COVID-19 DIARY – THE FOURTH QUARTER: NEW YEAR – SAME PANDEMIC

Image result for broken hill

January 1

Well we all know the story now. Everybody posted on social media that 2020 could go to hell and that 2021 couldn’t happen soon enough.

That somehow dates on a calendar would change everything like magic.

I’ll admit, I thought what a bunch of idiots but honestly who could not begrudge people this hope.

It is human nature to take stock of passing time and to look to the future with hopefulness but I found it annoying because life gets better by making individual efforts to make it better.

In Australia we really did seem like the lucky country. Sure the Avalon cluster had spoiled some of our Christmas fun but looking abroad made us recognise how much we had to be grateful for. My sister was in the UK where there were daily increase of cases that were the sum total of all recorded Australian cases.

People were suffering worldwide and I’d sat in a hotel lobby on New Years Eve and had cocktails and seen friends.

After years of being on contracts, I had a job as many people’s financial situation fell out from underneath them, after years of watching others go overseas I finally took a holiday locally and drove out to nearby country towns.

I felt uneasy…when was the other shoe going to drop?

Having experienced hardship in my own past and been saved by others,  I now looked for ways to help not just worry.

But its true that I mostly felt grateful for what I was lucky enough to have in my life, my work, my friends and family and time to be with them.

I think most people felt a sense of hopefulness in the New Year. By the end of the first week we would have painful reminders that a lot can happen in a day dramatically.

January 04

Last year around about the time COVID-19 took off across the world there was a resurgence of interest in Steven Soderberg’s 2011 film Contagion. I even had friends talk about it and I watched an excellent video from the Youtube group The Take.

But alas in our age of disparate audience groups, I have Stan and Netflix but neither had Contagion so that was that. In the new year of 2021 with a year of the pandemic having played out in real life Contagion hit even harder.

In March 2020, the opening of the 2011 film spoke to the fear and anxiety as the virus hit the West and quickly spread. Watching people touch surfaces and their fellow human beings while sick and not knowing gets the blood pumping now like a horror film.

Watching it in January 2021 it hits even harder.

If you have not seen it, then I suggest you do but I would not judge you if watching it is just too hard at this time.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

In 2011 I suspect if I had seen the film, I would have thought it was pretty solid and low key. That is Soderberg for you. I recently started watching Logan Lucky and just never went back to it. But I am a fan of Traffic and Erin Brockovich. The guy runs the gamut.

He pulled together an all star cast, Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle and Elliot Gould.

Matt Damon in particular shows a knack for playing an everyman in stark contrast to the capable Jason Bourne he made famous or the wise cracking Will from his break-out film Good Will Hunting. Kate Winslet plays the heroic capable figure we need in such a story but even that gets subverted.

Commentary around the film picks up on two running themes in the film, yes there is the pandemic of the virus but also a parrallel pandemic of misinformation. Government of the most part is capable and partisan but there are local figures early on that question if it is a just scare that will pass like SARS, the backlash from the public if they’re seen to overreact and budgetary haggling.

In our own world the misinformation from Fox News from March that this kills just as many as the flu, the anti-vaxxers, the protesters, the riots, the anti-malarial drug that Trump championed, all have eerie parrallels.

The virus in the film spreads faster and kills more than COVID-19. Martial law is declared at one point and there is a run on in food and isolated towns rife with looting. Garbage remains uncollected on the streets.

I guess we can be grateful COVID-19 was not as deadly as what is depicted here.

But panic buying in the shops, border closures and one shot that took my breath away of mass graves are all here.

Coronavirus makes 'Contagion' movie hot rental on Amazon Prime, iTunes

An image from the film Contagion used to show COVID-19 victims |  Fact-checked | COVID-19 Facts

The virus itself starts in Hong Kong with a bat.

A vaccinne takes a year and a while to roll out to everyone, creating anxiety. The film does not show a concern to get everybody vaccinated before too many mutant strains make it no longer effective. Maybe we’ll be that lucky too.

