COVID-19 DIARY – QUEENSLANDERS DECIDE WHETHER TO VOTE?

Coronavirus: Queensland faces slow count in local elections

For the past few years Karen has worked near our house on local and state election days.

Local council elections were set to take place on Saturday, March 28.

Not exactly an issue one month earlier when people cannot directly return from China, South Korea and Iran.

Not exactly an issue two weeks earlier when the Prime Minister was still hoping to go see his Sharkies and toilet paper could not be found on the shelf at your local IGA.

Yet very much an issue on the 28th as people weighed up the safety of anything that reeked of a large group of people coming together in one area over a long day.

Karen had worked at this polling station over a few years and traffic is low there comparatively at a few thousand but that now seemed an awful lot to me.

I believed it was up to Karen to make the decision for herself and so Karen worked and I made sure that I went and voted at that station too.

I am still not sure how I feel about that.

In Australia voting is compulsory with voter turnout often around 90-92%.

In developed nations Australia is fairly unique in this sense.

In the United Kingdom for example it is not compulsory and voter turnout has dropped over recent decades.

In America where it decides not local politicians but prosecutors and sheriffs, voting is often made by 55-65% of the populace.

In Tasmania local elections are not compulsory, are done purely by postal voting and under certain circumstances can be e-mailed. In that state where the people regularly and consistently vote by at least 90% for state and federal elections, the voter turnout for elections that have the convenience of postal voting drops to 65% consistently.

This strongly suggests Australians vote because they believe they have to.

In the lead-up to elections Australians can pre-poll vote by attending set-up polling stations in the days ahead of an election.

They can also opt for a postal vote but cannot request one past a certain deadline.

Pre-poll voting started on the 16th of March with an increased demand leading to extended opening hours.

Applications for postal voting closed at 7pm the same day but additional options were given for people to lodge applications by email and extra print services were secured to increase demand for ballot papers.

Increased staff were employed and opening hours increased at call centres and polling stations to meet unprecedented demand.

Even so on the 25th of March the Electoral Commission Queensland advised “Telephone voting is a limited service specifically for our most vulnerable and isolated citizens.

The ECQ has increased capacity ten-fold to help extend the service to people who have been advised to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19.  

However, the telephone voting service is experiencing unprecedented demand, including people who are not eligible for a telephone vote, jeopardising the availability of the service for those who most need it.

Most electors are able to vote in person and precautions are being taken to ensure voting is quick and safe.

Also if postal voters had not received their ballots they could still vote early or on election day.

On the 26th of March Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young advised “we know, due to our fantastic pre-polling arrangements, and with the way Queenslanders have responded, and with the postal vote process, with all of that the number of Queenslanders left to vote by Saturday will be relatively small”.

You can see why some of the 3.2 million eligible voters in Queensland were still angry.

As election day dawned there was a lot of chatter on social media by people who insisted they would not vote and they would not pay a fine. Local elections carry the largest fines for not voting in Australia

Some found polling stations to be less time consuming with less contact with people than going to a supermarket. Others did not.

I went down around midday, I lined up outside the building where two voting staff were present to ensure social distancing but there was no one there.

I went inside and got ticked off by my wife.

I picked up a pencil and voted over a station. Then I dropped them in a cardboard box and placed my pencil in a bucket of sanitised water and left.

Full disclosure I have worked for the ECQ twice in the past four years at their call centres and enjoyed my time there.

I believe in voting, I even believe in compulsory voting and I believe that a lot of people were looking for an excuse not to vote.

But I also felt fear that day, fear for my wife and fear that we were making a mistake.

I believe more should have been done.

They could’ve opened up the dates to complete telephone or postal voting.

There are logistics and laws involved that may have needed changing and I suppose the medial advice has played out and the danger has passed but for many Queenslanders the fact that these elections went ahead will remain a travesty.

It will be interesting to see how fines are issued and enforced in the months ahead.

Voter turnout on election day was 750,000 or 75%.

Telephone voting was made by 34,000 people.

570,000 postal votes were distributed.

1.2 million Queensland did pre-poll voting.

On the 28th of March, there were 625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Queensland.

20200328_210824
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I picked up Karen later that night and we drove to a local Italian place we love called Marinara to pick up dinner. The business often bustling took my order close to 9pm and handed us a free dessert for our patronage during the economic downturn.

They make fantastic pizza and pasta but a local business is something more personal than how good they are at what they do.

In this simple exchange both of us were gesturing we wanted to be there for each other.

Not a bad sentiment in these times.

-Lloyd Marken

20200328_210816
The view while waiting for Karen. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART V

20200416_171101
Coronation drive on the 16APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

27 March

On Friday morning I arrived early for work and made my way to Toowong Village.

The night before I had gone to Coles after work and found no toilet paper, napkins, hand towels or wipes of any kind. I mentioned this to my wife who had taken precautions weeks earlier but had told me there was no pasta.

The next morning as I was walking in past 8am I saw a young man dressed for the office carrying a pack of toilet paper and nothing else.

As I neared the escalator I saw an older gentleman pushing a shopping trolley with a few items but most predominantly a pack of toilet paper. He also looked like he might be on his way to work, not home.

It kind of amused me to know I was not alone in my thinking.

There was still quite a few packs of toilet paper all restocked from the day before in Coles. I picked up a packet, my lunch and a packet of Coles brand pasta. Already the pasta was running low.

I picked up my local coffee from Stellarossa who were now purely doing take-away orders. All the tables and chairs sat at on any usual morning now upturned and pushed against corners. I left a tip and said I may not be around so much but wished them well.

