Life in Lock Down: Day 5

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March 30: Day five of living in lock-down…

Woke up still in darkness. Alarm hadn’t gone off. Turn to radio clock; it’s a few minutes after 6am… I lie there in the dark, waiting to drift off to sleep… but it ain’t happening. Clock ticks over to 6.55 and RNZ snaps on to the voices of Gyles Beckford, Corin Dann, and Susie Ferguson… Latest updates on covid19; thankfully no one else has died overnight. I waken more and more as the stories unfold…

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

Medical staff from Canterbury are heading to the West Coast to help after 21 health workers from Greymouth’s hospital had to go into isolation. They had been treating the 70-year-old woman who yesterday became the country’s first Covid-19 fatality.

New Zealand has 514 cases of Covid-19, with one death and 56 recovered. University of Auckland Professor Shaun Hendy speaks to Corin Dann.

The Easter Trading Laws could be amended to let supermarkets stay open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, days where they are normally forced to stay closed. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Susie Ferguson it depends on whether supermarkets need the time shut to restock shelves, but the government will be talking to them directly about the issue.

The Director-General of Health is expecting more cases of community transmission to come to light this week. That’s despite a dip in the number of new cases reported yesterday.

A Wairarapa farmer says heavy rain that fell over the weekend will be a “gamechanger” for the drought-stricken region.

It’s going to be a new day in several ways. Staff/client rosters have been radically changed to reduce the number of clients in our “bubbles”. Mine is still bigger than I would like, but we do the best we can with the tools we have. At least three people are removed from my “bubble”, which makes things marginally safe for them and me.

Quick breakfast with first two coffees of the day; feed the cat; prep home-made lunch (cafes are a luxury from how long ago?); check emails; pack up the gear I need for the day and out the door I go. I’m an hour earlier than I normally am but it’ll give me extra time to take notice of things on my way into Wellington and travelling through the city. This isn’t just a routine drive to work, but also scrutinise how things are progressing in our lock-down world.

First thing I notice, the Park N Ride carpark is virtually empty. An ashphalt field built for several hundred cars now holds just… two;

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Before turning from my suburban road onto SH2 I notice a police car parked on the side of the road. First one for the day?

On the motorway, traffic is again almost non-existent. Perhaps “heavier” by one or two cars. But then, this is supposedly “peak hour” and instead of three of four vehicles in my field of vision, there are six or eight. I don’t think traffic was this sparse since 1920.

Interesting… I’m noticing commercial vehicles on the road which I doubt are “essential”. A heavy truck, painted fiery red, with “Coca Cola” emblazoned over it. Soft drinks? When did that become a staple, essential food?

A few minutes later, a Firewood truck. The vehicle is a light truck and covered. I have no idea if they are delivering firewood or not. If so, and if the driver is coming into contact with clients… [Note, in a weird coincidence, at 10.47pm as I write this, a friend txts me to describe her day in lock-down and mentions having firewood delivered next week. So it seems they are operating in the lock-down.]

Then a C & M Transport heavy-duty truck built for gravel, rock, soil, and similar materials drives down from Horokiwi Rd, onto the motorway. Is that an essential service when the building industry is practically at a stand-still?

At least two trucks lugging shipping containers. I hope those containers are filled with foodstuffs for supermarkets…

Then, a couple of “Rockgas” trucks…

A Chubbs van…

A chemdry van. When did carpet cleaning become “essential”, FFS?!

Is there ANY business that ISN’T open and operating as per normal?!

At the old MoT stop on the Hutt Road a police car pulls over a driver heading in the opposite direction to me…

Wellington is as deserted today as it was last week. Hard to tell if there are more or less cars. At the Basin Reserve roundabout a bicyclist riding her bike on the footpath passes within a metre of a pedestrian. Even in saner times, it looked an unsafe passing manouver.

But driving up the Mt Victoria tunnel showed The Quiet Earth the city had become. At nearly 9am, the tunnel was… empty. I pulled over (yes, illegally… but since I was The Last Man On Earth…) to snap this image;

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Eerie… like something out of an episode of The Twilight Zone, an empty tunnel that seemed to disappear into infinity. It was waiting for me to enter…

Once through the tunnel, a quick drive into the eastern suburbs. More joggers. At 9am, the car park at Miramar New World was full. Queues of well-spaced shoppers waited patiently, in their own two-metre bubbles, respected by others.