How did in 2011 did they release a film that got this all so eerily right?

Well for starters this had already happened with SARS and MERS and secondly the filmmakers went to the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation and asked them what is likely to happen.

What I observed in the early days of COVID-19 is how we all react differently in telling ways.

There are those of us who watched the news religiously, those who did not, those of us who took our kids out of school, those of who still went into work when we believed we should be in lockdown.

Those of who looked to our institutions for leadership, those of us who questioned every decision and every piece of information that was parceled out.

Those of us who grew fatalistic and decided we had to live our lives, those of us who constantly thought of our health care workers and elderly, those of us who lamented our freedoms, those of us who wondered how we could benefit from the stocks changing and those of us who looked for ways to donate more to charities and get involved in volunteer work.

Contagion may not go into such specifics but constantly throughout there is a theme of people making moral choices with good or selfish intentions and good or bad results that come from that. The film I believe is simply observing the human factor of why people make the decisions they make. With no

judgement just the randomness of that and how small decisions can have major consequences.

I believe ultimately the film is optimistic about the human race.

I like to think I am too.

Cars line up at a COVID-19 testing clinic

January 05

An 18 year old Sydneysider had contracted COVID from the Berala cluster and then travelled through regional New South Wales while infectious. This prompted contract tracing to occur in Orange (250kms away from Sydney), Nyngan (550kms away from Sydney) and Broken Hill (1,140kms away from Sydney) with people who had been in certain locations at certain times to get tested and self isolate for 14 days even if their result comes back negative.

[He] woke up, had a little bit of a runny nose just yesterday. And went out and got a test and did the right thing. Can I thank this individual,” New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant praised the 18 year old for getting tested with the mildest of symptoms.

Good stuff!

On the fifth of January, World Health Organisation reported in Australia there had been 28,504 confirmed cases of COVID with a daily increase of 21. There had been 909 deaths.

Image result for uk school shut down covid

In the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland schools were being shut down…thank fuck!

I understand this was not great news for many families, that it would present a range of challenges for educators and their students, but if it saved one life I was all for it and there was no doubt in my mind that it would save thousands.

Following a return to school on the 4th of January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new lockdown shutting down schools from Tuesday the 5th of January until at least the February half-term.

Similar to moves to remote learning here in Australia, schools remained open to take students of key workers and vulnerable youths.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were already ahead of BJ with those countries have been doing remote learning for students already and extending them in light of the predicament they found themselves in.

On the 5th of January, the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom there had been 2,713,567 confirmed cases of COVID with a daily increase of 58,784. There had been 75,431 deaths with a daily increase of 407.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – LAST CHRISTMAS THE UK GAVE ITS HEART

Christmas lockdown: What can the UK learn from China? - CGTN

 

December 21

In the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson put London and the south-east of England into Tier-4 lockdown. The new UK strain of COVID was skyrocketing case numbers had forced his hand. For some it was too little, too late. For others it was a maddening last minute cancellation of Christmas. I think where my stance was.

Tier 4 was stay at home except for work or education.

You could meet up with one friend in public unless you live with them. 

If you were outside a Tier 4 area the advice was don’t travel to one.

This caused a mad rush at the train station to leave London before the restrictions came into place.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty speaking at Downing Street advised that yes the mutation made the virus a lot more contagious but in terms of symptoms and treatment the preliminary findings were promising including whether it was resistant to the vaccine. 

I think this is a situation which is going to make things a lot worse, but there are some really optimistic things if you look once we get the vaccine out, assuming the vaccine works against this, which at the moment is the working assumption,” he said.

Terrific.

 
UK Coronavirus LIVE: Crisis Cobra talks as fears over Covid variant closes  borders, causes travel chaos and risks food shortages - News Press Live
 

Many countries banned UK residents from travelling to them, such as Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland and Italy.

