COVID-19 DIARY – HEAVILY WEIGHED DECISIONS – PART I

May 03

Monday.

The vaccine rollout continued in Australia with vaccinations being opened up to the 2A Cohort. Anyone over 50 could now get the jab and the main jab available was the AstraZeneca one.

This had followed discussions at National Cabinet.

Politically it was commented that maybe with the vaccine rollout not going smoothly the Prime Minister had moved to more closely consult with state Premiers to achieve results and to also share any blame for failure to deliver.

Either way, with the decision to list Pfizer as the preferred jab for under 50s, the very rare examples of blood clotting being reported in media, and elements of the community that were fearful or against vaccinations – there was now a need to build momentum and confidence.

Sometimes I worry that people have become complacent over our good fortune here in Australia.

There are plenty of countries that avoided major outbreaks for some time before falling foul of the virus.

There was also talk about the need to open up borders and that would only be suitable once we got the majority of the population vaccinated.

So this was the next step and a step in the right direction.

Nearly 16 million doses would be part of 2A which was a cohort of six million Australians aged 50 to 69.

I knew that still not all of 1B had been completed which included people with disabilities and the staff at their centres.

Across the country people were lining up at vaccination hubs including people like the 53 year old recently re-elected Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan who rolled up his sleeve for the AstraZeneca jab.

In Melbourne there were waiting times for people who just rocked up on the day – some as long as two hours.

On Monday a new element to the India travel ban that had been announced on Saturday came into effect.

Any travellers who have been in India in the 14 days leading up to their date of arrival in Australia could face jail time of up to five years and a fine of up to $66,000.

The law appeared to be unprecedented and in some circles was labelled immoral and inhuman.

“It is incredibly disproportionate to the threat that is posed,” GP Dr Vyom Sharma told Weekend Breakfast.

Our families are quite literally dying in India overseas. Many people are trying to come back. We know that hundreds of people in this situation are classify as medically and financially vulnerable, to have absolutely no way of getting them out — this is abandonment,” he said.

A week previously the WA Premier Mark McGowan had said, “India is an epicentre of death and destruction as we speak.I don’t think there is any need to go to India, I don’t.

Epidemiologist Michael Toole, from the Burnet Institute cited a lack of confidence in hotel quarantine from the government.

By his count there had been 16 separate leaks from hotel quarantine in the past six months in five major capital cities.

We need to do that by ensuring that the ventilation in every hotel room is adequate and that staff wear the most appropriate protective equipment, including respiratory masks. That just hasn’t happened because we don’t have a national standard. Each state and territory is basically doing their own thing,” he cited as a possible solution.

As I said, we’ve seen in 16 times in the last 6 months. And if we don’t make any improvements, we can expect more than a dozen more breaches to occur in the section six months,” he told.

Hysterical and ruinous': Christmas Island furious over Australia's  coronavirus plans | Christmas Island | The Guardian

Opposition MP Jason Clare suggested Christmas Island as a solution as had been done a year earlier with people returning from China but notably that was previous to the Howard Springs facility being set up.

According to Education Minister Alan Tudge, the Howard Springs facility in the Northern Territory currently has an infection rate of 15 per cent, well above the goal of 2 per cent.

Fifty-seven per cent of the positive cases in quarantine had been arrivals from India. It was placing a very, very significant burden on health and medical services in states and territories,” Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dlsms4JhCCY

May 04

In the 24 hours leading up to Tuesday morning across Victoria’s 22 mass vaccination hubs there had been a record 6,923 doses administered.

As media spotlight ramped up on the travel ban, Prime Minister Scott Morrison when interviewed said, “I think it would be very remote circumstances that would see them imposed. I don’t want to see them necessarily imposed anywhere because I don’t want to see people breaching the rule. If everybody cooperates, then we can get things in a stronger position and that means we can start those repatriation flights again.

The Australian Medical Association had written a letter to the Prime Minister and Health Minister to remove the jail terms and fine amounts.