At Kilbirnie Pak N Save the carpark seems about half (?) full. I park my vehicle in the underground carpark, which is almost empty. Upstairs, shoppers again queue outside the main doors, with yellow strips conveniently marking two-metre spaces. Everyone is waiting patiently.

At the line I woman remarks how well New Zealanders are doing, considering how we have a “thing” for strong independence and not liking being told what to do. I reply I made a similar point yesterday in something I wrote for a blog. Another of those curious acts of synchronicity that marks our lives.

Inside, there is signage everywhere, imploring people to act responsibly;

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As I make my way through the aisles it takes only a few minutes to realise something: it’s harder to keep two metre spaces from other people than I thought. Most people – two thirds? three quarters? – reciprocate the need to maintain safe distances.

Some don’t. They either don’t understand what two metres is; have forgotten to respect the new boundary; or, simply don’t care.

It’s irritating. In effect, one person standing at, say, the cereal section, commands two metres in radius around her/him. You have to wait till they move on.

Like I said, most respected the new norm. A few didn’t. One guy in particular not only ignored the two metre “bubble” but passed close enough to me to raise strong discomfort in me. And the prick knew. His eyes met mine. He saw the expression on my face.

This carried on  for another two aisles. F**k it, I thought, if he does it again, I’m going to cough in his direction and in a “Dad’s Army” kind-of-voice croak at him,

“Oh, sorry, mate. It’s this coronavirus thing I picked up in China… Can’t seem to shake it…”

But he scurried off to check-out. Inconsiderate prick. I hope his position in Hell is in a very warm spot…

Curiously, the toilet paper section was remarkably well-stocked;

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Has the “Futures Market” for bog paper collapsed?

Not so the baking section. Human locusts had been through the section and left not even a chocolate chip or speck of wholemeal flour,

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At the checkout, more yellow tape marked off two metre intervals. It seemed to be respected by everyone that I saw standing in line;

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Equally important, to safeguard the workers, plexiglass shields had been erected in front of them;

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One checkout operator was heard saying to a customer she wished the shields could stay up permanently.

And just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any weirder, well they just did.

Two men (?) in full head-to-feet hazmat suits, breathing-masks, and protective goggles appeared at the supermarket entrance. One didn’t want to be photographed – the other did not mind.

Sign of the times;

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Once the groceries have been dropped off, each and every packaged item had to be individually wiped down with a cloth soaked with antiseptic. Fruit and veg – washed. Because there was no way of telling who had handled any of the items and what micro-organisms they had left behind on steel cans, plastic wrappers/bags,  cardboard cartons, and fresh produce.

The future is well and truly upon us.

The drive home at 8pm tonight was quiet. Once I hit the motorway, traffic all but vanished. There were moments when I was literally the only person on the road in either direction.

I phone my partner. It’s now eight days since we’ve laid eyes on each other. We joke that after the next three (four? five?) weeks, we’ll have to get re-acquainted with each other all over again.

Her “bubble” is smaller than mine, but she’s so much safer.

Meanwhile, throughout the day, we heard stories of fools flouting the protocols not to socialise with people outside their “bubble”; of money-hungry businesses whining that they were “essential”; of tourists deciding that self-isolation did not apply to them.

Or politicians like David Seymour and Judith Collins;

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Ok then, let them all open. Every single business. Then, when we have 10,000 deaths, maybe those same politicians will start to think, “Hmmm, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all…?”

Some people only take a crisis seriously when the body count goes double or triple digits.

When it comes to the safety and well-being of everyone in the community and when it comes to a few selfish dicks who put their own desires ahead of everyone else, I have zero hesitation in advocating going full throttle law’n’order on their asses. In fact, I have the perfect sentence for those convicted of flouting the stay-home edict: home detention. (Just  make detention double or treble the month long lock-down.) It makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Ironic isn’t it? How the Right are always bleating on about personal responsibility; law and order; and maintaining society.

Except, of course, when business is threatened.

Current covid19 cases: 589

Number of deaths: 1

Number of deaths if Mr Seymour & Ms Collins have their way: hundreds. Possibly thousands.

