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

 

COVID-19 DIARY – ISSUES IN THIS SPACE

Scott Morrison told by Queanbeyan local to get off lawn

June 04

In a week when the US leader was clearly protestors from their public city with the full might of police force so he could stand around doing an unplanned photo op where he couldn’t even find some words to say of merit.

My national leader was taking it in all his stride when yelled at by a disgruntled home owner.

Talking up a reno scheme he was assembled in front of a property with press journalists lined up on someone’s lawn to film him.

That wasn’t bloody good enough for the guy inside his house, waltzing out in thongs and tracksuit jumper he asked the journos to move. The Prime Minister didn’t waste a second to apologise and encourage getting off the man’s lawn.

Both the lawn enthusiast and the Prime Minister Scott Morrison exchanged apologies gave each other the thumbs up.

After all the man had just re-seeded!

The disparity between the two images was incredible.

A lone man telling his Prime Minister to move his press conference with a quick apology and thumbs up.

Contrast that with hundreds protesting the injustice of racial inequality of their country only to be forcibly moved so their President could try and save face for his failings.

I’ve often commented on the bulldoggish nature of Morrison as a virtue and a flaw. There was none of that on display here. He couldn’t have risen higher in my estimations.

 

 

On the horizon though was another issue for the Prime Minister which would prove more testing. Black Lives Matter protests were starting to take place here in Australia with a march already on Tuesday in Sydney having taken place when public gatherings were limited to 20 people.

On Wednesday there was a candlelight vigil in Brisbane.

Speaking to Ray Hadley on 2GB radio Thursday morning the PM warned against “importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia.” while acknowledging that Australia had problems “in this space” that it needed to address.

He was not wrong, there had been over 432 deaths of Aboriginals in police custody since a Royal Commission was held in 1991.

As the week went on it became clear our political masters were choosing to let mass protests go ahead rather than risk further unrest. This would lay bare either the danger had passed or that the protestors had initiated a new break out. Either way it would undermine their ability to enforce rules going forward as most of them were in a rush to lower restrictions anyway.

We stood at a precipice.

Once again the Prime Minister called on our better natures “We don’t need the divisions that we’re seeing in other countries – we need to stick together and look after each other.”

 

 

I was back at work in the office on Thursday too having been away for two and half weeks. I took the chance to pay the money that had been raised on the GoFundMePage to Stellarossa Toowong.

The manager told me the money raised would pay for roughly 112 coffee vouchers but they had gotten 200 and would chip in the rest themselves.

You have to marvel at the kindness of people sometimes.

I started making arrangements with the Media Team at the Wesley hospital to make delivery.

On the 4th of June the World Health Organisation reported there had been 7,229 confirmed cases in Australian with a daily increase of eight. The number of dead 102 with a daily decrease of one. That would be Blackwater Miner Nathan Turner.

 

 

In the rest of Europe there were plenty of protests too and in London they were turning ugly with reporters assaulted by protestors or just plain crazy people.

As I watched Nine News Europe Correspondent Ben Avery and camera operator Cade Thompson needing to make a run for it as the crowd attacked them even with a security guard.

Europe Correspondent Sophie Walsh was accosted by a random man who was chased away by her cameraman Jason Conduit.

I urged my sister to stay inside in the coming days.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – BORDER WARS – PART II

Queensland border restrictions in Darling Downs - Darling Downs

There was another great Four Corners episode this week from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that covered what had happened on the last cruises of the Diamond Princess in February in the North Pacific and the Ruby Princess in March in the Trans-Tasman Sea.

What was pretty concerning wasn’t just the disembarkation of passengers in Sydney on the 19th of March.

What was more concerning that the cruise had ever been allowed to leave Sydney given how COVID-19 had spread through her sister ship in Asia in February. Or the lack of precautions that were made during the cruise when an outbreak was clearly occurring.

For many of us the initial news reports coming out of that part of the world were perceived as something happening over there like previous diseases SARS and MERS.

As the situation escalated at some point the actions of Carnival Corporation become troubling. And people died.

It’s quite a heartbreaking tale.

 

May 27

In Blackwater a town of less than 5,000 in Central Queensland the late miner aged 30 returned a positive postmortem test for COVID-19. In the days ahead with the set-up of fever clinics and contract tracing in the town a second test came back negative.

