COVID-19 DIARY – WAY OUT WEST ORDERED TO STAY IN

Western Australia waiting for more COVID-19 test results to determine end  of lockdown | 7NEWS.com.au

31 January 2021

The last day of January, 2021 marked one year since the discovery of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In the year since, there had been 3,796,092 confirmed cases and 105,571 deaths.

In Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan announced a five day snap lockdown following a hotel quarantine security guard testing positive to COVID.

The lockdown followed a similar pattern to the three day lockdown in Brisbane earlier in the month following one case in light of the faster spreading UK variant.

The lockdown started from 6pm Sunday and was scheduled to end at 6pm Friday evening if all went well.

It applied to Perth, the Peel and South West region.

Western Australia COVID-19 lockdown | National Retail Association

You could leave home to shop for groceries or medical needs including compassionate requirements for vulnerable citizens.

You could exercise in your local area going for walks with one other person for one hour a day.

You could go to work where working from was not possible.

There was a run on at the shops like there had been earlier in the month in Brisbane despite the fact that as per the Brisbane lockdown grocery stores remained open and could be attended for resupply.

I’m not judging, I’d taken my precautions days earlier in Brisbane.

Covid: Australian city of Perth goes into snap lockdown after guard tests  positive - BBC News

As was to be expected with such a lockdown, pubs, clubs, playgrounds, gyms, sporting venues, cinemas, casinos, places of worship and libraries were all shut.

Restaurants and cafes could only do take away.

No visitors were allowed to visit the extremely vulnerable in hospitals and aged care.

Weddings were cancelled and funerals could only be attended by up to ten people.

Travel between regions was not allowed and the WA police moved to set up vehicle checkpoints.

The next day schools were due to re-open but instead they would remain closed for another week.

It is in effect an extension of the school holidays,” Premier McGowan said.

Outside of the lockdown areas school would resume as scheduled.

Tough break for the kids in those areas.

I know for many Western Australian, this is going to come as a shock. Western Australians have done so well for so long, but this week it is absolutely crucial that we stay home, maintain physical distancing and personal hygiene, and get tested if you have symptoms. This is a very serious situation, and each and every one of us has to do everything we personally can to stop the spread in the community,” the Premier said.

There was an impending state election in WA and McGowan had proven very popular for his handling of the COVID pandemic. This decision showed a Labor Premier yet again putting lives ahead of other concerns.

Queensland Health declared the locked down areas to hotspots and anybody travelling from them would need to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Queensland.

Covid Vaccine: Israel's Entire Population May Receive the Shot by Spring -  Bloomberg

On the 31st of January the World Health Organisation reported there had been 102,259,861 confirmed cases worldwide with a daily increase 564,517.

More than 100 million cases had been reached on the 28th fo January, 2021 with 100,511,774.

There had been deaths globally with a daily increase of 2,218,894 with a daily increase of 13,912.

In Australia there had been 28,806 confirmed cases with a daily increase of six. There had been 909 deaths.

In Canada there had been 770,793 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,690. There had been 19,801 deaths with a daily increase of 137.

New variant may not have changed COVID-19 pandemic course in UK, says study

In the UK there ahd been 3,796,092 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 23,275. There had been 105,571 deaths with a daily increase 1,222.

In India there had been 10,746,183 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 13,052. There had been 154,274 deaths with a daily increase of 127.

In the United States of America there had been 25,676,612 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 164,415. There had been 433,173 deaths with a daily increase of 3,521. Twenty five million cases had been reached January 27 with 25,050,308.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART XIV

Qld's harsh border policy – a conversation with Joe Branigan | Queensland  Economy Watch

 

January 28

 

On Thursday the World Health Organisation reported there had been more than 100 million confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 589,451 bringing the total to 100,511,774.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that come next monday, the first day of February that travellers from 35 LGAs from Greater Sydney could come to Queensland for the first time since the 21st of December, 2020.

There had been a hard border in place between Queensland and New South Wales from the 25th of March, 2020 to the 10th of July, 2020.

That hard border was put in place again from the 8th of August, 2020 until the 3rd of November, 2020. 

On that day while the hard border came down for the state, residents of the Greater Sydney area would be stopped at border checkpoints.

Just under a month later on the 1st of December, 2020 they were welcome too.

But with the Avalon and Berala clusters on the eve of Christmas residents of the 35 LGAs of Greater Sydney were shut out on the 21st of December. 

The hard border with all of New South Wales resumed the next day.

Now the border was going to be open to all, no border declaration passes because there were no hotspots in the country.

The 28 day rule of no community transmission in New South Wales which was a previous benchmark had not been met – it had only been 12 days.

No, we haven’t ignored the rules at all. [Queensland’s Chief Health Officer] Dr Young is very confident in her discussions with the Chief Health Officer of New South Wales and those cases can be related back to the original clusters, so she’s very confident the 28 days has been met,” advised Premier Palaszczuk. 

There was a hint of a sales pitch to proceedings.

 

Coronavirus border restrictions: Queensland reopens border to all of NSW  from February 1, premier confirms

 

I think you’ll see a lot more collective response from premiers and first ministers, to try and get this right. As we’ve seen, the hotspot program has been working quite well. Now is a great opportunity to start making [travel] plans, especially around the Easter holidays,” she said.

The Federal Jobkeeper program was due to end soon and the Far North had been sufferring without international tourists and disruptions to domestic travel compounded the issue. Jobkeeper it was said had been a lifeline and the Federal government held those pursestrings.

More on brand was the Premier’s declaration, “If there was an outbreak of that UK variant strain, I think we’d have to shut down immediately like we did in Brisbane, but fingers crossed that won’t happen.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told during a radio interview welcomed the news.

The important thing is that the right outcome is achieved. We haven’t had a hotspot in NSW for a while and even if we do, the whole state doesn’t need to suffer. I hope this brings a lot of joy and relief to people and that people are reunited. That’s my wish for them,” she said.

The bulk of national media is based out of Sydney and Melbourne and there had definitely been a slant from all media outlets to be critical of Queensland and Western Australia border closures. Not so much the Northern Territory. I guess the elites were upset they couldn’t travel to the Gold Coast or Cairns but were okay if they missed out of Darwin or Launceston. More their loss if you ask me.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian advised that maybe the Queensland Premier was a victim of her own policy. 

Palaszczuk batted away the remark with, “We’ll just let New South Wales be New South Wales.

If you’re a Queensland you’ll understand how that brought a smile to my face. 

It has been a really, really long haul, and it has been tough on everybody, but I’ve always maintained, I have to keep Queenslanders safe,” the Queensland Premier said.

Palaszczuk’s caution and 21 changes to border passage over the past year had paid dividends. 1,386 confirmed cases in the state since the pandemic began and only six unfortunate deaths.

 

State Disaster Coordinator Steve Gollschewski.

 

The change to the border would help redirect Queensland police manpower to other efforts.

At maximum commitment, we’re up to 1,300 police per roster and at the moment we’re under 800 and that’s at any given time,” Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski said.

