COVID-19 DIARY – BRISBANE GOES INTO THREE DAY LOCKDOWN

In pictures: Eerie pictures of Brisbane's empty streets | The Advertiser

January 8

Friday morning I drove into work.

It’s my first fix of news for the day often, sometimes my only until late in the evening.

There was mention of COVID of course but nothing related to my hometown.

I was interested in what was happening Sydney as a friend of mine was hoping to get married there on Valentines Day.

I parked my car, walked the twenty minutes or so up to our offices.

The whole way I walked without a mask.

No one wore masks in Queensland these days.

I walked through the door and plonked my bag on my desk and started work.

I overhead a conversation about a colleague leaving at 3:30pm maybe.

My supervisor came around and asked if I heard that?

It was 8:35am.

He told me we were going into lockdown at 6pm tonight. No one leaving their houses except for medical reasons essential work or food.

I told him there had been nothing on the radio.

I got on the internet, sure enough there was a post on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announcing the lockdown.

It was 23 minutes old.

The plan was to go ahead with the work day but if staff needed to plan around this development they could.

I called Karen to touch base about groceries. I couldn’t raise her.

I gave it a few minutes and went up to my supervisor and advised I’d like to use my lunch hour now to get some groceries sorted.

I wasn’t just thinking about the daily shop.

I was given permission, I took one of the masks my sister in law had made for me out of my bag and headed for Toowong village.

I texted Karen at 8:46am to call me.

I had no idea if she was out of the loop.

I went to the fruit shop. Already there were more people in the shop than usual. Not everybody knew. Somebody helpfully told a customer looking around perplexed that the lockdown had been announced and she thanked them.

I was not the only one wearing a mask, it seemed almost everyone had one, as if they had been waiting for the signal and now it had been sent.

I dashed over to the chemist and bought some medical masks thinking about people at work who may not have a mask with them and were catching public transport home. I needn’t have worried, it seemed much like myself, everybody had masks ready to put on.

I’d walked up in the early morning with no masks in sight and 30 minutes later stood in Coles surrounded by dozens of people wearing masks of one sort or another.

Many nearby residents stood in Coles having come to do their weekly shop surprised by the long lines and big crowds.

Despite this people seemed polite and helpful to each other, didn’t take too much of any one product and gave each other some space.

Why I was there?

I wanted to be prepared for worse case scenarios.

I wanted staples on hand if I had to isolate at home for several days.

I was planning for more than what had just been announced.

I got some tinned food, rice, soup, some fruit and not much else. I felt dialed down and calm, just thinking a little ahead and not being greedy or fearful.

Of course that may not be how other people see it and I can understand that too.

My actions were similar to many others across the city as supermarkets were swamped.

I admired the incredible effort of the supermarket staff as they managed this massive influx of people and the need to re-stock.

Didn’t they have people at home they were worried about?

Didn’t they need to buy after their shift was over?

Greater Brisbane enters three-day lockdown amid UK COVID-19 variant concern

It really was quite admirable.

Retail staff have really shouldered some huge burdens during this pandemic with little if any reward.

I had never been in a store so crowded even during Christmas when it is bedlam.

I followed a line that had started at the check-outs and was naturally snaking around in a circle out the front of the store before going down an aisle past the centre. It went all the way down that aisle not long after I joined it.

I was in that aisle for several minutes not knowing what awaited me when I got out of it. Then the line moved fast and split into two. Those going through the self check-outs and the rest of us going old school. I saw a line outside the store several metres long.

The store had reached capacity and was letting people in groups once enough had of us had left. If I had waited until lunch I may have been in such a line and while people weren’t hoarding it just seemed unlikely a lot would be left on the shelves of certain things people at such a time like milk or break or pasta or yes rice or toilet paper. Having never seen the store like this I took some pictures.

I was on my way back to work at 10am when I got in touch with Karen. She was locked out on our balcony with her phone running low. So I got leave to go drive home, open up the balcony door, and drive back to work.

I effectively started working at sometime after 11am but from then on I surprisingly had a productive day.

I was very grateful for the flexibility and support shown by leadership.

The lockdown was to last until 6pm Monday.

We would all be working from home on Monday but in my particular team we were set up do this. The volume of traffic may bring complications but we were prepared to work through the situation as best we could.

I wouldn’t say we were afraid of the potential break-out. We had been in lockdown before. We of course were worried about each other, and concerned with making arrangements but when the hammer falls you just tend to deal with things as they come and hope for the best.

So what prompted this lockdown?

Well on Thursday while the news was dominated by the attacks on the Capitol we were informed that Queensland’s 113 day streak of no new community transmissions was over. A hotel cleaner at the Grand Chancellor hotel where repatriated Australians were staying in hotel quarantine had contracted COVID.

Of particular concern was that she had been on public transport from the city to Altandi and probably come into contact with a number of people while unknowingly contagious.