“To be clear, the AMA is supportive of the pause on flights so that our hotel quarantine system can be readied for the increased risk that we are clearly seeing now of Australians returning with the virus … from India,” AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said.

“The government, in our view, should be doing everything in its power — chartering flights, using our Defence Force if necessary — to bring the most vulnerable of the Australians in India home. In the longer term there’s also the need to replace hotel quarantine with purpose-built facilities, and I’ve had a conversation with the Minister of Health expressing that view today, and the AMA will continue to fight for that.”

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: May 4, 2020

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.

COVID-19 DIARY – ROLL OUT ROLL UP – PART IX

Rare blood clots from AstraZeneca vaccine mostly affect younger people |  Financial Times

April 16

A New South Wales woman had died after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There had been 79 clotting incidents following 20 million jabs of the vaccine in the UK.

Now there had been three in Australia.

As the federal government looked to ramp up their vaccine rollout the numbers were daunting.

Currently 100,000 Pfizer doses were arriving every week.

That needed to ramp up to 1,500,000 doses a week to meet to all 40 million doses arrive by year’s end. Close to 50 million doses would be needed to vaccinate the whole population.

THe 40 million Pfizer doses of course were only part of 170 million doses we had on order.

It was unlikely we would receive all doses by Christmas but the end goal had to be vaccinating people as quickly as possible. Novavax was still unapproved, delivery numbers of Pfizer was less than ideal and now the AstraZeneca was not the preferred choice for under 50s.

April 17

Forty eight year-old Genene Norris of the New South Wales Central Coast had passed away from blood clots having received the AstraZeneca vaccine. On saturday The Therapeutic Goods Administration advised her death was likely linked to the vaccine. She received her jab on the morning of the 8th of April hours before the government changed their policy. She did have underlying health conditions including diabetes.

Her family made a statement, “We cannot believe that this time last week she was with us and now she is gone.

There were three cases of rare blood clotting following over 900,000 vaccinations in Australia so far.

A woman from Western Australia and a man from Victoria, both in their 40s were now recovering.

We have seen some hesitancy … particularly in the state-run clinics,” the Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly said in regards to shaken confidence in getting the vaccine.

One of the crucial components about vaccine hesitancy, or the opposite vaccine certainty, is about understanding and knowing that if there is bad news, it’s told. That there is openness from people like myself,” he explained.

A recent Oxford University study had pointed out that getting COVID led to an even higher risk of getting blood clotting which Professor Kelly referred.

The vast majority of our citizens know the benefits of taking a vaccine, they also know the risks, as slight as it is. I turned 50 last year and got the jab and am very excited to get the second one. The vast majority of our citizens want a vaccine, want to get ahead of it,” advised New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oZyVY0gE1c&list=PLsBzd5S5fFgFdYL2NUa6np-BQIis6Z8cX&index=21

April 18

There had been 330,000 vaccinations carried out in Australia in the past seven days but anecdotally a Sydney GP told of a halving of his vaccination bookings.

We need those vaccinations to be in people’s arms not in the fridges so I appeal to everyone to come in and get vaccinated because this vaccine is a safe vaccine,” Dr Rifi said.

National Cabinet meetings were scheduled to go every two weeks to work through vaccination roll out issues.

On the 18th of April, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 140,373,652 confirmed cases globally with a daily increase of 835,129.

We reached 3 million deaths worldwide from COVID the same day.

3,005,346 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 11,858.

In Papua New Guinea there had been 9,738 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 223. There had been 89 deaths with a daily increase of five.

April 15th had marked the highest number of new daily deaths in the country with eleven. 

In Australia there had been 29,505 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 21. There had been 910 deaths.

On the 29th of December the last COVID death in Australia had been reported. 

April 14th, 2021 marked the first new death from COVID in the country since then. 

In Canada there had been 1,106,062 confirmed cases 9,346. There had been 23,541 deaths with a daily increase of 41.

Cases were surging.

A record of new daily cases had been reached in the country on December 28, 2020 with 9,827 cases.