In the past twelve months Queensland Police had dealt with 7 million border declaration passes, processed 700,000 people through airports and checked 1.28 million vehicles at border checkpoints. 

Only 2,670 infringment notices had been handed out and 238 court orders filed for serious offences. 

“Those statistics tell you that by and large, overwhelmingly the Queensland community has done the right thing,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.

It had been one year since the first COVID case in Queensland was discovered and the next day would be one year since Queensland had declared a health emergency in response to the pandemic. 

We’re all starting to see a bit of a light at the end of the tunnel with the rollout of the vaccine imminent. I know there’s nowhere else I’d rather be on the globe at the moment — we’re going pretty well. No-one handed us the handbook on how to police pandemics back in January last year — because there isn’t one. We’ve had our eyes wide open and realised there is no playbook for this,” Deputy Commissioner Gollschewski said.

South Australia was relaxing travel from New South Wales and there were hints Victoria would make a similar decision.

Western Australia had changed their restrictions a week earlier on the 22nd of January, allowing people from Queenland and New South Wales to enter WA if they quarantined for 14 days and had a COIVD test.

My best friend was getting married in Sydney, the change to the border restrictions meant I would be able to go but the wedding was more than two weeks away and a lot could happen in two weeks with COVID.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE LUCKY COUNTRY

Australia's CSIRO Releases 'Lunar Challenge' Space Exploration Roadmap -  SpaceWatch.Global

January 24

There was an interesting report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation which highlighted yet again a two speed economy in the country.

There had been a 1.9 billion dollar jump in savings from pre-COVID trends.

The richer you were the richer you were probably getting, the poorer you were the poorer you were probably getting. Car sales were up, house buying was up too and consumer spending was almost back to normal.

But!

Those on lower incomes jobs were more likely to have lost work or lost income.

There had even been job growth in high income work!

Generally speaking people who could afford a holiday, a night out, international travel – well they saved. And the people who drove their ubers, served them drinks, and cleaned their hotel rooms. Well they lost out.

The poorer got poorer and the richer saved money.

January 25

It was one year since the first Australian COVID-19 case was discovered in Australia.

One year on the World Health Organisation reported there had been 28,766 confirmed cases with a daily increase of five. There had been 909 Australians that had died from the disease.

On the same day the Pfizer vaccine was approved for use in Australia although the AztraZeneca vaccine was going to be the main one used in Australia, the Pfizer one was the first to approve.

ABC analyst Casey Briggs did advise it would, “We’ll be waiting a little while longer before anyone actually gets a jab in this country.

These words ring even more true given how slowly the vaccination roll out has been.

Fifty to sixty countries had been involved in vaccinating with 64 million doses given out globally.

Israel was one of the most vaccinated countries in the world with 41.8 doses per 100 people which was very needed given they had recorded their highest daily increase of of new cases of 10,116 on the 20th of January, 2021. Five days later there 594,820 confirmed cases and 4,390 Israeli deaths.

The United Arab Emirates, Seychelles and Bahrain populations were also reaching some of the highest vaccination levels in the world.

By the way I love the way anchor Michael Rennie crosses to Casey Briggs. Often feels like some passive aggressive stuff there or maybe some sexual tension. Who knows on air chemistry is a hard thing to build.

January 27

John Hopkins university reported 100 million people globally had been infected by COVID and over two million deaths.

Another grim milestone.

And as ABC Analyst Casey Briggs pointed out, “When we hit these big numbers that it is worth remembering always that this is the the lower estimate. These are the ones that we’ve found, these are the ones that have tested positive.

There was an interesting conversation about the global COVID figures but no hard facts.

I held my breath last year to see how COVID would rip through the third world and places like Africa yet North America and Europe are still faring the worst in terms of numbers.

There were a variety of factors at play there, warmer climates could help although tell that to people living through the pandemic in South America.

Secondly reporting was not as vast, accurate or even ongoing in some countries.

Also some of these countries were ruled by dictators who could shut down the populace in a way other nations would not.

There was also the factor that some poorer nations had lived through several previous pandemics and had learnt some hard lessons.

Portugal it was reported now had the highest per capita rate in the world.

Portugal did not shut down over Christmas. Imagine if the UK had done the same?

There was good news for Sydneysiders too restrictions were due to ease on Friday.

Given I was potentially planning a trip to Sydney in the immediate future this was either good news or bad news. With the lower of restrictions it may encourage the Queensland government to change their border stance. Bad news in the sense that if it led to an outbreak the borders would stay up.

Five visitors in a home was increased to 30.

Fifty people could gather together outdoors.

Three hundred could attend a funeral or a wedding, although only a bridal party of twenty could dance.

No cap on hospitality venue numbers but a four square metre rule was in place. Hopes for a two square metres rule in two weeks it was reported could double numbers at venues.

People did not have to wear masks but were encouraged to where they could not effectively maintain social distancing.

The one year anniversary of COVID in Australia coincided with Australia day.

Australia is sometimes referred to as ‘the lucky country’. I certainly felt lucky to live in Australia this past year. Lucky that after many years of intermittent work I had a permanent job during a global crisis. I had enjoyed holidays, saved up money while others lost everything. I sought to help where I could but the suffering has been so vast. Our luck has been undeniable in the face of the plight of others.

A loss of 909 in comparison to 100,000 or 400,000 or two million is undeniable.

And it sticks to the forefront of your mind when the 100,000 is in a country where a family member lives.

So yes Australia has been the lucky country.

Not without its own failures, not without its own loss and not without its own need to remain vigilant as we hope the situation changes with the roll out of vaccines across the globe and its going to need be the globe and fast if we want this to have a chance of working.

But for now I had to count my blessings.

On the 27th of January the World Health Organisation reported there had been 99,921,895 globally with a daily increase of 487,000.

There had been 2,155,748 deaths globally with a daily increase of 13,447.

Two million deaths has been reached on the 16th of January with 2,007,200 souls lost.

The highest daily increase globally of new cases was 842,448 on the 20th of December, 2020 a little over a month earlier.

The highest number of daily deaths globally would be the next day with 16,716 reported on the 28th of January, 2021.

In Australia there were 28,780 confirmed cases with a daily increase of three. There were 909 deaths.

In Canada there were 753,011 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,628. There were 19,238 deaths with a daily increase of 144.

In the United Kingdom there were 3,689,750 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20,088. There had been 100,162 deaths with a daily increase 1,631.

The United Kingdom had officially reached more than 100,000 deaths.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he took full responsibility but I don’t know if that good enough given the precdent of decisions taken by other countries. I’m no expert but Johnson’s strategies were slow in comparison to othe countries and saying you took full responsibility is not the same as actually taking it.

The first time I watched widow Gordon Bonner being interviewed I cried. His wife died from COVID.

Her name was Muriel Whiteley before marrying Gordon at age 20 in 1957. They had been together all that time since.

There were many such widows in the UK, the U.S., Brazil, Russia, China, Kenya and Australia.

We’re all united in our grief, maybe we can all be united in efforts to fight this thing.