So the next morning the Queensland Premier had decided to “Go hard and go early,”

The Greater Brisbane region of Brisbane, Logan Ipswich, Moreton Bay Region and Redlands Bay were part of the lockdown. The neighbouring Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast were not part of the lockdown prompting some Brisbane residents to head there before the 6pm lockdown came into place. I probably would have put them in lockdown given the distances involved and that many people commute from those areas into Brisbane.

“Think of it as a long weekend at home,” advised Premier Palaszczuk.

Funerals were limited to 20 people and weddings to ten.

Given the incubation period of two weeks for COVID, a three day lockdown seemed quite short.

The reasoning was it gave enough time for effective contract tracing to occur much like the reasoning behind the six day lockdown in South Australia back in November.

I felt without any expert knowledge that three days was too short.

“We need to act really fast, we need to find every single case now. Until we have found all those people, we can’t relax. We have to bring this in fast rather than be able to wait and see what the extent of the spread is. Because once its spread it will be too late to act,” advised Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young given that the cleaner had caught the UK strain which was 70 per cent more contagious.

It’ll be too late if on Monday I stand up here in front of you and say we’ve had 10 cases and they’ve been out infectious in the community infecting people,” she said.

Later that night in the wake of people hitting the shops the Premier was on the news advising people that people could still have take-away and that people could shop and that the shops would not run out.

Certain shelves were bare by Friday night but would get restocked quickly enough.

The situation prompted larger conversations about moving hotel quarantine out of major metropolitan cities which must have just delighted regional areas.

There were changes afoot with repatriation of Australians, they would cut returning numbers by 50% and increase testing requirements.

“All of the things we’ve done in the past, all of the controls we’ve talked about in terms of test, trace, isolate — all of those personal measures and even some other measures we have had to do in certain times will become less effective if this virus was to be established,” Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said.

This virus continues to write its own rules and that means that we must continue to be adaptable in how we continue to fight it,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told us.

Meanwhile in the United States of America in the wake of the attacks on the Capitol there was a lot of talk about what to do with the outgoing President. There is not a lot I will add here except to say that pretty everything I feared that would come to pass – did. This was the noise that followed in the wake of a significant and upsetting event. But noise that ultimately revealed just how little was going to change.

For months I had been watching what was happening in other countries and even in other states and feeling very fortunate. I felt even perversely guilty because we had not suffered like other parts of the world. We were not suffering  like that yet but we were now facing an increased risk, being called upon to live with restrictions and to act with some caution.

I hoped we would do the right thing.

For those overseas who had suffered so much it must have seen almost comical.

“I heard you’re in lockdown. What happened?”

“A hotel quarantine cleaner got it.”

But authorities were racing to stop something much larger happening. The cleaner from the 2nd of January until she had symptoms and got tested immediately had been in close contact with 70 other people.

Even more troubling was the fact that she had the UK strain.

Epidemiologist and University of Queensland Associate Professor Linda Selvey told the ABC, “If it wasn’t this new variant, there wouldn’t be this kind of response. There is quite a lot at stake and the idea is to stamp this out pretty quickly.

The concern is that there may well be a whole lot of cases. This lockdown provides some breathing space and an opportunity to learn whether there are other cases and what’s actually going on,” Selvey added.

If you did nothing, obviously it expands much more rapidly but it also means that if it got out, that the restrictions that you would need to put in place to get the R under one to control it would actually have to be more severe. It won’t necessarily be longer, but we may need harder restrictions, coming down faster for a wider area in order to get it under control,” explained Bond University Professor Paul Gasziou.

-Lloyd Marken

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 – THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE

US election 2020: Election Day shadowed by threats of legal challenges

November 03

It was Wednesday the 3rd of November in Australia when the U.S. election took place on the other side of the world.

In Australia there is growing interest in U.S. elections, since America entered the Pacific war and with its allies turn the tide of war, Australia has taken a great interest in America and forged a partnership with it and other nations.

As a kid who loved the movies America captured my imagination with its culture and aspirations. Since blogging I have come to know some Americans and admire them.

1980s Lower Manhattan Skyline At Night Photograph by Vintage Images

I was angry and heartbroken when the towers fell, angry and heartbroken again when the bombs dropped on Baghdad and have made it a point to support Australians of those wars.

Of course I couldn’t imagine Ballbag winning in 2016, my heroes were President Roosevelt (both of them), President Truman, President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, President Ford, President Reagan, President Clinton and President Obama. Politicians like Senator John McCain and John Kerry.

But I got it.

Ballbag was a moment of great disappointment but the hyperbole in 2016 struck me as odd, surely he would get a good team around him. It wasn’t like it was the end of the world.

….

Well.

It’s no secret I am angry, appalled and vitrolic about my disdain for Ballbag on this blog. If you support him you may not want to read the rest of this post and that is fine by me.

Heading into the U.S. election I watched the 60 Minutes interview with President-elect Joe Biden and Ballbag.

I am always angered by Ballbag’s demeanour and disrespect to others. But also how his followers espouse him as a tough guy when he so often acts like a little bitch and toddles at the first sign of a challenging question.

Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation was still covering the election. As Ballbag sang one of his standards, that case numbers were going up because we were testing the best. Well testing was up by 13 per cent and case numbers were up by 51 per cent. Do the maths Ballbag.

Over 69 million Americans had already voted and 46 million of those by mail in votes. Chas Licciardello also advised that if Democrats won either North Carolina, Florida or Arizona they’d be looking good. The Republicans would need all three.

Heading into the U.S. election I mentioned it to a family member my concern that Ballbag may once again surprise despite recent changes to polling.

Despite a Planet America episode interviewing a election analyst Dave Wasserman who discussed the changes that had been made to increase accuracy of polling since 2016.

I hate being right sometimes.

That episode also pointed out how COVID cases were on the rise as well hospitalisations but at least hospitals had not been overrun yet and that was good news in terms of keeping the death rates down.

I would say that John Oliver maybe summed up my thoughts best in the closing moments of the 2nd of November episode of his show Last Week Tonight.

I would urge anyone to listen from the 16th minute, Oliver speaks for five minutes at that point and sums up succinctly what has occurred under President Trump during COVID-19.

Highlighting how Ballbag doesn’t care about anybody else certainly not our brave health care workers who have done so much when Trump has done so little (hell fuck that! – he’s done damage), noted how the numbers don’t stack up – case in point America has four times the population of Germany who sure as hell had its fair share of cases and yet America has 17 times the number of cases as Germany and also mentioned the personal toll of the pandemic.

Never forget America, never forget any of us.

I won’t.

I didn’t give much thought to mirages on election days as Florida swung to Trump I was shocked and appalled. Ohio followed which was the state that decided the 2008 elections. Arizona being called for Biden by Fox News didn’t even get my attention.

Checking the New York Times election page I left work at 6pm to find that Biden may lose Pennsylvania with commentary about the fracking fracas from the debate being the turning point.

I wondered after all those dead Americans that Trump didn’t care about, an opportunity had been missed to give him his marching orders. Fake news worked both ways.

I could deny it now but I really did think something was really wrong in the country.

With talk of civil strife I did suggest maybe it was time to burn it down. Not in the sense that I wanted rioting or people to get hurt and not in the sense that I wanted anybody on either side to just hate and protest each other. But just in the sense if that is where we were surely the system and the culture needed radical reform and that could only come from real action.

Even with hindsight it seems there is still some truth to this.

US presidential election: New York skyline lit up to mark Election Day |  South China Morning Post

Just like in 2016 despite which ever candidate claims victory, they inherit a nation divided. I believe most of us are sick of that. That division is not just present in America but throughout the West and here in Australia.

When Prime Minister Scott Morrison was elected last year, lefty commentators up in their glass tower commented on television in the wee small hours on how Australians just didn’t get it having denied the opposition a win for their ideas. My first thought was maybe you guys didn’t get it, after all the people had spoken and they’d said that dog won’t hunt.

I like to think that the majority of us agree on the big things, you only have to see how many conservative governments give bailouts and fund major programs. That progressives mostly espouse traditional family and religious values.

As a young Senator once said in 2004 at the Democratic National Convention,

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America —

there is the United States of America.

There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats.

But I’ve got news for them, too:

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.

We coach Little League in the Blue States, and, yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

At home during dinner I watched special election night episode of Planet America on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

President Trump at 2:30am in the morning in America claimed “We were getting ready to win this election – frankly we did the election. This is a major fraud on our nation. We want all voting to stop.”

One week in an America riven by politics and the plague - New Haven Register

With that the endgame of Trump’s efforts to undermine postal voting during a global pandemic (with anybody with a scrap of thought for the lives of Americans would have promoted) was now out in the open for all to see and it was pretty scary and it was only going to get scarier.

Former Vice President Joe Biden perhaps to avoid the mistakes of the 2000 election came out before that to say that while the results were not in he was confident Americans would ultimately choose him.

Going off the votes as they currently stood I was pretty worried. I went to the gym after dinner and watching the news on the TV screens in the gym America woke up to the next morning and there was hopeful new numbers coming out of Michigan and Wisconsin.

I actually thought about the movie Moneyball and Brad Pitt’s Billy Beane working out in the gym and listening to the results of the baseball game while he did it.

Nevada was still in play and as time went on Pennsylvania and even Georgia would come into play as more postal votes were counted.

Arizona while called by some news outlets was still in play too.

While I worked out I listened to The Rewatchables podcast cover The American President. I was slightly moved as they recalled the idealism and reverence that we used to have for politics at least in the movies and how things that were said about elections back then are oddly prescient now. 

We need to know the difference between the sand and the water.

On the 3rd of November, 2020 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 9,108,353 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States of America with a daily increase of 75,888. There had been 229,442 American deaths with a daily increase of 444.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART VIII

September 10

Thursday the Prime Minister Scott Morrison had made a call to the Queensland Premier making a request to see if a young woman based out of the Australian Capital Territory could come out of hotel quarantine where she was spending 14 days.

She had made the trip to Queensland to see her father who was ill.