Then I headed into the office.

This was the same day that the Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson was confirmed as having COVID-19.

It was a relatively normal day, late in the afternoon it was confirmed that I was getting my wish. I and most of our workforce would be working from home having as a whole organisation worked to make it possible in the preceding days.

There were a small amount of people who were to remain.

As the day went on I concentrated on my work, there wasn’t a lot of time to be wistful but I did think a little of how much I would miss the place and its people.

 

 

As I finished for the day I walked over to some windows that overlook Coronation drive and the river. I grew up on the southside of Brisbane, not the West. It’s a nice view though and I wanted to take a look at it in case it was a while before I saw it again.

I felt the same way about all the desks and fluorescent lights and the people I worked with.

On the way out I said good evening to the Director. On television it was being announced that returning Australians from overseas were going to be quarantined in hotels upon arrival.

The media was excited by the fact that soldiers would be involved but not much to my surprise it was a simple exercise in manpower with none of the soldiers armed but simply providing coverage for law enforcement.

On the drive home I listened to Kennedy Molloy on the radio.

https://omny.fm/shows/triple-m-national-drive/special-mick-jane-phone-in-on-denise-scott-to-chec

On the 27th of March, 2020 the WHO reported 2,985 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 186. There were 14 deaths with a daily increase of one.

We had locked the country down and were headed to a new normal but in Queensland local council elections were going ahead across the state the next day and my wife would be involved.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART IV

Coronavirus: Traffic jams on Gold Coast as Queensland shuts borders

25 March

Wednesday was the first day I worked from home.

I’m used to working in my apartment late at night writing stories to meet deadlines. There is no air-conditioning in our house and during the seven months of summer it gets quite hot and uncomfortable in front of the laptop. The sweat of my forearms has warped the wood of the desk over time.

Fortunately for me the temperatures had started to drop so again, with my brand new laptop no less, I felt extremely fortunate.

My back hurt but in the days that followed I found it went away especially if I paced around the place from time to time.

I did get hungry though and went out that night to get takeaway. I noted outside the local shops tables and chairs had been positioned for social distancing and to discourage loitering, markers were out on the floor on where to stand. It was one more subtle shift in how we were living.

That same night the borders to Queensland were closed.

In America President Trump stated an intention to reiterated a desire to re-open the country by Easter if it is suitable.

On the 25th of March the World Health Organisation reported 51,914 cases in the United States of America! Six hundred and seventy-three dead Americans!

While this was simply an absurdly moronic, selfish and irresponsible thing to suggest as a leader while the virus was taking off in the country there were smaller more practical ambitions announced the same day.

Virtually all U.S. late night talk show hosts announced they would be back on the air shooting from home while in isolation starting 30MAR2020.

 

 

26 March

I returned to the office on Thursday as south down at the border people faced a much tougher commute at the QLD/NSW border.

As one man reported to Channel 9 though “It has got to happen. If it helps it helps.”

“I thought there might be just a couple of little police officers at the side of the road but this is good. This is good. We need to do this,” another driver told Channel 9.

 

 

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk advised children were to learn from home starting next week however kids of essential workers could attend.

It’s not just our health workers, it’s not just our emergency services workers, it’s not just our police workers, it actually involves anyone who’s in our workforce including people who stack shelves at Woolies and work in a whole [range of] different industries that their students will still be allowed to go to school,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

Following on from the announcements of other states this decision was hoped to “strike the right balance.”

 

Balmoral Castle: A Royal Holiday - Wilderness Scotland

It was announced that Prince Charles has coronavirus and is displaying mild symptoms. Both he and the Duchess of Cornwall were isolating at Balmoral.

The heir to the British throne had last seen Queen Elizabeth II on the 12th of March and was in good health. The 98 year old Duke of Edinburgh was not present at that meeting.

 

Queen Elizabeth II Here's the Story Behind the Picture

 

The Prince had last attended a public engagement the same day attending a dinner in aid of the recent Australian bushfires. Since then he had been working from home and was tested on Monday after showing symptoms over the recent weekend.

Also in the UK, 250,000 people signed up to volunteer with the NHS.

The WHO reported March 26 in the United Kingdom, 9,533 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,452. The number of dead were 463 deaths with a daily increase of 41.

 

COVID-19 | IAF creates nine quarantine facilities at its nodal ...

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the country into a 21 day lockdown prompting panic buying. The population of 1.3 billion people were to remain confined to their homes for the duration.

On the 26th of March the World Health Organisation reported India had 649 cases with a daily increase of 43. The number of dead in the country were 13 with a daily increase of three.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART III

 

24 March

The situation in Italy continued to deteriorate.

One day I was working in Wattlebrae many years ago. I was cleaning near the Nurses station when a nurse came from a room with a patient and said to another. “Probably Tuesday.”

A patient was in the last hours of their lives and the nurses knew it. They’d seen it enough times to recognise it.

Accepting death is a very real part of being a nurse and being a good one. Some nurses have served in war zones and natural disasters and seen a lot of death but such a large scale in such a short period of time as what was experienced in Wuhan or Lombardy is simply something that leaves a toll.

Let alone the very risk to their own lives and those of their loved ones.

I stand in awe of them.

I truly do.

They are heroes.

They always have been and they always will be.

In Italy student doctors skipped their last exams and were rushed into service. In Britain retired nurses answered the call to come back risking their lives to save others as the NHS faced unprecedented demand. I’m sure this is being replicated around the world

Where do we get such people?

