves in and I started to think more and more about what could I do to really help them. I remained worried about the third world that was also more vulnerable to COVID-19 if an outbreak occurred.

As NSW Premier Gladsy Berejiklian put it on the 1st of April, “I’m pleased to say today that people think we’re going too far because I don’t want to people to say we’re not doing enough.

 

In the United Kingdom the first Nightingale hospital opened in London’s Excel Centre.

Built in just nine days at ExCel Exhibition Centre with help of 160 contractors and 200 British Army engineers the 4,000 bed capacity hospital is designed to take in transfer of Intensive Care unit patients from other hospitals on ventilators.

Several others sites were well on their way at Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham, Harrogate, Bristol and Manchester to build a surge capacity of up to 14,480 beds.

Thousands of airline staff from Easyjet and Virgin Atlantic have been approached to change beds, help doctors and nurses in non-clinical tasks.

Sounds like being a Wardie.

Airline staff were desired due to the security clearance, first aid training and likely would need the work.

A recovering Prince Charles opened up the hospital via videolink.

Prince Charles opened London's new coronavirus hospital by video ...

In America Jarred Kushner son-in-law to Trump and working as a Senior Advisor on the Coronavirus Taskforce advised “The notion of the federal stockpile was it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states stockpiles that they then use.

He elaborated “”When you have governors saying that the federal government hasn’t given them what they need, I would encourage you to ask them, have you looked within your state to make sure you haven’t been able to find the resources?”.

04 April

Watching Planet America on the ABC I found out the number of Americans who had applied for welfare was 6.6million. A number that shrank all statistics from the previous four decades including during the Global Financial Crisis and the recession of the late 1980s.

Jobless

On the fourth of April the World Health Organisation reported the number of cases in the world had crossed one million.

There were 1,056,157 cases with a daily increase of 79,908.

The death toll stood at 57,130 with a daily increase of 6,716.

In Fiji there had been seven confirmed cases with no daily increase and even now, no reported deaths and rampant increase in number of cases reported.

In Cambodia there were 114 cases with a daily increase of four. There were no deaths reported in Cambodia nor since.

In Morocco there were 858 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 123. The number of dead 50 with a daily increase of three.

In Peru there were 1,414 cases with a  daily increase of  91. There were 51 dead with a daily increase of ten.

In Mexico there 1,510 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 132. The number of dead 50 with a daily increase of 13.

In Thailand there were 2,067 cases reported with a  daily increase of 89. The number of dead 20 with a daily increase of one. Thailand and Cambodia’s numbers have remained steady according to the WHO since.

In India there were 2,902 cases with a  daily increase of 601. There were 68 dead with a daily increase of twelve.

In Russia there were 4,149 cases with a daily increase of 601. There were 34 dead reported with a daily increase of four.

Three days earlier Russia loaded an air force AN-124 cargo plane with PPE equipment and other medical equipment flying from Moscow to New York. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he hopes the US will reciprocate as it increases its production capacity should Russia need help.

It followed a similar shipment to Italy from Russia some of which had been reported to be mostly useless. It came under criticism for how it made America look taking aid from Russia, was seen as collusion, a preliminary move to relax sanctions that had been enforced following Russia’s actions in Crimea.

This was following a week where New York Governor Cuomo had pointed out he was bidding for ventilators online against other states.

When asked in a press briefing if he would he accept more help from Russia President Trump said “If they send things that we need, I’d take it. Sure.

In Norway there were 5,208 cases with a daily increase of 273. There were 44 dead with a daily increase of two.

In Australia there were 5,454 cases with a daily increase of 104. There were 28 dead with a daily increase of two.

In Sweden there 6,078 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 612. The number of dead 333 with a daily increase of 51.

In Brazil there were 7,910 confirmed cases with a daily increase 1,074. The number of dead 299 with a daily increase of 58.

In Canada there were 11,732 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,618. The number of dead 152 with a daily increase of 25.

There were 38,172 confirmed cases in the United Kingdom with a daily increase of 4,450. There were 3,605 deaths with a daily increase of 684.

In Iran there were 55,743 cases with a daily increase of 2,560. The number of dead were 3,452 with a daily increase of 158.

In France there were 63,356 cases with a daily increase of 5,209, The number of dead were 6,493 with a daily increase of almost a third at 2,003!

In China the WHO reported 82,875 cases with a daily increase of 73. The number of dead 3,335 with a daily increase of four.

In Germany there were 85,778 with a daily increase of 6,082. The number of dead were 1,158 with a daily increase of 141.

In Spain there were 117,710 confirmed cases! with a daily increase of  7,472. The death toll climbed to 10,935 with a daily increase of 932.

In Italy there were 119,827 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,585. 14,681 Italians had died with a daily increase of 764.

In the United States of America there were now 241,703 confirmed cases with a daily increase alone of 28,103! The death toll in total 5,854 with a daily increase of 1,061.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST? – PART III

Who Is Navy Capt. Brett Crozier? Hear In His Own Words - Task ...

April 1

I continued working from home, happy to have a job and as mentioned in the previous post Karen started putting the teddy bears out.

April 2

On Friday in Guam, a US Navy Captain relieved of his command walked down the gangway to cheers of his 5,000 crew.

Captain Brett Crozier, a 28 year naval veteran who had flown F/A-18 Hornets in the Iraq War had taken command of the 104,000 tonne aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt 01NOV2019 and all of its 4,500 souls on board.

On deployment in the Pacific, crew stayed at a hotel in Da Nang where coronavirus broke out on the 5th of March.

They returned to the ship, the first reported case onboard was the 22nd of March and not any of the sailors who stayed at the Vietnamese hotel tested positive. Evacuations by flight took place as more sailors became sick.

The number of cases climbed into the dozens, the ship was ordered to Guam and docked there 26MAR2020 with most crew restricted to the ship and pier as more evacuations of sick sailors took place.

On the 30th of March, Captain Crozier sent an e-mail to chain of command urging that all but non-essential crew be evacuated and the ship be sanitised.

In the e-mail he wrote, “I fully realize that I bear responsibility for not demanding more decisive action the moment we pulled in, but at this point my only priority is the continued well-being of the crew and embarked staff. I believe if there is ever a time to ask for help it is now regardless of the impact on my career.

There was a letter attached in the e-mail too where the Iraq war veteran wrote.

WE ARE NOT AT WAR.

SAILORS DO NOT NEED TO DIE.

IF WE DO NOT ACT NOW,

WE ARE FAILING TO PROPERLY TAKE CARE OF OUR MOST TRUSTED ASSET

OUR SAILORS.

The e-mail was leaked and published in the media on the 31st. At this point, 100 crew had tested positive.

Crozier got his wish on the 1st of April, the ship was evacuated except for essential crew to maintain the nuclear reactor and quarantined.

 

 

On 02APR2020 he was relieved of command and by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly believing he had shown poor judgment in sending the e-mail either aiming for it to be leaked or taking not proper protocols to ensure it would not leak.

Three days later Modly would travel to Guam and address the crew over the public address system denigrating Crozier’s actions.

On a ship where hundreds were still onboard believing their Captain had acted to save their lives he scolded them for cheering his name as he left the aircraft carrier. Modly told them ironically “too naïve or too stupid to be a commanding officer” if he did not realize that his letter would be leaked to the media.”

Modly over a PA system that could be heard throughout the ship had his “tirade” recorded and subsequently leaked to the press.

07APR2020 Modly resigned.