Sadly he had passed away and now the Prime Minister was asking if there was a way to have the young woman attend the funeral with her family. 

Apparently there wasn’t. 

Scott Morrison had lost his father earlier in the year in the wake of his failures during the worst bushfires this country had ever experienced. His father had not lived to see his son’s political fortunes turn around and public support grow. It was evident that Morrison adored his father as most children do. His public discussion of his attempts to have this woman attend her own father’s funeral were the first real time he had spoken of his loss.

Alas the Queensland Premier did not make it happen and did not appreciate the call. Although it must be noted the young woman was allowed out of quarantine later to say goodbye to her father on that day away from her family. She also subsequently came out publicly and said she felt the issue had been made political which she was not happy about.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk did have a few things to say about the incident after speaking in Parliament to say she would not be bullied.

Look, I feel these issues very personally – just like everyone else does. That’s why we’ve put in place this specialist care unit. We have 80 people in this exemptions unit looking at these issues and these people are human beings as well. They’re having to go through all these details, and make really difficult and tough decision but this is happening in other states as well,” the Queensland Premier said.

“It’s happening around the world. It’s not nice.”

While the Premier did throw support for the border exemption unit she had created the previous Friday she did say all decisions were ultimately to be made by her Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young which could be inferred as a gesture of throwing her under the bus given the political heat the Premier was receiving or a steadfast resolution that policy would be decided by those who were best placed to make these health decisions regardless of the political context.

I also understand 229 exemptions for specialist workers, healthcare and compassionate grounds,” Palaszczuk advised.

There had also been 31,000 freight exemptions granted and 170,000 border zone exemptions granted according to the Premier. 

Deputy Chief Health Officer Dr Sonya Bennett also advised that Queensland Health was working to make things easier for the NSW family of 39 year old Mark Keans who was in a Queensland hospital fighting cancer to visit him.

I think we all recognise that these are difficult situations. In every situation with Mark Keans and others, the department works closely with applying for exemptions to find a solution to support what they would like. But at the same time recognising we need to continue to mitigate any risk of transmission,” Dr Bennett said.

There were two new cases in Queensland overnight with 28 active cases in the state. In the past 24 hours there had been 9,216 tests carried out.

Queensland Health Minister Steven Miles advised one active case had a positive development.

An eighty-one year old COVID-19 patient who had been in hospital for 77 days already having contracted it on the Ruby Princess cruise ship was now scheduled to move out of Intensive Care next week. 

GO RICHARD!

September 13

In the United Kingdom there were 3,330 new daily cases of COVID-19 following the previous day’s 3,497.

There were also five new deaths.

Scotland reported 244 new cases, the most since the 6th of May according to Reuters.

From Monday England was to bring in new bans on social gatherings to combat the rise in figures.

In Queensland the apolitical Australian Medical Association Queensland came out publicly with a strong show of support for the state’s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young. As their Dr Bav Manoharan put it, “Do we want more people at funerals or do we want more COVID funerals?”.

Good on them, Dr Young has done nothing but her job to the best of her ability and her actions have been of overwhelming benefit to Queenslanders.

The Queensland Premier was prepared to put it all on the line with an upcoming election in six weeks.

If it means I have to lose the election, I will risk all that if it means keeping Queenslanders safe. I will always stand up for I believe to be right in this state,” Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk said.

I’m putting myself out there, I’m putting myself on the line. But I’m making no apologies for keeping Queenslanders safe at this time,” she advised.

The World Health Organisation reported there had been 28,696,020 confirmed COVID-19 cases globally with a daily increase of 313,614. 

There had been 919,724 deaths around the world with a daily increase of 5,660.

In Australian there had been 26,607 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 42. There had been 803 deaths with a daily increase of six.

In Canada there had been 135,626 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 702. There had been 9,163 deaths with no daily increase.

In the United Kingdom there had been 365,178 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,497. There had been 41,623 deaths with a daily increase of nine.

In India the day before there had been a new record for daily cases with 97,570. That record would be broken again on the 17th of September with 97,894 cases on that day alone. On the 16th of September there would be 1,290 deaths reported in the country, only the reporting of 2,003 deaths on the 17th of June had been larger.

On the 13th of September in India there had been it was 4,754,356 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 94,372. There had been 78,586 Indian deaths due to COVID-19 with a daily increase of 1,114.

In the United States of America there had been 6,386,832 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 45,523. There had been 191,809 with a daily increase of 1,022.

September 14

On Monday it was reported that the Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young had received death threats and now had a permanent police protection with officers at her home and travelling with her.

The Queensland Australian Medical Association President Steve Perry told of the situation for the CHO, “It has been quite stressful and it hasn’t been helped by cowardly people threatening to take the life of a woman.

For her part Dr Young referred back to the suffering of others when admitting the difficulties she had endured.

But then, this [pandemic] has taken an enormous toll on nearly every single person in our community. We can’t see a clear end to this. So, we’re going to all have to work this through together and work out how we can manage this as well as go forward,” she said.

