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

COVID-19 DIARY – YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW

Viewpoint: What the Capitol riot means for US foreign policy - BBC News

January 7

On Thursday I was at work in Australia, I went home and watched nothing but news. What can I tell you that hasn’t already been said?

In the moment a few things came to my mind.

If you allow a leader to question the legitimacy of an election and the legitimacy of a government and its institutions then none of those things will be respected and they will be freely attacked.

When you have a President that holds nothing sacred then nothing will be.

I can’t pretend I knew this would happen. I watched experts ponder what would come of the instability that Ballbag was formenting. I said to a work colleague at the time of the election that secret service agents for both President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris and Ballbag’s had a tough few months ahead of them.

But I didn’t see this coming….

And yet in the moment it happened I thought sadly…I believe…-“Well of course this is what happened.”

How the Attack on the Capitol Happened, From Planning to Siege to Arrests |  GQ

I’ve thought about it in the days since.

There was anger and dismay but almost immediately news from the usual players told us Antifa was there, this was a small part of the crowd that marched on Washington, they brought the Confederate flag into the Rotunda and yet some helpful people wanted us to these weren’t even White Supremacists which to be fair that flag is not always carried by only white supremacists but you get the point.

Speaking of flags, the rioters took down the American flag and replaced it Trump/Pence flags.

They yelled we’re American but is that really what a true American does?

In the wake of January 6, we were also told that Ballbag was no longer a threat, that the numbers wouldn’t get up for an impeachment and that now was the time for the country to heal.

I’ve often wondered about 74 million Americans who voted for a man I hate so much.

I just can’t believe they’re all ignorant or full of hate.

Maybe I’m ignorant.

You could imagine some of the people there on the day feeling empowered. They were the people and maybe in their eyes they had come and fought for democracy.

The people who took back the people’s house.

The disenfranchised coming to the elites inner sanctuary and issuing a warning.

US: Impeachment Not Enough | Human Rights Watch

A woman who served in Afghanistan was killed on January 6.

She was one of the rioters.

I think anybody who reads this blog knows of my respect for those who have served. I know that not all those who served are good people worthy of our respect and love. But many are. You could certainly make the argument that this veteran who was killed assaulting her nations capital was a patriot at some point in her life. 

If not all of it.

So I think its worth remembering a couple of things.

There was an election.

Ballbag lost it.

The votes weren’t there for him. The kind of rigged result he espouses by all accounts has received no evidence and would be so large that it would be highly unlikely nothing turned up from it.

I’ve worked in elections, through his actions, supporters showed up in states protesting to continue the count and in others to stop the count based on trends. That is clearly them pushing an agenda. It created security concerns and stress for non-partisan vote counters just doing their jobs.

Next time he talks about stealing an election. Remember it was him calling state officials to “find” the votes needed and pressuring them to overturn results.

I could go on but you know what happened.

On January 6, he stood in front of a crowd and talked about Vice President Mike Pence needing to defy the constitution and overturn the election results of over 150 million Americans because of his own wishes and encouraged a mob to march on the capital and not let them steal the election.

Of course Ballbag was never going to march with them and of course he didn’t.

But the damage was done.

After weeks of refusing a peaceful transition, of insisting he won, of saying the election was stolen and they would fight on.

Trump’s mob let loose.

You ever been intimidated at work, had somebody step into your space and endanger you and people you care about.

Imagine for a second you huddled under those desks or chairs.

The following timings are referrenced from the excellent video from The Washington Post.

At 2:12pm the rioters entered the Capital building.

Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman all by himself faces off against a group of rioters. He runs up two flights of stairs, is positioned outside the entrance to where Mike Pence’s office is and where the Vice President is inside with his family.

The police officer shoves a rioter to make himself a target and calmly moves away up the hall leading the mob away from the sheltering family and towards more police.

His quick thinking and actions avert what would surely have been a disaster.

Police Officer Eugene Goodman is an American hero.

