COVID-19 DIARY – ON TENTERHOOKS

February 07

On Sunday the 7th of February, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 105,505,344 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 467,316.

Worldwide there had been 2,310,121 deaths with a daily increase of 12,416.

In Australia there had been 28,848 confirmed cases with a daily increase of six. There had been 909 deaths.

In Canada there had been 797,756 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,022. There had been 20,609 deaths with a daily increase of 96.

In the United Kingdom there had been 3,929,839 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18,262. There had been 112,092 deaths with a daily increase of 828.

In India there had been 10,826,363 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 12,059. There had been 154,996 deaths with a daily increase of 78.

In the United States of America there had been 26,547,977 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 129,961. There had been 455,735 deaths with a daily increase of 3,549.

Thai Households Struggle With Record Debt, COVID-19 Increases Burden |  Investing News | US News

February 08

I was back in the office the following week on tenderhooks beginning a weekly countdown.

My best friend, a Canberra resident, was getting married in Sydney on Sunday.

I had taken leave, reserved a hotel room with no cancellation fees, gotten a crack in my windscreen repaired and bought a wedding present.

Yet if the Queensland border shut with Sydney again I would not go. The 14 day quarantine required in a hotel at your own expense upon returning to the Sunshine state was something I would not do.

So after months of believing in a strong border posture by state governments I now was at the mercy of such decisions.

That was fair enough, I still believed what they were doing was right.

On Monday Queensland remained closed to certain areas of WA that had been invovled in the recent lockdown there.

For anyone who had been in New South Wales since the 2nd of February the Queensland Health advice was,

“If you have been in New South Wales since 2 February please check the list of venues attended by the latest case and follow the health advice.

If you have been in New South Wales since 2 February and are currently in Queensland please monitor your health, get tested if you have any symptoms then isolate until you receive a result.

There is no decision at this time to close the border. We are monitoring this situation closely and awaiting more information from New South Wales health authorities.

I had called the previous week to get a border pass and told that one was not necessary and to monitor the government website for updates.

In Wollongong a returned overseas traveller from South America tested positive for COVID leading to locals to get out and get tested.

The individual had completed 14 days in hotel quarantine. A week ago it was decided by NSW Health for people to test on Day 16 after they have left hotel quarantine.

In Melbourne, Victoria another hotel quarantine worker tested positive. This time the individual had tested negative following their last shfit on Thursday. They had returned to work on Sunday and tested postiive.

This followed another hotel quarantine worker having tested positive in Melbourne last week at the Grand Hyatt.

The Grand Hyatt was one of three hotels quarantining Australian Open players and staff. Five hundred people were classed as casual contacts, tested and told to isolate until returning a negative.

A hotel quarantine worker at the Grand Hyatt had finished his shift 29JAN2021, tested negative. Then later developed symptoms and tested positve while having been out in the community. The young man is also a volunteer firefighter with the CFA.

It prompted new restrictions from Premier Daniel Andrews on the 3rd of February including masks being mandatory again and private gatherings were limited to 15 people.

Following these latest cases, the Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt was full of praise for the quick actions taken by the state governments.

The case in Woolongong gave me concern about the upcoming wedding in Sydney but we would just see how things transpired.

February 11

Thursday was the last day I was at work before getting ready for the trip. The border between Queensland and New South Wales remained open.

I was fairly confident that if there was no change by Friday that I would be going.

It seemed that even if there was a dramatic change or a new community transmission in New South Wales changes to the border was unlikely to take effect before I returned home on Monday.

There were now eleven cases linked to a Holiday Inn outbreak from hotel quarantine in Melbourne which would have no bearing on a possible trip to New South Wales but was of course of concern in the wider picture of people’s health and safety.

February 12

Following the recent outbreaks in Melbourne Premier Daniel Andrews announced a five day lockdown for Victoria.

His state had endured a 111 day lockdown last year, he didn’t want to risk that again.

There might be more cases than we know about — if we wait for that to be proven correct, it will be too late. Then we will face the prospect of being locked down until a vaccination is rolled out … to a very large number of Victorians, a significant percentage of the Victorian community. That’s months. That’s not days or weeks, that’s months,” Premier Andrews said.

With that the Premier put the state into Stage 4 lockdown. You could only leave your home for caregiving, essential work, shopping or medical reasons. You could exercise for two hours per day with another person from your household.

One hour at a time': Daniel Andrews tight-lipped on a lockdown extension in  Victoria

Victorians are well acquainted with this. We’ve done this before,” Mr Andrews said.