Sensible people do sensible things. Don’t be Mr Seymour or Ms Collins. Be sensible.

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References

RNZ: Coronavirus – Extra medical staff sent to the West Coast

RNZ: Coronavirus – Looking at the numbers

RNZ: Coronavirus – PM says supermarkets may open over Easter

RNZ: Coronavirus – Dr Ashley Bloomfield expecting more cases

RNZ: Wairarapa farmer labels weekend’s rain a ‘gamechanger’

NZ Herald:  Covid 19 coronavirus – Jenny Craig staff told they are an essential service

Twitter: David Seymour – allow butchers, bakers to open – 30.3.2020

Twitter: Judith Collins – competition for business during a pandemic – 30.3.20

RNZ: Coronavirus – Total number of Covid-19 cases in NZ rises to 589

Must Read

Elemental: Hold the Line

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog: Malcolm Evans – A Letter to the Kids

Previous related blogposts

The Warehouse – where everyone gets a virus

Life in Lock Down: Day 1

Life in Lock Down: Day 2

Life in Lock Down: Day 3

Life in Lock Down: Day 4

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Acknowledgement: Evans

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This blogpost will be re-published  on “Frankly Speaking“. Reader’s comments may be left here (The Daily Blog) or there (Frankly Speaking).

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20 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Frank,

    I made the mistake of watching Mike “the raving lunatic” Hoskings… err… musings on the NewstalkZB website. He makes David Seymour and Judith Collins seem pretty reasonable.

    God help us all…

    • You have my sympathy, SAC… It can’t be a pleasant experience. I still can’t decide if he’s a dangerous lunatic or a spoiled brat whose parents never said ‘no’ to him…

  2. I heard an item on Morning Report business news this morning.
    Crude oil has dropped to its lowest price in nearly 20 years.
    So why are a lot of us still paying more than $2 a litre for 91 octane petrol?
    The government should be investigating price gouging by the fuel companies.

    • Indeed, Mike, why?

      This is precisely when MoBIE should be investing fuel companies. Prices do not seem to have plummeted as with crude oil costs.

      Dare I say it; price gouging? Profiteering?

      • MoBIE are supposed to be setting up a website so the public can dob-in alleged price gougers.
        Doesn’t seem to be up and running yet, can’t even find any references to it on their website.
        It would be nice if TDB provide a link for us when it happens.

      • It’s the Ministry for Everything @ Frank. Rome wasn’t built in a day, there’ll be consultants that need consulting, and as far as resourcing of the important things, one cannot walk and chew gum at the same time – at least not without calling a meeting in a break-out room to consider all the ramifications including the impact on a number of careers (in this space, going forward).
        It’s really “innovative” thinking.
        I suspect JA (at least I fucking hope) is getting a handle on the place (oops space)

  3. Seymour is right and although I’m loathe to admit it, so is Collins(although I doubt National would behave any differently if they were in office). Why indeed are local suppliers being shut out? Only 55% of food supplies typically come from supermarkets. More catering to the big end of town which seems to be the way in NZ govt? Also concerned about the lock down on a lot of media that is not the MSM. These publications are an alternate voice that keep the govt accountable.

    I’m surprised too at the figures: 589 to date. To put that in perspective Hon Kong has 642 cases.

    https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

    • No, Seymour and Collins are not correct. (They ARE Right, though.) Not even close.

      We all know that Seymour is chasing votes from the business community and Collins is shaping herself as the next Leader of you-know-what, after Simon Bridges loses the election.

      It is obvious to everyone: the more places are open, the more people are attracted. It creates a false sense of “normality” which is anything but. Social distancing is hard enough in a few large supermarkets. Now imagine trying to space out people in smaller retailers. Impossible.

      One-at-a-time entry? Who polices that? Back to Square One.