That record was broken on April 13th, 2021 with 9,936 new daily cases and it would be again on the 21st of April, 2021 with 10,275 new cases.

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,385,942 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 2,206. There had been 127,260 deaths with a daily increase of 35.

In Brazil there had been 13,832,455 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 85,774. There had been 368,749 deaths with a daily increase of 3,305.

In India there had been 14,788,109 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 261,500. There had been 177,150 deaths with a daily increase of 1,501.

The next day there were 273,810 new daily confirmed cases.1,619 new reported daily deaths.

Every day was a grim new record.

A week later 349,691 new daily cases and 2,767 deaths. 

Every day in between a new record.

In the United States of America there had been 31,250,635 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 73,697. There had been 560858 deaths with a daily increase of 911.

ONE YEAR EARLIER: April 17, 2020

The World Health Organisation reported there had been 2,080,235 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 81,839.

139,507 people had died from COVID-19. The daily increase was 8,473.

COVID-19 DIARY – SEEING IT THROUGH

March 29

The lockdown on Monday Night threw a spanner in the works of my plan to reach 100 kilometres by walking on the treadmill at my gym.

So I asked Karen if she would walk with me around our local neighbourhood. I was concerned about recording the distance accurately and covering a lot of distance.

As we walked along I would decide we would go just one more street over, we won’t go here we change direction down there. We won’t stop here, we’ll go up to the petrol station.

I was concerned we were only covering five kilometres the first night but when I went back and went step by step on Google Maps we had covered much more. Karen of course already knew that.

Karen walked with me as I limped along over those two nights. I’m not sure I could have done it without her.

The first night we covered 7.6 kilometres walking for two hours and twenty minutes.

The first night we reached the end of the Kokoda Track.

March 30

Tuesday we did the first proper day of the second snap lockdown. I worked from home.

There were eight new locally acquired cases in Brisbane.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital it was announced would go into lockdown.

“In light of recent cases of COVID-19 that have been linked to the ward 5D at Princess Alexandra (PA) Hospital, a decision has been made for PA hospital to go into lockdown today,” Queensland’s Metro South Hospital and Health Service confirmed in a statement.

“As a precautionary measure, we are continuing to test all staff that have worked in ward 5D at PA Hospital between midday Friday, March 19 and 4:00pm Sunday, March 28.”

Ward 5D is the PA Hospital’s infectious diseases ward. 

Two clusters of cases involved PA staff.

One linking back to the Doctor from the PA from March 12 that led to a landscaper testing positive on on March 25th and now a nurse who possibly got it from a returned traveller from India but had not had direct contact with the patient. The nurse from the PA and her sister had recently been in Bryon Bay for a Hen’s Party.

The Health Minister advised at the time of these cases not enough health workers had received their full vaccinations.

14,589 peole got tested.

For the first time masks were mandatory across the state.

Mater Mother’s hospital sent home staff, one of the new cases had been to the maternity ward recently.

With cases having travelled as far as Bryon Bay and Gladstone and with a few new daily cases it remained to be seen if the snap lockdown would end on Thursday night on the eve of the Easter weekend.

In Toowoomba one school had shut down since many of its teachers had recently been to Brisbane and were in lockdown. There was one case of COVID in Toowoomba hospital.

This virus has not gone away, it is circulating we know in the Brisbane area, at least, so people should be taking those precautions of the COVID-safe behaviours that we’ve been saying all along — keep your physical distance, remember your cough etiquette, wash your hands often, all of these things remain important,” said Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly.

On Tuesday night Karen and I walked together again to complete my March On Campaign for the charity Soldier On which helps veterans.

I promised the walk would be shorter than the previous night but it was still 4.4 kilometres covered in 1 hour and twenty five minutes.

I got past my intended goal of 100 killometres with 103 kilometres covered during the month of March.

I would now rest up my hammy and wait for the gyms to re-open.

As we closed out the month, I absolutely couldn’t believe it but $270 had been raised by my donors which was very humbling and good news for our veterans who needed and deserved our help.