 

As large swaths of the economy shut down to contain the coronavirus, President Trump and others are beginning to question how long economic activity should remain frozen.

 

The World Health Organisation warned the United States of America could become the epicentre of the disease.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo becomes impassioned when speaking about the need for equipment to save lives in his home state. Short of criticising the President directly he challenges FEMA “to pick the people who will die.” The President does not respond well to this.

The Tokyo Olympics are postponed and the Australian Football League having played Round One the previous week to empty stadiums stops its season. This follows all other major codes and several sports leagues overseas already having done so.

In Australia, grocery stores swap out the pensioner hour on some days for health care workers who do shift work.

After work on Tuesday night I go to the local barber and get a haircut.

That night following a National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister announces a new series of measures.

Coincidentally it is announced hair salons and barbers can continue to stay open but with only 30 minutes for a customer. The next day the Prime Minister adds some flexibility into the time spent in a hair salon. Possibly after speaking to his wife?

Cafes and restaurants can only do take-away and food courts in shopping malls are to be shut down with only take-away to be purchased from outlets in the food courts.

Arcades, swimming pools and amusement parks are to shut down. Large crowds are to not congregate in sporting fields and large parks.

The Prime Minister also advised that Australians would be banned from travelling overseas with a few exceptions like aid workers.

Boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Most painfully weddings are limited to five people and funerals are to ten people.

If this seems harsh, think of the poor couples who had weddings mere days earlier before the general populace became aware of how dangerous the virus could be. It must be terrible to know if guests have subsequently become sick.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things — we can’t do those things now.” said the Prime Minister.

On the 24th of March the WHO reported 2,136 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 427. There were eight deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Ireland there were 219 cases with a daily increase of 98. There were two deaths with a daily increase of one.

In South Africa there were 402 cases confirmed with a daily increase of 128. The first death was recorded in the country on the 28th of March.

In Russia there were 438 cases reported with no daily increase. The first two deaths would be reported in the country on the 26th of March.

In Singapore there were 507 cases with a daily increase of 52. On the 20th of March they recorded their first two deaths.

In India there were 519 cases with a daily increase of 85. There were nine deaths following the first reported on the 13th of March.

In Canada there were 1,739 with a daily increase of 355. The were 25 deaths with a daily increase of six.

In Brazil there were 2,201 cases with a daily increase of 1,297. The death toll had risen by 35 in one day to reach 46.

In Germany there were 4,438 cases with a daily increase of 1,127. There were 32 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom there were 6,654 cases with a daily increase of 967. There were 335 deaths with a daily increase of 54.

In South Korea there were 9,037 cases with a daily increase of 76. There were 120 deaths with a daily increase of nine.

In Iran there were 24,811 cases with a daily increase of 1,762. The death toll reported was 1,934 with a daily increase of 122.

In Spain there were 33,089 cases with a daily increase of 4,517. There were 4,182 deaths with a daily increase of 462.

In the United States of America there were 51,914 cases with a daily increase of 20,341. The death toll was 673 with 271 from that day alone.

In Italy there were 63,927 cases with a daily increase of 4,789. The death toll was 6,077 with an increase of 601 that day.

In China the WHO reported 81,767 with a daily increase of 764. The number of dead reported as 3,283 with a daily increase of seven. China’s figures have consistently flattend out with very small increases over this period of time. This is in contradiction to many other nations that have experienced disastrous second waves. The country has also backtracked on opening up initiatives at times too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART II

 

As we entered the third week of March more restrictions were to come but the new normal would be firmly established by the end of the week. My hope was that people can deal with having to make changes a great deal more than the uncertainty that comes with not knowing what is going to transpire. Yet for many people around the world uncertainty was coming regardless.

We started to hear about those who were losing loved ones and unable to see them in their last moments or attend the funeral. The spectre of far ranging unemployment also began to descend.

23 March

Monday at my work which involves answering phones we switched to make as many of our processes as digital as possible and shifted the phones to being manned for only a little more than half of the day.

This was a somewhat busy period for us so we held our breath and wondered what would happen. We managed, we did our best, we supported each other, we came through.

I took the time to tell my leadership team that “A calm Captain steadies the ship through storms.”

I had many calm Captains.

As of midday as per the announcement the day before, cinemas, pubs, clubs, casinos and gyms are all shut down. I hadn’t gone to the gym in months but I had just been thinking maybe working from home would help me start up again… yes I know that’s not true.

 

 

In Sydney NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced schools would remain open and safe but urged parents to keep their kids home for online learning if they could. School Easter holidays aren’t due to begin until 13APR2020.

In some schools attendance is down to a third.

Discussion is also turning to how to provide solid distance education to all children including those with limited digital tools and internet wifi. Old school methods of booklets and mail outs are utilised too.

One of the guys I have water cooler conversations (there are no water coolers in our officer but GenX and Boomers will know what I’m talking about) at work advised me that he had pulled his kids from school.

I said “Good on him.”

I wanted all of us to be working from home and keeping our kids home as soon as we could.

 

Australian unemployment rate to double as coronavirus hammers ...

Around the country lines snaked around Centrelink offices as the myGov website crashed due to a surge in applications. The newly unemployed went to apply in local offices instead.

I worked twelve long years as a temp and on contracts finding myself looking for work at least a dozen times over that same period.

Sometimes I was unemployed for two weeks – other times five months.

Once I worked across two organisations, in 4 different roles, having received six extensions on two different contracts and gone up two pay scales over the course of 24 months.

