COVID-19 DIARY – GAME OVER – END OF THE FOURTH QUARTER

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March 31

Wednesday and there was one new case in hotel quarantine in Queensland and only two new community cases and both were linked to recent cases.

The Blues Festival was cancelled in Bryon Bay for the second year running.

A PA nurse and her housemate but she never had contact to a returned traveller from India that she was linked to. This prompted further questions about how the disease might be spreading in the environment of the hospital.

The nurse had gone to hens party in Byron Bay over the weekend with ten people and an eleventh – a male entertainer. The entertainer and six of the ten guests had now tested positive.

The nurse had not worked directly with a returned traveller with COVID that her infection was linked to after genomic testing.

We just need to work out how she got it on that ward. There is most likely some environmental contamination or some aerosolisation of the virus when the person was admitted. So that’s why that ward has been closed. No-one is going in or out of that ward,” advised Dr Jeanette Young.

The nurse had been given the first dose of the vaccine on March 19.

The Health Minister Yvette D’Ath got a COVID testing following having a sore throat.

A 20 year old man tested positive in Byron Bay.

Music festival to go ahead in NSW town on alert for COVID-19 - NewsFinale

More than 33,000 people get tested including Health Minister Yvette D’Ath after having a sore throat.

The Premier indicated if the numbers were similar tomorrow there was a good chance the lockdown would end on Thursday evening.

The fact we do not have any unlinked community transmission in the south-east or in our state is absolutely encouraging. Fingers crossed all will be looking good for Easter. If we see very good testing rates across Queensland and we don’t see any unlinked community transmission, the signs for Easter are looking positive.,” the Premier said.

One hundred and fourteen residents and staff at TriCare Mermaid Beach aged care residency on the Gold Coast had been tested and all returned negative results advised federal health minister Greg Hunt. This was following news that a contractor had done work at the facility and later tested positive.

Cases as far travelled as Bryon Bay, Gold Coast, Toowoomba and Gladstone. Two patients with COVID in the Gold Coast University Hospital, one in Toowoomba hospital and one in Bundaberg hospital.

Since the pandemic had started there had been 1,571 cases in Queensland, seven deaths and 2,485,240 tests had been carried out.

There were now 20 active cases in the state.

For the government the indications were if the numbers held the three day lockdown would be enough.

In January Prime Minister Scott Morrison had put forward the goal of having four million vaccinations carried out by the end of March.

On the eve of reaching that timeframe there was bound to be talk of the fact that the target had not been reached – not even close at 670,349 doses admnistered.

There were not even 4 million doses in the country yet which may be the crucial issue. There had been 3.8 million doses ordered to arrive during this timeframe and instead only 700,000 had. We were up to just under 50,000 doses a day.

It was looking highly unlikely an earlier stated goal of everyone receiving their first dose by the end of October would transpire.

Agricultural Minister David Littleproud put some of the problems at the state level when being interviewed on Channel 9 News.

We have made it very clear to them, have confidence in the supply chain — we have plenty coming through, you cannot leave them in the rack, you’ve got to put them in people’s arms,” he argued.

“They have done three-fifths of bugger all.”

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This started a war of words between state and federal leaders of all political persuasions.

“Queensland is releasing its vaccine numbers every day. We do not see that from the federal government. If the states are releasing their figures every day I think it’s only fair, fair and reasonable, that the federal government releases their figures every day. We need to have guaranteed supply and we need to have guaranteed times of delivery,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.

Queensland had completed 89% of 1A vaccinations for frontline workers.

Pfizer vaccines were being used there which required a second dose to be given three weeks later.

We do have to make sure that if we give the first dose that we can give the second dose. Although the Commonwealth has done their best to try and assure us that we would get those second doses, at the same time we’re getting information that supply is not progressing as we had hoped,” advised Dr Young.

For a change New South Wales and Queensland Premier were of a similar opinion.

What is extremely unfair is that when we are given 24 or 48 hours notice about how many new doses we’re getting. As you can appreciate, disseminating that within 24 hours or 48 hours is a difficult task. I want to put the facts on the table because it’s so important for us to not only vaccinate as many people as soon as possible, but also to make the vaccine available through multiple channels,” said New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the report was misleading. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

There is no point in delivering something to us a day ago or two day ago and saying you haven’t rolled them out. I am as angry as I have ever been in this 15 months of war against this virus, said New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

“Let’s get this really, really clear: The NSW government was asked to roll out 300,000 vaccinations to the groups in 1A and 1B. Of that we have done 100,000,” he said.