 

 

Crozier has been reassigned to San Diego as special assistant to the Naval Air Forces chief of staff. Reinstatement of command to a dismissed USN Captain would be unprecedented.

By the 17th of April most the crew had been tested and 660 had tested positive for COVID-19 with the majority asymptomatic. Positive result of about 14%. These numbers were lower than was originally feared would end up happening. Possibly a result of the actions of the Navy on the 1st of April. Captain Crozier himself tested positive for COVID-19.

As low as the numbers were, there is at least one family that wish they had BEEN lower.

On the 13th of April, a 41 year old Chief Petty Officer of the crew having been hospitalised passed away from COVID-19.

On 05MAY2020 1,156 crew had tested positive.

On 15MAY2020 five sailors developed symptoms, tested positive and were removed from the ship along with some of their contacts. The five sailors had completed a 14 day quarantine and tested negative at least twice before reboarding prior to showing symptoms.

On the 21st of May, the USS Theodore Roosevelt returned to sea.

 

Arnold Schwarzenegger Shared His No-Gym Workout Routine Just In ...

While this drama was unfolding within the United States Navy, I was also taking comfort in celebrities taking to the social media.

I discovered Arnold Schwarznegger’s social media presence and quite enjoyed his posts.

He raves on about his kids, showcases speeches he does and work he is doing in the community.

One could be cynical about these things.

He’s found two cute stars in his miniature pony and donkey Whiskey and Lulu. His much younger girlfriend doesn’t feature anywhere.

Yet in difficult times, we need people who inspire, people who display a go to attitude or give us a little levity. I am finding that with Arnold Schwarznegger so here are some gems.

 

I even dusted off my old dumbbells thanks to Arnie.

 

 

 

Many other celebrities have been amusing us too. Closer to home there has been Sam Neil.

 

 

 

 

Final parting message from Arnie which I took to heart.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE TEDDY BEAR LADY

20200407_151613
Pia who came all the way from Guangzhou airport with me in 2018. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Ladies and gentlemen we have a very special guest writer on my blog today. 

My wife Karen was a published freelance writer long before I was.

A speech pathologist by trade she once wrote to national magazine New Idea as part of a competition.

The gig was to write about a dream coming true and the winning submission would be published in the magazine.

Karen shrewdly wrote that her dream was to be published in New Idea.

Karen won and was published and it was not the first or last time she has featured in such magazines or won big competitions. 

But I digress, here is my wonderful wife and a much better writer – Karen!

-Lloyd Marken

Bear2
Just some cool dudes chilling. Copyright Karen Marken.

 

Bear Blog- Bears Out on a Limb

 

Please bear with me…I am not the usual blogger. My wonderful husband Lloyd has kindly invited me to be a guest contributor on his Covid-19 diary and share with you our involvement to date in a community unifying event called Operation Bear Hunt.

On the 31st March 2020, I learned via social media of a wonderful joyful iso craze sweeping the US. All across the States, people were placing teddy bears in their windows as a show of solidarity.

The idea, based on Michael Rosen’s popular children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt, was that children and parents out on their daily walk would keep a look out for teddy bears and count how many they saw.

Well, I thought, I have a few bears. I could do that here.

Turns out I have more than a few teddies and other stuffed toys. At last count I had 46 and as I declutter I keep unearthing more! It is nice to finally have a good use for them. Our house is on beautiful tree lined street next to a set of shops so there is a lot of pedestrian traffic. In addition to displaying bears in our windows, I utilised the fig trees and brick wall in our front yard by placing bears and other animals of varying sizes and colours in positions that small children will be to spot easily. Not all my bears made the cut. Some were too precious or fragile. For example, due to his polystyrene innards, Fernando the bull (pictured) was deemed not suitable for fig tree duties. Instead he has taken pride of place on our balcony where he chills out daily enjoying the lovely fresh air.

20200403_130642
Fernando the bull. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Once I had placed the bears, all we had to do was sit back and wait for the fun to begin. It was not long before excited shouts of “Ooh look there’s a teddy! There’s another one!” filled the air (and that was just the adults). Our initial success continued on Day 2 of Operation Bear Hunt with delighted people of all ages admiring each bear and taking photos to share on social media. I don’t know who was enjoying it more: the children, their parents or me. No wait.. it was definitely me!

Being involved in Operation Bear Hunt has been so much fun and I heartily recommend others become involved in whatever capacity they can. My teddy bear displays are not quite as imaginative as some we have seen on the internet involving elaborate and topical setups. However we are consistent and have hopefully inspired other more creative teddy bear arrangers in our suburb.  Every day, for about 6 weeks now, the bears go out early and stay out late to catch the first and last pedestrians of the day. I’m not sure if or when we will call it quits. Our appreciative audience shows no signs of getting sick of us.

Overall community feedback has been resoundingly positive.  The sole criticism came early on day 3 when a little boy was overheard to shout “What are these bears doing here? Who has put all these stuffed toys everywhere?”  He sounded most indignant!  I couldn’t stop laughing. Luckily his parents explained the function of the bears. Ever since, this particular little boy has been our biggest supporter and an ardent teddy fan counting and describing each bear in detail as he whizzes past our house on his scooter.

Participation in Operation Bear Hunt has not been without it’s challenges. Weather is a factor. Occasionally gusts of wind have turned the teddies into famous Aussie drop bears ready to suddenly jump out of the figs and onto the heads of unsuspecting tourists. One day “the teddy bears” slept in and I felt like the biggest meanie in the world as I overheard a child sigh to her father “No teddies today”. Both parent and child looked so dejected I resolved to put out even more teddies the following day.

Bringing the bears in at night has become quite the covert operation. One evening I ventured out at sunset. After looking both ways, I collected half the bears then heard a family approaching. Quickly, I ducked behind a tree then ran around the side of my house hiding from view until they had passed by and I could safely resume my collection. Despite my best attempts to retain an air of mystery though I have had a couple of neighbours stop and ask me if I am the teddy bear lady. When I reply that “yes I am”,  they then let me know how much they are enjoying the teddy bears and how much all the children in our neighbourhood love the teddies.

Well that is about all from me for now so on behalf of the teddies I wish you all a Beary Good Night. Peace and Love, Karen aka “the teddy bear lady”.

-Karen Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST? – PART II

Coronavirus latest: Spain sees single-day record 849 deaths ...

I entered a new normal working from home 30MAR2020 to 03APR2020.

I hoped as we got used to the restrictions and new way of life, anxiety about the unknown and stocked items would not run low.

I hoped our nerves would hold and Australia would flatten the curve.

At the same time I worried what the hell would unfold in the UK where I have family and in America things seemed to be escalating fast.

30 March

On the 30th of March in Australia, the government announced the new Jobkeeper program as part of a $130billion stimulus package aimed at subsidising businesses to retain their employees while work slowed down or shut down.

In the United Kingdom Prince Charles announced he was out of isolation.

In America, a field hospital is built in Central Park and another hospital arrives too.

There is a ship that was built as an oil tanker back in 1976.

Eleven years later she was delivered to the United States Navy and became a 70,000 tonne displacing 272 metre long hospital ship called the UNSN Comfort.

She has served America and the world ever since.

The Persian Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Various humanitarian missions through Latin America in response to natural disasters, building greater partnerships or as part of military operations.

Perhaps most poignantly the USNS Comfort has been activated in support of America herself following the attacks of September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina.

Almost two decades after she came to the aid of NYC she sailed into New York harbour once again and as Stephen Colbert put it and into our hearts.

The Navy Tried To Retire Its Two Huge COVID-19 Fighting Hospital ...

 

31 March

Pubs in the United Kingdom pivot their businesses with the economic lockdown. Their distilleries begin to produce hand sanitiser for the Metropolitan Police.

Pubs like The Distillery on Portobello Road in Notting Hill.

The Distillery, The Ginstitute & Portobello Road Gin – The ...

It follows closer to home Bundaberg Rum and Beenleigh Rum distilleries doing the same here in Queensland.

Or media companies 3D printing face masks in Canada.

There are many other examples of people going out of their way to help and try to help their businesses stay alive.

I was certainly consuming a lot more news which we all were.

The national broadcaster ABC did a fantastic piece following the narrative of COVID-19 developing in Australia over the month of March with their show Four Corners which uploaded to YouTube 30MAR2020.

Their program Foreign Correspondent uploaded an episode to YouTube 31MAR2020 as well which covered the early measures and successes of Singapore’s response. Yet already Singapore numbers were going up and so were the restrictions.

At the end of March the WHO reported the following numbers in these countries.

In New Zealand there were 600 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 48. There was one dead reported on the 29th of March, 2020.

In Singapore there were 879 cases with a daily increase of 75. There were three deaths in the country so far with the first two reported on the 20th of March, 2020.

In India there were 1,251 with a daily increase of 180. The number of dead were 32 with a daily increase of three.

In Australia there were 4,557 cases with a daily increase of 312. There were 19 deaths with a daily increase of 1.

In Canada there were 6,317 cases with a daily increase of 662. There were 66 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland there were 22,145 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,619. The number of dead were 1,408 with a daily increase of 180.

In Iran there were 44,606 with a daily increase of 3,111. The number of dead were 2,898 with a daily increase of 141.

In Germany there were 61,913 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,615. There were 583 dead with a daily increase of 128.

Medical staff from Jilin Province (in red) hug nurses from Wuhan after the Covid-19 lockdown was lifted, 8 April 2020

In China the WHO reported 82,545 with a daily increase of 90. About the same daily increase as normal in this time frame. The death toll was reported at 3,314 with a daily increase of four.

In Spain 85,195 cases with a daily increase of 6,398. The number of dead 7,340 with a daily increase of 812.

In Italy 101,739 cases with a daily increase of 4,050. The number of dead had reached 11,591 with a daily increase of 810.

In the United States of America there were 140,640 cases with a daily increase of 17,987. The dead toll stood at 2,398 with a daily increase of 286.

Globally we passed over 750,000 confirmed cases and reached 36,522 dead.

In my neck of the woods something significant was about to happen which will be covered in my next blog with a guest writer – my lovely wife Karen. I hope you will enjoy.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST?

 

When will the first wave crest in the West and subside?

When will the second wave come and will we be ready?

Most of the news has been centred around the pandemic sweeping through America and Europe, at least in my part of the world.

I have spared a thought about what happens when COVID-19 takes off in the third world and specifically the continent of Africa.

A continent that was ripped apart by the AIDS epidemic and has suffered famine and genocide in my lifetime several times.

I worry about the third world but I worry even more currently about the United States of America.

On the 29th of March President Donald Trump tweeted and mentioned in press conferences that he had gotten bigger ratings than The Bachelor for his press briefings. His argument being that while there were those who would like him to not participate or to not have them due to the misinformation he provides regularly, the fact that they rated so well was a reflection of the people’s voice winning out.

This was at a time when modelling suggested America could see a death toll at close to 200,000 in the next two or three weeks. The disease was peaking in the United States of America and emergency and health care workers were stretched beyond capacity.

And this fuckbag was talking about ratings!

Associated Press: New York residents urged to avoid travel as ...

There was a concern about not enough PPE for health care workers which could lead to many of them becoming sick comprising the system’s effectiveness. There was a concern about not enough ventilators, that more people would die than needed to.

Trump went on the offensive musing why New York hospitals suddenly needed 300,000 masks when they previously used 10,000. “So I think people should check that, because there’s something going on, whether – I don’t think it’s hoarding, I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding. But check it out.

While Governor Cuomo had also cited concerns there have been some thefts of masks. The answer was to Trump’s wonderment at the change in numbers was due to the increased workload and that such items have limited use if good hygiene is to be maintained.

Of the crisis in coastal elite states it is true that the horrific numbers forecast at the time have been reached yet weeks later.

Manufacturing recalibrated with lightning speed to help in a time of need, forgotten stocks of PPE were located and ferried where needed.

Yet hard decisions were made, we are just in the beginning of finding out just what was lost and what could have been done better. I have no doubt the blame will not rest with one man.

History decides who was a good leader. History also gets re-evaluated. There are critics of Churchill and Roosevelt too. Yet history tells us they won the war so they’re remembered the way they are. Right now history is being written about Donald Trump.

Can COP21 Save the World? - Pacific Standard

On the 29th of March, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America 103,321 cases with a daily increase of 18,093 cases in one day breaking into six figures. The death toll in America was 1,668 with a daily increase of 425.

In Australia the WHO reported the same day 3,966 confirmed cases with an increase of 331. There were 16 deaths with a daily increase of two.

It had been a long week and a long day for the leaders of Australia.

There was a press briefing that Sunday night following a National Cabinet Meeting. The Prime Minister looked visibly tired even if he remained resolute. The Press Briefing took place inside Parliament House due to the hour and definitely had the look of a late night meeting.

In it the Prime Minister Scott Morrison talked about new measures including advice for gatherings to be limited to two people outside of households. And yes this was the day he advised that his wife Jenny Morrison had gone out to get jigsaw puzzles as they were going to be essential around the house going forward.

I am not ashamed to say it, I was moved.

I felt at that moment that we had not moved fast enough in shutting down. I was aware of an ever increasing danger. I worried for those that I loved and I worried for people I’d never met.

The rate of increase was down slightly in Australia but I guess I was thinking about all 8 billion of us on a rock floating in space.

I was thinking we can only try to get through this and do the best we can and here was someone doing that and he was my Prime Minister goddamnit.

His somewhat flawed traits blunted by his fatigue, his defiant strength to be even more highly regarded given what we faced.

Here was a leader.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – QUEENSLANDERS DECIDE WHETHER TO VOTE?

Coronavirus: Queensland faces slow count in local elections

For the past few years Karen has worked near our house on local and state election days.

Local council elections were set to take place on Saturday, March 28.

Not exactly an issue one month earlier when people cannot directly return from China, South Korea and Iran.

Not exactly an issue two weeks earlier when the Prime Minister was still hoping to go see his Sharkies and toilet paper could not be found on the shelf at your local IGA.

Yet very much an issue on the 28th as people weighed up the safety of anything that reeked of a large group of people coming together in one area over a long day.

Karen had worked at this polling station over a few years and traffic is low there comparatively at a few thousand but that now seemed an awful lot to me.

I believed it was up to Karen to make the decision for herself and so Karen worked and I made sure that I went and voted at that station too.

I am still not sure how I feel about that.

In Australia voting is compulsory with voter turnout often around 90-92%.

In developed nations Australia is fairly unique in this sense.

In the United Kingdom for example it is not compulsory and voter turnout has dropped over recent decades.

In America where it decides not local politicians but prosecutors and sheriffs, voting is often made by 55-65% of the populace.