I never took a holiday and through most of those twelve years I worked a second job as well.

I never managed to save up anything – only to pay unexpected bills. I will admit I did recklessly pay for a trip to attend my sister’s wedding. That was an indulgence on my part.

Registering for and being on the dole is a painful process.

I once sat in a public park to get internet access to apply for a job on an old laptop before driving to a local library in the middle of the application because my battery power started to run out.

Yet I am here and so my hope is all of these talented and hard working people who are victims of circumstance will come out the other side.

 

Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison addresses the scaled-back parliament session

The Prime Minister was also thinking of them.

In Canberra there was a sitting of Parliament to pass life saving legislation.

Across Australia today many thousands of Australians will lose their jobs. They are lining up at Centrelink offices as we speak. Something unimaginable at this scale only weeks ago.”

“Life is changing in Australia for every Australian and life is going to continue to change.

“Meeting this challenge is bigger than any Australian … In the months ahead we will face more issues that none of us even now can imagine.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN!

Hundreds defied warnings for social isolation at Bondi yesterday.

 

We entered the weekend of March 21-22 still with a lot of questions of how life was changing. International travel was curtailed and it was clear that trading was down and there would be huge economic consequences but how far the restrictions would increase and whether the number of cases increasing would slow down were all up in the air.

A friend of mine had a house party on Friday night. I had a very quiet weekend but our way of life was still mostly in tact even if some of shop shelves were bare and there was a growing concern for our health care workers.

We knew things were escalating but we did not know what the new normal was going to be. I was hoping the next week would define it.

 

March 21

I saw a couple of videos on youtube including an interview with the former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who had steered us through the Global Financial Crisis. His comments about stronger actions being taken by Singapore or Germany led to me taking on board more information over the weekend.

 

 

The Northern Territory announced it would close its borders 4pm on March 24.

The NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said “I’ve seen what’s happening overseas, I’ve seen what’s happening down south and I’m not going to let that happen here,” he said.

“The Territory comes first.”

 

March 22

Seeing how people react to a crisis reveals a lot about their personalities and the things they prioritise. Amongst my friends and peers I saw people who chart their own path in terms of choosing to take their kids out of school or put in place precautions.

One friend drove out of Sydney early on and is now growing a vegetable garden on Moreton Island with a raft of supplies.

Some of us had parties and went out to comedy festivals seizing the day.

Some have questioned all the information provided by the “mainstream media” and wondered if every action is justified.

I admire in some ways all of these people and all of these traits.

For me, I learnt that I do follow instructions from my leadership and institutions. I follow their lead even when I disagree possibly and I look to help others rather than take care of myself. I do ask questions to see if we are doing everything we should but I rarely rebel.

In that way I am like a soldier.

On Sunday I texted my leadership team I was ready to work from home and the next day I advised that I believed we should have as many people at home as soon as possible. Which was of course what we all had been working on for the past fortnight and more but I guess I was communicating a change in my wish to not be treated differently.

Yet I was in the office for most of that week.

 

On the same Sunday, South Australia and Western Australia announced they would close their borders that Tuesday.

On Sunday the National Cabinet was to meet having moved a head a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

Before it the Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a comprehensive breakdown of new lockdown measures.

The Australian Capital Territory advised pupils will be told to stay home from Tuesday onwards and that teachers needed to prepare to transition from face to face teaching.

In Victoria Term 1 was scheduled to end that Friday and was moved up to Tuesday. In New South Wales they were scheduled until April 13. 

This was not in keeping with the views of the Prime Minister who had previously advised 4 days earlier, ““The health advice is that schools should remain open. That is the health advice. Interestingly, this is also what Singapore has done. Singapore has been one of the more successful countries. In Singapore, the schools are open.”

“The health advice here, supported by all the premiers, all the chief ministers and my Government is that schools should remain open.

 

The National Cabinet met and afterwards on Sunday evening the Prime Minister announced a new range of measures.

Jobseeker payments, effectively our welfare payments were people out of work, looking for work and unable to work was to be almost doubled from $565.70 a fortnight with an additional $550. The decision came with a price tag of $14.1 billion dollars. There were also one off $750 payments that some would be eligible for. There was also to be a moratorium on tenant evictions.

The government was working to keep everybody with the means to feed and house themselves and support small businesses through the downturn as they worked to shut down major parts of the economy in order to save lives. They were very clear that this was the first of many such measures that were already costing 10% of the economy.

Interestingly the Prime Minister also mentioned “I’d be careful at comparing Australia’s data to other jurisdictions. Australia’s testing, for example, shows that we have the lowest, one of the lowest, if not the lowest test positivity in the world. We’re at 0.7 per cent compared to USA at 13, UK at 5, and Korea at 3.

There was a press conference before the National Cabinet met and one after they had met.

In the press conference earlier in the day his bull doggish manner was still on display, after pictures of crowds flocking to Bondi Beach the day before have travelled around the world.

 

“What happened at Bondi Beach yesterday was not OK and served as a message to federal and state leaders that too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough,” Mr Morrison said.

“The more Australians themselves assist us in this fight against the virus to protect lives and to protect livelihoods, the more and the better able we are to ensure that Australia comes out stronger on the other side.”

“So it’s a simple plea.” 

“We need you, we need you to do your bit when it comes to social distancing, to keeping that healthy distance, to respecting and following the rules that we’re setting down.”