“The Federal Government was asked and is responsible for 5.5 million people and they have rolled out 50,000. I think the figures speak for themselves.”

“It’s a big job, we’re all doing it, the states and territories are doing it for their frontline workers, we’re doing it through the GP rollout,” advised Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1z8BdDqsOM

A year on from when the pandemic started to sweep the west. Back then we put into actions and waited to see how the first quarter would play out with our health care systems, our supplies, our economies, our way of live and our loved ones.

There have now been four such quarters. A full game if you and game two in the series had kicked off.

Where will this all end and on many people’s mind is maybe how and when?

How many people will die, lose their jobs and businesses, lose their health and when will this threat be out of our lives completely or at least greatly diminished.

We got the vaccine, this year will reveal if that is a game changer and a temporary or ongoing one. They say doctors live in the future, maybe they know.

I know that I do not.

But I remain grateful for all the good fortune I have been a recipient of, I look to do what little I can to help the less fortunate and to take solace in friends, families, some moments of joy and the idea that deeds however small matter. That if we can help each other and think of each other we will have the means to get through this.

It is not over but the first match in the series is.

As we close it, here is a little update.

On the 31st of March, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported 127,905,155 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 526,819.

There had been 2,798,278 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 9,047.

Region March 2021

WHO Continents end of March

WHO Continents 2 end of March21

Australia end of march 2021.jpg

In Australia there had been 29,296 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18. There had been 909 deaths.

China end of March21

In the People’s Republic of China where the virus had originated in Wuhan it was reported there had been 102,734 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 19. There had been 4,851 deaths.

Canada end of march 2021.jpg

In Canada there had been 971,715 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,311. There had been 22,900 deaths with a daily increase of 20. WIth over four million vaccinations Canada was starting to see an uptick in case numbers.

Iran end of March21

In Iran one of the first countries hit hard by the virus had suffered greatly in subsequent waves over the past year and another wave was coming. There had been 1,875,234 confirmed cases with a daily increase 10,250. There had been 62,569 deaths with a daily increase of 91.

6-12 end of march 2021.jpg

Poland end of March21

In Poland there had been 2,321,717 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 32,891. There had been 53,045 deaths with a daily increase of 653. The next day they reported 35,253 new cases, their highest recorded daily increase of cases. A week later on April 8 956 deaths were reported in one day, the highest daily record of new deaths due to the virus.

Colombia end of March 2021

In Colombia there had been 2,389,779 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 7,049. There had been 63,079 deaths with a daily increase of 124. The population of Colombia was 50 million.

Germany end of March 2021

In Germany there had been 2,808,873 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 17,051. There had been 76,342 deaths with a daily increase of 249.

Spain end of March 2021

In Spain there had been 3,282,047 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 7,202. There had been 76,424 deaths with a daily increase of 76. Spain was one of only nine countries that had reported more than 3 million cases at this point.

Turkey end of March 2021

In Turkey there had been 3,277,880 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 37,303. There had been 31,385 deaths with a daily increase of 155. As you can see above, cases were dramatically on the rise in the country.

Italy end of March 2021

In Italy there had been 3,561,012 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 16,055. There had been 108,879 deaths with a daily increase of 529.

Top 6 end of march 2021.jpg

UK end of march 2021.jpg

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,338,385 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,995. Thre had been a dramatic fall in new daily cases but only in the context of the recent devastating wave. In March last year when the virus shook the world, Britain reported 4,262 new daily cases on the 1st of April, 2020 for example. There had been 126,670 deaths with a daily increase of 55. Great Britain was one of only six countries that had reported more than four million cases.

Russia end of March 2021

In Russia there had been 4,545,095 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 8,275. There had been no let up in the daily death rates in the the country. There had been 98,850 deaths with a daily increase of 408.

France end of March 2021

In France there had been 4,510,870 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 29,575. There had been 94,763. deaths with a daily increase of 361. On the 5th of April there would be 66,794 new daily cases. Only one day recorded a higher increase in daily cases in the country and that was 86,794 on the 8th of November 2020.

India end of march 2021.jpg

In India there had been 12,149,335 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 53,480. There had been 162,468 deaths with a daily increase of 354. I am writing this on the 7th of May and the dramatic rise of cases has played out in a tragic way. It had already started here. India, Brazil and the United States of America are the only three countries that have reported more than 10 million cases in the world.

Brazil end of March 2021

In Brazil there had been 12,573,615 with a daily increase of 38,927. There had been 313,866 deaths with a daily increase of 1,660. On March 27th the country had reported their highest number of new daily cases with 100,158. The country recorded its highest daily number of deaths on the 10th of April with 4,249.