In India there had been 10,689,527 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 12,689. There had been 153,724 deaths with a daily increase of 137.

In the United States of America there had been 25,050,308 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 133,409. There had been 417,889 deaths with a daily increase of 1,885.

The lucky country indeed.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – CASES WILL VARIANT

U.K. Hospitals Brace for Covid-19 Pandemic's Worst Weeks - WSJ

January 22

I watched with interest what would happen in the UK. I did not hold out hope that the schools would remain closed until all teachers been vaccinated but how close the two timeframes might land I had some interest in.

I read an article from The Evening Standard that Boris Johnson was to hold a 5pm press conference.

Two million Britons had received vaccinations in the past week alone.

That was one jab – not both.

Also the highest daily death count of 1,820 had occurred.

As these events unfolded apparently there was pressure to end the lockdown.

In the same week of the highest daily death count.

The article referred to the fact that Professor Paul Elliott leading the React study at the Imperial College London had suggested that current restrictions may not be strict enough to see a drop in infections and the reproductive rate.

On Thursday Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said, “I think it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions. We’re looking at that February 15 deadline, as you know, for the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advisory body) groups one to four – the elderly, the vulnerable groups that we want to vaccinate first, that 15 million people across the UK that we want to have been offered a vaccination slot by 15 February.

One U.K. trial is transforming COVID-19 treatment. Why haven't others  delivered more results? | Science | AAAS

I had no confidence that restrictions would stay as long or as severe as I saw necessary. Maybe it was just not possible to get to the UK to where Australia was now. If people catch and pass on COVID without becoming symptomantic then stopping the spread certainly presented many challenges.

If the most vulnerable people receive both jabs, if our health care workers could receive both jabs before re-opening then that undeniably would save lives but this was not was being discussed.

They were talking about one jab by the 15th of February, 2021.

Under consideration was a new plan to have everyone who tests positive for COVID given 500 pounds. The proposal would possibly cost 450 million pounds a week but encourage people to get tested and isolate. The payment would be made regardless of age, employment status or ability to work.

UK parliament approves month-long COVID-19 lockdown for England |  Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

23 January

The press conference came and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom advised, “In addition to spreading more quickly, it also now appears that there is some evidence that the new variant – the variant that was first identified in London and the south east – may be associated with a higher degree of mortality. It’s largely the impact of this new variant that means the NHS is under such intense pressure.” 

The UK R number was cited as between 0.8 to 1.

Academics and researchers advised that Johnson’s suggestion of an higher mortality rate may not be be certain. Which fitted with the language the Prime Minister had employed.

I want to stress that there’s a lot of uncertainty around these numbers and we need more work to get a precise handle on it, but it obviously is a concern that this has an increase in mortality as well as an increase in transmissibility,” he said.

It was reported that the UK variant spreads 30 to 70% faster and hints it could be 30 per deadlier.

An example cited where once 1,000 60 year olds infected with the old variant ten might be expected to die, now with the new variant is 13.

Another factor to consider is death rates in hospitals have per capita have gone down with improved treatment.

Call to protect hospital staff from coronavirus contamination | Society |  The Guardian

The UK variant had been first detected in Kent in September, it was now the most common form of the virus in the country and had spread to more than 50 other countries.

Sir Patrick believed the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines would work against the UK variant but was concerned about variants from Africa and South America.

They have certain features which means they might be less susceptible to vaccines. They are definitely of more concern than the one in the UK at the moment and we need to keep looking at it and studying this very carefully,” he said.

The previous week the UK government had extended a travel ban to South America, Portugal and many African countries. All international travellers now had to test negative too ahead of departure to the UK and go into quarantine on arrival. That was 10 day quarantine in a hotel with testing on day 2 and day 8 – test positive you have to quarantine longer.

While noting a downward trend with infections, England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned the UK was in an “extremely precarious position.

A very small change and it could start taking off again from an extremely high base,” he said. “If that happened again, we would be in really, really deep trouble,” he said.

In Australia on the eve of  long weekend, traces of COVID were found in sewerage water in western Sydney.

“NSW Health urges everyone living or working in these suburbs to monitor for symptoms and get tested and isolate immediately if they appear,” health authorities said in a statement.

There had been six days of no new community transmissions reported in New South Wales.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – IT’S HARD TO REMEMBER

In tearful farewell address, Biden thanks Delaware, remembers late son

January 19

Tuesday it was announced that Defense Production Act would be utilised to increase the roll out of vaccinations. Mass vaccination centres were going to be set up including a massive workforce trained up to administer the vaccinations. The goal 100 million vaccinations in the first 100 days of the new administration.

“I gave you my word, we will manage the hell out of this operation,” said President-Elect Joe Biden.

January 20

On the 20th of January,2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 3,466,853 with a daily increase of 33,355. There had been 91,470 deaths with a daily increase of 1,610. The most deaths reported in one day in the island nation since the pandemic began.

The winter that came well over 6 months after the initial outbreak of COVID-19 across the world had proven far more deadly in Europe and the Americas then the initial outbreak.

Figures from March and April were now pygmies next to those of October through to January.

The vaccine had arrived but production and distribution was a massive logistical undertaking.

Cathedrals, GP centres and convention centres were all employed.

The UK Government had made the decision on the 30th of December to vaccinate all with the first jab and then proceed with the second jab 12 weeks later hoping to grant more protection across a larger part of the populace faster.

The following is from the British Medical Journal:

“On 30 December 2020, the UK announced a deviation from the recommended protocol for the Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine, prolonging the interval between doses from 3 to 12 weeks. Similar decisions were made for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, for which a longer gap between doses had been shown to improve efficacy in some age groups.

The stated intention was to maximise benefit with limited supplies and to minimise hospital admissions and deaths. For the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the decision to delay the second dose was based on extrapolations from phase III trial data showing an efficacy of 89% 15-21 days after the first dose. At the time, Pfizer did not support the decision, stating that high efficacy could not be guaranteed.

Efficacy in elderly people seems excellent after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. A longer gap between doses may improve the long term immune response, as seen with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. However, as many people in priority subgroups have not yet received a second dose, any substantial waning of protection during the 12 week interval will create problems as the UK starts to reopen.”

The health care system even buoyed by volunteers was stretched to breaking point.

It was reported that in England on average a new COVID patient was admitted to hospital every 30 seconds.

Like veterans from a war, health care workers who lived through this time would never be the same.

What they went through would only really be understood by those who went through it too.

Some were not going to be able to continue in the profession.

Some had paid the ultimate price already.

The next day the World Health Organisation reported 38,905 new cases and 1,820 new deaths in the United Kindgom. A new record.

In the United States of America a piece of political theatre never the less touched me deeply inside.

During a tragedy the debate goes do you focus on what is being lost or do you try to inspire, to revel in a brighter future.

At Christmas time when researching about the history of Christmas trees I read that President Carter had only lit the top star of the National Christmas Tree in 1979 saying the rest of the lights would be turned on when the hostages in Iran had returned. The following year the tree was only lit for 417 seconds, one second for each day the hostages had been held in captivity.