Meet Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman, captured in viral video facing  down mob - The Washington Post

2:15pm the Senate Chamber is locked.

Senator Tina Smith from Minnesota in the moment recalled her husband advising her to be careful the day before. He was worried. She assurred him the Capitol building has to be one of the safest places in the country.

But like the purpose of a terrorist attack the events of the day would undermine such notions for the future.

At 2:16pm the House of Representatives is still working but over the police radios it is announced, “The Capitol Has Been Breached.”

THE CAPITOL HAS BEEN BREACHED.

House Majority Leader is evacuated, the house goes into recess, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already been evacuated.

At 2:25pm the Crypt and the main entrance of the Rotunda are overtaken by rioters against hopelesssly outnumber police.

Inexplicably session has resumed at 2:26 in the house as Congressman inside can hear the rioters.

In Nancy Pelosi’s office, her staff hide under a conference table as rioters take over.

At 2:30 the Senate is evacuated, Senators pass within feet of the rioters protected by a few police, a few of them carrying the election results.

That’s how close it was!

Twenty-two minutes after rioters have entered the call out for reinforcements is made.

Please be advised all the U.S. Capitol. All sworn and military officers to come due to a breach of the Capitol.

Will Jawando on Twitter: "I get more emotional as today's violence sets in.  Growing up as a staffer on #CapitolHill, we were taught to revere the House  & Senate floor. When we

The House Chamber is barricaded and plain clothes police officers draw their firearms. Congressmen and women inside can hear the rioters banging on the doors as their evacuation begins at 2:41pm.

Representative Daniel Kildee from Michigan calls his wife while still in the House Chamber.

“As soon as I hear her voice, I realise oh man you know am I having that call? When the plane’s going down or the building’s on fire, is this that call?” he ponders.

At 2:44pm rioters have entered the Senate chamber.

Over near the House Gallery, rioter Ashli Babbitt is shot climbing throwing a smashed window in a door.

The war veteran later dies of her wounds.

At 2:49pm the House Gallery is evacuated, representatives walk past insurrectionists lying on the floor surrounded by police.

Think these people were for the most part well behaved revolutionaries?

Put their feet up on desk, the common man in a seat of power.

That’s all!

No that’s not all!

They charged down police they outnumbered, smashed windows and furniture, smeared shit on the wall and called out threatening catcalls to individuals they targeted their hate towards.

They weren’t revolutionaries, they were thugs.

They left peacefully?

No they left with everyone from the houses evacuated knowing reinforcements were coming and swiping stuff on their way out.

President-elect Joe Biden went on national television at 4:06pm calling out the rioters and calling on Ballbag to act.

Let me be very clear – the scenes of chaos at the Capitol do not reflect a true America, do not represent who we are. What we are seeing are a small number of extremists dedicated to lawlessness. This is not dissent. It’s disorder, it’s chaos. It borders on sedition and it must end now. I call on this mob to pull back and to allow the work of democracy to move forward.” President-Elect Joe Biden said.

At their best the words of a President can inspire. At their worst they can incite. Therefore I call on President Trump to go on national television now. To fulfill his oath and to defend the constitution and to demand an end to this siege.

More than two hours after rioters attacked the Capitol, Ballbag posted a video to call on the rioters to go home. Channel Nine in Australia reported Vice President Mike Pence ordered the clearing of the nation’s capital by police that night.

No one who disagrees will be convinced by my post but consider this, the disgraced Nixon resigned, LBJ wouldn’t even run after the Tet Offensive.

Trump though…

Nixon was a great a foreign policy President and Vice President. A Quaker he may very well have had a come to Jesus moment when his corruption was laid bare.

Maybe he just was savvy enough to begin a long rehabilitation campaign there and then for his legacy as his political career ended.

Maybe he was a very bad man through and through.

The thing is, the country had caught him lying and they would not let him get away with it.

Nixon's resignation, 40 years later

The Republican party would not let him get away with it.