US end of march 2021.jpg

In the United States of America they reached more than 30 million cases with 30,033,063 with a daily increase of 64,599. There had been 545,051 deaths with a daily increase of 621. No country had suffered more than America this past year and new that over 135 million vacccine doses had been dispensed was cause for celebration but the daily new case numbers there were still high.

We were about to find out what protection the vaccine would grant against new strains and a new subsequent wave when it came.

I hoped it would be promising news.

I hope the worst of this is behind us.

It would come to be that that was not the case for India and others.

But we play on.

It is all we can do.

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: March 31, 2020

Globally we passed over 750,000 confirmed cases and reached 36,522 dead.

On a more heartening note Karen became the Teddy Bear Lady in our local neighbourhood.

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART VII

Satellite Images Show Australia's Devastating Wildfires From Space –  Spaceflight Journal

September 04

Following a National Cabinet Meeting the Prime Minister was advising he was trying to get the states to agree to having their borders open by Christmas. To manage travel around the country there was discussion around “hot spots” and how to define them so as to identify when and what to shut down. Only Western Australia with its Premier riding high in the polls had declined. However that didn’t mean some of the other states were varying in their conditions to going ahead with such a plan.

Economic pain aside, the virus didn’t care if it was Christmas and so setting a deadline around that and not where we were with the virus seemed ill advised at best.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison was in ongoing talks with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in setting up a travel bubble with that country to aid both their economies with tourism dollars. Given New Zealand’s hyge success in containing the virus this seemed like it posed more risk for them than for us.

As Reuters reported, “Australia’s early international border closures, lockdowns and social distancing restrictions has seen it record far fewer coronavirus infections and deaths than other nations. Nationally there have been around 26,100 infections and 737 deaths.

Yet remarkably the same principle didn’t seem to apply to state borders in some media commentary.

While it was stupefying that some couldn’t handle a trip to Port Macquarie or Dubbo instead of the Gold Coast or that people couldn’t consider a trip to Hervey Bay over Byron Bay or Ballarat over Adelaide or Gumeracha over Mildura or Fremantle over Darwin or Alice Springs over Bali or Cairns over Sydney. It took me six years to get to Newcastle for a long weekend trip and I survived for example.

The Big Rocking Horse & The Toy Factory

I would point out that jobs were lost all around with this slowdown in international tourism.

The Chief Executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, Margy Osmond was reported as saying, “Our industry remains on its knees in the fight of its life and has each month been losing thousands of jobs and $6 billion in activity from the forced shutdown of domestic travel alone.

Job loss led to debt, domestic violence, family breakdown, poverty and suicide. All from the type of people we rely upon to give us our holidays, that keep towns afloat, that build communities. That’s why where we could we needed to reach out and support each other.

After the National Cabinet Meeting on Friday, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian called on the Queensland Premier to show compassion in her remarks to border closures.

I urge the Queensland Premier to consider carefully the impact border closures are having on our communities, on our citizens on either side of the border. You have to look at the issues from a compassionate perspective, a human perspective and appreciate that people with medical challenges, with compassionate reasons, or just to get to work, need to be considered. I urge the Queensland Premier to consider all of those issues moving forward, especially given where NSW is in the pandemic and what we have demonstrated,” Premier Berejiklian said.

The remarks did bring to mind recent events like one pregnant mother in Northern New South Wales choosing to seek treatment in Sydney rather than continue through the bureaucracy to get into Queensland. She had subsequently lost one of her twins.

These words had impact, they referenced lives lost not just inconvenienced. They failed to acknowledge the proposal to move the border closures into New South Wales which the Queensland Premier had suggested and the New South Wales Premier had rejected but they did hold to account the idea that things could be done better particularly by the Queensland government to support the people of Northern New South Wales who they share close ties to.

For Premier Berejikian despite the subsequent waves that had occurred in New South Wales and break-out clusters around the country not to mention the devastating second and third waves seen around the world she saw no reason not to have the country opened up again.

“If the trends continue the way they are I don’t think any state border should exist by Christmas. There shouldn’t really be a reason for any state to have their borders up, we only closed the border with Victoria because we had and it was a really hard decision,” she said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Premier Gladys Berejiklian can certainly hold their heads high for their consistency. The PM has consistently not wanted to have schools close nor borders. Not just for the education of our children but also because of the economic impact. When New South Wales closed its borders to Victoria months after other states had at the initial height of the pandemic, the New South Wales Premier looked genuinely sad.

