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.

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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.

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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 – MOTHER’S DAY WEEKEND

Coronavirus: Melbourne protesters clash with police

 

9 May 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

10 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – A 3 STEP PROGRAM

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

May 4

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

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

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

5 May

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

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

30 million Americans had filed for unemployment claims.

People were unemployed too in Australia and hurting as this 60 Minutes Australia piece covered.

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

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

7 May

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

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

April 7 Keep it under control

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Monday was the day after Mother’s Day.

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

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

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

8 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not everything will go to plan.

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

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

Everyone is doing their best.

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

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

Earlier he had offered words of encouragement stating.

That every Australian matters.

Every life, every job, every future.

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

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

That we can focus on something bigger than just ourselves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You could drive up to 150 kilometres from your place.

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

Victoria said it would decide on the 11th.

Queensland committed Saturday May 16 or specifically midnight next Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He simply replied “Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

Drinking GIF on GIFER - by Morardred

Stay safe everyone.

-Lloyd Marken