Late on Sunday night the Prime Minister went before cameras to provide further answers, to provide information and to assure the Australian people that the National Cabinet were working together although clearly they had pushed back hard for what they deemed were the right decisions for their state.

In line with what the Premiers had already announced, the Prime Minister advised indoor entertainment, sporting and religious venues were to be shut from midday Monday. This included pubs, clubs and restaurants and cinemas.

I have not seen a movie at the cinemas since 07MAR2020 when I saw Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.  It was the third 2020 release I saw after the The Gentlemen and Birds of Prey….well you can’t win them all.

I appreciate some of the kind words from people knowing that I am such a huge film buff and film critic. Yet I want you to know I have streaming, plenty of films I have not gotten around to seeing and… well there are other things to worry about right now.

I have a job, an ability to work from home, the weather is pleasant and everyone I care about is safe although financially many have been impacted.

My thoughts have not been about whether Wonder Woman 1984 is delayed but more what the hell can I do to help those who are experiencing hardship because like I said… I feel truly blessed.

In this briefing there was a small moment that gave birth to a bit of an internet craze of the ensuring days. From my perspective a storm in a teacup but a fun one nonetheless.

 

One thing that stood out to me then and still resonates with me now is when the Prime Minister voiced a real concern for the business sector in the evening briefing.

This was at a time when real fear was working through the populace who had secure jobs about the spread of the virus.  There were grave concerns that we had moved too slowly and it was certainly my thoughts in that moment.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported “The country’s rate of new confirmed coronavirus cases is now growing at 20-25 per cent a day, with some projections showing between 1 or 2 million Australians could be infected by the end of April. If those numbers were reached, tens of thousands of people would be dead based on the mortality rate recorded by China earlier this year.

The World Health Organisation reported on March 22 that Australia had 1,098 cases with a daily increase of 17. We had reached four figures the day before. The death toll was seven.

Yet the Conservative leader more than spared a thought for the very real pain that would occur to millions of Australians losing their jobs it spilled out of him genuinely.

“I am deeply regretful that those workers and those business owners who will be impacted by this decision will suffer the economic hardship that undoubtedly they will now have to face.

That is a very, very regretful decision, but a necessary one in the view of the premiers and chief ministers and myself to ensure that we can control the spread of this virus.

This should highlight to all Australians how serious this is and how hard we all have to work together to get this right”.

 

9/11 dust cloud may have caused widespread pregnancy issues ...

I remember the fear and uncertainty that came in the wake of September 11, 2001.

I remember the two speed economy that Australia became following the Global Financial Crisis.

I remember helping during the Queensland floods of 2011. Driving halfway across town against my mother’s pleas to be with my girlfriend Karen as the river rose and cut off roads.

I sat and watched my TV in the first weekend of this year as my country burned and pushed myself to help arrange a fundraiser barbeque at work. So chastened I was by my ability to not be more directly involved as I had been during the floods of 2011.

I now found myself old enough to remember more than a crisis or two.

Yet I’ve never seen anything like this.

None of us have.

The people who did are all dead.

 

Are we ready for a flu pandemic? - The Boston Globe

My grandfather was born in 1918, the same year there Spanish Flu Pandemic began and he has been gone for a long time. That pandemic which has many parallels to this one is out of living memory.

So interestingly enough people have been taking comfort and inspiration in the parrallels of the Great Depression and World War II.

Both were endured in harsher conditions and with a higher death toll and went on for a lot longer than a few weeks.

As new restrictions finally started to take effect and change the way we lived our lives the Prime Minister Scott Morrison found the words to galvanise us calling on those memories of times gone by in the press conference held earlier that day.

He opened with.

We’re a strong nation, we’re a strong people, and in the months ahead, we’re going to find out just how strong we are. We have the example and inspiration of generations that have dealt with challenges like this before. And we have the advantage of the lessons that they have passed on to us about how we can stick together to stick this through, to build a bridge to the recovery on the other side.

We cannot prevent all the many hardships, all the many sacrifices. That we will face in the months ahead. And while these hardships and these sacrifices may break our hearts on occasion, we must not let them break our spirit. And we must not let them break our resolve as Australians.”

He closing words were “So look, while Australians may be self-isolating in many cases and keeping their distance from each other. I want to assure all Australians of this, that together we will get through this. We will not want to see anyone go through this alone at the end of the day, through the support that we’re providing. But we need to support each other. We need to care for each other and together Australia we will get through this, and we will emerge stronger. Thank you.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – CHOCOLATES

U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Per Day

As the phoney week came to a close the Australian government had taken the unprecedent step to shut down international travel. We were closing off from the world and the sense of threat was only growing.

20 March

On Friday in Australia there were 873 cases with well over an eighth coming from that day alone. The daily increase was 164. The number of deaths was seven with a daily increase of one.

In the United States of America there were 15,219 cases with a daily increase of almost a third at 4,777. There were 201 deaths with a daily increase of 51.

President Trump at White House briefing that day was asked by NBC reporter Peter Alexander “So, what do you say Americans who are scared, I guess? Nearly 200 dead and 14,000 who are sick and millions as you witness who are scared right now, what do you say to Americans who are watching you right now who are scared?“.

Trump replied “I say that you a terrible reporter, that’s what I say.

Trump continued to rant insulting Alexander and his network NBC and saying that he was doing sensationalist journalism.

Just prior Alexander had asked about an anti malarial drug Trump was touting as a possible cure and has continued to do so. This follow-up question was intended as a softball one.

 

It would be unfair to pull out quotes made by public figures earlier in the outbreak. Public figures also need to reassure the public and point to a rosy vision for the future.

For the experts who had a knowledge about this they could see clearly what was happening. Certain Asian countries responded faster having living through the SARs epidemic.

Yet until the outbreak in Italy I think some understanding has to be given to our leaders for the unprecedented nature of events.

However as the crisis escalated Trump’s quotes become more and more a rebuke to what was actually going and the advice that his experts staff and other state leaders in the country have been saying.

To be quite blunt he has failed as a leader to rally the entire nation behind a cause, to create bipartisan participation between states and federal levels and to show an empathy for the suffering of others.

Whenever you hear Trump talk, it’s always about him.

One of his tactics too is to go on the attack, to lay the blame on others. Early on he attacked state leaders, tweeting New York Governor Cuomo has to do more.

That may be a fair criticism in terms of the early days of the crisis but since then I cannot think of how Cuomo could have done more.

He’s given daily briefing, stayed calm, communicated consistently in an ever changing situation and fought for what his state has needed to combat this virus.

Trump on the other hand is a terrifying sight to behold almost on a daily basis.

That is not to say the administration hasn’t done some good things but compared to other countries it has often been behind the curve and there is a constant push to get back to re-opening the economy partly based on what appears to be political motivations.

It is also true a lot of Americans want to do the same but I suspect this is because there is no effective welfare for them like there is in other developed nations. I worry a great deal about the plight of the American people with this President in charge.

These quotes even if they were part of a larger context are jarring in the face of what is happening in the country.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.” 26FEB2020

It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” 28FEB2020

It’s going to go away. … The United States, because of what I did and what the administration did with China, we have 32 deaths at this point … when you look at the kind of numbers that you’re seeing coming out of other countries, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it.” 13MAR2020

I’ve always known this is a real — this is a pandemic. I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” 17MAR2020

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As the working week ended on the 20th of March in Australia I had faced the possibility of starting the next week working from home.

On Friday came I was advised I would be in the office on Monday but to be flexible as the situation continued to develop.

As the crisis had escalated I had wondered how it would affect the world in terms of social habits that were dying off with new technologies.

Would more working offices move to hot desks and working from home? Would cinemas die? Would globalisation be altered? Would there be a push for more national agriculture or manufacturing? Would we practice better hygiene?

Would we slow down and appreciate the little things more?

It seemed digital connection would be hastened by this crisis and as the week drew on it appeared this would be very much the case and I was suddenly struck by a realisation having spent most of my working life being in no working place more than two years full time.

I knew I liked working in the office. I knew the routine offered me a discipline and motivation that I benefited from and I liked the air conditioning. I knew I liked my desk and I liked getting my large mocha from my local café Stellarossa.

That week though I felt very keenly what I would miss the most and it was the people around me.

Cadbury Favourites Party Pack 570g - The Australian Food Shop

In a moment of lunacy that Thursday night I bought four packets of Cadbury Favourites  Party Edition and placed them around the office in different work areas after most people had gone home. With the packets was a printed out note.

These days often we can be heard saying the phrase “Interesting times.”
It’s a shorthand that suits for a variety of purposes.
What we mean is we are living in changing times; we are living in challenging times and yes, we are living in scary times.

Being scared makes sense.
Our way of life is changing for the moment, sports teams are playing to empty venues if they’re playing at all. Shop shelves are bare of things we use on a daily basis. Businesses are closing down and people are losing their jobs. A disease has criss-crossed the globe at a rapid pace and while thousands have thankfully recovered COVID-19 has exacted a death toll and will.

Being scared makes sense but it is not who we are.

Over the recent bushfire season over 18 million hectares of the country was burned. That is 186,000 square kilometres. The bulk of that fire was fought by a handful of rural firefighters and local residents making do under the circumstances. Millions of dollars were raised for the recovery efforts in a matter of days.
Close to 25,000 official Mud Army volunteers responded to the Brisbane floods in 2011 without a care or thought for personal safety or WHS considerations.

There wasn’t as much sports being played in the early 1940s either or during the Great War. There was rationing back then too and a global pandemic to follow.

When the times are interesting…people – all people from around the world are not found wanting.
This is certainly true of the staff of the Queensland College of Teachers.
Things are going to be different in the coming weeks and it is not always going to be easy. But we’re going to get through it together…. standing at a suitable safe distance from each other…sometimes at home. Hey, I told you it was going to be different okay.
So be there for each other, for your loved ones, spare a thought for those who are going to be doing it tough, help those who are vulnerable, thank our health care workers who will be the most exposed and overworked in the coming months to keep us healthy, for our teachers who are with our kids all day calming their nerves and keeping their education on track.

We are living in interesting times, but we will get through them together.

Also, chocolate.

-Lloyd Marken

No photo description available.
Copyright Micah Reynolds.

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART III

Coronavirus: Anguish as Europe learns to cope with new way of ...

 

19 March

Wednesday night in Bergamo, Italy the unmistakable grunts of truck engines and the hiss of brakes can be heard as the army ferries dead bodies out of full to bursting mortuaries to remote cremation sites.

On the 19th of March Italy overtook China as the country with the most deaths based on the numbers reported by the World Health Organisation.

China had 81,300 cases total that day with a daily increase of 126. Their death toll 3,252 with a daily increase of 11.

In Italy there were 41,035 cases with a daily increase of 5,322. The death toll was 3,407 with a daily increase of 429.

3,252….

429…

11….

One.