Nathan Turner had underlying medical conditions that had meant he had been unable to work in recent months due to illness. At age 30 he came the youngest fatality in Australia of COVID-19. The second test was good news for the town in terms of COVID fears but his death remained a tragic loss of one so young.

 

 

There were 484 active cases in Australia on the 25th of May.

On the 17th of March there had been 410 cases which was on the eve of the Ruby Princess docking and ceasing international air travel.

Allowing that changes were in place that weren’t then and awareness from the general populace was different there was a growing push to re-open the economy.

However Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws from the University of NSW advised the same day “Given that there is that, we should be waiting for 14 days … to get to zero and then add those two incubation periods before we start hopping on aeroplanes or coaches or cars to states and territories that have been exemplary in getting their numbers to zero“.

Two days later Prime Minister Scott Morrison spoke on the Channel Nine Today show, “The National Cabinet has never agreed that there should be borders closed in Australia,” Mr Morrison said. That was never the medical expert advice that came at any time. Premiers and their governments in states, whether it is South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, have all made their own decisions and so they have got to justify those decisions.

The Federal and State governments have worked hard through their differences at all times during the crisis at unprecedented levels. NSW and Victoria pushed hard to shut down schools and now there were disagreements about the borders.

In the early days of the crisis as the state borders shut it was considered that it may be until September before they were opened again. Now the momentum was shifting.

There is no doubt that those sort of borders do harm the economy, they do harm jobs and it is important that we get those removed as soon as possible. I want to stress, the national medical advice that came from the expert panel that has driven all the other decisions never recommended closing borders.” said the PM.

Queensland Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk noted “These are really hard decisions everyone, I have sleepless nights, I understand people are hurting, I understand people have lost their jobs. I want to get people back into work as quickly as possible. But if I don’t do it safely it could cripple our industry for years to come.

Other states were holding firm too. The Tasmania Premier Peter Gutwein advised “I won’t comment on the way the Queensland premier deals with her borders nor how the NSW premier deals with hers. It’s quite obvious the federal government has a view but my job is to protect the best interests of Tasmanians.

The Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan said “The interstate border will stay. It’s a small inconvenience … it won’t be forever. Our hard borders with the east and our isolation have worked to our advantage and we must keep it that way for now.

This was on the 28th of May, history was about to push the trajectory of these plans in another direction.

-Lloyd Marken

COVID-19 DIARY – THE ECONOMIC ROAD AHEAD

View from The Hill: Can Scott Morrison achieve industrial ...

May 26

Tuesday.

The Prime Minister did an address at the National Press Club in Canberra talking about the tough road ahead economically with a plan to stick with the National Cabinet meetings over the previous COAG meetings.

Reform to vocational education was on his mind and bringing unions to the table for industrial reform.

The Prime Minister outlined the road to recovery would be a long one taking between three to five years. The unprecedented actions of Jobkeeper and Jobseeker set in place for a financial quarter would not continue indefinitely with the PM warning “At some point you’ve got to get your economy out of ICU.”

The ABC article also editorialised “The blunt comments are expected to further dash hopes that the Government will bow to pressure and extend the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme to more workers who missed out on the $1,500 fortnightly payments.

He also announced a new JobMaker scheme.

There was no push to have Australia turn more inward, while the Prime Minister defined us as a sovereign trading economy he sought to create an educated workforce that would mean competitive and modern manufacturing, agricultural industries while still trade of natural resources would play a big role.

Firstly, we will remain in Australia an outward-looking, open and sovereign trading economy.

We will not retreat into the downward spiral of protectionism. To the contrary, we will continue to be part of global supply chains that can deliver the prosperity we rely on to create jobs, support incomes and build businesses.

Our economic sovereignty will be achieved by ensuring our industries are highly competitive, resilient and able to succeed in a global market. Not by protectionism.

While a trading nation, we will never trade away our values or our future for short-term gain.

These remarks were not without context, Australia did call for an independent enquiry into the source of COVID-19 in Wuhan and in the weeks since China has placed tariffs and seen a reduction in importing Australian barley and wheat.

As China has grown into the a economic powerhouse it has started flexing abroad in trade and in military excursions. No different than other superpowers before it but surely any calls that could help in combating this global pandemic should not lead to bullying tactics.

As the ABC reported the country faced a record deficit, debt exceeding 30% of Gross Domestic Product, unemployment hovering around 10 per cent and a fall in foreign investment by up to 40 per cent.