Queensland’s Health Minister Steven Miles refused to discuss individual cases of families trying to see each other following the media coverage of one daughter trying to attend her father’s funeral with the Prime Minister calling the Queensland Premier.

I never have and never will address individual cases … I know that the chief health officer and her team go through [all exemption applications] very, very carefully, and wherever they can they are as compassionate as they possibly can be, while also ensuring Queenslanders are kept safe,” said the Minister.

The QAMA President advised Dr Young had been working 5am to 10pm every day to go through hundred of applications for border control exemptions at one point.

It was quite hard work. She now has eight or 10 people who can help her do that,” he said referring to the special exemption unit.

Amazing how we can complain when we don’t leaders who stand up to media spin and relentless opposition but when we finally do we don’t show our support. There was an upcoming election in Queensland and Premier Anastacia Palasczuk was about to find out how much support she had.

-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 – WAS ANY OF IT NECESSARILY AVOIDABLE?

Police at the head of a long line of traffic on a highway

August 13

There continued to be mounting pressure for state border closures to end.

In Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk tweeted there were no new cases of COVID-19 in the state. In New South Wales there were 12 new cases and in Victoria there were 278 new cases and eight deaths.

“The danger is still on our doorstep,” Ms Palaszczuk posted. “As of this morning, New South Wales had 297 active cases after an additional 96 cases in the past week.

“Queensland isn’t taking any chances … our borders will remain closed for as long as the risk remains.”

Earlier in the week South Australia had made the decision to not have residents from border towns be able to enter the state.

South Australia’s Minister for Health and Wellbeing Stephen Wade defended the decision on ABC Breakfast.

“We have 500 cases in Victoria … We have 14 cases literally on the border,” he said.

“I see this as a bushfire that is producing spot fires in regional Victoria. We have a fire break in terms of border controls. We have no cases west of the border. Now is the time to act.”

“We are sympathetic to the disruption to people across Victoria and SA, in terms of these cross border restrictions. That is why we have left them as light as we could for as long as we could. Now that we have active cases right across the western border, we need to increase the restrictions. I find that (politically driven suggestion) offensive. These measures are fundamentally driven by our public health officers.”

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan were not ruling out border closures in place well into 2021 if active cases could not be brought down in other states.

Despite having entry through their own national borders from overseas restricted, Federal Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham advised, “State border restrictions need to be proportionate to the health risk and shouldn’t remain in place for one more day than they need to. If a state or territory border were to remain closed to a jurisdiction that had successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19, then that state or territory government will need to be accountable to their tourism industry and will ultimately need to provide additional support.

As he put it, “With our international borders expected to remain closed for the foreseeable future, our priority right now is getting Australians travelling to parts where we have successfully suppressed the spread of COVID-19.

Border closures didn’t ensure that the disease wouldn’t be brought in by residents returning who didn’t play by the rules. There are no guarantees but this thing spreads and fast. We learnt that the hard way in March and closed down our national and state borders as a result. When there is an outbreak we shut down localities with travel.

Lately the media has been feeding us stories of people who couldn’t get to hospitals or funerals. All tragic and maybe unnecessary but to be frank I smell a rat and I’m not buying. There’s too many lives at stake to worry about the almighty dollar and I suspect that is what this is really all about.

If the Chief Health Officer of Queensland Jeanette Young wanted to keep the borders shut she had my full support as she seemed to have our best interests at heart and if the state Premier was not wilting under intense political pressure to open the borders well then she could count on my vote in the upcoming state election too.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison posted a video message on Facebook acknowledging the high number of COVID deaths in aged care, about 68% of national COVID deaths.

I want to assure you that where there are shortcomings in these areas they will be acknowledged, and the lessons will be learnt, and we will seek to be as upfront, particularly with the families of those who are affected in these circumstances as much as possible,” Morrison said.

The Prime Minister also acknowledged that there would be further death.

We know that in the days and the weeks ahead there will be more difficult news as the impact of the COVID-19 spread, particularly in Victoria, will have further impacts. We need to continue to brace ourselves for that.

The fact that he had lost his own father earlier in 2020 seemed pertinent when he said, “Losing a loved one is never easy. We’re also terribly sorry these are the conditions you have to go through in terrible grief.

There had been leaks showing the offer of defence personnel to the Victorian government for hotel quarantine manpower made the subsequent fiasco more embarassing for the Victoria Premier but Daniel Andrews stood firm saying, “I don’t know the federal Defence Minister. I don’t deal with her. I deal with the Prime Minister. I’m glad that there’s other people who think that the best contribution they could make is to be playing politics. I haven’t got time for that and I’m not interested in it.

It was reported that for the month of July, a million Australians had been out of work. The unemployment rate was 7.5 per cent but was effectively as high as 9.9 per cent accounting for the Jobkeeper retention.

The good news was that figure was done by 1.3 per cent from June where was 11.2 per cent. CommSec chief economist economist Craig James said, “Jobs rose more than expected. But we know that there is a long way to go, especially incorporation of the effects of both stage four and stage three lockdown restrictions in Victoria. The quicker that the jobless rate peaks and starts falling, the less damage and scarring will be done to the longer-term health of the economy.” 

