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.

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

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – OUR FIRST HOUSEGUESTS

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My brother-in-law celebrated his birthday ANZAC Day.

I am fond of calling him my brother from another mother. I say this because he really is a brother to me.

He was born a Sikh in India, fell in love with an Australian girl while studying here and that was the end of that.

Life hasn’t always been easy for him as an immigrant but I’ve never met a man who works harder, is more resilient and more loyal.

He is a wonderful husband and to his family in India a dearly missed son. Having a sister living in the UK means I know a little of how they feel.

We went over to where he and his wife lived and sat in spaced apart chairs out the front of their place. We just talked but gosh it was good to see them.

Municipal workers disinfect health workers after their visit to a containment zone in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Saturday, April 18, 2020.

 

April 26

The next day the whole family skyped to celebrate his birthday.

The same day four of the largest airline planes in the world A380s landed in the centre of Australia in the very dry Alice Springs.

 

27 April

Working from home Monday morning I read an e-mail mentioning we had a few people sick in our team from my supervisor.

I sent him an e-mail asking if there is anything I could do in support and he replied yes – could I read the text message he had sent me almost an hour prior.

After reading the text sent earlier I got in my car and spent the day working in the office.

That night Karen and I spoke to an old friend of our’s. An accomplished academic it seemed like a lifetime ago when we had heard she was getting a gig working at HARVARD!

Based there for almost a year she was one of the early few sounding the alarm on social media about the danger of this disease.

As things got worse in America she saw footage of international travellers returning to Australia bundled together with no social distancing.

The days passed and she relayed hearing sirens go past outside her residence throughout the day. She finally arranged a flight coming back to Australia, worried about her American friends who she was leaving behind.

When we spoke she was in the midst of the 14 day quarantine in hotels for returning travellers. A yoga practitioner and a marathon runner she had no complaints about her confinement.

Her thoughts were with all the people confined to ventilators breathing their last breaths.

She had come through and we were glad to hear she was all right.

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30 April

Thursday.

I ended up only working from home that Wednesday grateful to be back in the office for most of the week. Traffic was still not so bad and I was so happy to be with my colleagues again even most of us were still working from home.

One of them was going on maternity leave, someone who I had worked with last year during my secondment.

Somebody who will be a great parent.

Someone who is so amazing in everything she does that I refer to her as lightning in a bottle.

We wished her well in a skype morning tea that I was lucky to attend.

The Queensland Premier had announced that week that come the weekend you would be able to travel 50kms from your place of resident.

One of my work colleagues said she was driving to Fernvale that weekend.

Another asked, “What’s in Fernvale?”.

“Don’t know but that is as far as we can go so we’re going there,” she replied.

Last year I had flown over Fernvale at a height of a few hundred feet.

20190802_065347
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

02 May

We don’t entertain a lot in our house.

It’s too hot for most of the year and we never got around to having the place exactly how we want it for entertaining.

But on Saturday the 2nd of May, Karen told me her brother and his girlfriend was coming around and that was that. So they brought tacos for dinner and we had a wonderful time.

This night along with seeing my brother from another mother were our first social engagements in almost two months outside of phone calls and skype.

I may have erred on the side of caution if consulted but once the train was on the tracks I really didn’t want to take this away from my wife. She lets me have my way on most things.

I realise a lot of people around the world have gone without socialising even longer and will even longer still if their governments show any sense.

So I know I have been very fortunate it had been only a few weeks but I must admit it was really nice to have the dinner.

After the main I offered some port for everyone and while I don’t often drink I decided I would have some more port. Galway Pipe.

It was really nice to have the dinner.

Best Funny Drunk GIFs | Gfycat

In most parts of the world things were only getting worse but here in Australia things were getting just a little bit better.

 

On the 2nd of May, the World Health Organisation reported globally there were 3,272,212 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 90,578.

The death toll 230,107 with a daily increase of 5,805.

We reached 1 million confirmed cases on the 4th of April, 2 million on the 17th of April and 3 million on the 29th of April.

4 million was reached on the 11th of May and 5 million on the 23rd of May.

Knowing how fast this thing can spread, either the measures we’re putting in place are working or some of the numbers coming out of countries aren’t accurate.

On the 2nd of May the WHO reported 6,767 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of five. There were 93 deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there were 53,657 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,601. The number of deaths 3,223 with a daily increase of 141.

158 Canadian soldiers died in the war in Afghanistan.

In India there were 37,336 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,293. There were 1,218 deaths with a daily increase of 71.

527 Indians died in the Kargil conflict.

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In the United Kingdom there were 177,458 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,201. There were 27,510 deaths with a daily increase of 739.

In World War II during The Blitz from September 1940 to July 1941 it was estimated 40,000 civilians died from the bombings.

On the 30th of April the United States of America reached over 1 million confirmed cases. On the 2nd of May there were 1,067,127 with a daily increase of 31,774. The number of deaths 57,406 with a daily increase of 2,069.

58,318 American military personnel died in the decade long Vietnam war which shook the country to its core.

-Lloyd Marken