The gesture was very much in keeping with Carter.

But the gesture did not bring the hostages back and in similar years of national pain the National Christmas Tree has not been used to reflect those times but more likely to be seen as constant regardless of the outside world.

It should be noted though that in 2001 the colour scheme was changed to red, white and blue and helping to light the National Christmas Tree were Leon Patterson, 5 and Faith Elseth, 6 who had been victims of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

In 2005 the tree was lit with the help of Jackie, Melissa and Jenna Kantor who started Project Backpack to help children displaced by Hurricane Katrina get new backpacks filled with books, toys and school supplies.

Yet the question remained for me, when and how should a symbolic gesture being made about COVID-19.

On the 20th of January, 2021 I got my answer.

After a year of “It will magically go away,” “We’re doing very well,” “Everything is COVID, COVID. After the election you’ll never heart about it again” suddenly on the eve of taking over leading the nation President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris went to the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool and remembered the dead.

More than 400,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 - The Boston Globe

All 400,000 of them.

405,399 American military personnel died in World War II. 297 deaths per day.

It was needed.

I know a lot of thought and crafted intent went into this moment utilising national iconography known around the world but ultimately the power of it came from the simple truth at the heart of it.

The Archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, spoke at the event saying, “At this twilight hour, our beloved nation reverently pauses in supplication to remember and to pray for the many thousands of people who have died from the coronavirus during this past year.

We pray for those who have died and the families and loves ones that they left behind. And may it be a resounding gesture of gratitude for all those who have cared for the victims of this virus and their loved ones. Our sorrow unites us to one another, as a single people with compassionate hearts,” he said.

Not to wallow in remorse, not to incite anger and blame, just to allow a nation for a moment to acknowledge a great loss has been suffered. From it could grow a new resolve to strive to save lives and to be grateful for the lives already saved.

As President-Elect Biden said on the day, “To heal we must remember, and its hard sometimes to remember but that’s how we heal.

January 21

Marine One took off from the White House lawn and for the last time with Ballbag on board.

The helicopter circled the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. in farewell.

Within hours America had a new President who had taken sacred oath to faithfully execute the office of the President of the United States of America and preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Referring back to President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclaimation, Biden set forth his own goals for a legacy.

With a deadly pandemic still raging across the country, a population deeply divided politically and with high unemployment President Joe Biden made a promise.

My whole soul is in it. Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this — bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause.,” he said.

I noted to myself not long after, a simple acknowledgement that so many people had died and a commitment to do everything they could rather than downplay the threat was sadly refreshing. It’s not a high bar but an important one to clear.

January 21, 2021 the day of President Joe Biden’s inauguration marked one year since the first reported cases of COVID-19 in the United States of America – five of them.

One year later the World Health Organisation reported there had been in the United States of America 24,037,236 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 152,937. There had been 398,435 deaths with a daily increase of 2,280.

-Lloyd Marken

Bells and candlelight honor 400,000 dead from COVID-19 | NewsNation Now

COVID-19 DIARY – REACHING CRITICAL MASK

20210116_175442
Karen and I masked up and ready to get some pizza! 16JAN2021. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

January 15

Friday I was at work in the office, wearing a mask and taking it off at my desk as I had been throughout the week. The lockdown had ended on Monday evening kicking off a ten day period of wearing masks amongst other restrictions.

The Public Health Directions from the Queensland Government were pretty clear.

A person must wear a face mask at all times when a person is outside of a principal place of residence in an impacted area.

Exemptions applied to infants and children 12 years and younger.

A person who is affected by a medical condition, mental health condition or disability that may be made worse by wearing a face mask, including problems with their breathing, a serious condition of the face, a disability or a mental health condition.

A person communicating with those who are deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

A person who has past experiences of trauma and are unable to wear a face mask due to psychological impacts.

A person for whom wearing a face mask would create a risk to that person’s health and safety related to their work, as determined through Occupational Health and Safety guidelines.

Also.

A person being married while in the process of being married.

During an emergency.

While not exemptions, masks could removed by a person when they were eating or drinking; engaging in work that requires clear enunciation or visibility of their mouth; or directed to remove the face mask to ascertain identity.

Once those circumstances were over you had to put the mask back on as soon as practical.

On my up to the Toowong village to get my morning coffee I passed a man chowing down on a burger. If you were eating you didn’t have to be wearing a mask. Was this guy munching on a burger while waddling down ramps to avoid wearing a mask? On my way back I got in the elevator alone, at the last minute a woman jumped in sans mask. I’m not one for confrontation but my icy silence must have caught her attention. She gave me a big friendly smile and offered, “For me to have a really nice day.”

Often my fellow bloggers abroad tell me from their perspective they feel Australia has done a great job. I do feel very fortunate about the decisions that were made by all levels of government, I do think luck and isolation played its part but also good decisions were made and relatively early.

But people are people, a three day lockdown is nothing and here we were with the cracks already showing in a 10 day mandate to wear masks. How much would we have failed if called upon to deal with what people overseas had? How much could we still fail if our luck didn’t hold?

January 17

Sunday there was a family get together with my in-laws.

I wore a mask although government restrictions did not mandate it for such household gatherings where up to 20 people could gather. Clearly it would have offered ultimately no protection if something there had been infected with the virus which of course was highly unlikely.

There were currently 26 active cases in Queensland.

Why did I wear the mask?

Because I wanted to.

If it had been up to me alone, I would not have been there. Despite the low risk I just wanted some time to pass since the lockdown.

But in life you find you have competing obligations.

I am obligated to do things for my fellow human beings.

For my work colleagues.

For my family which includes my in-laws.

But most of all the person I am most obligated to consider the needs, safety and feelings of is my wife.

I made my decision to go and I made my decision to wear my mask.

It was a lovely get together.

On the 17th of January the World Health Organisation reported there had been 93,676,141 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 486,056.

There had been 2,010,864 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 9,567.

The day before the death toll had reached more than 2 million people with 2,001,297.

In Australia there had been 28,689 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20. There had been 909 Australian deaths.

In Canada there had been 695,707 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,816. There had been 17,729 deaths with a daily increase of 191.

In the United Kingdom there had been 3,357,365 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 41,342. There had been 88,590 deaths with a daily increase of 1,295.

Coronavirus: India confirms six cases of new Covid variant - BBC News

In India there had been 10,557,985 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 15,144. There had been 152,274 deaths with a daily increase of 181.

In the United States of America there had been 22,871,330 confirmed cases. There was no daily increase reported but the next day there was a daily increase of 473,093. This paled in comparison to the largest daily increase in confirmed cases of 667,188 on the 19th of December, 2020 also following a day of new reported cases.

There had been 381,522 deaths with no daily increase reported.

Here people talked fatalistically, spoke about a need to live. Caught up with others. Talked stats. Lamented economic consequences of state border closures. Interestingly not one of those fucking people were nurses and doctors. For lack of a better way to put it, these people were victims of our luck and success.