France did so too setting it for 48 hours causing lorries loaded with freight to be backed up in the port of Dover.

 

 
From Boxing Day Scotland was headed for Tier 4 restrictions too.
 
No going to another household. Six adults and children under 12 from two households could meet in public. Providing care was an exception. Singles from a household of their own could be considered part of another household. The government didn’t want people lonely at Christmas.
 
Restaurants, cafes, and pubs were closed. Take-away venues needed to operate with face coverings and social distancing. Accommodation venues were only for essential workers. Room service in hotels was allowed. 
 
Supermarkets were open, non essential retail was not. That included hairdressers, barbers, massage therapists, tattoo and piercing places and indoor photography.

Cinemas and gyms were closed but outdoor non-contact sports were permitted. 

 

 

Churches a maximum of 20 people, weddings the same but no reception. Funerals 20 guests too. 

Schools, universities and childcare were still open.

Public libraries were not but you could order and collect books.

https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/entertainment/janey-godleys-latest-nicola-sturgeon-23202150

The day before the island nation had breached two million COVID cases with 2,004,223. 

On the 21st of December the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom there had been 2,040,151 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 35,928. 

There had been 67,401 deaths with a daily increase of 326.

From my limited Australian perspective lockdowns are a tool and one that has not been brought to bear soon enough in the UK.

I hoped the hardship for the the British people during this Christmas period would save lives.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BACK IN THE GAME – PART I

UK woman Margaret Keenan the first person to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine  | The West Australian

 

December 07

Monday and a new week and while I was off sick Monday and Tuesday hotel quarantine started up again in Melbourne, Victoria.

For the first time since late June international flights with returning Australians were landing to complete 14 days of hotel quarantine in Melbourne.

The Australian city that had experienced the most loss of life and the longest lockdown period and government imposed restrictions following an outbreak when security protocols failed at a hotel quarantine site.

In the new hotel quarantine system 300 police officers will be deployed to do the work every day. One hundred and seventy-two Australian Defence Force Personnel are deploying to do front desk tasks and no private security guards will be involved. 

ADF officers lined up on arriving in Melbourne wearing blue surgical masks.

The use of private security companies had been a fixture of the COVID-19 Hotel inquiry. 

From the ABC News website.

Former Family Court judge Jennifer Coate, the inquiry’s chair, said in her interim report that it was mostly private security personnel working in hotel quarantine who had “seeded” the major community outbreaks in Victoria’s second wave.

Lawyers for the inquiry have said the failure of the program was responsible for more than 760 deaths, and more than 18,000 infections.

The inquiry heard in August that 90 per cent of the state’s active cases at that time could be traced back to a family of four who stayed at Melbourne’s Rydges on Swanston hotel.

Concerns were raised about guards and other staff members working across multiple locations, as well as the level of training they were given in infection control.

There were a range of rules for those quarantining to follow.

Three police officers talk on a Melbourne street.

They couldn’t leave their rooms for fresh air or exercise unless there are relevant reasons. They won’t be able to receive care packages from their families.

Everyone working in the quarantine hotels, with the exception of the cleaning staff, will be employed or directly contracted by the newly established Covid Quaratine Victoria.

Cleaners will be employed through fixed term contacts to avoid the need to work across different locations as casuals.

They will be tested for COVID-19 every day, while the members of their households will also be tested on a regular basis.

They will work together on the same rosters with colleagues to limit the spread if one of them becomes sick. 

Hotel quarantine will cost the returnee $3,000 dollars, $1,000 per additional adult and $500 per child over three years of age.

On the 7th of December, the World Health Organisation reported in Australia there had been 27,965 confirmed cases with a daily increase of nine. There had been 908 deaths.

 

 

December 08


In the United States of America, Ballbag continued to try and steal the election whilst proclaiming it stolen.

It’s funny to say this but no matter the lack of legal grounds, what the pundits said, Ballbag just created anxiety with his actions.

Here was an elected official undermining an election result.