In New Zealand there were 13 active new COVID-19 cases bringing the number of total active cases to 36. Having been 100 days COVID free the government was considering how long and how far they would go with lockdown and if it had come through freight which it was indicated was a very low likelihood. When asked if the government was going hard enough with quarantining people the Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield advised “I don’t think we have been soft on this at all. We don’t round up people in New Zealand. We round up sheep; we don’t round up people.

August 14

Friday.

In Victoria there were 372 new cases and 14 deaths up from 287 cases and eight deaths the day before. The Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton advised these large numbers may well be the peak of what was occurring in the state. The death of a young man in his 20s from that days’ account became the youngest death in Australia during the pandemic so far. 

In Queensland thousands of people were still travelling to the state. 2,600 people on 65 flights on Thursday. Five were refused entry and 142 were quarantined. 

4,575 cars were stopped at the border, 253 were turned around and 54 were ordered to self-isolate. 

As the Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll put it, “There’s an extraordinary amount of people still coming into Queensland.

In Victoria there were 372 new cases and 14 deaths up from 287 cases and eight deaths the day before. The Victorian Chief Health Officer Professor Brett Sutton advised these large numbers may well be the peak of what was occurring in the state. The death of a young man in his 20s from that days’ account became the youngest death in Australia during the pandemic so far. 

In Victoria there were 1,743 Australian Defence Force personnel deployed, more than any other state and territory combined. Their lack of previous utilisation in such large numbers had been a political football throughout the week.

During a parliamentary inquiry into the hotel quarantine outbreaks in Melbourne, Premier Daniel Andrews had made it a point that ADF troops were not on offer but this kicked off a back and forth all week. 

An outbreak at Rydges was part of the beginning of Victoria’s second wave. It was being investigated how the outbreak had occurred and whether the procurment and choice of particular private security firms had been poor and led to the outbreak happening. Private firms which can range in training and experience had been used in other states but ADF members had been used quite a bit a in NSW along with private security and no similar outbreak had occurred there. w

The mandatory hotel quarantine began Saturday, March 28. 100 personnel were put on standby for large states and 50 ADF personnel for small states. None were deployed to Victoria, such decisions were left to the individual states. Commissioner Crisp made this determination.

In April further communication with the ADF did not bring up using them for hotel quarantine as far as the state authorities were concerned as they already had a program in place. Albeit one that would prove disastrous. 

Defence Minister Senator Reynolds had a different story advising on the 12th of April that Victorian authorities were asked if they needed any assistance and reaffirmed they did not. A small distinction but perhaps an important one.

While Victoria did not use the ADF in this role it should be noted it was small numbers in other states. In March in New South Wales 30 ADF went to Sydney airport and another 40 to six hotels to support quarantine with police and security.

In Queensland it was a dozen ADF to Brisbane and Cairns airports and another dozen to a hotel in Cairns. 

Fifty went to Western Australia but in late July whistleblowers brought attention to quarantine breaches and the next day more ADF troops deployed to the West to assist contracted security guards. 

Rumours have swirled of Melbourne security guards and quarantine guests making the beast with the two backs but so far nothing has been substantiated. Confirmed and scary in itself is the subcontracting out to casual employees with Whatsapp and the providing of very little training at all. There has also been talk of errors that could have been avoided, carpooling, the sharing of a lighter, eating on breaks at the same place. 

On the 24th of June, Victoria a month after the case at Rydges, the ADF was requested by Victoria and the numbers were subsequently scaled back. 

On the 30th of June Victoria was out of the hotel quarantine business with flights diverted to other cities until at least October. With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in Victoria more and more ADF troops have been brought to patrol streets with police and conduct doorknocks. 

The failure of the hotel quarantine has seen some circles regularly calling for Premier Andrews resignation but I’m not so sure. The whole second wave and resulting deaths in aged care could be linked back to a failure to better plan the hotel quarantine and the vendors. On the other hand was some of this the poor decision making through the fog of war. Andrews failed here but he has worked hard as the state went into higher lockdown under immense pressure from all many sides. 

Either way, in his own words, “Clearly there has been a failure in the operation of this program,” he said at the time.

On November 6, the Coate Inquiry is expected to be handed down with their findings on the matter.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART V

Why has there been a sudden outbreak of consensus on closing Queensland's  border? - ABC News

August 3

Monday and with the curfew and restrictions in place in Victoria the Prime Minister Scott Morrison had some advice for the rest of the country.

If you’ve got friends in Victoria, call them. Cheer them up. Encourage them,” the Prime Minister advised.

Let them know you’re there for them if you’re in a state in a much better situation which, thankfully, all other states and territories are. Offer whatever support you can. We’ve asked so much of Australians over these many months and we’ve asked even more of Victorians. And now we’re asking, through the Victorian Premier, even more. We know that we have to help them push through because Australia’s future depends on these weeks and months ahead.