I hoped we would not squander it.

The vaccine was coming, now was not the time to lose our priorities.

We needed to see this through.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – FORGING OUR INNER STEEL

January 12

There were three new cases in Queensland, two in hotel quarantine and the third the previously reported partner of the hotel cleaner from the Grand Chancellor Hotel.

While the fallout from the attack on the U.S. Capitol continued in the news I won’t add a lot here. I was sad by what happened and sad that the villain I call Ballbag would not be impeached and so what else is there to say.

Do you really need me to rail against that snake Mitch McConnell as much as I railed against Ballbag?

Trump failed the American people and let more of them die than had in their bloodiest war of the 20th century.

I’m still angry about that.

On the 12th of January the World Health Organisation reported there had been in the United States of America there had been 22,009,275 confirmed cases with no daily increase reported. There had been 369,304 deaths with no daily increase reported.

But I wanted to post here the speech that was made by Arnold Schwarznegger in the wake of the attack. Schwarznegger is an old school Republican and paradoxically a progressive. A old white man and an immigrant. He is everything that represents the best of the American dream and the flaws and mistakes that we are all capable of as humans. Whatever you think of him, this speech should strike a nerve.

In the United Kingdom there were mass vaccinates sites opened at convention centres and sports stadiums, a makeshift makeshift morgues in Surrey as local hospitals went beyond capacity.

Despite the deadpan delivery in the clip below one older gentleman Ron Heath summed it up succinctly upon leaving with his first jab.

“You know you’re not going to die,” he said.

So far 2.3million Britons had been received their first jab.

Since Christmas day there had seen 13,000 new patients in hospital.

On the 12th of January the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom there had been 3,118,522 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 46,169. There had been 81,960 deaths with a daily increase of 529.

In Ireland per capita deaths had skyrocketed following lowering of restrictions before Christmas. They had gone from an daily infection rate of 10 per 100,000 people to 132 per 100,000 people with the world’s worst infection rate!

On the 12th of January the World Health Organisation reported in the Republic of Ireland there had been 152,539 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,926. There had been 2,352 deaths with a daily increase of eight.

As of the 14th of March there have been 226,358 confirmed cases and 4,534 deaths. 

January 13

Wednesday and 120 people were moved the Hotel Grand Chancellor where so far six cases had been found. Four returned travellers quarantining there and the hotel cleaner and her partner.

Guests who were counting down the days were told they would now have to spend another 14 days in quarantine.

“There’s now a possibility that they became infected in the quarantine hotel,” she said.

It’s really, really unfortunate and I really feel for those travellers, because it wouldn’t be a pleasant experience, but this is really the safest thing to do,” University of Queensland virologist Dr Kirsty Short said.

One guest moved was Maria Bryne along with her partner and two small children – they had so far tested negative four times.

It’s brilliant that they’re containing the disease,” she said.

Two weeks you can cope, but an entire month in a hotel room for two small kids? That’s a big deal.

My daughter looks out the window and she sees a playground and says ‘can we go, Mummy?’ And it breaks my heart to tell her no. She keeps asking ‘can we go to Australia, Mummy?’ And I tell her we are in Australia and she says, ‘no Mummy, we’re in a hotel. She doesn’t understand, she’s only three, it’s just difficult,” she said.

Queensland authorities deny possible virus safety breach after reports  infected woman left hotel quarantine

Dr Short believed the transfer was to see if something about the set-up at the Grand Chancellor was causing the spread.

I think that the rationale behind this is the concern that there could be something to do with the ventilation in that hotel or something with the airflow that could be spreading infections from one room to another,” she said.

They didn’t want to risk any more travellers getting sick and that’s 100 per cent the right thing to do, moving them from the location. It’s a very new area and it’s really not clear. We don’t know enough about it to say if it’s going through air conditioning, bathrooms, or any other way, and they’re just erring on the side of caution, which is the right thing to do,” advised Dr Short.

The Labor party took shots at the government and proposed new laws set to cut penalty rates framing it around the pandemic.

Nurses, cleaners and the service industry like waiters were all set to lose money they said.

“This pay cut is Scott Morrison’s thanks to the people who got us through the pandemic – the frontline and essential workers who put themselves at risk by showing up to work and steering Australia through the crisis,” Industrial Relations spokesman Tony Burke said.

The flip side of course was that several small businesses were struggling to remain open during the pandemic and reduced wages could help with that too.

On the 13th of January the World Health Organisation reported in Australia there had been 28,634 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20. There had been 909 deaths.

Le Royaume-Uni obligé de construire des morgues provisoires, les "pires  semaines" restent à venir [vidéo] - Charente Libre.fr

January 14

The Guardian reported more than 100,000 people had died from coronavirus in the United Kingdom.

100,000.

It wasn’t so long ago that I noted the loss 3,407 deaths in Italy. How that compared to 255 British servicemen lost in the Falklands War. 

How seeing a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral of 255 names brought home that amount of loss as being far too much.

Now here we are at 100,000.

Public Health Professor Gabriel Scally from the University of Bristol said, “It is an astounding number of preventable deaths from one cause in one year, [an] absolutely astounding number. It’s a sign of a phenomenal failure of policy and practice in the face of this new and dangerous virus.

This was based on government figures that count fatalities within 28 days of a positive test.

Statistical agencies counted where COVID-19 was noted on the deceased’s death certificate.

The Guardian used both as a source to have arrived at their figure of 101,160.

Here’s some other stats.

Almost one in every 660 people in the United Kingdom have died from COVID or COVID related causes. One in six of all deaths.

Other hotspots like Mexico it was 108 per 100,000 people.

Spain it was 113 per 100,000.

The United States of America with Ballbag running the show it was 116 per 100,000.

But in Great Britain where my sister and her family lived, where Beetley Pete and his family lived. Where John Knifton and his family lived.

It was 151 per 100,000 people – one of the worst in the world.

In Australia where I lived it was 3.6 per 100,000.

New Zealand 0.5 per 100,000 and 0.03 per 100,000 in Taiwan.

We felt we had beaten it': New Zealand's race to eliminate the coronavirus  again

Not for the first time I kind of stand in awe of what others have gone through and can’t quite reconcile with how fortunate I have been.

The Director of the University College London’s Institute of Epidemiology Professor Andrew Hayward told the past week the UK had the second highest death rate in the world.

Our intensive care units, which have always had much lower capacity than many other European countries, are at breaking point. Our frontline NHS staff are exhausted and traumatised. Hospitalisations and deaths will continue to increase across the country for at least the next two or three weeks and possibly beyond,” he said.

New cases numbers were down with 47,525 reported the day before but hospitalisations were increasing at 35 per cent with 4,253 admitted in the past week.

608,000 people died in England and Wales in 2020. 

This was only behind 611,861 reported back in 1918 during the deadliest year of the Spanish flu.

It could add another 50,000 [deaths] before we are finished,” warned Professor Scally.

Cases are now in decline, however, with a further 47,525 positive cases across the UK reported on Wednesday. But the numbers of people in hospital have continued to increase, with 4,253 more people admitted, an increase of 35% over the last seven days.

