April 4: Day 10 of living in lock-down…
I wake up to a fine Saturday morning which normally would be like an early Christmas. But it’s Day 10 of Level 4 Lock Down. What will my fellow New Zealanders be doing on a day like this – staying home in lock-down, or venturing out en-masse to every park, walk-way, beach, river side they can find? The TAB won’t be taking bets on that question (if they were open).
Today would be a perfect day to mow the lawns. As someone kindly pointed out to me recently, I’ve neglected them for two weeks too long. Mind you, the damp micro-climate on my back yard “lawn” has produced half a dozen mushrooms thus far…
Today is not lawn-mowing day. I’m filling in for a colleague who has been pulled off duties with our clients when it was realised his wife worked at a major supermarket and he helped out on-site. In effect his “bubble includes our six clients; six of his colleagues (including me) and several hundred Wellingtonians who are customers at the supermarket his wife works at.
“Not optimal” would be an understatement. The masks, latex gloves, hand-washing, and wiping our shoes’ soles with disinfectant would be meaningless with the extent of his contact with so many other people.
So I’m doing his shift this afternoon/evening, making it a six day working week.
If any of us catch the virus, I suspect we’ll all be pulling a six or even seven day working week. Best not to think about it.
Wake up in time to catch Simon Shepherd on Newshub Nation on TV3.
First up was Grant Robertson. While I have utmost respect for the gentleman and the hellish job (matched only by our own Wonder Woman, Prime Minister Ardern), he doesn’t add much new to what we already know.
There’s some persistent questioning about why the government didn’t step in to buy Bauer Media Group’s magazines (The Listener, