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 – LAST CHRISTMAS THE UK GAVE ITS HEART

Christmas lockdown: What can the UK learn from China? - CGTN

 

December 21

In the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put London and the south-east of England into Tier-4 lockdown. The new UK strain of COVID was skyrocketing case numbers had forced his hand. For some it was too little, too late. For others it was a maddening last minute cancellation of Christmas. I think where my stance was.

Tier 4 was stay at home except for work or education.

You could meet up with one friend in public unless you live with them. 

If you were outside a Tier 4 area the advice was don’t travel to one.

This caused a mad rush at the train station to leave London before the restrictions came into place.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty speaking at Downing Street advised that yes the mutation made the virus a lot more contagious but in terms of symptoms and treatment the preliminary findings were promising including whether it was resistant to the vaccine. 

I think this is a situation which is going to make things a lot worse, but there are some really optimistic things if you look once we get the vaccine out, assuming the vaccine works against this, which at the moment is the working assumption,” he said.

Terrific.

 
UK Coronavirus LIVE: Crisis Cobra talks as fears over Covid variant closes  borders, causes travel chaos and risks food shortages - News Press Live
 

Many countries banned UK residents from travelling to them, such as Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland and Italy.

France did so too setting it for 48 hours causing lorries loaded with freight to be backed up in the port of Dover.

 

 
From Boxing Day Scotland was headed for Tier 4 restrictions too.
 
No going to another household. Six adults and children under 12 from two households could meet in public. Providing care was an exception. Singles from a household of their own could be considered part of another household. The government didn’t want people lonely at Christmas.
 
Restaurants, cafes, and pubs were closed. Take-away venues needed to operate with face coverings and social distancing. Accommodation venues were only for essential workers. Room service in hotels was allowed. 
 
Supermarkets were open, non essential retail was not. That included hairdressers, barbers, massage therapists, tattoo and piercing places and indoor photography.

Cinemas and gyms were closed but outdoor non-contact sports were permitted. 

 

 

Churches a maximum of 20 people, weddings the same but no reception. Funerals 20 guests too. 

Schools, universities and childcare were still open.

Public libraries were not but you could order and collect books.

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/janey-godleys-latest-nicola-sturgeon-23202150

The day before the island nation had breached two million COVID cases with 2,004,223. 

On the 21st of December the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom there had been 2,040,151 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 35,928. 

There had been 67,401 deaths with a daily increase of 326.

From my limited Australian perspective lockdowns are a tool and one that has not been brought to bear soon enough in the UK.

I hoped the hardship for the the British people during this Christmas period would save lives.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BACK IN THE GAME – PART I

UK woman Margaret Keenan the first person to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine  | The West Australian

 

December 07

Monday and a new week and while I was off sick Monday and Tuesday hotel quarantine started up again in Melbourne, Victoria.

For the first time since late June international flights with returning Australians were landing to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine in Melbourne.

The Australian city that had experienced the most loss of life and the longest lockdown period and government imposed restrictions following an outbreak when security protocols failed at a hotel quarantine site.

In the new hotel quarantine system 300 police officers will be deployed to do the work every day. One hundred and seventy-two Australian Defence Force Personnel are deploying to do front desk tasks and no private security guards will be involved. 

ADF officers lined up on arriving in Melbourne wearing blue surgical masks.

The use of private security companies had been a fixture of the COVID-19 Hotel inquiry. 

From the ABC News website.

Former Family Court judge Jennifer Coate, the inquiry’s chair, said in her interim report that it was mostly private security personnel working in hotel quarantine who had “seeded” the major community outbreaks in Victoria’s second wave.

Lawyers for the inquiry have said the failure of the program was responsible for more than 760 deaths, and more than 18,000 infections.

The inquiry heard in August that 90 per cent of the state’s active cases at that time could be traced back to a family of four who stayed at Melbourne’s Rydges on Swanston hotel.

Concerns were raised about guards and other staff members working across multiple locations, as well as the level of training they were given in infection control.

There were a range of rules for those quarantining to follow.

Three police officers talk on a Melbourne street.

They couldn’t leave their rooms for fresh air or exercise unless there are relevant reasons. They won’t be able to receive care packages from their families.

Everyone working in the quarantine hotels, with the exception of the cleaning staff, will be employed or directly contracted by the newly established Covid Quaratine Victoria.

Cleaners will be employed through fixed term contacts to avoid the need to work across different locations as casuals.

They will be tested for COVID-19 every day, while the members of their households will also be tested on a regular basis.

They will work together on the same rosters with colleagues to limit the spread if one of them becomes sick. 

Hotel quarantine will cost the returnee $3,000 dollars, $1,000 per additional adult and $500 per child over three years of age.

On the 7th of December, the World Health Organisation reported in Australia there had been 27,965 confirmed cases with a daily increase of nine. There had been 908 deaths.

 

 

December 08


In the United States of America, Ballbag continued to try and steal the election whilst proclaiming it stolen.

It’s funny to say this but no matter the lack of legal grounds, what the pundits said, Ballbag just created anxiety with his actions.

Here was an elected official undermining an election result.

For his followers this was real, although you can’t protest a count in one state and insist it go ahead in another because its going your way.

That clearly shows its not about the principal of the matter.

US election sees protesters confront vote-counting centres in Phoenix and  Detroit, 50 arrested in New York - ABC News

Having worked in an election warehouse counting votes albeit in a different country with different systems it seemed crazy to me how you could pull off such a miscarriage of the count.

I guess nothing is impossible but its not like every election official is affiliated one way or the other. The fact that security was needed at such sites is shocking to me having it never be a concern here in Australia. 

Right now, democracy is fragile in America in a way I never thought I would see in my lifetime.

You would hope when a bunch of people die and the President talks about using bleach in the human body, yells at reporters for asking simple questions, leaves states to bid for medical supplies and hands out pens to health officials rather than hear their cries for help that Americans would strap on the biggest boot they could find and send it right on up his wide load tennis shorts size ass! 

US happiness hits lowest point in 50 years: New poll finds just 14% of  Americans are 'very happy' | Daily Mail Online

The fact that they did that and then the only work he did for the next two months was bleat about it and then go off and play golf rather than deal with the real crisis in America which were COVID cases and deaths skyrocketing is just really sad.

How did it get to this and why is any of this tribally political? Regardless of age, political disposition, race, colour, or creed why would anyone not think this President has been horrible in dealing with COVID-19?

On the 8th of December the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America there had been 14,570,523 confirmed COVID cases with a daily increase of 173,388. There had been 279,913 deaths with a daily increase of 1,107.

 

UK woman Margaret Keenan the first person to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine  | The West Australian

In the United Kingdom a young lady named Maggie originally from Enniskillen in Fermanagh made history. 

Ninety-year old Margaret Keenan become the first person to receive the COViD-19 Pfizer BioNTech vaccinne following trials and approvals.

Attending University Hospital in Coventry to get her jab from Matron May Parsons, Ms Keenan said, “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.

We couldn’t hug her but we could clap, and everybody did so in the room,” Professor Stephen Powis, the National Medical Director of NHS England, said.

COVID-19: British woman first to receive vaccine - Vatican News

She was one of thousands getting the first of two scheduled jabs across the UK. The hope was to have 4 million Britons vaccinated by the end of 2020 primarily health care workers and people over 80 years of age.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visits Western General Hospital amid the spread of the coronavirus disease

Today we should all allow ourselves a smile – but we must not drop our guard,” said Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Sturgeon did say watching the video of Maggie getting her first dose put a lump in her throat.
 

Sister Joanna Sloan

Sister Joan Sloan who will head up the vaccine rollout in Belfast was the first to get the jab in Northern Ireland at Royal Victoria hospital.

When asked what her thoughts were as she received the jab, Sister Sloan replied, “At last. At last we have got to this point. We have worked hard to get here so it felt great.” 

Palmerston care home

Palmerston, a purpose built Dementia care home in East Belfast had twenty residents vaccinated the same day with thirty five staff to follow.

There had been 55,795 confirmed cases in Northern Ireland and 1,073 deaths.

In the Republic of Ireland there had been 74,682 cases and 2,097 deaths.

The latter had more than three times the population of the former.

The first person in Wales was 48 year old home care worker Craig Atkins.

The BBC weren’t specific about who was the first person in Scotland but consultant anaesthetist Dr Katie Stewart at NHS Borders and senior charge nurse Andrew Mencnarowski who will vaccinate colleagues at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital were among the first.

It’s a huge step forward in the battle against the Covid virus. I feel very proud and excited to be part of it all,” said the Scottish nurse.

Dr Katie Stewart

After a very long hard year looking after patients with Covid and staying apart to protect each other, we finally have something to celebrate. The new vaccination has been tested on over 43,000 people around the world so I am truly delighted to be one of the first people in the Scottish Borders to receive one,” Dr Stewart said.

Visiting London’s Guy’s Hospital Prime Minister Boris Johnson listened to 81 year old Lyn Wheeler who was the first to get vaccinated there. 

Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine which is less than enough for a third of the population to get vaccinated. There are reports to achieve herd immunity 70 per cent take up a national population is required.  

NHS Doctor Veer Gupta summed it up nicely to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “We have a vaccine for a disease that was never before seen on Earth, and within one year now we have something that can actually prevent it from spreading.

Vaccine

After receiving the first jab, 21 days later a second jab is administered with full immunity believed to take effect at the 28 day mark from the first jab.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock advised it would take several weeks for just health care workers and people over 80 to get vaccinated. The need for it to be kept in ultra-cold storage rather than just refrigerated like the vaccine developed by the Oxford University was going to create challenges for distribution. 

But we had a vaccine. 

We had a vaccine.

Covid-19: First vaccine patient has her second jab - BBC News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson believed it was a turning point in the country’s fortunes against the virus but one step in a battle that was far from over.

Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus. As the program ramps up in the weeks and months ahead, it is as important as ever to keep to the COVID winter plan: Follow the rules in your area and remember the basics of hands, face and space,” he said.

On the 8th of December, the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland there had been 1,737,964 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 14,718. There had been 61,434 deaths with a daily increase of 189.

Victoria had recovered enough to ramp up hotel quarantine again, most state borders were open as Western Australian opened up to the rest of the country, Ballbag was getting shown the door whether he liked it or not and against all odds and thanks to so many unsung scientists and health care workers vaccines were rolling out across the world.

Gee….

Anybody would have thought it was Christmas after all!

But the virus of course didn’t care what the calendar said.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – IT’S HERE

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

June 18

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

In Queensland there were three active cases.

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

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

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

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

But that was not the case everywhere.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continents1Continents2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus morning headlines as worldwide death toll passes ...

June 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

June 21

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

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

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

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

Australia Late June

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Ballbag had a different take.

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

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

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

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

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

So please turn away for a second….

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

Or in other words.

 

 

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

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

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

WHO6-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHOTop6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s right…

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

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

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – AROUND THE GROUNDS

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

May 31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Lloyd Marken

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

 

COVID-19 DIARY – STEP ONE IN RE-OPENING

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

11 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schools and non-essential shops would remain closed.

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

The infection rate had to stay below 1.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Clean Air Cities Could Outlast COVID-19 Lockdowns

 

12 May

Tuesday and Wednesday I worked from home.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

It kind of breaks my heart.

 

 

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

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

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

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

Instead it was all about his coughing fit.

 

14 May

On Thursday I was back in the office.

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

 

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

 

15 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

From midnight Friday certain restrictions were lifting in Queensland specifically.

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

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

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

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

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – HAPPY EASTER

The Light of the World | Art UK

 

April 10

Good Friday.

I was at home and realised unlike other Easter weekends, I would not be getting a free feed at family gatherings or going out to restaurants with friends. Fortunately Karen had already made plans, we survived.

A skype session has been arranged for my in-laws by my brother in law.

I skyped with my parents and then with my inlaws back to back in the afternoon. The difference a few extra people struck me immediately and I resolved to set up a skype session with all of my family including my sister over in England. We arranged it for Easter Monday.

It was a nice to see and speak to family while we were in social isolation. I had pushed for it with some foresight knowing how much her family means to Karen and her family had made it happen.

 

April 11

Easter Saturday

America overtakes Italy for the highest number of deaths from COVID-19 in the world.

 

April 12

Easter Sunday

It was the reports coming out New York and their hospital system that made me take stock of nurses closer to home. I looked for something to do to support nurses here and came across BuyThemACoffee initiative through Weekend Notes which I have been published in over the years.

Sydney based Marketing Manager Kaylie Smith had been driven to do something and after consulting healthcare workers online she discovered all they really wanted was a cup of coffee.

Enlisting cafes that could use the business, during the downturn, she set about raising money on GoFundMePages to pay the cafes to make and deliver the precious java juice.

Since starting the initiative, it has spread to other cities across Australia and seen over 100,000 cups of coffee bought and delivered to our wonderful healthcare workers.

Kaylie Smith did not sit on the sidelines and critique from a social media armchair. She got involved, she dared to try and get an idea off the ground and she’s made a difference.

Well done Ms Smith!

Thank you also to prolific writer Nadine Cresswell-Myatt who wrote this great piece in Weekend Notes that caught my eye and allowed me to make a donation to the BuyThemACoffee initiative.

Fundraiser by Michelle Hogan : Buy Them A Coffee - Queensland

 

In the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson is released from St Thomas hospital and gives a speech in which he said “I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life. No question. It’s hard to find words to express my debt.”