In Tasmania local elections are not compulsory, are done purely by postal voting and under certain circumstances can be e-mailed. In that state where the people regularly and consistently vote by at least 90% for state and federal elections, the voter turnout for elections that have the convenience of postal voting drops to 65% consistently.

This strongly suggests Australians vote because they believe they have to.

In the lead-up to elections Australians can pre-poll vote by attending set-up polling stations in the days ahead of an election.

They can also opt for a postal vote but cannot request one past a certain deadline.

Pre-poll voting started on the 16th of March with an increased demand leading to extended opening hours.

Applications for postal voting closed at 7pm the same day but additional options were given for people to lodge applications by email and extra print services were secured to increase demand for ballot papers.

Increased staff were employed and opening hours increased at call centres and polling stations to meet unprecedented demand.

Even so on the 25th of March the Electoral Commission Queensland advised “Telephone voting is a limited service specifically for our most vulnerable and isolated citizens.

The ECQ has increased capacity ten-fold to help extend the service to people who have been advised to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19.  

However, the telephone voting service is experiencing unprecedented demand, including people who are not eligible for a telephone vote, jeopardising the availability of the service for those who most need it.

Most electors are able to vote in person and precautions are being taken to ensure voting is quick and safe.

Also if postal voters had not received their ballots they could still vote early or on election day.

On the 26th of March Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young advised “we know, due to our fantastic pre-polling arrangements, and with the way Queenslanders have responded, and with the postal vote process, with all of that the number of Queenslanders left to vote by Saturday will be relatively small”.

You can see why some of the 3.2 million eligible voters in Queensland were still angry.

As election day dawned there was a lot of chatter on social media by people who insisted they would not vote and they would not pay a fine. Local elections carry the largest fines for not voting in Australia

Some found polling stations to be less time consuming with less contact with people than going to a supermarket. Others did not.

I went down around midday, I lined up outside the building where two voting staff were present to ensure social distancing but there was no one there.

I went inside and got ticked off by my wife.

I picked up a pencil and voted over a station. Then I dropped them in a cardboard box and placed my pencil in a bucket of sanitised water and left.

Full disclosure I have worked for the ECQ twice in the past four years at their call centres and enjoyed my time there.

I believe in voting, I even believe in compulsory voting and I believe that a lot of people were looking for an excuse not to vote.

But I also felt fear that day, fear for my wife and fear that we were making a mistake.

I believe more should have been done.

They could’ve opened up the dates to complete telephone or postal voting.

There are logistics and laws involved that may have needed changing and I suppose the medial advice has played out and the danger has passed but for many Queenslanders the fact that these elections went ahead will remain a travesty.

It will be interesting to see how fines are issued and enforced in the months ahead.

Voter turnout on election day was 750,000 or 75%.

Telephone voting was made by 34,000 people.

570,000 postal votes were distributed.

1.2 million Queensland did pre-poll voting.

On the 28th of March, there were 625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Queensland.

20200328_210824
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I picked up Karen later that night and we drove to a local Italian place we love called Marinara to pick up dinner. The business often bustling took my order close to 9pm and handed us a free dessert for our patronage during the economic downturn.

They make fantastic pizza and pasta but a local business is something more personal than how good they are at what they do.

In this simple exchange both of us were gesturing we wanted to be there for each other.

Not a bad sentiment in these times.

-Lloyd Marken

20200328_210816
The view while waiting for Karen. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART V

20200416_171101
Coronation drive on the 16APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

27 March

On Friday morning I arrived early for work and made my way to Toowong Village.

The night before I had gone to Coles after work and found no toilet paper, napkins, hand towels or wipes of any kind. I mentioned this to my wife who had taken precautions weeks earlier but had told me there was no pasta.

The next morning as I was walking in past 8am I saw a young man dressed for the office carrying a pack of toilet paper and nothing else.

As I neared the escalator I saw an older gentleman pushing a shopping trolley with a few items but most predominantly a pack of toilet paper. He also looked like he might be on his way to work, not home.

It kind of amused me to know I was not alone in my thinking.

There was still quite a few packs of toilet paper all restocked from the day before in Coles. I picked up a packet, my lunch and a packet of Coles brand pasta. Already the pasta was running low.

I picked up my local coffee from Stellarossa who were now purely doing take-away orders. All the tables and chairs sat at on any usual morning now upturned and pushed against corners. I left a tip and said I may not be around so much but wished them well.

Then I headed into the office.

This was the same day that the Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson was confirmed as having COVID-19.

It was a relatively normal day, late in the afternoon it was confirmed that I was getting my wish. I and most of our workforce would be working from home having as a whole organisation worked to make it possible in the preceding days.

There were a small amount of people who were to remain.

As the day went on I concentrated on my work, there wasn’t a lot of time to be wistful but I did think a little of how much I would miss the place and its people.

 

 

As I finished for the day I walked over to some windows that overlook Coronation drive and the river. I grew up on the southside of Brisbane, not the West. It’s a nice view though and I wanted to take a look at it in case it was a while before I saw it again.

I felt the same way about all the desks and fluorescent lights and the people I worked with.

On the way out I said good evening to the Director. On television it was being announced that returning Australians from overseas were going to be quarantined in hotels upon arrival.

The media was excited by the fact that soldiers would be involved but not much to my surprise it was a simple exercise in manpower with none of the soldiers armed but simply providing coverage for law enforcement.

On the drive home I listened to Kennedy Molloy on the radio.

https://omny.fm/shows/triple-m-national-drive/special-mick-jane-phone-in-on-denise-scott-to-chec

On the 27th of March, 2020 the WHO reported 2,985 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 186. There were 14 deaths with a daily increase of one.

We had locked the country down and were headed to a new normal but in Queensland local council elections were going ahead across the state the next day and my wife would be involved.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART IV

Coronavirus: Traffic jams on Gold Coast as Queensland shuts borders

25 March

Wednesday was the first day I worked from home.

I’m used to working in my apartment late at night writing stories to meet deadlines. There is no air-conditioning in our house and during the seven months of summer it gets quite hot and uncomfortable in front of the laptop. The sweat of my forearms has warped the wood of the desk over time.

Fortunately for me the temperatures had started to drop so again, with my brand new laptop no less, I felt extremely fortunate.

My back hurt but in the days that followed I found it went away especially if I paced around the place from time to time.

I did get hungry though and went out that night to get takeaway. I noted outside the local shops tables and chairs had been positioned for social distancing and to discourage loitering, markers were out on the floor on where to stand. It was one more subtle shift in how we were living.

That same night the borders to Queensland were closed.

In America President Trump stated an intention to reiterated a desire to re-open the country by Easter if it is suitable.

On the 25th of March the World Health Organisation reported 51,914 cases in the United States of America! Six hundred and seventy-three dead Americans!

While this was simply an absurdly moronic, selfish and irresponsible thing to suggest as a leader while the virus was taking off in the country there were smaller more practical ambitions announced the same day.

Virtually all U.S. late night talk show hosts announced they would be back on the air shooting from home while in isolation starting 30MAR2020.

 

 

26 March

I returned to the office on Thursday as south down at the border people faced a much tougher commute at the QLD/NSW border.

As one man reported to Channel 9 though “It has got to happen. If it helps it helps.”

“I thought there might be just a couple of little police officers at the side of the road but this is good. This is good. We need to do this,” another driver told Channel 9.

 

 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk advised children were to learn from home starting next week however kids of essential workers could attend.