 

The national leader relayed all the work that had been done to build up medical stockpiles, hospital capacity and testing numbers and contract tracing abilities.

The virus was not going anywhere and on our comparative good fortune the PM stressed, “We should not downplay this, this achievement and pretend like the risk never existed, or that our preparations or our precautions were unwarranted. Let me assure you, Australia, the risk was great and uncertain and it still is.

The fact our worst case scenarios have not been realised is cause for great relief, not apathy.

In his speech the Prime Minister outlined more than 5 million Australians were directly benefiting from his government’s welfare measures.

At a now anticipated direct cost of more than $150 billion in just six months, all borrowed, all of it, against future tax revenue. These supports can only be temporary.

It was William Green, the leader of the American Federation of Labour who said during the Great Depression in 1934: “we cannot indefinitely support one sixth of our population on money borrowed against future taxes”.

That was a Labour leader in the Great Depression.

Now here was a mainstream conservative leader steering through a once in a century health crisis, a budding trade war and a looming recession who had outspent all previous Prime Ministers.

The expense the welfare packages running long term came with a hefty price tag. Long term it was just not feasible even for the biggest bleeding hearts amongst us.

Which drove home the gravity of the situation, if Jobkeeper and Jobseeker continued for only the next quarter and the economy didn’t re-open to a certain extent by then…

Then what?

On the 2nd of June, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg told us what we already knew, Australia was in a recession.

On the 26th of May however the Prime Minister was focussed on the positives. Citing that with a hopeful completion of the 3 Step Plan by mid-July for re-opening the economy across the country there would hopefully be 850,000 jobs ultimately restored.

He did acknowledge the idea of flicking a switch and turning the economy back on was simply not plausible.

Success in this current phase will certainly not be easy. It cannot be assumed as we go through this process. It will not be business as usual. Opening up will be harder than closing down.

We will all have to have to retrain, to live and work in a way that creates a sustainable COVIDSafe economy and society as you are indeed doing here today.

All of us are in uncharted territory. There will be inconsistencies, there will be frustrations. There will be trial, there will be error.

During this time we can also sadly expect unemployment and underemployment to rise before it falls. Debt and deficits to rise sharply, as costs rise and revenues fall.

This will test our confidence and our resolve.

That is why the reopening of our economy must be followed by a concerted effort to create momentum and to rebuild confidence.

If there was hope to be found in the speech it was when he said “We should be encouraged that we have restored jobs and rebalanced our Budget before. So Australia, we have done this before and we can do it again, together.

 

One could get cynical about these things, there is after all a political purpose behind them. A number of highly paid staff curating and writing the brief and deciding what goes in and what doesn’t make it.
I would remind you that in these words the Prime Minister is talking about real people and in these few individuals he is seeking to talk about all of us and not just Australians but all people.
About people who have lost a lot and the grace and courage they display in these moments that came from within them and lies within each and every one of us.
We will need this courage and grace and so we need these words to be said by our leaders now more than ever and we need to believe in them.

Almost 100,000 Australians have written to me in the past couple of months.

So many have suffered and they continue to hurt, right here and right now – lost jobs, reduced hours, seeing their family businesses shut, having to close those doors, or retirement incomes shrink. Loved ones kept apart.

It has been a time of great uncertainty as Australians have had to come to terms with the sudden and profound changes happening to their lives.

Greg is a chef with six kids in Sydney, he wrote to me about his business suffering from the restrictions, saying that everything he has worked for is at risk.

Sue from Jimbooma, told me that other than a first home owners grant, she had never received a cent from the government. JobKeeper has saved her business, she said, and she just wanted to say thank you.

Anthony, not the one you’re thinking of, but quite genuinely Anthony from Western Australia, he sent me his wedding photo. His wife of 50 years had just passed away. He said his wife “was the most caring person you could ever meet” and he was absolutely heartbroken that he couldn’t give her the send-off she deserved. Of all the things, of all the decisions we have taken, that was undoubtedly the hardest.

And I received an email from three children in Western Australia that completely floored me, their father is terminally ill. They told me they understood their Dad’s funeral would have to be small. They wanted me to know they were ok with that – because it will help keep the hospitals available for other patients with cancers and diseases.

That’s incredible, our people are amazing.

And there was Rebhecca, a young woman, who is also terminally ill and sent me a handwritten letter, just wanting to let me know she was praying for me every day.

