COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART XI – BORDER PEACE IN OUR TIME

RACGP - Vaccine policy identifies priority groups – but order proves  'contentious'

December 01

On the 4th of September, 2020 the National Cabinet had met and agreed to move towards their borders being open for Christmas with Western Australia a hold out.

On the 13th of November, 2020 following another National Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had advised of a plan to have public health measures to ensure once states open they don’t close down again. An ideal that seemed ludricrous given the immediate benefits closing borders had given to protecting against the spread of the virus.

The task is to reopen safely and then to stay safely open. By staying safely open you’re giving confidence to businesses, to people in jobs, to people who are making decisions about their future and what they’re going to do. Stop-start, stop-start, does not provide that,” he had said.

That same National Cabinet Meeting on the 13th of November had also highlighted that more than 400,000 Australians had returned home from overseas but there were still 30,000 seeking to return home.

On the 13th of November the possibility of most state borders being open in Christmas seemed unlikely.

It had seemed but a pipe dream on the 4th of September.

Yet on the 1st of December, following Queensland opening its borders the previous week, Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan announced he would re-open WA to Victoria and New South Wales the following Tuesday on the 8th if there were no new cases.

Travel from South Australia to Western Australia was still severely restricted with very strict exemptions. But that was in place until only December 11. All the borders could be open after that.

Premier McGowan was very happy Victoria had reached 28 days without community transmission and he expected New South Wales would reach the same milestone on Friday the 11th of December.

Western Australia had gone 233 days without community transmission.

“I just warn people that if there’s an outbreak, we’ll put a hard border up again. Western Australia does remain susceptible to an outbreak given nearly all physical distancing and gathering restrictions have been removed,” warned the Premier.

This did give hope for families that had not seen their loved ones for months that now they would and just in time for Christmas.

I know the border arrangements have put pressure on families and have at times been hard to comprehend. I have sympathy for those who’ve been impacted. My parents live in New South Wales, so personally for me it’s a relief knowing they’re now safer at their home and hopefully I might be able to see them some time in the future,” Mr McGowan said.

Relief as WA reopens to NSW, Victoria | The Young Witness | Young, NSW

I had seen my parents twice in six months and lived in a state where restrictions had been fairly relaxed because the danger had not been so great.

Others had endured a lot more.

Others had lived a handful of kilometres from the Queensland border and been unable to see their grandchildren for the first year of their lives or close to it.

There have been a lot of stories like that.

About loved ones unseen at cancer wards or funerals or weddings.

But there have also been stories like Newmarch.

Stories about nurses who got COVID-19 after weeks of fighting to save lives in COVID wards who’s health has been compromised.

I’ve always believed border closures are part of an arsenal of measures that should be brought to bear if it minimises spread and save lives.

Wodonga Mayor calls for NSW-VIC border to reopen as COVID-19 restrictions  are tightened in Victoria - ABC News

But as the risk receded in a matter of days and the country opened up there was a hopefulness in the air.

It seemed this was happening and as I worked out in my gym on the 1st of December I wondered if this was a good thing. Given the number of cases I guess I leaned towards yeah it was a good thing.

But if it didn’t seem possible two weeks ago that only showed that the situation can, as had been proven again and again throughout the pandemic, two weeks could see the situation change radically again.

On the 1st of December the World Health Organisation reported in Australia there had been 27,904 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a daily increase of eleven.

There had been 908 deaths with a daily increase of one.

The first Australian deaths due to COVID-19 reported since two on the 29th of October.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE DAYS AHEAD

Stillwater Memorial Day Ceremony: 2019 Details | Stillwater, MN Patch

November 11

On the Australian Broadcasting Corporation program The 7:30 Report Leigh Sales interviewed Dr Anthony Fauci. A point of interest for me during the interview was when Dr Fauci advised lockdowns should be used as a last result and that due to COVID-19 fatigue such measures would not be well received by the public.

He later went on to add, “Australia is an example of a very successful result of a lockdown. They locked down for a period of time. They got down to zero and now they are at a very, very good baseline, which means, getting back to your prior question, that it is much easier to identify, isolate and contact trace when you start off with virtually no infection in your population.

Essentially he was pointing out a great deal of luck that Australia had by acting fact and being isolated to begin with. That maybe now trying to change the situation in America in a similar manner may not be possible and even if it was selling it to the public was as much a necessity as simply having the political will or wisdom to take such action. Not for the first time did I feel very fortunate for what has occurred in Australia and sad at what other countries were going through.