For his followers this was real, although you can’t protest a count in one state and insist it go ahead in another because its going your way.

That clearly shows its not about the principal of the matter.

US election sees protesters confront vote-counting centres in Phoenix and  Detroit, 50 arrested in New York - ABC News

Having worked in an election warehouse counting votes albeit in a different country with different systems it seemed crazy to me how you could pull off such a miscarriage of the count.

I guess nothing is impossible but its not like every election official is affiliated one way or the other. The fact that security was needed at such sites is shocking to me having it never be a concern here in Australia. 

Right now, democracy is fragile in America in a way I never thought I would see in my lifetime.

You would hope when a bunch of people die and the President talks about using bleach in the human body, yells at reporters for asking simple questions, leaves states to bid for medical supplies and hands out pens to health officials rather than hear their cries for help that Americans would strap on the biggest boot they could find and send it right on up his wide load tennis shorts size ass! 

US happiness hits lowest point in 50 years: New poll finds just 14% of  Americans are 'very happy' | Daily Mail Online

The fact that they did that and then the only work he did for the next two months was bleat about it and then go off and play golf rather than deal with the real crisis in America which were COVID cases and deaths skyrocketing is just really sad.

How did it get to this and why is any of this tribally political? Regardless of age, political disposition, race, colour, or creed why would anyone not think this President has been horrible in dealing with COVID-19?

On the 8th of December the World Health Organisation reported in the United States of America there had been 14,570,523 confirmed COVID cases with a daily increase of 173,388. There had been 279,913 deaths with a daily increase of 1,107.

 

UK woman Margaret Keenan the first person to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine  | The West Australian

In the United Kingdom a young lady named Maggie originally from Enniskillen in Fermanagh made history. 

Ninety-year old Margaret Keenan become the first person to receive the COViD-19 Pfizer BioNTech vaccinne following trials and approvals.

Attending University Hospital in Coventry to get her jab from Matron May Parsons, Ms Keenan said, “I feel so privileged to be the first person vaccinated against COVID-19. It’s the best early birthday present I could wish for because it means I can finally look forward to spending time with my family and friends in the New Year after being on my own for most of the year.

We couldn’t hug her but we could clap, and everybody did so in the room,” Professor Stephen Powis, the National Medical Director of NHS England, said.

COVID-19: British woman first to receive vaccine - Vatican News

She was one of thousands getting the first of two scheduled jabs across the UK. The hope was to have 4 million Britons vaccinated by the end of 2020 primarily health care workers and people over 80 years of age.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visits Western General Hospital amid the spread of the coronavirus disease

Today we should all allow ourselves a smile – but we must not drop our guard,” said Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Sturgeon did say watching the video of Maggie getting her first dose put a lump in her throat.
 

Sister Joanna Sloan

Sister Joan Sloan who will head up the vaccine rollout in Belfast was the first to get the jab in Northern Ireland at Royal Victoria hospital.

When asked what her thoughts were as she received the jab, Sister Sloan replied, “At last. At last we have got to this point. We have worked hard to get here so it felt great.” 

Palmerston care home

Palmerston, a purpose built Dementia care home in East Belfast had twenty residents vaccinated the same day with thirty five staff to follow.

There had been 55,795 confirmed cases in Northern Ireland and 1,073 deaths.

In the Republic of Ireland there had been 74,682 cases and 2,097 deaths.

The latter had more than three times the population of the former.

The first person in Wales was 48 year old home care worker Craig Atkins.

The BBC weren’t specific about who was the first person in Scotland but consultant anaesthetist Dr Katie Stewart at NHS Borders and senior charge nurse Andrew Mencnarowski who will vaccinate colleagues at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital were among the first.

It’s a huge step forward in the battle against the Covid virus. I feel very proud and excited to be part of it all,” said the Scottish nurse.