How far we have fallen.

That we could not even find common ground here, that Republicans have simply given their party over to Trump.

This is not a problem only faced in America.

Here in Australia the Senate has become more and more full of minority fringe dwellers who reflect troubling beliefs in pockets of the populace.

But it was in America on January 6 that flames were lit up around the seat of power in the country by nothing more than thugs.

The sooner the majority of Americans can agree on that, the sooner better days ahead will come for us all

The momentary anger at Ballbag in this moment made me angry, the symbolism of the attack on the Capitol was horrible as were the four deaths.

But four deaths pale in comparison to 400,000 dead and I will always hold Ballbag accountable for those deaths.

Not for COVID-19, not for the inevitable deaths that would follow but his failure of leadership in combating the pandemic, in trying to communicate effectively with people, putting in place restrictions and closures, measures that proved successful in other countries that he failed to even try to implement.

Strong leader my arse!

I won’t pretend to know American constitutional law.

But this happened because Trump incited it.

Impeachment?

Should never have even been on the table.

Trump should have been taken out of the equation long before that.

On the 6th of January, the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America there had been 20,643,544 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 173,375. There had been American 350,753 deaths with a daily increase of 1,791.

At 8:06pm the same day the Senate confirmed Joe Biden as the President-Elect.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE FOURTH QUARTER: NEW YEAR – SAME PANDEMIC

Image result for broken hill

January 1

Well we all know the story now. Everybody posted on social media that 2020 could go to hell and that 2021 couldn’t happen soon enough.

That somehow dates on a calendar would change everything like magic.

I’ll admit, I thought what a bunch of idiots but honestly who could not begrudge people this hope.

It is human nature to take stock of passing time and to look to the future with hopefulness but I found it annoying because life gets better by making individual efforts to make it better.

In Australia we really did seem like the lucky country. Sure the Avalon cluster had spoiled some of our Christmas fun but looking abroad made us recognise how much we had to be grateful for. My sister was in the UK where there were daily increase of cases that were the sum total of all recorded Australian cases.

People were suffering worldwide and I’d sat in a hotel lobby on New Years Eve and had cocktails and seen friends.

After years of being on contracts, I had a job as many people’s financial situation fell out from underneath them, after years of watching others go overseas I finally took a holiday locally and drove out to nearby country towns.

I felt uneasy…when was the other shoe going to drop?

Having experienced hardship in my own past and been saved by others,  I now looked for ways to help not just worry.

But its true that I mostly felt grateful for what I was lucky enough to have in my life, my work, my friends and family and time to be with them.

I think most people felt a sense of hopefulness in the New Year. By the end of the first week we would have painful reminders that a lot can happen in a day dramatically.

January 04

Last year around about the time COVID-19 took off across the world there was a resurgence of interest in Steven Soderberg’s 2011 film Contagion. I even had friends talk about it and I watched an excellent video from the Youtube group The Take.

But alas in our age of disparate audience groups, I have Stan and Netflix but neither had Contagion so that was that. In the new year of 2021 with a year of the pandemic having played out in real life Contagion hit even harder.

In March 2020, the opening of the 2011 film spoke to the fear and anxiety as the virus hit the West and quickly spread. Watching people touch surfaces and their fellow human beings while sick and not knowing gets the blood pumping now like a horror film.

Watching it in January 2021 it hits even harder.

If you have not seen it, then I suggest you do but I would not judge you if watching it is just too hard at this time.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

In 2011 I suspect if I had seen the film, I would have thought it was pretty solid and low key. That is Soderberg for you. I recently started watching Logan Lucky and just never went back to it. But I am a fan of Traffic and Erin Brockovich. The guy runs the gamut.

He pulled together an all star cast, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle and Elliot Gould.

Matt Damon in particular shows a knack for playing an everyman in stark contrast to the capable Jason Bourne he made famous or the wise cracking Will from his break-out film Good Will Hunting. Kate Winslet plays the heroic capable figure we need in such a story but even that gets subverted.