Defence Annual Report 2003-04 :: Chapter One :: Year in Review :: Operation  Anode :: Photograph 4

There were 6,268 participants in the March On campaign.

They raised $1,549,576 dollars for veterans and covered 483,060 kilometres.

Amongst them was Soldier On patron 102 year old World War II veteran Sgt Bert who walked 159 kilometres himself during the March On campaign.

Soldier On, was a not for profit charity founded in 2012 to support veterans by John Bale, Cavin Wilson and Danielle Clout. Bale had been close friends with Lieutenant Michael Fussell who was killed in Afghanistan. Three thousand veterans and their families are supported by the charity with a holistic approach to their physical and mental wounds with employment programs, health and wellbeing services, learning and participation activities.

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: March 30, 2020

Jobkeeper is introduced in Australia and hospital ship UNSN Comfort enters New York City harbour. A field hospital is built in Central Park.

COVID-19 DIARY – UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

Global Covid report: Belgium facing new lockdown as Germany takes in  patients | Belgium | The Guardian

March 14

In New South Wales a hotel quarantine worker at the Sofitel Hotel tested positive to COVID.

What was noteworthy about the case is the man had already been vaccinated.

Although let’s unpack that a little.

The security guard received his first Pfizer jab on the 2nd of March.

When he tested after most recent shifts March 5th and 6th going into the early hours of the 7th he tested negative after those shifts.

When he returned to work on the Saturday he tested positive.

That’s one jab of Pfizer less than a week earlier when he most likely became infected and the Pfizer jabs works on a basis of two jabs three weeks apart with full effectiveness reached a week after the second jab.

[This is] obviously good news, but you should be aware the antibody reaction required from vaccination doesn’t get confirmed or doesn’t achieve its maximum [until] some time after the first and second vaccination,” noted New South Wales Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Add to this is the simple fact that medicos are advising particularly with the new strains, vaccinations don’t stop you from getting COVID they stop you from hopefully coming down with a severe case with it.

As we have said all along, vaccination helps but it does not necessarily stop you getting the virus,” Hazzard said.

COVID NSW: No new cases linked to Sofitel Wentworth hotel quarantine |  Daily Telegraph

While we are still learning how the vaccines impacted transmission, what we would hope for … is if you are vaccinated, you probably don’t have such a high viral load, you are protected against severe illness. Your viral load may well be lower and, therefore, it will potentially stop you transmitting it to the same degree. But a lot of this work is still being looked at and the science is being worked through as we literally speak.,” advised New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant.

[The vaccine is] very effective, but not 100 per cent effective” against mild and moderate disease, but it was almost 100 per cent effective against severe disease, hospitalisation and death,” said Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly.

It’s why the measures we have in place will have a part to play in our daily lives for many a while yet.

The Prime Minister Scott Morrison receiving his second shot advised, “You should still try to observe the COVID-safe behaviours — I’m wearing a mask today.

One hundred and thirty hotel quarantine workers who worked the same shift with the guard on Friday March 12th going into Saturday morning were getting tested and isolating.

Contract tracing was underway for the locations the guard had hit in between his negative and postive test results.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported there had been 136,000 people go through the 14 day hotel quarantine since March 2020.

There had been 5,048 cases in New South Wales during the pandemic.

This case ended a 65 day streak of no new locally acquired cases.

Queensland COVID outbreak sparks health officials to change vaccination  policy | 7NEWS.com.au

March 16

Speaking of second shots of Pfizer.

Tuesday in Queensland nurse Zoe Park the first receipent of a Pfizer jab in Queensland received her second shot three weeks later along with several other health care workers.

Channel 9 News Australia reported 22,000 of 37,000 health care workers that came under the 1A grouping had received their first shot.

New South Wales had vaccinated 37,000 in the same time period.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath advised the state government was on track to complete 1A vaccinations in a fortnight.

Good news given the PA case.

Four hundred close contacts had been identified from that case and were getting tested. About 58% had come back negative.

Tensions between state and federal government consultation were raised.

Last week I was told these trays weren’t going to be delivered but it’s arrived in the last hour. So its changing daily,” D;Ath advised.

There were no answers yet on what caused the outbreak at the Hotel Grand Chancellor.

To our north there was growing concern of rising COVID numbers in Papua New Guinea.

Five hundred recent tests in the country had returned 250 positive results. Of 36 active cases of COVID in Queensland – 18 could be linked back to Papua New Guinea.

The Australian government moved to provide support to their neighbour with $500 million dollars worth of foreign aid.

On the 16th of March, 2021 the World Health Organisation reported there had been 2,351 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 82. There had been 26 deaths.

Having only days earlier seen the first AstraZeneca vaccinations take place in Australia, European nations were suspending the roll out of the vaccine.

Italy, Germany and France, Cyprus and Slovenia along suspended its use pending assessment from the European Medicines Agency which were meeting on Thursday.

Spain had suspended use for two weeks.

Earlier Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Austria, Latvia, Sweden, Romania and Bulgaria had stopped using it too.

The side effects cited included blood clots, there had been deaths following vaccinations.

The language of the national leaders struck a tone of precaution but indicated they expected the measure was temporary.

Hospitals in Paris were almost beyond capacity, Italy was in lockdown and there was already a supply issue of getting enough vaccines across Europe that suspending the use of AstraZeneca excaberated.

“As of today, there is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said.

The European Medicines Agency reported as of March 10, 30 cases of blood clotting had been reported from 5 million Astra Zeneca vaccinations across 30 European countries.

Blood clots can occur naturally and are not uncommon. More than 11 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca have now been administered across the UK, and the number of blood clots reported after having the vaccine is not greater than the number that would have occurred naturally in the vaccinated population.” said Dr Phil Bryan who was head of vaccine safety at the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

AstraZeneca itself reported out of 17 million vaccinations, 15 events of deep vein thrombosis and 22 evetns of pulomonary embolism.

Germany: Clashes erupt as parliament votes on COVID rules | Coronavirus  pandemic News | Al Jazeera

March 18

Professor Anthony Harnden who was deputy chair of the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) had some strong words regarding the suspension of AstraZeneca.

You cannot stop and start vaccination programs without losing some public confidence,” he told the ABC.

There will be many, many people in Europe, [who] feel now that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is second best … which is patently untrue. I have no doubt that Europeans have died because of some of these decisions. They have large portions of their vulnerable elderly population unprotected because of an incorrect decision that they made about delaying the AstraZeneca dose in the elderly population. It’s going to affect us all, ultimately, if we have a huge amount of transmission and infection within Europe.,” he said.

There were significant national politics at play here.

Britain had recently left the European Union.

Case numbers were down in the UK while rising on the continent with the dominant strain now being… you guessed it – the UK strain.

Certain poorer European countries were going to need to use AstraZeneca while a country like Italy for example was mostly vaccinating with Pfizer.

Even so the vaccine rollout in Europe had been going slower than in the UK.

In Britain 39 out of every 100 people had been vaccinated compared to 11 out of every 100 in France, Germany and Italy.

For example Italy had been averaging 200,000 vaccinations per day before the suspension, it needed to double that to get to 80 per cent of its population vaccinated by September this year.

While Pfizer/BioNTech was a Belgium-American collaboration. The Oxford-AstraZeneca jab was a British-Swiss collaboration.

East Europe hit with new COVID-19 wave as Polish, Bulgarian leaders test  positive - Global Times

March 19

The European Medicines Agency report came out and its four main findings were the benefits of getting a vaccine far outweighed the risk of side effects, there is no associated increased risk between the jab and blood clots, no problem with batches or manufacturing but the vaccine may be associated with very rare cases of blood clots.

Following this out of the 13 countries that suspended the use of AstraZeneca, Italy, France and Germany advised they would resume its use.

Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands said they would start using it again next week.

Poland had never stopped.

The Oxford jab is safe and the Pfizer jab is safe. The thing that isn’t safe is catching COVID, which is why it’s so important that we all get our jabs as soon as our turn comes,” Great Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised in a press conference where he announced he would get vaccinated tomorrow at the very hospital where he had been treated for COVID-19.

March 20

France and the UK’s Prime Ministers and Slovenia’s President rolled up their sleeves for the AstraZeneca jab to help in restoring confidence in the vaccine following the suspension of its use in Europe.

France was back in lockdown.

Bulgaria had resumed AstraZeneca vaccination, out of a population of seven million only 355,000 of its people had been vaccinated – the lowest number in the European Union.

Places like Hungary and Bosnia were also going into lockdown as case numbers surged. The former had one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe.

On the 20th of March the World Health Organisation reported there had been 122,039,807 confirmed cases globally with a daily incrase of 552,244.

There had been 2,697,760 deaths worldwide with a daily increase of 10,509.

In Iceland there had been 6,097 confirmed cases with a daily increase of six. There had been 29 deaths.

In Australia there had been 29,183 with a daily increase of 17. There had been 909 deaths.

In Cyprus there had been 41,475 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 364. There had been 241 deaths.

In Ireland there had been 229,306 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 510. There had been 4,576 deaths with a daily increase of ten.

In Latvia there had been 96,524 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 622. There had been 1,811 deaths with a daily increase of ten.

In Denmark there had been 221,455 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 638. There had been 2,397 deaths.

In Slovenia there had been 204,534 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 941. There had been 4,276 deaths with a daily increase of ten.

In Norway there had been 84,553 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,034. There had been 648 deaths.

Bosnian returnees face delays, confusion over COVID-19 quarantine |  Coronavirus pandemic News | Al Jazeera

In Bosnia and Herzegovina there had been 151,337 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 1,446. There had been 5,773 deaths with a dialy increase of 44.

In Austria there had been 504,693 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,306. There had been 8,795 deaths with a daily increase of 25.

In Canada there had been 922,848 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 3,609. There had been 22,590 deaths with a daily increase of 36.

In Bulgaria there had been 299,939 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 4,162. There had been 11,932 deaths with a daily increase of 115.

Coronavirus Manchester: How life will change under Tier 3 lockdown - Sound  Health and Lasting Wealth

In the United Kingdom there had been 4,284,547 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,458. THere had been 126,026 deaths with a daily increase of 100.

In Romania there had been 886,752 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,593. THere had been 22,020 deaths with a daily increase of 143.

In Sweden there had been 744,171 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 5,740. There had been 13,387 deaths with a daily increase of 18.

In the Netherlands there had been 1,186,425 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 7,355. There had been 16,238 deaths with a daily increase of 45.

In Hungary there had been 560,971 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 11,132. There had been 18,068 deaths with a daily increase of 227.

In Germany there had been 2,645,783 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 16,033. There had been 74,565 deaths with a daily increase of 207.

In Italy there had been 3,332,418 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 25,707. There had been 104,241 deaths with a daily increase of 386.

France Covid-19: Paris compulsory face-mask rule comes into force - BBC News

In France there had been 4,146,171 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 35,066. There had been 91,429 deaths with a daily increase of 267.

In India there had been 11,555,284 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 40,953. There had been 159,558 deaths with a daily increase of 188.

In the United States of America there had been 29,376,388 confirmed cases with a daily increase of 58,826. There had been 534,484 deaths with a daily increase of 1,513.

Most of Europe was not only experiencing surging case numbers but as bad as any their country had ever seen this past winter.

-Lloyd Marken

ONE YEAR EARLIER: March 19, 2020.

Italy overtook China with the most recorded deaths from COVID with 41,035 confirmed cases and a daily increase of 5,322. The death toll was 3,407 with a daily increase of 429.

In Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison annonced there all foreign travellers would be banned from entering the country.

Tasmania became the first Australian state to close its borders.

The Ruby Princess crusie ship disembarked 2,700 passengers in Sydney.

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