And I hope they won’t mind if I mention in particular two nurses who stood by my bedside for 48 hours when things could have gone either way. They’re Jenny from New Zealand Invercargill on the South Island to be exact, and Luis from Portugal near Porto.”

And the reason in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen was because for every second of the night they were watching, and they were thinking and they were caring and making the interventions I needed. So that is how I also know that across this country, 24 hours a day, for every second of every hour, there are hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.

The 55 year old Prime Minister retreated to the county estate Chequers to recover.

His fiancée Carrie Symonds due to give birth in two months tweeted “Thank you also to everyone who sent such kind messages of support. Today I’m feeling incredibly lucky. There were times last week that were very dark indeed. My heart goes out to all those in similar situations, worried sick about their loved ones.

 

13 April

Easter Monday

Trump held a bizarre press briefing where he ran a powerpoint video of what a great job he and the administration was doing.

Trump had earlier retweeted a supporter’s tweet calling for Dr Anthony Fauci to be fired.

Dr Fauci has been a calm and consistent speaker during the crisis about what the risks may be and what suitable actions should be taken.

Dr Fauci was called to the podium earlier to explain comments in the press earlier where he pointed out quite correctly that if actions had been taken earlier there would have been a better outcome initially.

He labelled these comments a “poor choice of words.” 

“Hypothetical questions sometimes can get you into some difficulty,” Dr Fauci.

When asked by a reporter if he had been forced to make the statement.

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shot his hands up and urged “Everything I do is voluntary. Please. Don’t even imply that.

For many Dr Fauci’s continued presence in tackling the crisis in America is reassuring and his courage to put ego aside and placate the narcistic Trump was one more measure of the man.

One day Dr Fauci will have quite the book to write if he wants to and I’d be very interested in reading it.

Trump has been anything but statesmen like in these press conferences held during a national crisis.

When asked questions he doesn’t like, he insults reporters and their networks while he still fails to answer the questions.

To provide answers for a country in need.

Struggling through prepared speeches he seems to barely comprehend and going off script with his usual patter at a time when only good and suitable advice should be conveyed.

On the 13th of April, one CBS reporter finally got one over him – her name Paula Reid.

 

I finished the day in a skype conversation that put me in touch with my sister on the other side of the world and involved four households. It was the closest I got to having my family over Easter and I was very grateful.

Many families have not been so lucky, many families have lost loved ones in the past few months. At the time of Easter I guess I took comfort in my faith, placed my faith in my God and tried to do good things and practice gratitude. I know many other people are doing a lot more and I thank them.

-Lloyd Marken

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

Sold Unit 16/523 Coronation Drive, Toowong QLD 4066 - Homely

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. 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 – FRIDAY THE 13TH

Awesome Time Lapse Video Of Planet Earth Taken On The ...

 

If there was a tipping point in the COVID-19 crisis in Australia it was Friday the 13th of March. After that day we knew life was changing and the uncertainty surrounding how would dominate the days following. Indulge me if you will but play the video above while reading this post.

 

Thirteen-Lawyer KPMG Team in France Heads Back to Fidal as Dispute ...

March 13

On Friday I was driving into work and heard on the news that France had shut down all schools. At the time they had the second largest number of cases in Europe behind only Italy. The school shut down was a measure of escalation and of note in regards to where I worked. Throughout the week people had been paying attention to the news and trying to prepare come what may.

In France on the 13th of May the World Health Organisation reported an increase from 2,281 to 3,640 in the country.

There was a daily increase of 31 dead in the country taking the total of 79.

 

In Italy only food stores and pharmacies were now allowed to be open with all other shops closed. There were now over 1,000 intensive care patients in the country and there was talk that hospital staff now were having to make decisions about who was likely to be able to save factoring in to decision making about the care administered.

In Italy the WHO reported a daily increase of 2,547 cases bringing the national total to 21,157. The death toll increased by 252 taking us to 1,268.

 

Trudeau self-isolating after wife Sophie develops fever, gets ...

The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau went into self isolation following his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau testing positive to COVID-19 having just returned from a speaking engagement in Great Britain.

With a daily increase of 59 cases the total number in Canada jumped to 152. The first death recorded March 11, remained the only one in the country.

 

Amid a global pandemic, Cheltenham Festival surviving all four ...

In the UK the Cheltenham racing festival was in full swing with the Cheltenham Gold Cup held on the 13th of March with over 68,500 attending. The event like several other sporting events that week was held in accordance with government advice and with “a range of additional hygiene measure at the event, including hundreds of hand sanitiser dispensers and extra wash basins.” at the event.

UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries tested positive for the virus having attended a Downing Street meeting the previous Friday where 100 people were in attendance. Inexplicably Prime Minister Boris Johnson saw no reason to get tested himself.

On the 13th of March there were 802 cases in total reported in the United Kingdom. Over a quarter of those had just been reported that day – 208. There were two new deaths leading to a total of 10.

 

Coronavirus: President Donald Trump handed gift by Fabio ...

In the United States of America President Trump had announced a restriction on travel between Europe and the U.S. with the exception of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. The stockmarket had crashed falling more in one single day than since Black Monday on the 19th of October 1987 which was followed by the recession of the late 1980s.

Several film and television shows and film shoots were shutting down and going on hiatus. Hollywood was grounding to a halt with all its productions across the world.

Fabio Wajngarten, the communication secretary of Brazilian President tested positive to coronavirus days after being photographed with President Trump and Vice President Pence sparking concerns that the American Cabinet should get tested and for some reason Pence and Trump delayed that.

On the 13th of March in the United States of America there were 277 new cases with a total of 1,264 overall. There were 36 dead, 7 from that day alone.

 

Australia isolates all international arrivals | Prothom Alo

The Prime Minster of Australia Scott Morrison had announced a 17.6 billion spending package the day before which would could cost his government his much anticipated budget surplus. “Our focus is on getting support to those who need it … There will be an other side of this crisis.” said the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

At 9am Friday, the Australian Grand Prix was cancelled. McLaren had pulled out the day before following a team member testing positive.

The Home Affairs Minister in Australia Peter Dutton tested positive to COVID-19 having recently returned from America where he met with Ivanka Trump and senior White House personnel.

There was a Council of Australian Governments Meeting with the Prime Ministers and state Premiers that day. Following on from that the Council decided they would convene that Sunday a National Cabinet meeting of state heads and federal leaders.

It was announced that starting the following Monday there would be no mass gatherings of 500 people or more after the weekend. The Prime Minister originally intended to attend the footy over the weekend to see his beloved Sharkies play. Later that day he advised to avoid confusion over his actions he would not go. The Cronulla Sharks lost that match.

The World Health Organisation reported on the 13th of March, 2020 189 cases of COVID-19 in Australia with 49 of those cases reported that day alone. There had been three deaths in my country at that point.

 

20200313_210011
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I headed to the Brisbane Comedy Festival that night with Karen. Hot off the press was the cancellation of the Melbourne Comedy Festival originally scheduled to kick off on the 25th of March. Travel company Flight Centre had announced plans to shut down 100 of its 900 stores. It was just one of many companies announcing store closures, staff reductions and slow down.

We caught up with some of our friends and grabbed a table out on the river far from crowds. One of our friends shared hand sanitiser she had brought with her. This was becoming a way of life.

We discussed how the situation was escalating, talked about precautions, at one point I discussed some talking heads saying it was only as deadly as the flu. One of our friends with the patience of a saint relayed she had heard that spoken about too but it was not accurate. Earlier that very same day Dr Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, had stressed that the virus was “10 times more deadly” than the regular flu.

We all had on our minds that the most vulnerable in our society were going to be even more vulnerable, that unemployment was going to rise and that our health care system and the workers who take care of us were about to be put through the ringer.

It was the last time I would see these friends in person for a while. I miss them.

20200313_192953
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

I saw Dave Hughes in the large Powerhouse Theatre on assignment for Scenestr magazine. We grabbed a row at the back of the front section. The venue was close to full but there were a few chairs empty most likely due to people not showing rather than not being sold. Karen and I had nobody sit with us. Dave Hughes came out and was very funny. There was a sense in the air that things were changing and that this might be it for a while. Hughesy wondered how it all worked, less than 500 people and all of a sudden no one is sick? That we can’t go out Monday but tonight is fine? Does the virus know? Later that night another friend Rosie who you may recall coming with me to the opening night of BIFF 2018, was out and about in the clubs and Hughesy showed up where she was and performed some stand-up.

It felt a little like seizing the day which in hindsight can also seem selfish and stupid. We followed government advice I guess but regardless Friday the 13th of March, 2020 was a turning point in Australia. The ripchord had been pulled, a global economic recession had been kicked off and clearly too many people were dying. Government was taking action and they wouldn’t be doing any of this if they saw an alternative. It seemed like the possibility of a world leader coming down with the disease was all too real. We knew the world was changing, an anxious next few days would reveal in what ways and just how much.

-Lloyd Marken