It’s not just our health workers, it’s not just our emergency services workers, it’s not just our police workers, it actually involves anyone who’s in our workforce including people who stack shelves at Woolies and work in a whole [range of] different industries that their students will still be allowed to go to school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Following on from the announcements of other states this decision was hoped to “strike the right balance.”

 

Balmoral Castle: A Royal Holiday - Wilderness Scotland

It was announced that Prince Charles has coronavirus and is displaying mild symptoms. Both he and the Duchess of Cornwall were isolating at Balmoral.

The heir to the British throne had last seen Queen Elizabeth II on the 12th of March and was in good health. The 98 year old Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting.

 

Queen Elizabeth II Here's the Story Behind the Picture

 

The Prince had last attended a public engagement the same day attending a dinner in aid of the recent Australian bushfires. Since then he had been working from home and was tested on Monday after showing symptoms over the recent weekend.

Also in the UK, 250,000 people signed up to volunteer with the NHS.

The WHO reported March 26 in the United Kingdom, 9,533 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,452. The number of dead were 463 deaths with a daily increase of 41.

 

COVID-19 | IAF creates nine quarantine facilities at its nodal ...

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country into a 21 day lockdown prompting panic buying. The population of 1.3 billion people were to remain confined to their homes for the duration.

On the 26th of March the World Health Organisation reported India had 649 cases with a daily increase of 43. The number of dead in the country were 13 with a daily increase of three.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART III

 

24 March

The situation in Italy continued to deteriorate.

One day I was working in Wattlebrae many years ago. I was cleaning near the Nurses station when a nurse came from a room with a patient and said to another. “Probably Tuesday.”

A patient was in the last hours of their lives and the nurses knew it. They’d seen it enough times to recognise it.

Accepting death is a very real part of being a nurse and being a good one. Some nurses have served in war zones and natural disasters and seen a lot of death but such a large scale in such a short period of time as what was experienced in Wuhan or Lombardy is simply something that leaves a toll.

Let alone the very risk to their own lives and those of their loved ones.

I stand in awe of them.

I truly do.

They are heroes.

They always have been and they always will be.

In Italy student doctors skipped their last exams and were rushed into service. In Britain retired nurses answered the call to come back risking their lives to save others as the NHS faced unprecedented demand. I’m sure this is being replicated around the world

Where do we get such people?

 

As large swaths of the economy shut down to contain the coronavirus, President Trump and others are beginning to question how long economic activity should remain frozen.

 

The World Health Organisation warned the United States of America could become the epicentre of the disease.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo becomes impassioned when speaking about the need for equipment to save lives in his home state. Short of criticising the President directly he challenges FEMA “to pick the people who will die.” The President does not respond well to this.

The Tokyo Olympics are postponed and the Australian Football League having played Round One the previous week to empty stadiums stops its season. This follows all other major codes and several sports leagues overseas already having done so.

In Australia, grocery stores swap out the pensioner hour on some days for health care workers who do shift work.

After work on Tuesday night I go to the local barber and get a haircut.

That night following a National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister announces a new series of measures.

Coincidentally it is announced hair salons and barbers can continue to stay open but with only 30 minutes for a customer. The next day the Prime Minister adds some flexibility into the time spent in a hair salon. Possibly after speaking to his wife?

Cafes and restaurants can only do take-away and food courts in shopping malls are to be shut down with only take-away to be purchased from outlets in the food courts.

Arcades, swimming pools and amusement parks are to shut down. Large crowds are to not congregate in sporting fields and large parks.

The Prime Minister also advised that Australians would be banned from travelling overseas with a few exceptions like aid workers.

Boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Most painfully weddings are limited to five people and funerals are to ten people.

If this seems harsh, think of the poor couples who had weddings mere days earlier before the general populace became aware of how dangerous the virus could be. It must be terrible to know if guests have subsequently become sick.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things — we can’t do those things now.” said the Prime Minister.

On the 24th of March the WHO reported 2,136 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 427. There were eight deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Ireland there were 219 cases with a daily increase of 98. There were two deaths with a daily increase of one.

In South Africa there were 402 cases confirmed with a daily increase of 128. The first death was recorded in the country on the 28th of March.

In Russia there were 438 cases reported with no daily increase. The first two deaths would be reported in the country on the 26th of March.

In Singapore there were 507 cases with a daily increase of 52. On the 20th of March they recorded their first two deaths.

In India there were 519 cases with a daily increase of 85. There were nine deaths following the first reported on the 13th of March.

In Canada there were 1,739 with a daily increase of 355. The were 25 deaths with a daily increase of six.

In Brazil there were 2,201 cases with a daily increase of 1,297. The death toll had risen by 35 in one day to reach 46.

In Germany there were 4,438 cases with a daily increase of 1,127. There were 32 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom there were 6,654 cases with a daily increase of 967. There were 335 deaths with a daily increase of 54.

In South Korea there were 9,037 cases with a daily increase of 76. There were 120 deaths with a daily increase of nine.

In Iran there were 24,811 cases with a daily increase of 1,762. The death toll reported was 1,934 with a daily increase of 122.

In Spain there were 33,089 cases with a daily increase of 4,517. There were 4,182 deaths with a daily increase of 462.

In the United States of America there were 51,914 cases with a daily increase of 20,341. The death toll was 673 with 271 from that day alone.

In Italy there were 63,927 cases with a daily increase of 4,789. The death toll was 6,077 with an increase of 601 that day.

In China the WHO reported 81,767 with a daily increase of 764. The number of dead reported as 3,283 with a daily increase of seven. China’s figures have consistently flattend out with very small increases over this period of time. This is in contradiction to many other nations that have experienced disastrous second waves. The country has also backtracked on opening up initiatives at times too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART II

 

As we entered the third week of March more restrictions were to come but the new normal would be firmly established by the end of the week. My hope was that people can deal with having to make changes a great deal more than the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what is going to transpire. Yet for many people around the world uncertainty was coming regardless.

We started to hear about those who were losing loved ones and unable to see them in their last moments or attend the funeral. The spectre of far ranging unemployment also began to descend.

23 March

Monday at my work which involves answering phones we switched to make as many of our processes as digital as possible and shifted the phones to being manned for only a little more than half of the day.

This was a somewhat busy period for us so we held our breath and wondered what would happen. We managed, we did our best, we supported each other, we came through.

I took the time to tell my leadership team that “A calm Captain steadies the ship through storms.”

I had many calm Captains.

As of midday as per the announcement the day before, cinemas, pubs, clubs, casinos and gyms are all shut down. I hadn’t gone to the gym in months but I had just been thinking maybe working from home would help me start up again… yes I know that’s not true.

 

 

In Sydney NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced schools would remain open and safe but urged parents to keep their kids home for online learning if they could. School Easter holidays aren’t due to begin until 13APR2020.

In some schools attendance is down to a third.

Discussion is also turning to how to provide solid distance education to all children including those with limited digital tools and internet wifi. Old school methods of booklets and mail outs are utilised too.

One of the guys I have water cooler conversations (there are no water coolers in our officer but GenX and Boomers will know what I’m talking about) at work advised me that he had pulled his kids from school.

I said “Good on him.”

I wanted all of us to be working from home and keeping our kids home as soon as we could.

 

Australian unemployment rate to double as coronavirus hammers ...

Around the country lines snaked around Centrelink offices as the myGov website crashed due to a surge in applications. The newly unemployed went to apply in local offices instead.

I worked twelve long years as a temp and on contracts finding myself looking for work at least a dozen times over that same period.

Sometimes I was unemployed for two weeks – other times five months.