Commentary around the film picks up on two running themes in the film, yes there is the pandemic of the virus but also a parrallel pandemic of misinformation. Government of the most part is capable and partisan but there are local figures early on that question if it is a just scare that will pass like SARS, the backlash from the public if they’re seen to overreact and budgetary haggling.

In our own world the misinformation from Fox News from March that this kills just as many as the flu, the anti-vaxxers, the protesters, the riots, the anti-malarial drug that Trump championed, all have eerie parrallels.

The virus in the film spreads faster and kills more than COVID-19. Martial law is declared at one point and there is a run on in food and isolated towns rife with looting. Garbage remains uncollected on the streets.

I guess we can be grateful COVID-19 was not as deadly as what is depicted here.

But panic buying in the shops, border closures and one shot that took my breath away of mass graves are all here.

Coronavirus makes 'Contagion' movie hot rental on Amazon Prime, iTunes

An image from the film Contagion used to show COVID-19 victims |  Fact-checked | COVID-19 Facts

The virus itself starts in Hong Kong with a bat.

A vaccinne takes a year and a while to roll out to everyone, creating anxiety. The film does not show a concern to get everybody vaccinated before too many mutant strains make it no longer effective. Maybe we’ll be that lucky too.

How did in 2011 did they release a film that got this all so eerily right?

Well for starters this had already happened with SARS and MERS and secondly the filmmakers went to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation and asked them what is likely to happen.

What I observed in the early days of COVID-19 is how we all react differently in telling ways.

There are those of us who watched the news religiously, those who did not, those of us who took our kids out of school, those of who still went into work when we believed we should be in lockdown.

Those of who looked to our institutions for leadership, those of us who questioned every decision and every piece of information that was parceled out.

Those of us who grew fatalistic and decided we had to live our lives, those of us who constantly thought of our health care workers and elderly, those of us who lamented our freedoms, those of us who wondered how we could benefit from the stocks changing and those of us who looked for ways to donate more to charities and get involved in volunteer work.

Contagion may not go into such specifics but constantly throughout there is a theme of people making moral choices with good or selfish intentions and good or bad results that come from that. The film I believe is simply observing the human factor of why people make the decisions they make. With no

judgement just the randomness of that and how small decisions can have major consequences.

I believe ultimately the film is optimistic about the human race.

I like to think I am too.

Cars line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic

January 05

An 18 year old Sydneysider had contracted COVID from the Berala cluster and then travelled through regional New South Wales while infectious. This prompted contract tracing to occur in Orange (250kms away from Sydney), Nyngan (550kms away from Sydney) and Broken Hill (1,140kms away from Sydney) with people who had been in certain locations at certain times to get tested and self isolate for 14 days even if their result comes back negative.

[He] woke up, had a little bit of a runny nose just yesterday. And went out and got a test and did the right thing. Can I thank this individual,” New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant praised the 18 year old for getting tested with the mildest of symptoms.

Good stuff!

On the fifth of January, World Health Organisation reported in Australia there had been 28,504 confirmed cases of COVID with a daily increase of 21. There had been 909 deaths.

Image result for uk school shut down covid

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland schools were being shut down…thank fuck!

I understand this was not great news for many families, that it would present a range of challenges for educators and their students, but if it saved one life I was all for it and there was no doubt in my mind that it would save thousands.

Following a return to school on the 4th of January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown shutting down schools from Tuesday the 5th of January until at least the February half-term.

Similar to moves to remote learning here in Australia, schools remained open to take students of key workers and vulnerable youths.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were already ahead of BJ with those countries have been doing remote learning for students already and extending them in light of the predicament they found themselves in.

On the 5th of January, the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom there had been 2,713,567 confirmed cases of COVID with a daily increase of 58,784. There had been 75,431 deaths with a daily increase of 407.

-Lloyd Marken