COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART II

Queensland border restrictions in Darling Downs - Darling Downs

There was another great Four Corners episode this week from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that covered what had happened on the last cruises of the Diamond Princess in February in the North Pacific and the Ruby Princess in March in the Trans-Tasman Sea.

What was pretty concerning wasn’t just the disembarkation of passengers in Sydney on the 19th of March.

What was more concerning that the cruise had ever been allowed to leave Sydney given how COVID-19 had spread through her sister ship in Asia in February. Or the lack of precautions that were made during the cruise when an outbreak was clearly occurring.

For many of us the initial news reports coming out of that part of the world were perceived as something happening over there like previous diseases SARS and MERS.

As the situation escalated at some point the actions of Carnival Corporation become troubling. And people died.

It’s quite a heartbreaking tale.

 

May 27

In Blackwater a town of less than 5,000 in Central Queensland the late miner aged 30 returned a positive postmortem test for COVID-19. In the days ahead with the set-up of fever clinics and contract tracing in the town a second test came back negative.

Nathan Turner had underlying medical conditions that had meant he had been unable to work in recent months due to illness. At age 30 he came the youngest fatality in Australia of COVID-19. The second test was good news for the town in terms of COVID fears but his death remained a tragic loss of one so young.

 

 

There were 484 active cases in Australia on the 25th of May.

On the 17th of March there had been 410 cases which was on the eve of the Ruby Princess docking and ceasing international air travel.

Allowing that changes were in place that weren’t then and awareness from the general populace was different there was a growing push to re-open the economy.

However Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of NSW advised the same day “Given that there is that, we should be waiting for 14 days … to get to zero and then add those two incubation periods before we start hopping on aeroplanes or coaches or cars to states and territories that have been exemplary in getting their numbers to zero“.

Two days later Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Channel Nine Today show, “The National Cabinet has never agreed that there should be borders closed in Australia,” Mr Morrison said. That was never the medical expert advice that came at any time. Premiers and their governments in states, whether it is South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, have all made their own decisions and so they have got to justify those decisions.

The Federal and State governments have worked hard through their differences at all times during the crisis at unprecedented levels. NSW and Victoria pushed hard to shut down schools and now there were disagreements about the borders.

In the early days of the crisis as the state borders shut it was considered that it may be until September before they were opened again. Now the momentum was shifting.

There is no doubt that those sort of borders do harm the economy, they do harm jobs and it is important that we get those removed as soon as possible. I want to stress, the national medical advice that came from the expert panel that has driven all the other decisions never recommended closing borders.” said the PM.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk noted “These are really hard decisions everyone, I have sleepless nights, I understand people are hurting, I understand people have lost their jobs. I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible. But if I don’t do it safely it could cripple our industry for years to come.

Other states were holding firm too. The Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein advised “I won’t comment on the way the Queensland premier deals with her borders nor how the NSW premier deals with hers. It’s quite obvious the federal government has a view but my job is to protect the best interests of Tasmanians.

The Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said “The interstate border will stay. It’s a small inconvenience … it won’t be forever. Our hard borders with the east and our isolation have worked to our advantage and we must keep it that way for now.

This was on the 28th of May, history was about to push the trajectory of these plans in another direction.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – 03MAR2020

FILE IMAGE of the Brisbane suburb Toowong.

A crisis unfolds through so many strands, it starts with a murmur and then all of a sudden the ground is shaking and nobody knows if the earth is going to open up and swallow you whole. Maybe you just need to find your footing, maybe the ground will stop shaking and you’ll sigh a sigh of relief and move on. In no time you might even forget how scary it all was.

School children are being encouraged to write diaries in these days as they live throughout history. A little personal account of a global event. I have been inspired to follow suit if a little too late to truly be in spirit of the act.

Already it is hard to retrace but I will try.

March 03

Where I work is not far from the University of Queensland in terms of a drive. I work in the suburb of Toowong just outside the main Brisbane CBD along Coronation Drive in the river.

I am fond of getting a morning coffee from the nearby Stellarossa Café in Toowong village.

On the 3rd of March, 2020 it was reported that a 20 year old resident of Toowong and UQ student from China was confirmed to have coronavirus. (Remember when we were calling it that.)

I remember flicking through the front page about this at Stellarossa. The student had spent 14 days in Dubai as a precautionary measure. He landed in Brisbane on the 23rd of February, 2020 and became unwell two days later. He was the tenth confirmed case of COVID-19 in my home state of Queensland.

There were 33 cases in the whole of Australia on the 3rd of March and the first Australian had died from the disease two days earlier.

His name was James Kwan and he was 78 years old. Having spent his career in the tourism industry he was on holidays aboard the cruise ship the Diamond Princess along with 150 other Australians when it had been forced to go into quarantine throughout February in the Japanese port of Yokohama. After a long journey that included diagnosis and isolation in the Northern Territory he returned to his hometown of Perth and passed away in hospital.

In China the World Health Organisation was reporting a cumulative total of 80,302 cases since the first rumblings back in November, 2019 with only a daily increase of 128. There were 31 new deaths from Coronavirus reported in the country adding to a total death toll of 2,946 deaths.

In Iran there were 2,336 cases and with a daily increase of 835. Eleven people died in Iran that day with 77 total dead already.

In Italy there 2,502 cases with a daily increase of 466. 80 people had died, 28 from that day alone.

In the United States of America there were 188 cases total reported so far with a daily increase of 44. The first two deaths in the country had been reported on the 2nd of March.

In the United Kingdom where I have family, there were 51 cases with a daily increase of 12. There were no death reported in Great Britain until the 6th of March.

In Canada there were three new cases and a total of 30 reported in the whole country. The first death would be reported over a week later on the 11th of March.

China, Italy and Iran and the Diamond Princess were in the news already but on the 3rd of March the coronavirus had come to my home town and most specifically to where I worked.

And then Tom Hanks got it…

-Lloyd Marken