“The figures are also in stark contrast to counties that have maintained low case and death rates, including Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia where death rates per 100,000 people stand at 0.03, 0.5 and 3.6.

On the 14th of January the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom there had been 3,211,580 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 47,525.

There had been 84,767 deaths with a daily increase of 1,564.

On the 14th of January the World Health Organisation reported in New Zealand there had been 1,872 confirmed cases. There had been 25 New Zealand deaths. There were no daily increase in either figure that day reported.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – END OF BRISBANE LOCKDOWN

Brisbane lockdown to be lifted at 6:00pm but masks and some restrictions to  remain - ABC News

January 11

Monday and I worked from home. The lockdown was scheduled to end at 6pm that night but we would see how things panned out.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced at a press conference that the lockdown as scheduled would end at 6pm.

No new cases had been reported since the lockdown began on Friday.

“This is the best news we could have hoped for, absolutely the best news,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

There would be some ongoing restrictions and some amendments.

The big thing of note was that masks were going to be still be mandatory for the next ten days until 1am the following friday on the 22nd of January.

That was at shopping centres, public transport, gyms and workplaces where people could not keep socially distanced. Where I worked and am on the phone constantly, I kept my mask off at my desk and put it back if I stepped away from it even slightly. I was getting a good idea of what my breath smelled like.

This actually meant I got breaks between having to keep it on and I found it really not a hassle at all.

I didn’t make it to the gym at this time but I heard that the wording was you wore a mask unless you were strenously exercising. I guess this was to avoid people hyperventilating. But what it meant was people were being called on to do personal judgement and to show concern for others as well as themselves. I didn’t trust people to do the right thing for their fellow human beings but that was just me.

Restaurants could take dine-in customers but one person per 4 square metres.

Hospitals, aged care facilities, disability accommodation and correctional centres will remain closed to visitors until January 22.

You could have 20 people at your home, 100 attend a wedding or a funeral up from 10 and 20 respectively. Dancing was only allowed at weddings, not pubs.

Theatres and concert venues could be at 50 per cent capacity.

Test cricket was cancelled and tickets refunded.

Despite coming out of lockdown authorities urged caution.

Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the restrictions were necessary to ease Greater Brisbane out of the lockdown, and she warned Queenslanders not to become complacent.

COVID QLD: Brisbane lockdown begins as UK mutant virus on loose | The  Courier Mail

This decision was not made lightly. We know this new variant is much more contagious, which is why it is so important we continue to have some restrictions in place for a short period of time,” Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said.

The pandemic is still with us,” Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young told.

Globally… This virus is getting worse. For the third week in a row we have seen positive cases of four million new cases a week,” D’Ath said.

Thousands of tests had been carried out in the Greater Brisbane region during the lockdown including 18,000 in the past 24 hours.

Contract tracing had identified 370 contacts of the cleaner at the Hotel Grand Chancellor. One hundred and seventy two had been tested and come back negative.

“I don’t think that everyone has come forward yet,” Dr Young said of all the potential contacts.

“For the next 10 days while we see out the 14-day incubation period we still do have to be on heightened alert,” she added and I couldn’t agree more.

In fact I quite frankly did not know why we weren’t staying in lockdown for a little longer.

On the other hand some elements were questioning why such a measure had been taken over one case even if it was one of the more easily spread UK strain and even if that poor individual had been on public transport and major shopping centres for two days undiagnosed.

The Premier had an answer for them.

Brisbane lockdown to be lifted at 6:00pm but masks and some restrictions to  remain - ABC News

[It’s] definitely not an overreaction. It was absolutely supported by AHPPC [Australian Health Protection Principal Committee], it was supported by National Cabinet, and as you can see it was supported by people in the Greater Brisbane,” she said.

Dr Young backed her up.

The reason that I asked for that three days was for us to be able to immediately go and find as many of the contacts as we could and have them placed into quarantine, so that if they do become positive, they’ve spent the two days, which is the most infectious period, already in quarantine and not out and about in the community,” Dr Young said.

Which again by that reasoning I thought we shouldn’t come out of the lockdown, as Dr Young had said she was concerned not all contract tracing had been done, not all people had come forward.

The fact that a break-out that didn’t occur fuels calls that the steps taken by the government were unnecessary but I believe they should have taken more.

I believe luck was involved here and luck always runs out.

I believe the cost of doing these things never measures up to the risk of what happens if you don’t.

That’s me.

Others take a different view.

But in the end history has shown that we got through this. I am still grateful to live somewhere where government at least takes some action.

To that end it could be suggested that Queensland themselves for the most part did the right thing over this short period of time which would have contributed to the success of the lockdown.

We wore masks, we stayed home, we practiced social distancing.

You know for 72 hours.

Police commissioner Katarina Carroll says more charges to come after two  teens allegedly raped by group of men - ABC News

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll was certainly full of praise for the community.

“When 6:00pm on Friday came, everyone knew what they had to do, and I’ve got to say the compliance and cooperation was second to none,” Commissioner Carroll said.

Only twenty infringement notices had been handed out and 1,300 masks were given out by police rather than fines.

We decided rather than fining people we would hand out masks because it was something new for us in Brisbane and we really wanted to communicate with people and show a bit of compassion. It was an education piece, ‘this is what you should be doing and this is the reasons why, and we have a mask for you. There was just a few that wouldn’t take us up on our offer,” Commissioner Carroll explained.

After the announcement lockdown breaking news advised us of one community transmission. The partner of the hotel cleaner had been re-tested and came back positive. Contract tracing for him continued.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – A QUIET WEEKEND

20210116_175442

Karen and I masked up and ready to get some pizza! Copyright Lloyd Marken.

January 09

It had been ten months since serious restrictions had been placed in Brisbane in the early days of COVID expanding around the world.

Karen and I of course had a quiet weekend.

I got a text message with a longer list of locations on the southside that if you had been it you needed to get tested and self isolate. While the locations were from the area I lived in growing up I had not been to that in recent times. I did pass along to my parents who live on the southside of town but further afield and they advised they had not been there thankfully.

I did consider if I should go and get tested given that the government was keen to have many people get tested to get a better picture of how we were travelling but ultimately I decided against it.

We did go out and get take-away on Saturday night at our local pizza joint Marianas who were happy to see us as we happy to see them.

It was 6pm or so and more so than finding a park easy, more so than the traffic on the road, the thing that struck me was when we got home with the day ending everything was so quiet. No cars driving past, nobody even walking around for their local exercise. It recalled memories from the previous March. Its amazing how quickly you get used to things and how quickly you forget.

January 10

Sunday in the news was the small town of Maleny where Karen and I had shared a first holiday together.

Maleny is tucked away along with Montville, Landsborough, Mapleton and Flaxton in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland full of wineries, B&B getaways, hiking trails, markets and home craft stores.

Anybody who goes to such towns can’t help but be charmed by them and as mentioned on previous posts we have hold dear our particular pizzeria up there by the name of Capriccios.