But I’m optimistic, I really am, I’m hopeful that by Christmas, even though some states might not be as comfortable as others, Australia will be a different place,” the NSW Premier said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra, Friday, September 4, 2020. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING

For his part the Prime Minister advised going forward total consensus would not be a requirement for National Cabinet outcomes.

“We’ve decided that this notion of 100%, absolute consensus on any issue is not a way that the National Cabinet can indeed work. And so what we will do is we will set out areas where we can come together, and get as many states and territories as possible to come around that agreement,” Morrison said.

Not everyone has to get on the bus for the bus to leave the station. But it is important the bus leaves the station.

Western Australia were going their own way and that was fine.

I’m not going to hold Australia back when one or two jurisdictions, at this point in time because of their own circumstances, don’t wish to go along with the path that the country is seeking to go in. So, they are not standing completely separate for that process. They will continue to work with us. But, for them, they have got their path set, and we respect that,” the PM said.

As popular as border closures have been politically they do cause enormous pain to the economy and when we say that we mean business and when we say that we mean people. Not international corporations who still have people buy online, not mining companies who still have their ships of steel or oil or coal or whatever sailing across oceans. Not banks who are advertising low interest rates but still collecting debt and still having customers deposit their doll cheque as much as one from an employer. No we’re talking about people who get hired when somebody builds or renovates a house, or takes a trip down the road and buys a meal or ticket with their disposable income. Those people are as flesh and blood as any life we are trying to save from a pandemic and right now they’re under the kind of pressure that could sink them for good.

The acknowledgement and concern for these people will stand Berejiklian and Morrison in good stead in the months ahead. Looking at the reports coming out of Newmarch will stand Palaszczuk in just a good a stead on the border closures.

Coronavirus: 100th COVID-19 death in Australia Alice Bacon whose family  spoke to A Current Affair about ordeal

Coincidentally the Queensland Premier referenced such circumstances in her press briefing on the same day.

I think it’s a bit disingenuous for this heightened criticism that is coming from a whole lot of levels when our fundamental concern is to look after Queenslanders and to make sure that they are safe during this time. I do not want to see what has happened in our aged care sector in NSW and in Victoria happen here in Queensland. That would be a nightmare,” the Queensland Premier said.

But where the majority lies can change in an instant as the fear of the virus switches to despair over the economy and the support offered by the Federal government will have an impact on how people are dealing with the economic impact of State border closures.

What I saw though was a concerted push in the media and other governments to bring pressure for the Queensland government to end its current policies despite the fact that they were popular. I smelt bullshit, I smelt coercion from big money and I admired my Premier for holding firm.

Throughout the week the narrative was now around instances where border control had gone wrong, predominantly the mother who had tragically lost a twin.

Coronavirus: Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says 'cruel and confused  implications' from strict COVID-19 border closures

Treasurer Josh Frydenburg had weighed in on Wednesday on the television program A Current Affair.

I think the Queensland Premier has got some questions to answer here. How can it be okay for people to go up to prepare for a footy game, and its not okay to go to hospital for treatment? How can it be okay that a young woman loses an unborn child because of border confusion – that a four year old boy with cancer can be separated from his mother? These are cruel and confused implication from these strict border approaches. I think everyone needs to get a grip here and remember that we’re first and last Australians,” he said.

Which was fair enough, these were heartbreaking stories that did make you wonder if we could do things better around the borders maybe even open them up. As heartbreaking as any one of the stories of deaths in nursing home and people being unable to see their parents in their last days and the complete lack of dignity those last days had for them.

Restrictions whether you like them or not having saving far more lives than they are taking.

Getting them right to avoid any death is the end goal but I had a sneaky feeling that’s not what this was about.

This was about getting those borders down to make some money and not the battling small business owner but the kind of money that donates to political parties and runs rag sheets and major television networks.

I don’t mean this as a conspiracy force and this is all conjecture.

See the source image

What I’m talking about about is how media in cycles and how certain narratives get pushed, certain things get coverage and certain things fade to the background. Right now the story was about why Palaszczuk was keeping the border and if it was necessary and I’m saying yes she should keep it shut and yes it is necessary and yes all these stories were about changing that and I call bullshit and I’m not falling for it.

And next week the story would be different and maybe even support border closures and that is you have got to wonder about these things.

By the way plenty of celebrities have been allowed into New South Wales and other states for film and tv productions and other valuable trade activity as well as Queensland. The Australian Football League has never held its Grand Final outside Victoria in 124 years until now and you can bet your ass after this pandemic is over they will be fighting hard to have it back there forever again just like the National Rugby League grand final is held in Sydney and Joshy boy won’t be heard saying then that we’re Australians first and last then.