I am confident that this short, sharp circuit-breaker will be effective. We will be able to smother this,” he said.

Victoria Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton shared similar concerns about the UK variant of the virus.

It became the predominant strain in England, now the predominant strain in the UK, and [is] fast becoming the predominant strain across Europe and potentially globally. That’s because it is significantly more infectious than any other virus that we’ve seen previously. Nobody wants all the consequences of a circuit-breaker, but the alternative is potentially devastating. I do not want to be here either, come Wednesday, not having done this and talking about 10, 15, 20, 30 new cases a day, including mystery cases, or including cases that we can’t chase down,” Professor Sutton said.

The Victorian Premier advsied that the Australian Open tennis tournament was going ahead just not with crowds.

Victoria was heading for lockdown and quickly the Queensland Government advised people returning from Melbourne from 1am the next day would require to hotel quaraninte for 14 days.

I was heading for my first interstate trip in three years.

If it wasn’t my friend I wouldn’t have taken this trip but he’s that kind of friend.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – STAYING THE COURSE

Coronavirus Australia news: 'Now is the time to open up,' says Daniel  Andrews after Victoria records zero new cases - ABC News

 

October 26

Monday.

For the first time since June 9, the state of Victoria recorded no new daily cases of COVID-19. And no deaths from the virus.

The day before Premier Daniel Andrews had pumped the brakes on lowering restrictions following new cases in Melbourne’s north including seven mystery cases.

Once again Sky News commentators had a pink fit about the Labor Premier saying how could he do this. 

I don’t know… maybe because he didn’t want people to get sick and die and have to stay in lock-down any longer than they had to?

Maybe that. 

The Premier reported 14,024 tests including 3,196 in those communities had been carried out in the past 24 hours and 1,157 just that morning.  

The Federal Government had been agitating for Melbourne re-opening.

“We’ve seen Victoria have a process where they have reached the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer’s target of under 10 cases a day on a rolling average, they’ve reached their own target of under five cases a day. If they do believe in their contact tracing system, then there is no reason not to move to the next stage and to do so today,” Chief Health Minister Greg Hunt had said pointing out that the state government who had endured the longest lockdown in Australia had given themselves a higher target in hopes of stabilising the spread of the virus in the community, more so than the federal government. 

The 14 day rolling average of cases in Melbourne was 3.6 and in regional Victoria 0.2.

The tests had all come back negative.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation was quick to report the economics of it all. 

It told us the Commsec State of the States Report had cultural powerhouse Victoria from second to third in the economic ranking of states. 

That consumer spending was so low that Victoria had gone from second to fifth in the Retail Trade category.

Unemployment in the quarter was 6.7 per cent.

The Victorian Shadow Treasurer Louise Staley pointed out, “We’re behind Tasmania and the ACT and it’s driven by collapse in business investment and this unemployment.” 

Which you know is related to…. oh yeah – a pandemic!

Maybe Tasmania being the best performing economy in the country for the third month in a row had something to do with the fact they had not had one case of coronavirus for 75 days.  

Which I’m sure these pundits were aware of but they seemed to fail to make the connection that one leads to the other not the other way around. 

So Premier Daniel Andrews fronted the media for his daily press conference and presented different statistics that hold far more importance for him, for me for anyone who values human life.

There were 91 active cases across the state and there were zero new cases. It seemed his voice cracked a little as he advised it had been 139 days ago since that had happened. 

There were seven Victorians in hospital and he was pleased to say none of them were in intensive care. 

There had been over 3 million tests in Victoria and over 14,000 since yesterday.

Can you imagine, lockdown, testing, mandatory wearing of masks. In the UK I’m being told about people testing positive in schools and year levels going home. Has anybody actually ever been in a school? One positive case here and a whole school locks down.

There were six health care workers with active cases of COVID-19. The Premier wished them well and thanked them and their colleagues for their service.

There were now just four active cases in residential aged care and the vulnerability and loss of the elderly was highlighted by the Premier.

The Premier announced the following of lowering restrictions for Melbournians who had been in stage 3 lockdown since 09JUL2020 and Stage 4 since 02AUG2020 would lift come 11:59pm Tuesday 27OCT2020.

Covid-19 soars in Australia's Victoria despite second Melbourne lockdown

The four essentials reasons to leave home were gone. You could leave your house for any reason.

You could leave your house for any reason.

….

My how the world has changed. 

Retail businesses would re-open, hospitality venues could seat patrons subject to density quotas. 

More than two households could catch up outside but with a limit of 10 not including babies. 