Once I worked across two organisations, in 4 different roles, having received six extensions on two different contracts and gone up two pay scales over the course of 24 months.

I never took a holiday and through most of those twelve years I worked a second job as well.

I never managed to save up anything – only to pay unexpected bills. I will admit I did recklessly pay for a trip to attend my sister’s wedding. That was an indulgence on my part.

Registering for and being on the dole is a painful process.

I once sat in a public park to get internet access to apply for a job on an old laptop before driving to a local library in the middle of the application because my battery power started to run out.

Yet I am here and so my hope is all of these talented and hard working people who are victims of circumstance will come out the other side.

 

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison addresses the scaled-back parliament session

The Prime Minister was also thinking of them.

In Canberra there was a sitting of Parliament to pass life saving legislation.

Across Australia today many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak. Something unimaginable at this scale only weeks ago.”

“Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change.

“Meeting this challenge is bigger than any Australian … In the months ahead we will face more issues that none of us even now can imagine.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN!

Hundreds defied warnings for social isolation at Bondi yesterday.

 

We entered the weekend of March 21-22 still with a lot of questions of how life was changing. International travel was curtailed and it was clear that trading was down and there would be huge economic consequences but how far the restrictions would increase and whether the number of cases increasing would slow down were all up in the air.

A friend of mine had a house party on Friday night. I had a very quiet weekend but our way of life was still mostly in tact even if some of shop shelves were bare and there was a growing concern for our health care workers.

We knew things were escalating but we did not know what the new normal was going to be. I was hoping the next week would define it.

 

March 21

I saw a couple of videos on youtube including an interview with the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who had steered us through the Global Financial Crisis. His comments about stronger actions being taken by Singapore or Germany led to me taking on board more information over the weekend.

 

 

The Northern Territory announced it would close its borders 4pm on March 24.

The NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said “I’ve seen what’s happening overseas, I’ve seen what’s happening down south and I’m not going to let that happen here,” he said.

“The Territory comes first.”

 

March 22

Seeing how people react to a crisis reveals a lot about their personalities and the things they prioritise. Amongst my friends and peers I saw people who chart their own path in terms of choosing to take their kids out of school or put in place precautions.

One friend drove out of Sydney early on and is now growing a vegetable garden on Moreton Island with a raft of supplies.

Some of us had parties and went out to comedy festivals seizing the day.

Some have questioned all the information provided by the “mainstream media” and wondered if every action is justified.

I admire in some ways all of these people and all of these traits.

For me, I learnt that I do follow instructions from my leadership and institutions. I follow their lead even when I disagree possibly and I look to help others rather than take care of myself. I do ask questions to see if we are doing everything we should but I rarely rebel.

In that way I am like a soldier.

On Sunday I texted my leadership team I was ready to work from home and the next day I advised that I believed we should have as many people at home as soon as possible. Which was of course what we all had been working on for the past fortnight and more but I guess I was communicating a change in my wish to not be treated differently.

Yet I was in the office for most of that week.

 

On the same Sunday, South Australia and Western Australia announced they would close their borders that Tuesday.

On Sunday the National Cabinet was to meet having moved a head a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Before it the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a comprehensive breakdown of new lockdown measures.

The Australian Capital Territory advised pupils will be told to stay home from Tuesday onwards and that teachers needed to prepare to transition from face to face teaching.

In Victoria Term 1 was scheduled to end that Friday and was moved up to Tuesday. In New South Wales they were scheduled until April 13. 

This was not in keeping with the views of the Prime Minister who had previously advised 4 days earlier, ““The health advice is that schools should remain open. That is the health advice. Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open.”

“The health advice here, supported by all the premiers, all the chief ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open.

 

The National Cabinet met and afterwards on Sunday evening the Prime Minister announced a new range of measures.

Jobseeker payments, effectively our welfare payments were people out of work, looking for work and unable to work was to be almost doubled from $565.70 a fortnight with an additional $550. The decision came with a price tag of $14.1 billion dollars. There were also one off $750 payments that some would be eligible for. There was also to be a moratorium on tenant evictions.

The government was working to keep everybody with the means to feed and house themselves and support small businesses through the downturn as they worked to shut down major parts of the economy in order to save lives. They were very clear that this was the first of many such measures that were already costing 10% of the economy.

Interestingly the Prime Minister also mentioned “I’d be careful at comparing Australia’s data to other jurisdictions. Australia’s testing, for example, shows that we have the lowest, one of the lowest, if not the lowest test positivity in the world. We’re at 0.7 per cent compared to USA at 13, UK at 5, and Korea at 3.

There was a press conference before the National Cabinet met and one after they had met.

In the press conference earlier in the day his bull doggish manner was still on display, after pictures of crowds flocking to Bondi Beach the day before have travelled around the world.

 

“What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough,” Mr Morrison said.

“The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, the more and the better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side.”

“So it’s a simple plea.” 

“We need you, we need you to do your bit when it comes to social distancing, to keeping that healthy distance, to respecting and following the rules that we’re setting down.”

Late on Sunday night the Prime Minister went before cameras to provide further answers, to provide information and to assure the Australian people that the National Cabinet were working together although clearly they had pushed back hard for what they deemed were the right decisions for their state.

In line with what the Premiers had already announced, the Prime Minister advised indoor entertainment, sporting and religious venues were to be shut from midday Monday. This included pubs, clubs and restaurants and cinemas.

I have not seen a movie at the cinemas since 07MAR2020 when I saw Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.  It was the third 2020 release I saw after the The Gentlemen and Birds of Prey….well you can’t win them all.

I appreciate some of the kind words from people knowing that I am such a huge film buff and film critic. Yet I want you to know I have streaming, plenty of films I have not gotten around to seeing and… well there are other things to worry about right now.

I have a job, an ability to work from home, the weather is pleasant and everyone I care about is safe although financially many have been impacted.

My thoughts have not been about whether Wonder Woman 1984 is delayed but more what the hell can I do to help those who are experiencing hardship because like I said… I feel truly blessed.

In this briefing there was a small moment that gave birth to a bit of an internet craze of the ensuring days. From my perspective a storm in a teacup but a fun one nonetheless.

 

One thing that stood out to me then and still resonates with me now is when the Prime Minister voiced a real concern for the business sector in the evening briefing.

This was at a time when real fear was working through the populace who had secure jobs about the spread of the virus.  There were grave concerns that we had moved too slowly and it was certainly my thoughts in that moment.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported “The country’s rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases is now growing at 20-25 per cent a day, with some projections showing between 1 or 2 million Australians could be infected by the end of April. If those numbers were reached, tens of thousands of people would be dead based on the mortality rate recorded by China earlier this year.

The World Health Organisation reported on March 22 that Australia had 1,098 cases with a daily increase of 17. We had reached four figures the day before. The death toll was seven.

Yet the Conservative leader more than spared a thought for the very real pain that would occur to millions of Australians losing their jobs it spilled out of him genuinely.

“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face.

That is a very, very regretful decision, but a necessary one in the view of the premiers and chief ministers and myself to ensure that we can control the spread of this virus.

This should highlight to all Australians how serious this is and how hard we all have to work together to get this right”.

 

9/11 dust cloud may have caused widespread pregnancy issues ...

I remember the fear and uncertainty that came in the wake of September 11, 2001.

I remember the two speed economy that Australia became following the Global Financial Crisis.

I remember helping during the Queensland floods of 2011. Driving halfway across town against my mother’s pleas to be with my girlfriend Karen as the river rose and cut off roads.