In the first week of August Karen and I were watching news. In it a Queensland Police Officer had stopped a person on the border in the middle of the night and caught them out in a lie about where they had been or whether they were crossing the border illegally or attempting to anyway. In it the police officer said “I put it to you Sir…” It just tickled me pink the line delivery before the person swore their head off in response. Unfortunately I have not been able to track it down so you will have to put my word for it.

It has been a long time since I have written, my secondment took up my time and I guess we will cover that a little bit in the upcoming posts. In terms of a journal I did not pay as much attention to the news, I was too busy trying to make it happen. I feel a little out of the loop and some posts won’t be so much about what was happening regarding COVID-19 as much as just me and my life. This reflects first and foremost how lucky I am to be in Queensland, Australia. If I was in Arizona, India, Brazil, etc I don’t think this would have been my experience.

Norwegian cruise ship MS Roald Amundsen moored in Tromso, Norway.

August 4

For some fucking unfathomable reason there were cruise ships operating in Europe and returning to port with…you guessed it passengers sick with COVID!

Norwegian operator Hurtigruten was the first cruise operator to return to the seas in mid-June planning less passengers, social distances and strict rules regarding hygiene to avoid an outbreak. Forty-one passengers and crew from their ship the MS Roald Amundsen got COVID-19.

We have failed. I apologise strongly on behalf of the company,” said CEO Daniel Skjeldamn.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had put in a place a No Sail Order  for cruise ships in March and would not be changing it until at least 30SEP2020.

Australia had a similar order in place until 17SEP2020.

In Melbourne there were 439 new cases and 11 new deaths.

There 456 people in hospital, 38 of them in intensive care. 

Of the 11 Victorians who had died, one was in their 70s, four in their 80s, five in their 90s and one woman over 100. All of them were from aged care cases of which there were 1,186 cases currently in Victoria.

 

A line of vehicles waiting to be inspected by a group of police officers on a road.

August 05

On the 10th of July, Queensland Premier had opened the borders with neighbouring states barring Victoria. Now on the 5th of August Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk announced the borders would be shut again with New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory come that Saturday at 1am. 

The Premier advised, “We cannot risk a second wave. We have to act decisively. We have to put Queenslanders first.

“I said I would not hesitate and today is the day.”

There was one new case announced in Queensland and so far there had been six deaths in the state due to COVID-19. 

It was noted that many people had lied in their declarations on arriving in the state in recent days. The border closure would mean Queenslanders returning would have to 14 days in mandatory hotel quarantine at their own expense.

-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

 

COVID-19 DIARY – SURGING AHEAD

 

Calls to nominate departing CMO Brendan Murphy for Australian of ...

 

It’s been few weeks since I wrote my blog, I had over a dozen posts scheduled for the entire month of July and that covered right up until what was then up to date events of the 21st of June.

Then I went on holidays and started a secondment and four weeks have gone by in the wink of an eye and I am back playing catch-up. This time I wonder, particularly given the secondment if I will catch up.

I never planned for this site to regurgitate the news or to be political but it has always been personal and it has been fascinating to write about things from the perspective of a few days after the events.

COVID is going to be with us for at least a year or two in a very consuming way.

Do I really want to write about all of that?

I guess I do so I will just have to try. Thank you all for reading.

 

June 26

Friday.

I had worked in the office all week. With leave planned for the following week, the numbers continued to rise in Victoria.

The Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy and the Prime Minister strode up to the microphones on the 26th of June for what would be the last time. They were wearing scarves in support of Australia and New Zealand’s successful bid from the night previous to host the Netball World Cup. Their jovial mood reflected some relief in what they had shared together.

It was now over three months since COVID cases had really taken off in Australia and while developments in Victoria were of concern they did not prove to give people pause.

There had been 63 cases in the state in the previous 48 hours. Out of 30 cases from the previous 24 hours, five were travellers quarantining in hotels, seven were linked to clusters already identified, five from routine testing and a final 13 were still being investigated. 

Professor Murphy was moving on to Secretary of General Health, a promotion delayed due to the crisis. His position having unexpectedly elevated into a more public role had not suited the reserved Doctor but his consistent demeanor throughout had been of some comfort and would be missed.

Bracing for surge, PM announces billions in health measures

 

COVID-19 case numbers were taking off in the third world and this was not lost on the Prime Minister.

On, obviously, a more serious note, there are a million new cases being reported of COVID-19 around the world every week. We are seeing the virus take hold in places like South America now at a level difficult to imagine and we are anticipating similar types of scenarios in Africa and other parts of the world as the virus makes its way. The challenge being faced globally only gets more complicated, more complex, more difficult. And against that backdrop, Australia’s performance is remarkable, and that is a tribute to all who are involved.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison sought to assure Australians that outbreaks were to be expected and that the government was prepared to respond and that while the outbreak was currently in Victoria that it could easily be somewhere else in another instance and that we had to show solidarity.

And what this should say to Australians should be a message of confidence. There will be outbreaks. What matters is the response. There will be outbreaks and what matters is that we continue to build our capability to deal with those outbreaks. As you see the response on the ground, that is a reassurance to Australians all around the country that we can deal with this, and we will continue to deal with this.”