I once stood in front of a plaque in St Paul’s Cathedral that listed all the names of British servicemen killed in the Falklands War. 255 names. Seeing the names all together suddenly made that number much higher than I had previously thought of it.

 

Falklands Memorial, St. Paul's Cathedral, London | "IN HONOU… | Flickr

The Falklands lasted 10 weeks and was noted by scholars for the advent of technology and the speed of conflict itself. Comparatively the 255 was less than the 649 Argentinians who died in the same way,  less than the 521 Australians killed in Vietnam, or the 1,078 British killed in the three year Korean War, or the 27,073 Australians killed serving in World War II or the 1,114,914 British that died in World War I, or the lowest estimates of the Spanish Flu pandemic that wiped out anywhere between 17,000,000 to 100,000,000.

1….

1,000…

1,000,000.

They can just become numbers but the thousands already dead from this pandemic are a story and a lot of those stories ended painfully with someone struggling to breathe, a nurse nearby doing her job the best she can and no loved ones able to say goodbye.

Here in my own bubble a lot of people died in China and I scarely thought about them. It might be something to remember as we continue to discuss the numbers coming out of China and their accuracy. Whatever the numbers, a lot of people died and the least we can do is try and do the best we can to stay alive so their lives can have even more meaning.

On the 19th of March the island state of Tasmania announced it would close it’s border from midnight the next day becoming the first state to do so.

Also on thursday, Australia announced that as of 9pm that Friday, all foreign travellers would be banned from entering the country. New Zealand had announced they would close its borders midnight Thursday. Residents of the two countries, would still be able to travel between both.

Those on student and work visas in Australia currently out of the country would not be able to return.

The Prime Minister advised the previous bans had already seen a reduction in the normal level of travel by one third.

The same day Qantas announced about 2/3 of their 30,000 staff would be stood down temporarily.

The decision stranded many Australians abroad who worked to get home.

As the Prime Minister worked to ensure less people came into the country with the virus. The 113,000 tonne cruise ship the Ruby Princess disembarked 2,700 passengers in Sydney the same day.

NSW coronavirus: Email bombshell reveals Ruby Princess bungle ...

The Ruby Princess had departed Sydney on the 8th of March for a cruise around New Zealand. The cruise was prematurely ended on the 15th of March and returned from Napier to Sydney. 

On the 20th of March we were informed 13 people had been tested for coronavirus and three had come back positive. In the weeks ahead the Ruby Princess disembarkation would have significant impact on the number of people getting sick in New South Wales. All passengers were asked to go into self isolation.

Of the 2,700 disembarked passengers at least 662 Australian passengers tested positive with 341 of them in New South Wales. This did not include about 900 passengers who left Australia without being tested.  The death toll of people who were on the Ruby Princess has risen to at least 21.

6 crew members were medically evacuated on the 2nd of April. 

542 of the 1,000 crew were taken off the ship and repatriated to their home countries between 21-23APR2020. The Ruby Princess left Port Kembla on the 23rd of April, 190 members of the crew had tested positive at that point.

The Ruby Princess story is echoed in many other cruise ships around the world.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART II

Coronavirus: Scott Morrison's wake-up call: cut hysteria, do your bit

18 March

Wednesday.

In the United Kingdom the government announces that Friday the 20th schools will shut down in the UK. This follows several countries on the continent already having done so.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson in comparison to other European nations seems more intransigent talking about herd immunity and not taking action as early as some.

This announcement though puts my sister and her husband, both teachers, at home safe taking care of their young daughter. It is also ahead of the USA and Australia who still have their schools open.

The World Health Organisation reports 2,630 cases in the UK that day with a daily increase of 676. The death toll almost doubles that day with a daily increase of 43 taking the total past 100 to 103.

In Australia some major announcements were made regarding travel. At this point there were 510 cases with a daily increase of 96. The death toll rose by one that day to a total of six.

Australia had been fairly early with some of its travel restrictions as far back as the 1st of February when the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade denied entry to those travelling from China directly with the exceptions of Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families.

DFAT also advised Australians not to travel to China due to the escalating threat and those who have returned to self isolate for 14 days. Those travelling on a visas who arrived after the restrictions were put in place were not asked to do anything. They were put in quarantine.

In a 24 hour period this had a significant effect with the Australian Border Force Commissioner Michael Outram advising “In Melbourne, we were expecting about 5,000 scheduled passengers to arrive from China, and we’re now expecting about 700 over that 24-hour period. So a significant downturn. In Brisbane, we were expecting 220, and we’re now only expecting about 97.”

You could come into the country if you had stayed somewhere for 14 days after leaving China before arriving in Australia which as my previous diary entry revealed did not stop a local student coming back with the virus.

On the 1st of February the World Health Organisation reported 11,821 cases in China with a daily increase 2,101. The death toll was recorded as 259 with a daily increase of 46.

On the 29th of February the ban included Iran. On the 29th of February the WHO reports 593 cases in Iran with a daily increase of 205. The death toll is recorded as 43 with a daily increase of nine.

Days later on the 5th of March South Korea was added to the list of countries. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 5,766 cases in South Korea with a daily increase of 438. The death toll in South Korea is 35 with three new deaths that day.

Those returning to Australia from Italy were also to face more screening questions and having their temperature taken. On the 5th of March the WHO reports 3,858 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 769. The death toll in the country is 148 with a daily increase of 41.

Then on the 11th of March Italy joined the list.  On the 11th of March, the WHO reports 12,462 cases in Italy with a daily increase of 2,313. The death toll in six days had risen to 827 with 196 deaths recorded that day alone.