 

In 9/11 Chaos, Giuliani Forged a Lasting Image - The New York Times

November 12

Planet America covered Ballbag’s rhetoric about illegal votes and lawsuits and Rudy Guiliani who led New York through the harrowing days of September 11 and stood outside landscaping businesses and mocked networks calling elections and shat all over his legacy as a politician, a lawyer and a leader during one of the worst days in American history.

We’re not even at the farting and My Cousin Vinny references or the absurd fucking witnesses he let sit beside him in a court of law. 

I don’t give two shits if hair dye was running past the poor man’s face, I do care why the hell he was hopelessly trying to undermine the democratic process when so clearly they didn’t have a leg to stand on!

I don’t know if I really have it in my heart to go over this again but I have never been so heartbroken to see how fragile democracy is in America. This country celebrates and exports the idea of it across the world.

I remember once watching TV with a group of people, I think it was the Olympics.

The Americans stood up, placed their hands on their chests and bowed their heads. Us Aussies thought my God they really do love their country. They believe in it. They believe it is the greatest. So its kind of heartbreaking to see so many Americans complacent or downright in conflict with the things that were once celebrated about it by all. 

Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund launches - Lenfest  Institute

Co-host and journalist John Barron spoke of Joe Biden’s who when he joined the Senate was the second youngest ever elected to the U.S. Senate became the oldest man ever elected President of the United States of America. It’s powerful stuff.

I know that Joe Biden may not be all of these things. He certainly is not the man he once was.

But the storyteller in me likes the story, a young hotshot who a lifetime later rallied the last of his gifts to take one last turn at destiny and not out of personal ambition but to serve his country. To take back the people’s house from a self-serving lying bullying fool who had blood on his hands due to his own interests and incompetence and belligerence.

President-Elect Joe Biden faces a pandemic, a recession, a house divided and a populace much the same. There will be no magic wand waved here.

Maybe the story of Biden doesn’t ring true for you.

It probably isn’t true.

But maybe just maybe we’re about to have a President in the White House who cares when Americans die every day and will do everything he can to prevent as much death as he can.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

As Ballbag refused to concede he’d lost the election Americans continued to die.

Planet America reported hospitalisations were as high as they had been across the country and that once the hospitals were overrun beyond capacity, the death rate would rise. 

 

November 13

On Friday Western Australia took down its hard border with the rest of Australia. Travellers from Victoria and New South Wales could enter if they were prepared to self quarantine for 14 days.

All would have to undergo a health screening, a temperature check and prove they have not been in New South Wales or Victoria upon arrival, and register their travel arrangements on the “G2G PASS” app.

Since April for 222 days Premier Mark McGowan had kept the border closed with even WA residents kept out except in extreme cases and polling showed the Premier and his policy was hugely popular.

Months earlier the Premier had promised, “It won’t be forever,” and now he made good on his promise.

Western Australia had been a hold out from the National Cabinet’s decision to open state borders before Christmas. This gave many families hope they would see loved ones during the holidays. 

There were concerns and quite a ramp up to make sure that Western Australians were ready for the new arrivals and to not be complacent about COVID-19. 

Perth Airport | Aurecon

On Friday night Planet America also covered the continuing fall-out from the U.S. election and all the legal efforts to contest the outcome as Biden’s national popular vote continued to grow. Also discussion about how polling went in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

It was at around about this time as well that I donated to not only the Salvation Army again here in Australia but also to Meals On Wheels in America. Food security for many Americans is an issue particularly following the pandemic and mass unemployment and I wanted to help some of the most vulnerable in society. Meals on Wheels America doesn’t just feed older Americans it shows them that people still give a shit about them. 

Since Philadelphia citizens in 1954 started delivering to senior neighbours the organisation has grown to help nearly 2.4 million Americans annually. 

As per their website, “Every visit comes with a nutritious meal created to address the specific health conditions of the senior, a safety check around the house and an assessment of any changes that might impact future medical needs. This can mean the difference between independent living at home and an unwelcome transfer to a costly long-term care facility.

Thanks to so many donors, Meals on Wheels America were able to deliver over 19 million more meals in 2020 serving more than one million additional seniors.

In Australia my grandfather lived down the road from us, he babysat us growing up. He kept his drivers licence and independence until very near the end. Often my parents cooking would be enjoyed by him following a quick walk up the hill. Yet even under those circumstances he benefitted from some Meals on Wheels delivered to his house in his last few years. 

 

November 14

On Saturday the 14th of November the World Health Organisation reported globally there had been 53,219,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with a daily increase of 668,057.

There had been 1,303,062 deaths globally with a daily increase of 10,005.

Over fifty million cases worldwide had been reached the previous Monday with 50,348,362 and a daily increase of 532,475.

In Australia there had been 27,703 confirmed cases with a daily increase of five. There had been 907 deaths.

In Canada there had been 282,577 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,516. There had been 10,768 deaths with a daily increase of 83.

In India there had been 8,773,479 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 44,684. There had been 129,188 deaths with a daily increase of 520.

In the United Kingdom on the 24th of September there had been a new record of daily new cases reported – 6,178.

The next day a new record – 6,634.

The two days later a new record – 6,873.

Six days later, 30th of September a new daily record again – 7,143.

Ten days later on the 4th of October a new record – 12,871.

Eleven days later on the 5th of October there were 22,961 confirmed new cases reported.

Twenty eight days later on the 22nd of October a new record of daily cases again – 26,687.

That record was broken again on the 13th of November – 33,470.

In fifty days the record of daily new cases in the country has gone from 6,178 to 33,470.

UK honors war dead in scaled-back Remembrance Sunday service | KRNV

One million cases had been reported in the United Kingdom at the beginning of November – 1,011,664 to be exact.

The day after Remembrance Day Great Britain surpassed 50,000 deaths from COVID-19. 50,365.

On the 14th of November in the United Kingdom there had been 1,317,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with a daily increase of 27,301. There had been 51,304 deaths with a daily increase of 376.

The World Health Organisation had reported on the 8th of November a record number of new daily cases in America of 131,821.

On the 12th of November they reported a new daily record of 133,935. America also reached more than 10 million cases with 10,124,555.

On the 13th of November a new daily record of 142,076.

On the 14th of November in the United States of America there had been 10,460,365 confirmed cases with a new record of daily new cases reported of 193,734. There had been 241,186 deaths with a daily increase of 1,142.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART III

Tim Peake shares stunning pictures of the UK from space on his ...

 

Originally I was going to work from home Monday and Tuesday but ended up working in the office the entire week from Monday the 8th of June to Friday the 12th of June which I really enjoyed.

We’re still rotating staff between working from home and working in the office and working to maintain a high level of customer service.

Restrictions have lowered, case numbers are down but our day to day existence is still not back to the way it was and it is not expected to be for a long time.

 

June 11

I went to Jetts Fitness at the airport where I work out just after 9pm only to discover the gym was closed from 8pm to 5am currently. I called my gym the next day and established I wouldn’t be charged any fees but it would be a while yet for me and shift workers until we could return to the gym. …and I was feeling so inspired after watching The Last Dance.

 

June 12

Restrictions are being lowered faster than you would have expected back in March.

Pressure mounts for states to re-open their borders and the recent mass protests seem to be a tipping point.

If mass outbreaks of the disease don’t follow these mass gatherings there is no question all state governments will look to open the borders and lower restrictions even more.

That means a window of about two to three weeks.

Say July 10.

On Friday the Prime Minister held a meeting with National Cabinet and a press conference afterwards.

The Deputy Premier of Queensland Steven Miles says Queensland will look to lower border restrictions on July 10.

South Australian Premier sets 20JUL2020 for borders being re-opened having closed the borders almost four months earlier on 24MAR2020.

Western Australia does not make any firm commitments.

There is advice that in stadiums with a capacity of over 40,000 crowds at 25% capacity

A limit of 100 in attendance at indoor gatherings will be scrapped in favour of 4 metre distancing. Having walked around supermarkets lately I’m not sure how you’re going to enforce 4 metre distancing but good luck.

On Friday afternoon in a press conference Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked a question about the current removal programs from streaming services in recent days like Gone With The Wind in America on HBO Max.

Also closer to home shows like Little Britain and Summer Heights High where white actors had performed black characters in comedy shows in black face which has severe historical connotations.

His answer which also alluded to a recent debate about statues showed where his priorities were.

“I’m worried about jobs. I’m worried about 800,000 Australians going on to JobSeeker in the last three months. I’m not interested in what they’re showing on streaming services,” he said.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

 

On the 12th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,410,510 (more than 7 million were confirmed on the 9th of July) confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally with a daily increase of 136,572. The number of dead were 418,294 with a daily increase of 4,925.