      As for Hong Kong, things aren’t as rosy as you believe;

      “Hong Kong logged a daily record of 48 new infections Saturday as travelers returned home, and as of Wednesday, the city of 7.4 million had reported more than 400 cases. This week, the government ordered all residents back home, and closed public sports facilities, museums, and libraries that had just reopened. What’s more, the city stopped admitting visitors for two weeks. As an extra measure against socializing, the government demanded that bars stop serving alcohol.”

      ref: https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/26/coronavirus-hong-kong-resurgenece-holds-lesson-defeating-it-demands-persistence/

      Have a read of this, as well: https://elemental.medium.com/hold-the-line-17231c48ff17

  4. Ba ha ! I thought the sign over that tunnel read “Mount Viagara Tunnel” .
    I don’t care about toilet paper, I don’t care about rice or potatoes but I’m fucked if I run out of wine and viagara.
    What a horrible thing? To be forced to take life seriously?
    Kilo’s of garlic, non stop funny videos and film and get pissed [etc] as often as needed. The silly, wanky, little virus won’t stand a chance. And no. I’m not talking about Big mike hoskings.

  5. Crony capitalism?
    When we’re exporting, we’re told we have to pay international prices.
    Except that it doesn’t always follow that when exports are constrained, domestic prices drop. More likely producers try and make up their export losses by fleecing the domestic market.

    By the way, dairies are still getting knocked over in the early hours of the morning – Miramar Penninsula/Kilbirnie

  6. Keep up the good work Frank. You are committing to type and images, the daily experiences similar to many.

    You may resemble a sandwich by the end though, as will others on this regime! Fortunately I have usable lettuce, chillies, spring onion, mandarin, feijoa (tiny this year), and many herbs in garden, and jar grown mixed sprouts to add to the mix. No more food wasted at least.

    • Thanks, TM. Best thing is to keep busy. (Which is not hard, believe me.) I keep focused and alert for anything that may impact on my clients or myself. As I mentioned elsewhere, this is no academic exercise: if I catch this bastard virus I could take out seven clients and up to half a dozen colleagues (and their families) with me.

      We have no equipment except latex gloves and paper face masks (which, as we all know, are an utter waste of time and felled trees). Our only protection is social distancing and stringent washing hands. Oh, and a tube of savlon antiseptic in my car – someone snaffled all the hand sanitiser at the supermarkets.

      And people wonder why I take this thing *deadly* seriously.

  7. Try not to be negative Frank. You are imagining things being wrong, people might be driving a truck with stuff they shouldn’t. That’s repeating and renewing a bad NZ trait of negativity and put-downs that I have noticed over the years. Commenting may be free and equal, but a lot are more equal than others. I think in emergencies we need positive ideas, and suggestions enabling us to rise above the problems, and ideas to help prepare for any further blows to our society.

    • Not so much “negative”, Greywarbler, as observational. With most (hopefully) people staying home, we need eyes out there seeing what’s going on. Just like Neighbourhood Watch – but this involves potentially saving lives.

      Spain, Italy, and the US show us where things can go horribly pear-shaped without early collective action and vigilance.

      During the Key-led government we lamented a lack of community spirit and the rise of the Me First Individual. Ok, now’s our chance to put that community spirit to the test.

      If people/companies (The Warehouse, Jenny Craig, et al) are taking the proverbial, the longer we’ll be in lock-down. It makes my job harder (I’m in the wider Health sector), and I’d love to see my partner again, preferably before I draw Last Breath.

      Have a read of this – the author is on-track: https://elemental.medium.com/hold-the-line-17231c48ff17

  8. I agree with Seymour’s 2nd point. Our local fruit and veg store had a better range than local supermarkets. They must source from different places. If they set up safeguards I don’t think they’d create more risk than supermarkets. We would shop there weekly instead of supermarkets. How would you rank safety compared with dairies which we are allowed to shop in?

  9. Further to my comment supporting fruit and veg shops operating:Frank, you are committed to keeping traffic flows down. Supermarkets depend on an enormous network of goods flowing in from a multitude of places. I am not certain that fruit and veg shops will increase the flows to a dangerous level. They rely on local sources so would minimise flows i.e. the goods would generate less traffic compared with supermarket goods. We’d need to do a detailed study to ascertain how this would affect the overall flows of traffic.

    The orchards and market gardens will continue producing their bounty. What happens to the produce earmarked for the fruit and veg stores that the supermarkets don’t want? I’m thinking of the Chinese vegetables that sell well in the local f&v store. It’s going to waste. Surely that should be a consideration for retaining the local stores.

Comments are closed.