From Wednesday beauty and tattoo parlours could re-open if masks were worn by all. 

Outdoor contact sports for 18 and under will start-up again as will non-contact sport for adults. PT, Fitness and Dance classes could be held outdoors with ten people. Outdoor pools could have 50 people depending on density. 

Libraries, community venues would be open for outdoor events as well as entertainment venues within limits.

Faith communities could hold outdoor ceremonies for up to 20 people plus the people running the service. Indoor could have ten people.

Weddings could have 10 people and funerals up to 20. 

Masks would remain mandatory and people will still be encouraged to work from home where possible.

Years 8 to 10 had returned to the classrooms that Monday with one student Turker Cakal noting, “They had enough of me, I’ve been home too long.

Now is the time to open up. Now is the time to congratulate every single Victorian for staying the course,” Andrews said.

There were reports of cars honking at school pick-up as the announcement was listened in car radios. People cried.

Premier Andrews advised he would provide clear instructions on how home visits would be conducted on Tuesday. 

He did warn, “We must understand, all of us — the most dangerous environment for the spread of this virus is in your home. When you have visitors, you let your guard down, and they go back to their house, they have visitors and all of a sudden there are chains of transmission that spread silently.

From the Premier’s prepared statement he advised further changed for November 8 as regional Victoria and Melbourne became whole. 

The “ring of steel” around Melbourne was on track to be removed 11:59pm Sunday the 8th of November.

“The state will be one again,” Mr Andrews said.

Australia has a contentious history of curfews — will one help Melbourne  beat coronavirus? - ABC News

The capacity of pubs and restaurants will increase, with up to 40 inside and 70 outside.

Religious gatherings will expand with up 20 people and a faith leader indoors, and 50 outside.

Gyms and indoor fitness will be able to reopen – with some strict safety precautions in place.

And because Melburnians will have well and truly earnt a holiday, accommodation will also reopen.

The border between the city and the rest of our state will also fall away.

I know personally – deeply – just how much this will mean for thousands of Victorians who haven’t been able to see loved ones for far too long. 

It will mean families are whole again. Our state is whole again.

In relation to the testing blitz and pumping the brakes Andrews said, “We took the time to wait to make sure we did not have widespread community transmission in the northern suburbs. It was worth waiting to be absolutely confident, to be sure that our team had their arms around those positive cases and fundamental control of the outbreak, and that is exactly what these numbers show us.

The Premier pointed out that the freedom and stability that had been reached was fragile and the responsibility of all Victorians to protect and accordingly he acknowledged it was the achievement of every Victorian and deflected any praise suggested for him as the leader of his state through this tremendous crisis.

Fundamentally this belongs to every Victorian.

But it is not over, this virus is not going away – it is going to continue to be a feature of our lives. It is going to be of our lives every day until a vaccine turns up.

These are big steps, we’ve all given a lot. I’m so proud and impressed and humbled by by the contribution that so many Victorian families have made, so many Victorian businesses have made. If this is to mean something then we have to take our COVID responsibilities to stay safe and to stay open, to stay safe and to stay connected – we have to take those responsibilities seriously.”

“There cannot be bending of rules, they cannot be people on an endless search for loopholes. We are all in this together and just as we have stayed the course and yes we have stayed apart but remain fundamentally connected as a strong and united state we have to be vigilant in the weeks and months to come. Until a vaccine comes – there’s no normal there’s only COVID normal.”

So much has been given to build this precious thing and all of us need to make sure we honour it and value it and protect it in all the chances that we make every single day.

I could not be prouder than I am today to lead a state that has shown the courage and compassion and the character to get this job done.

“But it not yet absolutely finished. Only a vaccine can give us the ultimate protection against this so we need to be proud today, we need to be optimistic, we need to be confident but we also need to be COVID safe and I’m very confident that is exactly what Victorians will do.” 

A zero case number today is not the same as a vaccine against this. We all need to keep our guard up. We all need to be very careful about how we safeguard this precious thing that we have built as a Victorian community because we have stayed the course.

“Because we haven’t been pushed by the loudest voices in our community into making irresponsible choices. The decisions we’ve made have given us the number that we have got today, all of us, the sacrifices we’ve made and now we just need to lock that in by making smart choices for the future.”

In March at the beginning of lockdown Premier Andrews had remarked that you can’t have mates around to get on the beers. 

A reporter asked him in the press conference, “Can I confirm you are saying we can finally on the beers?”.

Andrews wryly replied, “I might go a little higher up the shelf.”