In Australia there had been 7,825 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 18. There had been 102 deaths in Australia.

In Canada there had been 97,125 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 472. The were 7,960 dead with a daily increase of 63.

In India there had been 297,535 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 10,956. There were 8,498 with a daily increase of 396.

In the United Kingdom there had been 291,413 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,266. There were 41,279 dead with a daily increase of 151. The only silver lining to be found was that currently there appeared to be a downward trend in the number of daily increase of cases.

 

UK Figures

 

In the United States of America there had been 1,988,646 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 20,315. There were 112,810 dead with a daily increase of 832.

-Lloyd Marken

 

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 – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST?

 

When will the first wave crest in the West and subside?

When will the second wave come and will we be ready?

Most of the news has been centred around the pandemic sweeping through America and Europe, at least in my part of the world.

I have spared a thought about what happens when COVID-19 takes off in the third world and specifically the continent of Africa.

A continent that was ripped apart by the AIDS epidemic and has suffered famine and genocide in my lifetime several times.

I worry about the third world but I worry even more currently about the United States of America.

On the 29th of March President Donald Trump tweeted and mentioned in press conferences that he had gotten bigger ratings than The Bachelor for his press briefings. His argument being that while there were those who would like him to not participate or to not have them due to the misinformation he provides regularly, the fact that they rated so well was a reflection of the people’s voice winning out.

This was at a time when modelling suggested America could see a death toll at close to 200,000 in the next two or three weeks. The disease was peaking in the United States of America and emergency and health care workers were stretched beyond capacity.

And this fuckbag was talking about ratings!

Associated Press: New York residents urged to avoid travel as ...

There was a concern about not enough PPE for health care workers which could lead to many of them becoming sick comprising the system’s effectiveness. There was a concern about not enough ventilators, that more people would die than needed to.

Trump went on the offensive musing why New York hospitals suddenly needed 300,000 masks when they previously used 10,000. “So I think people should check that, because there’s something going on, whether – I don’t think it’s hoarding, I think it’s maybe worse than hoarding. But check it out.

While Governor Cuomo had also cited concerns there have been some thefts of masks. The answer was to Trump’s wonderment at the change in numbers was due to the increased workload and that such items have limited use if good hygiene is to be maintained.

Of the crisis in coastal elite states it is true that the horrific numbers forecast at the time have been reached yet weeks later.

Manufacturing recalibrated with lightning speed to help in a time of need, forgotten stocks of PPE were located and ferried where needed.

Yet hard decisions were made, we are just in the beginning of finding out just what was lost and what could have been done better. I have no doubt the blame will not rest with one man.

History decides who was a good leader. History also gets re-evaluated. There are critics of Churchill and Roosevelt too. Yet history tells us they won the war so they’re remembered the way they are. Right now history is being written about Donald Trump.

Can COP21 Save the World? - Pacific Standard

On the 29th of March, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America 103,321 cases with a daily increase of 18,093 cases in one day breaking into six figures. The death toll in America was 1,668 with a daily increase of 425.

In Australia the WHO reported the same day 3,966 confirmed cases with an increase of 331. There were 16 deaths with a daily increase of two.

It had been a long week and a long day for the leaders of Australia.

There was a press briefing that Sunday night following a National Cabinet Meeting. The Prime Minister looked visibly tired even if he remained resolute. The Press Briefing took place inside Parliament House due to the hour and definitely had the look of a late night meeting.

In it the Prime Minister Scott Morrison talked about new measures including advice for gatherings to be limited to two people outside of households. And yes this was the day he advised that his wife Jenny Morrison had gone out to get jigsaw puzzles as they were going to be essential around the house going forward.

I am not ashamed to say it, I was moved.

I felt at that moment that we had not moved fast enough in shutting down. I was aware of an ever increasing danger. I worried for those that I loved and I worried for people I’d never met.

The rate of increase was down slightly in Australia but I guess I was thinking about all 8 billion of us on a rock floating in space.

I was thinking we can only try to get through this and do the best we can and here was someone doing that and he was my Prime Minister goddamnit.

His somewhat flawed traits blunted by his fatigue, his defiant strength to be even more highly regarded given what we faced.

Here was a leader.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SHUT IT DOWN! – PART III

 

24 March

The situation in Italy continued to deteriorate.

One day I was working in Wattlebrae many years ago. I was cleaning near the Nurses station when a nurse came from a room with a patient and said to another. “Probably Tuesday.”