The outgoing Chief Medical Officer also had a few things to say.

So as the PM has said, this virus is accelerating around the world. We are in a very fortunate island, but we will remain at risk of importation of cases for the foreseeable future. Every day in Australia we have cases in hotel quarantine, mostly in New South Wales and Victoria, because they’re taking the lion’s share of that hotel quarantine hotel. Hotel quarantine is never going to be 100 percent perfect and importation our borders, whilst we have done so well with borders, we can’t be absolutely sure that there won’t be more and continuing imports of cases. We also, as we’ve said, can’t be sure that there isn’t small amounts of virus circulating in parts of the country. So the outbreaks, mini outbreak, we’ve seen in Victoria is what we predicted.”

“What we planned for. When I took to the National Cabinet the plan for reopening, removing restrictions, we assured National Cabinet that the likelihood of outbreaks was high and that we were ready to respond to them. And that is exactly what the Victorian health authorities are doing right now. They have a huge team, they’re contact tracing over a thousand people. They’re testing extraordinary numbers of people. And that’s a way to bring a localised outbreak under control, to go to where the problem is, engage with the population test, isolate, quarantine, standard public health response.

There was also a change in policy with returning citizens and permanent resident going into hotel quarantine advised Professor Brendan Murphy.

We are going to start testing people on entry to quarantine and testing people before they leave quarantine to see whether a testing regimen might help in the future to modify that quarantine in certain circumstances. But at the moment, even though we know it’s a burden on our returning citizens and permanent residents, it’s something that the great majority are very happy to put up with because they know it’s protecting their fellow Australians from the importation of this virus.

The Prime Minister also spoke on our behalf in thanking Professor Murphy for his work.

Outside of that, this is the Chief Medical Officer’s last briefing is the Chief Medical Officer. He’s been in the living rooms of Australians now for many months. And I know, Brendan, you have been a person of great assurance to Australians with your calm way of explaining what are often very complex things. You’ve given Australians, I think, a great peace of mind. Brendan is taking up the role of Secretary of the Department of Health, which we delayed because of the seriousness of this issue and his keenness to continue on in that role and until he was in a position to now hand it over to Dr Kelly. And so I want to thank you very much, not just for the way you’ve reached out to Australians, Professor Murphy, but the outstanding leadership you’ve shown across the AHPPC, the medical expert panel, and the unfailing advice that you’ve provided to me and to my ministers and to my Cabinet. And so we thank you very much.

 

The ABC’s excellent program Four Corners did an episode on nursing home Newmarch house in Sydney which that week which I watched that weekend.

The program was saddening in how we had failed to take care of our elderly in these vulnerable nursing homes.

As residents got COVID-19 they were all isolated in their rooms and not allowed visitors. Staffing was an issue and despite measures put in place the virus spread through the home.

The level of care suffered in the home as well which meant often the last days of the residents were lonely and full of ill health regardless of COVID itself.

In the aftermath the Anglicare Sydney’s Chief Executive Grant Millard, which runs Newmarch house, conceded more should have been done even NSW Health were not looking to take aged care residents into hospitals automatically.

“Look, if I had the time again, I would be insisting people who are COVID-positive go to hospital,” Mr Millard told ABC Radio.

“In hindsight, that would have been my preference.”

In the end 19 residents died in Newmarch house, the last on the 2nd of May. Her name was Alice Bacon and she was the 100th Australian to die from COVID-19. Two of those 19 residents who died after recovering from COVID-19 are not counted towards the national tally.

Alice Bacon’s daughter Mary Watson told Four Corners, “I don’t believe for a minute that the infection in the residents or in the staff occurred from that one person initially. There had to be cross-infection across the way. They didn’t want it anywhere out of there. They wanted whatever was going to happen to stay at Newmarch and be contained and not have it any spread anywhere else in the community.

There is a little bit of shame in me for not really having cared too much about those poor souls dying in nursing homes or their families cut off from and worried about them.

 

On the 26th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been in Australia 7,558 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 37. There had been 104 deaths with a daily increase of one.

In Canada there had been 102,242 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 279. There had been 8,484 deaths with a daily increase of 30.

In the United Kingdom there had been 307,984 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,118. There had been 43,230 deaths with a daily increase of 149.

In India there had been 490,401 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 17,296. There had been 15,301 deaths with a daily increase of 407.

In Russia there had been 620,794 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 6,800. There had been 8,781 deaths with a daily increase of 176. Hmmm…..???

In Brazil there had been 1,188,631 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 42,725. There had been 53,830 deaths with a daily increase of 1,185.

In the United States of America as case numbers declined in the states first and worst hit by the pandemic numbers began to surge in the south and mid-west. California got no respite either. There had been 2,367,064 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 37,061. There had been 121,645 deaths with a daily increase of 690.

Numbers were on the rise in South America, Africa and South East Asia as Europe began to see a decline.

For what it is worth, stay safe everyone.

-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