I sat and watched my TV in the first weekend of this year as my country burned and pushed myself to help arrange a fundraiser barbeque at work. So chastened I was by my ability to not be more directly involved as I had been during the floods of 2011.

I now found myself old enough to remember more than a crisis or two.

Yet I’ve never seen anything like this.

None of us have.

The people who did are all dead.

 

Are we ready for a flu pandemic? - The Boston Globe

My grandfather was born in 1918, the same year there Spanish Flu Pandemic began and he has been gone for a long time. That pandemic which has many parallels to this one is out of living memory.

So interestingly enough people have been taking comfort and inspiration in the parrallels of the Great Depression and World War II.

Both were endured in harsher conditions and with a higher death toll and went on for a lot longer than a few weeks.

As new restrictions finally started to take effect and change the way we lived our lives the Prime Minister Scott Morrison found the words to galvanise us calling on those memories of times gone by in the press conference held earlier that day.

He opened with.

We’re a strong nation, we’re a strong people, and in the months ahead, we’re going to find out just how strong we are. We have the example and inspiration of generations that have dealt with challenges like this before. And we have the advantage of the lessons that they have passed on to us about how we can stick together to stick this through, to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side.

We cannot prevent all the many hardships, all the many sacrifices. That we will face in the months ahead. And while these hardships and these sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit. And we must not let them break our resolve as Australians.”

He closing words were “So look, while Australians may be self-isolating in many cases and keeping their distance from each other. I want to assure all Australians of this, that together we will get through this. We will not want to see anyone go through this alone at the end of the day, through the support that we’re providing. But we need to support each other. We need to care for each other and together Australia we will get through this, and we will emerge stronger. Thank you.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – CHOCOLATES

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Per Day

As the phoney week came to a close the Australian government had taken the unprecedent step to shut down international travel. We were closing off from the world and the sense of threat was only growing.

20 March

On Friday in Australia there were 873 cases with well over an eighth coming from that day alone. The daily increase was 164. The number of deaths was seven with a daily increase of one.

In the United States of America there were 15,219 cases with a daily increase of almost a third at 4,777. There were 201 deaths with a daily increase of 51.

President Trump at White House briefing that day was asked by NBC reporter Peter Alexander “So, what do you say Americans who are scared, I guess? Nearly 200 dead and 14,000 who are sick and millions as you witness who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?“.

Trump replied “I say that you a terrible reporter, that’s what I say.

Trump continued to rant insulting Alexander and his network NBC and saying that he was doing sensationalist journalism.

Just prior Alexander had asked about an anti malarial drug Trump was touting as a possible cure and has continued to do so. This follow-up question was intended as a softball one.

 

It would be unfair to pull out quotes made by public figures earlier in the outbreak. Public figures also need to reassure the public and point to a rosy vision for the future.

For the experts who had a knowledge about this they could see clearly what was happening. Certain Asian countries responded faster having living through the SARs epidemic.

Yet until the outbreak in Italy I think some understanding has to be given to our leaders for the unprecedented nature of events.

However as the crisis escalated Trump’s quotes become more and more a rebuke to what was actually going and the advice that his experts staff and other state leaders in the country have been saying.

To be quite blunt he has failed as a leader to rally the entire nation behind a cause, to create bipartisan participation between states and federal levels and to show an empathy for the suffering of others.

Whenever you hear Trump talk, it’s always about him.

One of his tactics too is to go on the attack, to lay the blame on others. Early on he attacked state leaders, tweeting New York Governor Cuomo has to do more.

That may be a fair criticism in terms of the early days of the crisis but since then I cannot think of how Cuomo could have done more.

He’s given daily briefing, stayed calm, communicated consistently in an ever changing situation and fought for what his state has needed to combat this virus.

Trump on the other hand is a terrifying sight to behold almost on a daily basis.

That is not to say the administration hasn’t done some good things but compared to other countries it has often been behind the curve and there is a constant push to get back to re-opening the economy partly based on what appears to be political motivations.

It is also true a lot of Americans want to do the same but I suspect this is because there is no effective welfare for them like there is in other developed nations. I worry a great deal about the plight of the American people with this President in charge.

These quotes even if they were part of a larger context are jarring in the face of what is happening in the country.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” 26FEB2020

It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” 28FEB2020

It’s going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.” 13MAR2020

I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” 17MAR2020

🐣 25+ Best Memes About Slaps Trump | Slaps Trump Memes

As the working week ended on the 20th of March in Australia I had faced the possibility of starting the next week working from home.

On Friday came I was advised I would be in the office on Monday but to be flexible as the situation continued to develop.

As the crisis had escalated I had wondered how it would affect the world in terms of social habits that were dying off with new technologies.

Would more working offices move to hot desks and working from home? Would cinemas die? Would globalisation be altered? Would there be a push for more national agriculture or manufacturing? Would we practice better hygiene?

Would we slow down and appreciate the little things more?

It seemed digital connection would be hastened by this crisis and as the week drew on it appeared this would be very much the case and I was suddenly struck by a realisation having spent most of my working life being in no working place more than two years full time.

I knew I liked working in the office. I knew the routine offered me a discipline and motivation that I benefited from and I liked the air conditioning. I knew I liked my desk and I liked getting my large mocha from my local café Stellarossa.

That week though I felt very keenly what I would miss the most and it was the people around me.

Cadbury Favourites Party Pack 570g - The Australian Food Shop

In a moment of lunacy that Thursday night I bought four packets of Cadbury Favourites  Party Edition and placed them around the office in different work areas after most people had gone home. With the packets was a printed out note.

These days often we can be heard saying the phrase “Interesting times.”
It’s a shorthand that suits for a variety of purposes.
What we mean is we are living in changing times; we are living in challenging times and yes, we are living in scary times.

Being scared makes sense.
Our way of life is changing for the moment, sports teams are playing to empty venues if they’re playing at all. Shop shelves are bare of things we use on a daily basis. Businesses are closing down and people are losing their jobs. A disease has criss-crossed the globe at a rapid pace and while thousands have thankfully recovered COVID-19 has exacted a death toll and will.

Being scared makes sense but it is not who we are.

Over the recent bushfire season over 18 million hectares of the country was burned. That is 186,000 square kilometres. The bulk of that fire was fought by a handful of rural firefighters and local residents making do under the circumstances. Millions of dollars were raised for the recovery efforts in a matter of days.
Close to 25,000 official Mud Army volunteers responded to the Brisbane floods in 2011 without a care or thought for personal safety or WHS considerations.

There wasn’t as much sports being played in the early 1940s either or during the Great War. There was rationing back then too and a global pandemic to follow.

When the times are interesting…people – all people from around the world are not found wanting.
This is certainly true of the staff of the Queensland College of Teachers.
Things are going to be different in the coming weeks and it is not always going to be easy. But we’re going to get through it together…. standing at a suitable safe distance from each other…sometimes at home. Hey, I told you it was going to be different okay.
So be there for each other, for your loved ones, spare a thought for those who are going to be doing it tough, help those who are vulnerable, thank our health care workers who will be the most exposed and overworked in the coming months to keep us healthy, for our teachers who are with our kids all day calming their nerves and keeping their education on track.

We are living in interesting times, but we will get through them together.

Also, chocolate.

-Lloyd Marken

No photo description available.
Copyright Micah Reynolds.

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART II

Coronavirus: Scott Morrison's wake-up call: cut hysteria, do your bit

18 March

Wednesday.