Dr Katie Stewart

After a very long hard year looking after patients with Covid and staying apart to protect each other, we finally have something to celebrate. The new vaccination has been tested on over 43,000 people around the world so I am truly delighted to be one of the first people in the Scottish Borders to receive one,” Dr Stewart said.

Visiting London’s Guy’s Hospital Prime Minister Boris Johnson listened to 81 year old Lyn Wheeler who was the first to get vaccinated there. 

Britain has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine which is less than enough for a third of the population to get vaccinated. There are reports to achieve herd immunity 70 per cent take up a national population is required.  

NHS Doctor Veer Gupta summed it up nicely to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “We have a vaccine for a disease that was never before seen on Earth, and within one year now we have something that can actually prevent it from spreading.

Vaccine

After receiving the first jab, 21 days later a second jab is administered with full immunity believed to take effect at the 28 day mark from the first jab.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock advised it would take several weeks for just health care workers and people over 80 to get vaccinated. The need for it to be kept in ultra-cold storage rather than just refrigerated like the vaccine developed by the Oxford University was going to create challenges for distribution. 

But we had a vaccine. 

We had a vaccine.

Covid-19: First vaccine patient has her second jab - BBC News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson believed it was a turning point in the country’s fortunes against the virus but one step in a battle that was far from over.

Today marks a huge step forward in the UK’s fight against coronavirus. As the program ramps up in the weeks and months ahead, it is as important as ever to keep to the COVID winter plan: Follow the rules in your area and remember the basics of hands, face and space,” he said.

On the 8th of December, the World Health Organisation reported in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland there had been 1,737,964 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 14,718. There had been 61,434 deaths with a daily increase of 189.

Victoria had recovered enough to ramp up hotel quarantine again, most state borders were open as Western Australian opened up to the rest of the country, Ballbag was getting shown the door whether he liked it or not and against all odds and thanks to so many unsung scientists and health care workers vaccines were rolling out across the world.

Gee….

Anybody would have thought it was Christmas after all!

But the virus of course didn’t care what the calendar said.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – AROUND THE GROUNDS – PART II

Coronavirus: South Africa Covid-19 deaths 'to soar' in coming months - BBC  News

 

August 2

Mexico overtook the UK as the country with the third highest death toll behind Brazil and the U.S.  That was 46,668 Mexican deaths to 46,119 British deaths in a country that had twice the population of Great Britain. In Mexico there were over 424,000 cases reported.

There was a record new number of daily global cases with 292,527 confirmed. 

Deaths have been averaging 5,200 a day in July, up from an average of 4,600 a day in June.

Nearly 40 countries have reported record single-day increases in coronavirus infections over the past week, around double the number that did so the previous week.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson retracted on lifting restrictions for casinos, bowling alleys and skating rinks. They were due to re-open on Saturday and he took them off the table for another two weeks.

Personally I think the U.K. has been fairly extraordinary with the measures they have put in place with other countries go harder and earlier with lower numbers.

Case in point a grave new second wave in South Korea is how they defined 17 new daily cases. In Great Britain getting down a 1,000 a day was enough to make plans to re-open pubs, hairdressers, and cinemas. As well as holidaying around the country and looking at creating travel bubbles to Spain and Italy!

As much as I go on about Ballbag and what has tragically occurred in America the fact is per capita, Great Britain has suffered a far greater loss of life. 

There were stricter lockdowns being applied in the north of England too.

“We’re now seeing a warning light on the dashboard. Our assessment is that we should now squeeze the brake pedal in order to keep the virus under control,” Johnson told the public. 

Better late than never. 

On a hot summer day though, the public decided laying out on a beach with thousands of others was the call of the day just like similar Australian dickheads have done here on numerous beaches.

A pebble beach in south England is adorned with sunbathers and umbrellas.

In India there 55,079 cases reported in in one day, the country had had over 1,6 million cases.

779 deaths took the national total to 35,747.

This was on the eve of a night curfew in place since March being lifted.  Yoga institutes and gyms were scheduled to open on the 5th of August. 