And I am praying for you every day too.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – ONE YEAR ON

Australia's Election Did Not Involve a 'Populist Wave' | National ...

 

18 May

A truck driver had made deliveries to twelve McDonalds while asymptomatic.

Out of caution McDonalds closed the twelve stores and had staff present on each occasion isolate at home for two weeks and get tested.

This was part of the cluster that originated with a store in Fawkner, Melbourne and affected 1,000 staff. At the time only twelve cases of COVID-19 related to this incident.

The Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews warned “We’re going to see more of these outbreaks.”

The Cedar Meats Abattoir linked to 100 COVID-19 cases earlier in Victoria was now partially re-opening.

For me it did highlight as we began to get to low number of active cases in Australia that the virus was still going to be with us, that we were going to have break-outs and that the rush to get back to levels of activity pre COVID carried a far greater risk. In my mind the spread of these break-outs we were seeing could be minimised by lower levels of social interaction.

 

A McDonald's restaurant with a closed sign on the door and red and white tape around a "now hiring" sign.

 

May 18 held significance for another reason that really didn’t receive a lot of focus in the media.

A year earlier I had worked for the Australian Electoral Commission on Election Night counting votes in a warehouse somewhere.

I had done temporary work for the AEC in 2016 before doing temporary work for the ECQ.

Karen had worked all that day at a polling station like she does at local and state elections.

In 2016 I had worked as a driver on election day, three years later I stated clearly an interest to do further work counting. I feel fortunate to have this extra work as I try to get ahead in life and this was even more so 18MAY2019 when I remained on contract.

I was in the warehouse just before sunset and left around about midnight.

On my way in I drove past what I knew to be the venue where my parents had their wedding reception. A lot had changed since then so my parents had never really taken us there.

After my shift I walked into the main bar area and looked around for a big staircase with a chandelier. There were not a lot of people around. I walked upstairs and found myself at a doorway of a function room.

Inside were a few people in red T-shirts looking sad. This was my first indication of the election results and then up on the screen was Opposition Leader Bill Shorten announcing he had congratulated the Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

I drove home and my amazing Karen served dinner even thoigh she had worked a very long day.

 

 

On the screen Morrison stood with his two cute daughters and beautiful wife on stage. They looked like the middle class families who had voted him in.

In an age of economic uncertainty and identity politics this image of a regular family man was part of the appeal.

The Labour party had put forward an ambitious platform of reform and change just like the conservative campaign of 1993.

A former marketing guru Morrison had reinvented himself from the hard man Immigration Minister he had been, pushing himself as a point of difference from Bill Shorten who knifed two Labour Prime Ministers in a row and his immediate predecessor the urbane and statesman like Malcolm Turnbull who had never won an outright electoral victory to leverage his party room into backing his more ambitious and progressive intents.

 

 

Despite this Morrison had polled badly against Shorten throughout the campaign and so on the 18th of May he quite rightly proclaimed “I have always believed in miracles.”

A year later it may seem hyperbole but Prime Minister Scott Morrison may be steering us through the most difficult times this country has faced since World War II.

 

General Douglas MacArthur | MacArthur/Curtain Alliance | General ...

 

Prime Minister John Curtin broke from Britain and faced imminent invasion in 1942. Like Roosevelt he died in office before the war ended.

There have been other wars and times when the country seemed to be tearing itself apart. There have been great reformers and leaders who saw us through a crisis or two and pushed through unpopular policies that bore out in time. Menzies, Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd. They’ve all got something to be proud if not many things.

 

Don't change gun laws, John Howard tells Liberals

 

Yet in the twelve months since 18MAY2018 Scott Morrison was heading us towards an economic surplus. When the bushfires started in September he was up at a Canungra sharing a cry with a local resident.

 

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Then he went to Hawaii, then he came back and forced handshakes at Cobargo.

 

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Then he called out the military and attempted to re-write history in press interviews about what happened when the Australian people knew better.

When his father passed after a lifetime of service to the community as a policeman and politician you could see Morrison was hurting but it was hard to drum up sympathy given the anger those lies stirred within.

 

Scott Morrison's father John dies at 84 | St George & Sutherland ...

 

Yet the bulldog  in him sucked it up and got on with the job. This personality trait may prove his undoing but it has also seen him through some tough times.

Since March, Prime Minister Morrison has sacrificed his economic good fortune to ensure all Australians have a roof over their head and money for food and medicine. He’s given lifelines to numerous businesses and while we were arguably a week or two behind putting in place restrictions in comparison to other countries Australia so far has come through.

That can’t be attributed to all one man nor would he want it to be but we have to give credit where credit is due.

A year ago Scott Morrison would never have been able to imagine what he would have to deal with in the next 12 months as Prime Minister.

So far he has proven himself capable and I for one am hoping he will continue to do so.

A trade war is looming with China, international tourism and investments are seriously impacted by COVID-19 and with a slowed down economy not everybody is going to go back to their pre-COVID earning capacity.

There is going to be real suffering in our country and around the world but so far Morrison has managed to keep cases numbers and the spreading of the disease low, provide a safety net for most of the populace and plan ahead as best he can.

I hope for all of our sakes, his second year in office proves less stressful.

-Lloyd Marken

 

COVID-19 DIARY – A 3 STEP PROGRAM

The Brooklyn 'disaster morgue' on sunset park pier, pictured on May 6 with the statue of liberty looming behind the trucks through the fog

May 4

It was Labour Day with me staying home due to a public holiday.

The rest of the week I was due to work from home as well.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that Prep, Year 1, 11 and 12 would return to school next Monday May 11. For the other grades it was planned for them to remain remote learning with a return to classrooms May 25.

 

5 May

For the first time since the pandemic took off 2 months ago, President Trump leaves Washington D.C. to visit a mask factory in Honeywell, Arizona. In a press conference he stresses that the country has to be re-opened soon mentioning the fact that death from drug use and suicide increase during unemployment.

People are dying the other way, too. When you look at what’s happened with drugs, it goes up. When you look at suicides, I mean, take a look at what’s going on. People are losing their jobs. We have to bring it back and that’s what we’re doing.

30 million Americans had filed for unemployment claims.

President Trump also said of the rising death toll due to COVID-19  “I always felt 60, 65, 70, as horrible as that is. I mean, you’re talking about filling up Yankee Stadium with death! So I thought it was horrible. But it’s probably going to be somewhat higher than that.

He also talked about dialling down the Coronavirus taskforce but over the next few hours that it would remain pivoting to focus on reopening.

 

7 May

It was fair to say things were getting better in Australia in early May. The danger was still present but there were days when states were not reporting any new cases. In comparison to what could  have happened and what was taking place in other countries Australians could breathe somewhat a sigh of relief.

The danger now was to not take this status quo for granted, to not squander our safety with rash decisions. A second wave seemed inevitable so how best to manage it.

April 7 Keep it under control

That week there was an all too clear example of how things could still escalate even with all the restrictions that had been put in place remaining.

In Melbourne, there was an outbreak at the Cedar Meats abattoir leading to 62 confirmed cases.

On Thursday the 7th of May there were 13 new cases reported in the state, twelve of them related to the meatworks. The number of cases in Victoria was 1,154.

The World Health Organisation reported the same day that Australia had 6,875 with a daily increase of 26. There were 97 deaths with a daily increase of one.

With talk of restrictions being lowered in other states the Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews advised he would not be lowering any restrictions until Victoria’s State of Emergency ended next Monday.

There isn’t a jurisdiction in the world that has gone that way that hasn’t had harder lockdowns the second time around compared to the first,” he said.

The Monday was the day after Mother’s Day.

Everyone wants to be with their mum but let’s be really cautious, let’s be really careful not to be spreading the virus. We’ve come a long way. Let’s not give it all back.

I can tell you what I’ll be doing on Mother’s Day. I will not be visiting my mum, even if it was lawful for me to do that. She’s in her mid-70s. She’s in good health but she has some underlying health issues and I just wouldn’t do it, [even though] I’d very much like to.

 

A temporary morgue using refrigerated trucks is set up outside of the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner

 

8 May

Australia’s good fortune clashed with what was happening around the world. I hoped the lessons from them could help us to not be so cavalier about the risk.

Another example of this was the parking of 50 refrigerated trucks in Sunset Park, Brooklyn as funeral homes and moratories were overwhelmed in New York City.

We had seen footage already of such trucks parked outside hospitals but the parking of them in a group even if not all were full underlined the amount of death occurring.

 

 

On the 30th of April Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had told us “Australians deserve an early mark for the work that they’ve done. We can’t keep Australia under the doona. We need to be able to move ahead.

He followed up this mindset in a press conference held the following Friday, the 8th of May.

There will be risks, there will be challenges, there will be outbreaks, there will be more cases, there will be setbacks.

Not everything will go to plan.

There will be inconsistencies. States will and must move at their own pace, and will cut and paste out of this plan to suit their local circumstances.

There will undoubtedly be some human error. No-one is perfect.

Everyone is doing their best.

To think or expect otherwise, I think, would be very unrealistic. This is a complex and very uncertain environment.

But we cannot allow our fear of going backwards from stopping us from going forwards.

Earlier he had offered words of encouragement stating.

That every Australian matters.

Every life, every job, every future.

And we have learnt some important lessons that we can meet the tests, as we have, and the challenges that we have so far confronted.

That when we have to, we can and we do pull together.

That we can focus on something bigger than just ourselves.

He then offered a 3 Step program on the road to what was hoped would be the successful lowering of restrictions.

Each step would be subject to review every three weeks to implement the next step but the situation would be constantly monitored and subject to change.

They’re not formal reviews — I’d describe them more as stocktakes as to where the framework is at, and looking at where all the states are, and how we’re going towards our ultimate aspiration of being [at Step 3] in July.” explained the Prime Minister.

Also the Prime Minister was leaving it up to each Premier to action the steps in line with the particular situation currently in each state.

New South Wales and Victoria had the highest number of cases. The Northern Territory and Western Australia the lowest.

Step 1 involved five people coming over to your house and gatherings of 10 people in outdoor parks, pools, restaurants, community centres, playgrounds, boot camps and public libraries.

There could be ten people at a wedding and 30 at a funeral. Queensland stipulated if it was outdoors it could be 30, indoors only 20.

You could drive up to 150 kilometres from your place.

Following his news conference South Australia committed to step 1 to be implement that Monday.

Victoria said it would decide on the 11th.

Queensland committed Saturday May 16 or specifically midnight next Friday.

Tasmania would lift some restrictions on the 11th and planned to do others on the 18th.

New South Wales with the most cases said there would be no changes yet. Half of all cases in Australia were in New South Wales.

The Northern Territory had already set a roadmap for themselves coming out of lockdown. When they started lifting restrictions on the 5th of May, 28 of all 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Territory had recovered and there had been no new cases for over a month.

The Chief Health Officer Brendan Murphy flagged going to work sick, ” No more heroics of coming to work with a cough and a cold and a sore throat. That’s off the agenda for every Australian for the foreseeable future. I think we’ve all been guilty of that at various times. I know I have. We’re all going to have to change that mentality.

Step 2 would involve gatherings of 20 people, the potential opening of gyms, cinemas, galleries, museums and beauty therapists. Distances of 250 kilometres from home.

Step 3 hoped to be reached in July would look at interstate travel, maybe even travel in the AUS-NZ bubble and gatherings of 100 people. Pubs and clubs would only be looked at for step 3. It seemed like only yesterday that the Prime Minister on the 13th of March had announced gatherings would be restricted to only 100 people in the country from the 16th onwards.

The announcement was made as Australia already had seen an increase in the total number of cases that week with 97 by Friday. Up from 78 the previous week. Yet the plan to re-open and the number of cases per capita in Australia were in stark contrast to Europe and the Americas where some national leaders like Trump were stating re-opening was imminent.

When the PM was asked by a journalist, “Prime Minister, you mentioned earlier that there will be outbreaks, you say that there will be clusters. Is it a case that the states, the territories and Australians will need to hold their nerve once they go down this path and not snap back to tighten restrictions?“.

He simply replied “Yes.”

Interestingly with the announcement that people would be able to return to dining soon we had already organised to catch up with friends over dinner via skype.

Including with a friend who had injured her ankle, it raised her temperature so she spent a night in a COVID ward.

She was now doing well albeit with her leg in a cast. She has gone out of her way to support local businesses during the economic downturn.

I had been in touch with people more on the phone recently but it was nice to have everybody conversing together.

I also pulled out the port but sadly ran out of Galway Pipe and had to make the switch to Cockburns which apparently I was mispronouncing.

Drinking GIF on GIFER - by Morardred

 

Stay safe everyone.

-Lloyd Marken

 

 

COVID-19 DIARY – WHEN WILL THE WEST CREST?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this fuckbag was talking about ratings!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can COP21 Save the World? - Pacific Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here was a leader.

-Lloyd Marken