A patient was in the last hours of their lives and the nurses knew it. They’d seen it enough times to recognise it.

Accepting death is a very real part of being a nurse and being a good one. Some nurses have served in war zones and natural disasters and seen a lot of death but such a large scale in such a short period of time as what was experienced in Wuhan or Lombardy is simply something that leaves a toll.

Let alone the very risk to their own lives and those of their loved ones.

I stand in awe of them.

I truly do.

They are heroes.

They always have been and they always will be.

In Italy student doctors skipped their last exams and were rushed into service. In Britain retired nurses answered the call to come back risking their lives to save others as the NHS faced unprecedented demand. I’m sure this is being replicated around the world

Where do we get such people?

 

As large swaths of the economy shut down to contain the coronavirus, President Trump and others are beginning to question how long economic activity should remain frozen.

 

The World Health Organisation warned the United States of America could become the epicentre of the disease.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo becomes impassioned when speaking about the need for equipment to save lives in his home state. Short of criticising the President directly he challenges FEMA “to pick the people who will die.” The President does not respond well to this.

The Tokyo Olympics are postponed and the Australian Football League having played Round One the previous week to empty stadiums stops its season. This follows all other major codes and several sports leagues overseas already having done so.

In Australia, grocery stores swap out the pensioner hour on some days for health care workers who do shift work.

After work on Tuesday night I go to the local barber and get a haircut.

That night following a National Cabinet meeting the Prime Minister announces a new series of measures.

Coincidentally it is announced hair salons and barbers can continue to stay open but with only 30 minutes for a customer. The next day the Prime Minister adds some flexibility into the time spent in a hair salon. Possibly after speaking to his wife?

Cafes and restaurants can only do take-away and food courts in shopping malls are to be shut down with only take-away to be purchased from outlets in the food courts.

Arcades, swimming pools and amusement parks are to shut down. Large crowds are to not congregate in sporting fields and large parks.

The Prime Minister also advised that Australians would be banned from travelling overseas with a few exceptions like aid workers.

Boot camps are limited to a maximum of 10 people.

Most painfully weddings are limited to five people and funerals are to ten people.

If this seems harsh, think of the poor couples who had weddings mere days earlier before the general populace became aware of how dangerous the virus could be. It must be terrible to know if guests have subsequently become sick.

“Barbecues of lots of friends or even extended family coming together to celebrate one-year-old birthday parties and all these sorts of things — we can’t do those things now.” said the Prime Minister.

On the 24th of March the WHO reported 2,136 cases in Australia with a daily increase of 427. There were eight deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Ireland there were 219 cases with a daily increase of 98. There were two deaths with a daily increase of one.

In South Africa there were 402 cases confirmed with a daily increase of 128. The first death was recorded in the country on the 28th of March.

In Russia there were 438 cases reported with no daily increase. The first two deaths would be reported in the country on the 26th of March.

In Singapore there were 507 cases with a daily increase of 52. On the 20th of March they recorded their first two deaths.

In India there were 519 cases with a daily increase of 85. There were nine deaths following the first reported on the 13th of March.

In Canada there were 1,739 with a daily increase of 355. The were 25 deaths with a daily increase of six.

In Brazil there were 2,201 cases with a daily increase of 1,297. The death toll had risen by 35 in one day to reach 46.

In Germany there were 4,438 cases with a daily increase of 1,127. There were 32 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In the United Kingdom there were 6,654 cases with a daily increase of 967. There were 335 deaths with a daily increase of 54.

In South Korea there were 9,037 cases with a daily increase of 76. There were 120 deaths with a daily increase of nine.

In Iran there were 24,811 cases with a daily increase of 1,762. The death toll reported was 1,934 with a daily increase of 122.

In Spain there were 33,089 cases with a daily increase of 4,517. There were 4,182 deaths with a daily increase of 462.

In the United States of America there were 51,914 cases with a daily increase of 20,341. The death toll was 673 with 271 from that day alone.

In Italy there were 63,927 cases with a daily increase of 4,789. The death toll was 6,077 with an increase of 601 that day.

In China the WHO reported 81,767 with a daily increase of 764. The number of dead reported as 3,283 with a daily increase of seven. China’s figures have consistently flattend out with very small increases over this period of time. This is in contradiction to many other nations that have experienced disastrous second waves. The country has also backtracked on opening up initiatives at times too.

-Lloyd Marken