This was a great day for all Victorians, they had endured, they had triumphed. However fleeting, this victory was hard earned and their own.

My condolences. My thanks. My admiration.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – LIFE ISN’T CHEAP – MAKING A DIFFERENCE IS

 

July 26

There was a new record in new daily cases in the United States.

74,235.

In Victoria there were 458 new cases and ten new deaths.

Seven of those deaths were related to aged care facilities, one was a man in his 40s.

Melbourne had been in Stage Three lockdowns for the past 17 days.

There had been 8,181 cases in Victoria.

42,573 tests had been conducted in the state yesterday with Premier Daniel Andrews thanking Victorians.

“That is a very impressive effort and we are very grateful to each and every Victorian coming forward and getting tested,” he said.

For those who did not want to wear masks he had something to say.

Ten families are currently planning funerals today and the youngest of them have lost someone in their 40s. If you are just making a selfish choice about your alleged personal liberty, quoting some, I don’t know, something you’ve read on some website – this is not about human rights. Wear a mask – it’s not too much to ask. If you don’t, you will get fined and that is as it should be,” he said.

 

July 28

It was Tuesday and I donated some money to Stand with Daily Wage Earners. Money for those who have lost work due to COVID in India and face losing a lot more. I donated to the International Association for Human Values. They’re founded by some humanitarian and spiritual leader who is big into meditation – Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shanka. They consult with the United Nations, have captains of industry on their board and are a recognised NGO with donations covered as tax deductible.

They’re distributing kits to feed a family of four for ten days at a cost of 1000 Indian Rupee.

The kits include 5kgs of Wheat Flour, 2kgs of Dal, 3kgs of Rice, 500mls of oil, 100 grams of Tumeric Powder, 100 grams of Red Chilly Powder, 100 grams of Cumin Seeds, 100 grams of Black Mustard Seeds, 100 grams of Curry Masala and 2 bars of soap.

Such a kit to feed a family of four for ten days cost me $20 in Australian dollars.

I bought two.

There was also a video posted by an Australian GP Dr Warren Lee who had contracted COVID-19 and “recovered”. A lot of people like to think about COVID as a disease that kills those with underlying health conditions and older people. The numbers back them to an extent. I think they would benefit from watching Dr Lee’s video.

 

 

July 29

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned COVID infections will occur in aged care facilities.

Duh.

He also said rather unfortunately, “When it rains, everyone gets wet.

The problem was he was right, given the number in Victoria there were going to be cases in nursing homes. There already were. With that came a death sentence. If 29 aged care facilities are affected then even the most optimistic amongst us suddenly fears that can’t help but result in 29 deaths. 58? 145? 464?

He wanted aged care staff to be very careful.

The principal cause for transmission into aged care facilities has been through workforce transmission. It is principally come through the infection of staff, more broadly in the community, many cases completely unaware of that infection and by the time they become aware of that infection, then obviously they’d been in those facilities,” he said.

Secretary of the Department of Health, Professor Brendan Murphy also said, “One of the things we have all learned about this virus in the last six months is this terrible combination of a virus that can spread so easily in a fit young people, sometimes without any symptoms, and yet when it gets into our frail elderly people, it wreaks havoc. And it has a very significant death rate, fortunately some do recover but it is a very, very nasty virus with the elderly.

More than 750 health care workers in Victoria already had COVID-19.

Portland Protesters Breach Fence Around Federal Courthouse – NBC ...

In America after six weeks of increasing tension and violence Ballbag or more Vice President Mike Pence spoke to Oregon Governor Kate Brown that they would start to withdraw federal troops out of Portland, Oregon.

Governor Brown didn’t mince words, “These federal officers have acted as an occupying force, refused accountability, and brought violence and strife to our community.

There to protect the Federal Courthouse they essentially became surrounded in it. On a nightly basis wading out to clash with protestors but ultimately not taking control of the streets.

Such clashes had led to stun grenades being set off around the feet of protesting Mums and fracturing the skull of one individual when that skull was hit with a non-lethal round.

Good job Ballbag.

a group of people riding horses on a city street: Photograph: Amy Harris/REX/Shutterstock

Having arrived at the beginning of the month their presence had led to an escalation in protests.

Mayors of eleven cities including Chicago, Atlanta and LA wrote to the White House accusing him of deploying the troops for political purposes.

Ballbag is running a law and order campaign.

Of deploying troops without proper identification and snatching citizens off the streets the Mayors wrote, “These are tactics we expect from an authoritarian regime – not our democracy.

Again good job Ballbag.

-Lloyd Marken