In the United Kingdom the government announces that Friday the 20th schools will shut down in the UK. This follows several countries on the continent already having done so.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in comparison to other European nations seems more intransigent talking about herd immunity and not taking action as early as some.

This announcement though puts my sister and her husband, both teachers, at home safe taking care of their young daughter. It is also ahead of the USA and Australia who still have their schools open.

The World Health Organisation reports 2,630 cases in the UK that day with a daily increase of 676. The death toll almost doubles that day with a daily increase of 43 taking the total past 100 to 103.

In Australia some major announcements were made regarding travel. At this point there were 510 cases with a daily increase of 96. The death toll rose by one that day to a total of six.

Australia had been fairly early with some of its travel restrictions as far back as the 1st of February when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade denied entry to those travelling from China directly with the exceptions of Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families.

DFAT also advised Australians not to travel to China due to the escalating threat and those who have returned to self isolate for 14 days. Those travelling on a visas who arrived after the restrictions were put in place were not asked to do anything. They were put in quarantine.

In a 24 hour period this had a significant effect with the Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram advising “In Melbourne, we were expecting about 5,000 scheduled passengers to arrive from China, and we’re now expecting about 700 over that 24-hour period. So a significant downturn. In Brisbane, we were expecting 220, and we’re now only expecting about 97.”

You could come into the country if you had stayed somewhere for 14 days after leaving China before arriving in Australia which as my previous diary entry revealed did not stop a local student coming back with the virus.

On the 1st of February the World Health Organisation reported 11,821 cases in China with a daily increase 2,101. The death toll was recorded as 259 with a daily increase of 46.

On the 29th of February the ban included Iran. On the 29th of February the WHO reports 593 cases in Iran with a daily increase of 205. The death toll is recorded as 43 with a daily increase of nine.

Days later on the 5th of March South Korea was added to the list of countries. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 5,766 cases in South Korea with a daily increase of 438. The death toll in South Korea is 35 with three new deaths that day.

Those returning to Australia from Italy were also to face more screening questions and having their temperature taken. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 3,858 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 769. The death toll in the country is 148 with a daily increase of 41.

Then on the 11th of March Italy joined the list.  On the 11th of March, the WHO reports 12,462 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 2,313. The death toll in six days had risen to 827 with 196 deaths recorded that day alone.

On March 18, the Australian government issued its highest travel advice level (level 4), advising Australians to avoid all travel regardless of destination, age and health.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference announcing new restrictions which included only two visitors to aged care homes and a ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or less with certain exceptions like schools, supermarkets and exceptions.

The words restrictions, exceptions, bans, gatherings were being heard more and more these days.

“This is a once-in-a-100-year-type event,” Mr Morrison said.

“Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world. Life is going to continue to change.

His occasional bulldoggish demeanour started to come to the fore when he advised “Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful, and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis”.

This for me is no small thing and not a negative observation. After being critical of the Prime Minister during the national bushfire crisis only weeks earlier – here was a turning point.

In the days ahead I would often note to friends “For lack of a better term, this crisis suits him better.”

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART I

The Surprising Truth About Dark Moon Energy And Its Benefits

The ‘Phoney War’ refers to the first eight months of World War II when both sides pulled their punches strategically and the sweeping invasion of Europe by Germany was yet to really start.

For the casualties of this period I suspect there was nothing phoney about this at all. Poland and Finland planned for Allied Forces that never arrived to help fight off invasion and the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk with the loss of 519 of her crew for example.

The war was real even if it was thought of as phoney.

That is what the third week of March, 2020 in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like.

The threat was acknowledged, events were happening but the major changes to life would occur after this week as government decision making was still gaining momentum.

 

14 March

I caught up with an old friend from high school who had recently become a father with his lovely wife. Their son was perfectly behaved as we enjoyed Grilled burgers.

I have discussed with another friend who is a new parent that his chance to work from home means he will get to spend time with his newborn that he would have missed.

I can never tell if the neutral yes reflects their agreement of this fact or whether it leads them to thoughts of how tired they are and how many nappy changes they might have missed had they been at work.

This was to be our last social gathering for a while.

 

15 March

Around dinner time on Sunday night I called to ask my Dad for advice about something in my physical space and he offered to come all the way over from the southside of town.

This surprised me and I told him that was not necessary but came he did.

Afterwards we talked about the Prime Minister’s big announcement from Friday and wondered what was to come. Today is the 5th of May and I have not seen my father since.

Not a long time in the scheme of things and I have certainly been on the phone to both my parents quite a bit. Almost subconsciously I was calling them every day for quite a while and they were happy to take the call. It was a way to talk through what was happening.

Due to their age and existing health conditions we have chosen to play it safe and not see each other. I of course miss them.

It was an odd thing that my father came over but I’m glad he did and I got to see him just a little bit more before this break.

I was also looking up a lot of things on youtube and relayed to my Dad this growing sense that the numbers of Italy from 2 to 3 weeks ago indicated where we could be shortly and that numbers were pretty scary.

 

 

As a former hospital wardsman I had always been concerned about the extra work load that would be placed on our health care workers and the complications that came with that.

At some point I started to become informed that once the hospitals were overwhelmed the fatality rates went up and at some point I became keenly aware that if protective gear ran out that our health care workers would increasingly risk infection and the potential fall out from this truly gave me pause.

 

16 March

With continuing shortages at the supermarkets, major Australian chains Woolworths and Coles announce they will introduce early hour of trading for pensioners and those with disabilities from 7am to 8am starting the next day.

Which leads in the days ahead to a great story. My Dad who is 75 with jet black hair and a few gray strands is asked to show his ID at the supermarket during pensioner hour. My Dad got carded to prove he was old enough! This delighted him and the rest of his family no end.

The more vulnerable in our society will get the whole store to themselves. This is part of a larger world wide trend.

I was away sick from work that day but my review of Dave Hughes is published on Scenestr as the Brisbane Comedy Festival is cancelled with a week to go.

This is the tip of the iceberg for a loss of income for various parts of the arts industries including my work as a freelance writer. I feel for all the artists and venues and support staff.

I also publish my long gestating My Favourite Films of 2019 List which has been weeks in the making but suddenly it seems out of place given what is happening in the world.

I also write about seeing Dave Hughes that day reflecting more what is going on in the world at that moment even though I schedule that to publish days later.

 

17 March

Tuesday morning I grab a coffee from my local haunt Stellarossa, I’ve been grabbing coffees from there since I started working in Toowong in late 2018. I ask the manager how things are, he tells me it wasn’t so bad last week but this week it has slowed right down.

At work I am pulled aside to sit with three levels of leadership for a quick meeting. I am asked if I would define myself as high risk due to an existing medical condition. One of the things I like about where I work is how they take care of their staff.

They are looking to protect me and I am not the only one who has one of these discussions. Yet it takes me back to a time from my past where I do not like to think of myself as someone requiring extra consideration in relation to the rest of my colleagues.

My wife had also raised this as a possible concern weeks ago but I had not chased it up. I get in touch with my specialist and at the end of a roundabout conversation I am advised that for the purposes of this scenario yes I am not a normal 39 year old.

I discuss with my manager my concerns of being treated differently and he gently suggests that is something I may need to get over. I nod knowing he is right.

Later in a team meeting his wisdom is on display again when to centre our thoughts on what may happen he points out what happened in the span of a week the previous week to indicate the breadth of what might change in the week ahead.

He truly is a wise man.

-Lloyd Marken