Interstate restrictions were also gone and New Delhi hotels that had served as quarantine facilities could now re-open.

Subways, cinemas, swimming pools, parks, bars, theatres were set to remain closed for the moment until the end of the month.

All these restrictions eased as the country recorded its largest surge in cases. 

It was accepted too that the numbers were probably far higher but due to limited testing the larger picture would never be known for certain. 

India had been through hell, was a respite on the horizon?

God I hoped so.

In Florida there was a fourth straight day of record new deaths.

One person died from COVID-19 in the United States every minute.

COVID-19 continues resurgence across US through July as mask mandates begin  in hardest-hit states - ABC News

In South Africa the number of confirmed cases reached 482,169 and the number of deaths 7,812.

It was over half the numbers across the African continent and the fifth highest national total in the world.

As richer nations bought up ventilators and PPE, South Africa had started manufacturing ventilators of their own with an aim to produce 20,000. 

In Spain there 1,229 new daily cases, the highest since restrictions were eased on the 21st of June. It was the third day in a row of 1,000+ new daily cases. A second wave had come to Spain. 

There had 282,641 COVID-19 cases in Spain and 28,441 Spaniards had died.

On the 2nd of August the World Health Organisation reported globally there had been 17,678,033 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 268,879. 

There had been 675,845 deaths with a daily increase of 6,103.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE NEW NORMAL – PART II

20200408_165255
Me with work colleagues 08APR2020. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

In the lead up to Easter I worked from home from the 06APR2020 – 09APR2020, raged against Trump’s behaviour on the news, anxiously watched the stats across the world but particularly in the UK and generally got on with it.

In Australia there were no more restrictions to put in place, we appeared to be flattening the curve but we needed to keep on doing what we were doing.

This was the new normal, I found myself calling friends more and definitely watching more news.

 

Scenestr was moving completely online for now and launching their new TV show (first episode debuted 26APR2020) following having produced videos for years.

I was grateful to have a job. People I know including Karen either lost work or lost their jobs completely.

With a rise in unemployment comes a rise in domestic violence and suicide.

While domestic violence also happens to men I did note that it was my female friends who first mentioned concerns about DV and suicide was on my mind with the rise of unemployment.

With no commute, a reduction in gym fees, fuel costs, no socialising, and no lunch at work I had a little bit more money available despite a recent parking fine sent to me.

So that payday I donated to the Salvation Army who help the homeless, those fleeing domestic violence or struggling to buy food.

 

Donate to the Disaster Appeal | The Salvation Army Australia

Many years ago a Sally man had come out of the jungle at Jacqinot Bay, New Britain during the second world war. He cooked for the Australians stationed there, their first hot cooked meal in weeks.

His actions ensured that members of a family ever since have donated to the Salvos.

 

06 April

In Great Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson is admitted to hospital.

In America Trump peddles anti-malarial drug sounding like a snake oil salesman saying “What do you have to lose?” despite the fact that such drugs can have dangerous side effects.

 

 

07 April 

Prime Minister of Great Britain, Boris Johnson is admitted to ICU.

 

09 April

On the 9th of April, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there were 6,052 confirmed cases in Australia with a daily increase of 96. There were 50 deaths with a daily increase of five.

In Ireland there were 6,224 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 515. There were 235 deaths with a daily increase of 25.

In India there were 5,865 cases with a daily increase of 591. There were 169 deaths with a daily increase of 20.

In Canada there were 18,433 cases with a daily increase of 1,384. There had been 401 Canadians die with a daily increase of 56.

In the United Kingdom there were 60,737 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,491. The death toll stood at 7,097 with a daily increase of 938.

In Italy there were 139,422 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,836. 17,669 Italians had died with a daily increase of 540.

In the United States of America there were 395,030 cases with a daily increase alone of 31,709! The number of dead rose to 12,740 with a daily increase of 1,895.

-Lloyd Marken