On March 18, the Australian government issued its highest travel advice level (level 4), advising Australians to avoid all travel regardless of destination, age and health.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a press conference announcing new restrictions which included only two visitors to aged care homes and a ban on indoor gatherings of 100 people or less with certain exceptions like schools, supermarkets and exceptions.

The words restrictions, exceptions, bans, gatherings were being heard more and more these days.

“This is a once-in-a-100-year-type event,” Mr Morrison said.

“Life is changing in Australia, as it is changing all around the world. Life is going to continue to change.

His occasional bulldoggish demeanour started to come to the fore when he advised “Stop hoarding. I can’t be more blunt about it. Stop it. It is not sensible, it is not helpful, and it has been one of the most disappointing things I have seen in Australian behaviour in response to this crisis”.

This for me is no small thing and not a negative observation. After being critical of the Prime Minister during the national bushfire crisis only weeks earlier – here was a turning point.

In the days ahead I would often note to friends “For lack of a better term, this crisis suits him better.”

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – THE PHONEY WEEK – PART I

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The ‘Phoney War’ refers to the first eight months of World War II when both sides pulled their punches strategically and the sweeping invasion of Europe by Germany was yet to really start.

For the casualties of this period I suspect there was nothing phoney about this at all. Poland and Finland planned for Allied Forces that never arrived to help fight off invasion and the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk with the loss of 519 of her crew for example.

The war was real even if it was thought of as phoney.

That is what the third week of March, 2020 in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic feels like.

The threat was acknowledged, events were happening but the major changes to life would occur after this week as government decision making was still gaining momentum.

 

14 March

I caught up with an old friend from high school who had recently become a father with his lovely wife. Their son was perfectly behaved as we enjoyed Grilled burgers.

I have discussed with another friend who is a new parent that his chance to work from home means he will get to spend time with his newborn that he would have missed.

I can never tell if the neutral yes reflects their agreement of this fact or whether it leads them to thoughts of how tired they are and how many nappy changes they might have missed had they been at work.

This was to be our last social gathering for a while.

 

15 March

Around dinner time on Sunday night I called to ask my Dad for advice about something in my physical space and he offered to come all the way over from the southside of town.

This surprised me and I told him that was not necessary but came he did.

Afterwards we talked about the Prime Minister’s big announcement from Friday and wondered what was to come. Today is the 5th of May and I have not seen my father since.

Not a long time in the scheme of things and I have certainly been on the phone to both my parents quite a bit. Almost subconsciously I was calling them every day for quite a while and they were happy to take the call. It was a way to talk through what was happening.

Due to their age and existing health conditions we have chosen to play it safe and not see each other. I of course miss them.

It was an odd thing that my father came over but I’m glad he did and I got to see him just a little bit more before this break.

I was also looking up a lot of things on youtube and relayed to my Dad this growing sense that the numbers of Italy from 2 to 3 weeks ago indicated where we could be shortly and that numbers were pretty scary.

 

 

As a former hospital wardsman I had always been concerned about the extra work load that would be placed on our health care workers and the complications that came with that.

At some point I started to become informed that once the hospitals were overwhelmed the fatality rates went up and at some point I became keenly aware that if protective gear ran out that our health care workers would increasingly risk infection and the potential fall out from this truly gave me pause.

 

16 March

With continuing shortages at the supermarkets, major Australian chains Woolworths and Coles announce they will introduce early hour of trading for pensioners and those with disabilities from 7am to 8am starting the next day.

Which leads in the days ahead to a great story. My Dad who is 75 with jet black hair and a few gray strands is asked to show his ID at the supermarket during pensioner hour. My Dad got carded to prove he was old enough! This delighted him and the rest of his family no end.

The more vulnerable in our society will get the whole store to themselves. This is part of a larger world wide trend.

I was away sick from work that day but my review of Dave Hughes is published on Scenestr as the Brisbane Comedy Festival is cancelled with a week to go.

This is the tip of the iceberg for a loss of income for various parts of the arts industries including my work as a freelance writer. I feel for all the artists and venues and support staff.

I also publish my long gestating My Favourite Films of 2019 List which has been weeks in the making but suddenly it seems out of place given what is happening in the world.

I also write about seeing Dave Hughes that day reflecting more what is going on in the world at that moment even though I schedule that to publish days later.

 

17 March

Tuesday morning I grab a coffee from my local haunt Stellarossa, I’ve been grabbing coffees from there since I started working in Toowong in late 2018. I ask the manager how things are, he tells me it wasn’t so bad last week but this week it has slowed right down.

At work I am pulled aside to sit with three levels of leadership for a quick meeting. I am asked if I would define myself as high risk due to an existing medical condition. One of the things I like about where I work is how they take care of their staff.

They are looking to protect me and I am not the only one who has one of these discussions. Yet it takes me back to a time from my past where I do not like to think of myself as someone requiring extra consideration in relation to the rest of my colleagues.

My wife had also raised this as a possible concern weeks ago but I had not chased it up. I get in touch with my specialist and at the end of a roundabout conversation I am advised that for the purposes of this scenario yes I am not a normal 39 year old.

I discuss with my manager my concerns of being treated differently and he gently suggests that is something I may need to get over. I nod knowing he is right.

Later in a team meeting his wisdom is on display again when to centre our thoughts on what may happen he points out what happened in the span of a week the previous week to indicate the breadth of what might change in the week ahead.

He truly is a wise man.

-Lloyd Marken