Coal hunt at Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban's Australian retreat

The Daily Mail wrote “But increasing movement between other states is essential to save the nation’s dying tourism industry, which employs one million workers and is set to lose a staggering $54.6billion this year due to lockdowns and border restrictions. Greater freedom will also help farmers, residents in border towns, and hundreds of thousands of Aussie families who are trapped apart in different states.

Of course that didn’t take into account that success over COVID allowed restrictions to lower faster and have greater economic freedom. The prosperity that had come for Queensland from hosting the AFL grand final, from having people travel to the Far North from the South East and vice versa for holidays while there was ring of steel around Melbourne and stage 3 restrictions in regional Victoria.

Instead Agriculture Minister David Littleproud was quoted, “When the premier of Queensland can allow 400 AFL executives to swan around a resort in the Gold Coast, but won’t allow teenage boarding school children to go home to see their parents into remote New South Wales, that is abhorrent. It’s wrong. Australians don’t do that to other Australians.

Queensland and NSW boarding school students caught in state border closure  crossfire - ABC News

Of course the fact that boarding schools in Queensland had been to re-open so quickly was no cause for celebration, the education of our children weirdly was not of concern here. Minister Littleproud probably knew all too well how desperate farmers were for their boarding children to come home in their breaks and help, how much they were struggling, how difficult it was proving to find workers due to the lack of international students. That was true and was painful but what that had to do with a footy grand final that other states had bid to host seemed a convenient stretch.

But hey maybe that was just me.

For her part Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk was holding firm.

It is relentless and intimidating, but I will not be intimidated. Let me make it very clear, I will not be changing that course anytime soon. If we, as a nation, can focus on Victoria and New South Wales and get everything under control there, then the whole country can open up,” she said.

In Queensland there had been 1,190 confirmed cases of which there were currently 25 active all linked to the Wacol cluster.

There had been six deaths and 1,318,805 tests.

For comparison in New South Wales there had been 3,910 cases and which there were 87 currently being treated by NSW Health including seven in ICU – four of which were on ventilators. 

There had been 54 deaths and 2,259,161 tests.

Which is not to say that New South Wales would always been more likely to end up with more cases due to its proximity as the business and cultural centre of the nation, nor that they have not been doing a good job of handling the virus as best they can nor that border closures will stop an outbreak occurring in Queensland and that we won’t need the support then of these states that require our support now.

Just to say that this virus is hard to mitigate and anything that you can do beat it you should and maybe just maybe when our political leaders they deserve our support. But where would the news story be in that? That was last week, we need a new angle this week.

And the story of a baby that maybe didn’t have to die is an important story, to tell and to hear and if it means we take a harder look at these border policies then good.

When I trained as a wardsman they took us into a room and they showed us a little box on a trolley. They told us about how it might be a job to collect a baby who had died and take it to the morgue. That little box got us all thinking and it broke our hearts.

I feel very grateful that I never had to push that box down that long corridor.

Seeing babies on life support in the intensive care nursery was enough to make your eyes glisten.

So that is what we’re talking about here but it’s not only what we’re talking about here.

Following this press coverage a new specialist care unit began to operate to help with border crossings due to health reasons. The unit consisted of eight people including doctors, paramedics, nurses and social workers. It was part of a larger ongoing team of 80 working on cross-border travel exemptions. In the week where these tragic individual instances were in the news, 900 New South Wales residents had received treatment in Queensland hospitals.

We understand this is a very, very difficult time for families. I know that, my government knows that. We are here to help people during this critical time,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

In a spot of good for boarding students the Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young also said the town of Moree in northern New South Wales could be added to the travel bubble allowing boarding students to return home for the school holidays.

This could change, but at this point in time New South Wales does have control of their outbreak. They have been able to limit it to other parts of New South Wales. The risk of course is that people from other parts can come up to northern New South Wales. I discuss that risk every day with my New South Wales counterpart.” Dr Young said.

Overnight Queensland had reported no new cases and Dr Young advised it was still too early to open up borders.

“We know unfortunately that one case can lead to a lot of cases,” she said.

She advised a state would need to have recorded 28 days with no community transmission before the border with that territory could be opened up.

The federal tourism minister Simon Birmingham believed that was a “very, very high benchmark to set.

The New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejikian said, “I don’t know if we’ll ever get to that number. They’re putting on a pretty big ask during a pandemic.

-Lloyd Marken