Alas Capriccios was in the news and unfortunately not for their delicious pizzas or considerate staff.

A woman had been cleared to leave Melbourne having finished her hotel quarantine on the fifth of January.

She flew to Brisbane and travelled to Maleny where for two days she did simple day to day trips we all do. Over two days she only went to Purple Palate Cellars, the Woolworths and Capriccio’s Pizza which when you think about it is just good common sense but then Queensland Health were advised by Victoria she had retested positive.

This of course raises all kinds of questions which would prompt further restructure of the testing and repatriation process.

Dr Jeanette Young advised in a briefing that there was 14 day ‘quarantine’ for those who don’t have the virus. Once they do they had to be in ‘isolation’ for 10 days or 3 days where they no longer presented with symptoms. This had worked well in Australia prior to the UK strain and this woman coming to Maleny.

Now the 10 days in ‘isolation’ was going to be 14 days too.

For now what it meant was a person who thought she was okay now had found out she was sick, a business I have been a happy patron of for many years had to be shut down and a town of three and half thousand people was thrown into disarray.

Capriccio’s co-owner told ABC News Tamara Leacy that her and other staff were getting tested at the pop-up testing centre that had been set up.

We’re going to get tested ourselves so that we’ve got the all clear and we can move on from that. Just to put our own minds at ease,” she said

Business partner Dominic Venditti confirmed on Capriccio’s social media page that Capriccio’s was shut until Queensland Health gave them the all clear and urged customers to get tested.

A big thanks to everyone! We love our community let’s all do what we can to stay safe,” he wrote.

The monthly Montville Markets were cancelled with one of the organisers Deborah Davis saying, “Even though we’re not in the Greater Brisbane area, there are a number of high risks for us. We experience high visitor numbers and many of these visitors come from Brisbane.

Again history has proven me to be overtly cautious but knowing how closely connected the towns of Mapleton, Montville, Flaxton and Landsborough were at the time I was concerned that not enough people were coming out and getting tested and that the Sunshine Coast should be involved in the three day lockdown anyway and that the three day lockdown should be longer.

But we would see history prove that we did fine without taking the actions I thought were necessary.

There were no new cases in Brisbane on Sunday.

There were 20 active cases in Queensland, most of them were in hotel quarantine.

Police had minimal trouble too, 15 fines were handed out in the last 24 hours, 700 masks were handed out by police officers to those seen out in public without one. Only fined where they refused to comply. The go soft approach to get everybody in the right mindset which seemed to work well.

I myself was wearing a mask as soon as I left my front door but not while inside my car by myself There was talk over the weekend that I was in the wrong with that so I started to wear a mask inside my car too and that later got reframed.

The 8th of January, 2021 was the first time masks had been made compulsory in Brisbane but previous scares last winter and at the beginning of the pandemic meant that most people had them ready to go and were happy to comply.

As the Northern Beaches area of Sydney came out lockdown there were three new cases in Sydney related to both the Berala Cluster and the Avalon Cluster – the latter now reaching a total of 150 cases.

On the 10th of January, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 89,328,503 confirmed cases of COVID worldwide with a daily increase of 836,427.

The only larger daily increase of new cases has been on the 20th of December with 842,714.

Could we dare hope this would be the turning point, the worst day of new cases never to be repeated or taken over by a new horrid figure.

Can we hope?

There had been 1,923,799 deaths globally with a daily increase of 12,947.

In Australia there had been 28,582 confirmed cases with a daily increase of eleven. There had been 909 deaths. The last death reported on the 29th of December.

In Canada there had been 644,348 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 9,214. There had been 16,707 deaths with a daily increase of 128.

The latest on COVID-19 developments in Canada on Jan. 6, 2021 | Kamloops  This Week

In the United Kingdom a country 66.65 million people they had reached over 3 million cases. There had been 3,017,413 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 59,937.

There had been 80,868 deaths with a daily increase of 1,035.

On the 13th of November the United Kingdom had reached a new record for new daily cases – 33,470.

The worst day in the day months of March and April had been 5,487 on the 24th of April.

On the 24th of September, 6,178 new daily cases had broken past that previous record.

The record continued to be broken but 22,961 on the 5th of October dwarfed all previous records. 

26,687 later that month on the twenty second beat that.

Then in the wake of Remembrance Day, 33,470 on the 13th of November.

With winter and new deadly strains the figures drastically changed, the risk ever greater in the country where I have loved ones.

As Christmas beckoned there were 35,383 new daily cases on the 15th of December.

The record was broken again on the 21st of December with 35,385 and again 23DEC2021 36,803 and again Christmas Eve 39,237.

On the 29th of December it was a new record of 41,385 new daily cases.

The 30th of December it was a new record of 53,135 new daily cases.

A new year and a new record with 55,892 new daily cases on the 1st of January, 2021.

London, England, lockdown

03JAN2021 – 57,724.

05JAN2021 – 58,784.

06JAN2021 – 60,916.

07JAN2021 – 62,322.

On the 9th of January, 2021 a new record of daily new cases in the United Kingdom was reached – 68,053. 

We can become numb to numbers but I can tell you with my sister half way around the world 68,053 new cases a day had our attention. We were worried.

In India there had been 10,450,284 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 36,867. There had been 150,999 deaths with a daily increase of 429.

In the United States of America there had been 21,761,186 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 313,516. There had been 365,886 deaths with a daily increase of 3,599.

On the 9th of January they had reported a daily increase in deaths of 4,176.

The only larger daily figures reported had been 5,000 deaths on the 3rd of May, 2020 and 6,409 deaths on the 17th of April.

Ballbag was impeached a second time.

My city was in lockdown but I felt very safe and lucky to live where I did.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – BRISBANE GOES INTO THREE DAY LOCKDOWN

In pictures: Eerie pictures of Brisbane's empty streets | The Advertiser

January 8

Friday morning I drove into work.

It’s my first fix of news for the day often, sometimes my only until late in the evening.

There was mention of COVID of course but nothing related to my hometown.

I was interested in what was happening Sydney as a friend of mine was hoping to get married there on Valentines Day.

I parked my car, walked the twenty minutes or so up to our offices.

The whole way I walked without a mask.

No one wore masks in Queensland these days.

I walked through the door and plonked my bag on my desk and started work.

I overhead a conversation about a colleague leaving at 3:30pm maybe.

My supervisor came around and asked if I heard that?

It was 8:35am.

He told me we were going into lockdown at 6pm tonight. No one leaving their houses except for medical reasons essential work or food.

I told him there had been nothing on the radio.

I got on the internet, sure enough there was a post on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing the lockdown.

It was 23 minutes old.

The plan was to go ahead with the work day but if staff needed to plan around this development they could.

I called Karen to touch base about groceries. I couldn’t raise her.

I gave it a few minutes and went up to my supervisor and advised I’d like to use my lunch hour now to get some groceries sorted.

I wasn’t just thinking about the daily shop.

I was given permission, I took one of the masks my sister in law had made for me out of my bag and headed for Toowong village.

I texted Karen at 8:46am to call me.

I had no idea if she was out of the loop.

I went to the fruit shop. Already there were more people in the shop than usual. Not everybody knew. Somebody helpfully told a customer looking around perplexed that the lockdown had been announced and she thanked them.

I was not the only one wearing a mask, it seemed almost everyone had one, as if they had been waiting for the signal and now it had been sent.

I dashed over to the chemist and bought some medical masks thinking about people at work who may not have a mask with them and were catching public transport home. I needn’t have worried, it seemed much like myself, everybody had masks ready to put on.

I’d walked up in the early morning with no masks in sight and 30 minutes later stood in Coles surrounded by dozens of people wearing masks of one sort or another.

Many nearby residents stood in Coles having come to do their weekly shop surprised by the long lines and big crowds.

Despite this people seemed polite and helpful to each other, didn’t take too much of any one product and gave each other some space.

Why I was there?

I wanted to be prepared for worse case scenarios.

I wanted staples on hand if I had to isolate at home for several days.

I was planning for more than what had just been announced.

I got some tinned food, rice, soup, some fruit and not much else. I felt dialed down and calm, just thinking a little ahead and not being greedy or fearful.

Of course that may not be how other people see it and I can understand that too.

My actions were similar to many others across the city as supermarkets were swamped.

I admired the incredible effort of the supermarket staff as they managed this massive influx of people and the need to re-stock.

Didn’t they have people at home they were worried about?

Didn’t they need to buy after their shift was over?

Greater Brisbane enters three-day lockdown amid UK COVID-19 variant concern

It really was quite admirable.

Retail staff have really shouldered some huge burdens during this pandemic with little if any reward.

I had never been in a store so crowded even during Christmas when it is bedlam.

I followed a line that had started at the check-outs and was naturally snaking around in a circle out the front of the store before going down an aisle past the centre. It went all the way down that aisle not long after I joined it.

I was in that aisle for several minutes not knowing what awaited me when I got out of it. Then the line moved fast and split into two. Those going through the self check-outs and the rest of us going old school. I saw a line outside the store several metres long.

The store had reached capacity and was letting people in groups once enough had of us had left. If I had waited until lunch I may have been in such a line and while people weren’t hoarding it just seemed unlikely a lot would be left on the shelves of certain things people at such a time like milk or break or pasta or yes rice or toilet paper. Having never seen the store like this I took some pictures.

I was on my way back to work at 10am when I got in touch with Karen. She was locked out on our balcony with her phone running low. So I got leave to go drive home, open up the balcony door, and drive back to work.

I effectively started working at sometime after 11am but from then on I surprisingly had a productive day.

I was very grateful for the flexibility and support shown by leadership.

The lockdown was to last until 6pm Monday.

We would all be working from home on Monday but in my particular team we were set up do this. The volume of traffic may bring complications but we were prepared to work through the situation as best we could.

I wouldn’t say we were afraid of the potential break-out. We had been in lockdown before. We of course were worried about each other, and concerned with making arrangements but when the hammer falls you just tend to deal with things as they come and hope for the best.

So what prompted this lockdown?

Well on Thursday while the news was dominated by the attacks on the Capitol we were informed that Queensland’s 113 day streak of no new community transmissions was over. A hotel cleaner at the Grand Chancellor hotel where repatriated Australians were staying in hotel quarantine had contracted COVID.

Of particular concern was that she had been on public transport from the city to Altandi and probably come into contact with a number of people while unknowingly contagious.

So the next morning the Queensland Premier had decided to “Go hard and go early,”

The Greater Brisbane region of Brisbane, Logan Ipswich, Moreton Bay Region and Redlands Bay were part of the lockdown. The neighbouring Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast were not part of the lockdown prompting some Brisbane residents to head there before the 6pm lockdown came into place. I probably would have put them in lockdown given the distances involved and that many people commute from those areas into Brisbane.

“Think of it as a long weekend at home,” advised Premier Palaszczuk.

Funerals were limited to 20 people and weddings to ten.

Given the incubation period of two weeks for COVID, a three day lockdown seemed quite short.

The reasoning was it gave enough time for effective contract tracing to occur much like the reasoning behind the six day lockdown in South Australia back in November.

I felt without any expert knowledge that three days was too short.

“We need to act really fast, we need to find every single case now. Until we have found all those people, we can’t relax. We have to bring this in fast rather than be able to wait and see what the extent of the spread is. Because once its spread it will be too late to act,” advised Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young given that the cleaner had caught the UK strain which was 70 per cent more contagious.

It’ll be too late if on Monday I stand up here in front of you and say we’ve had 10 cases and they’ve been out infectious in the community infecting people,” she said.

Later that night in the wake of people hitting the shops the Premier was on the news advising people that people could still have take-away and that people could shop and that the shops would not run out.

Certain shelves were bare by Friday night but would get restocked quickly enough.

The situation prompted larger conversations about moving hotel quarantine out of major metropolitan cities which must have just delighted regional areas.

There were changes afoot with repatriation of Australians, they would cut returning numbers by 50% and increase testing requirements.

“All of the things we’ve done in the past, all of the controls we’ve talked about in terms of test, trace, isolate — all of those personal measures and even some other measures we have had to do in certain times will become less effective if this virus was to be established,” Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said.

This virus continues to write its own rules and that means that we must continue to be adaptable in how we continue to fight it,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told us.

Meanwhile in the United States of America in the wake of the attacks on the Capitol there was a lot of talk about what to do with the outgoing President. There is not a lot I will add here except to say that pretty everything I feared that would come to pass – did. This was the noise that followed in the wake of a significant and upsetting event. But noise that ultimately revealed just how little was going to change.

For months I had been watching what was happening in other countries and even in other states and feeling very fortunate. I felt even perversely guilty because we had not suffered like other parts of the world. We were not suffering  like that yet but we were now facing an increased risk, being called upon to live with restrictions and to act with some caution.

I hoped we would do the right thing.

For those overseas who had suffered so much it must have seen almost comical.

“I heard you’re in lockdown. What happened?”

“A hotel quarantine cleaner got it.”

But authorities were racing to stop something much larger happening. The cleaner from the 2nd of January until she had symptoms and got tested immediately had been in close contact with 70 other people.

Even more troubling was the fact that she had the UK strain.

Epidemiologist and University of Queensland Associate Professor Linda Selvey told the ABC, “If it wasn’t this new variant, there wouldn’t be this kind of response. There is quite a lot at stake and the idea is to stamp this out pretty quickly.

The concern is that there may well be a whole lot of cases. This lockdown provides some breathing space and an opportunity to learn whether there are other cases and what’s actually going on,” Selvey added.

If you did nothing, obviously it expands much more rapidly but it also means that if it got out, that the restrictions that you would need to put in place to get the R under one to control it would actually have to be more severe. It won’t necessarily be longer, but we may need harder restrictions, coming down faster for a wider area in order to get it under control,” explained Bond University Professor Paul Gasziou.

-Lloyd Marken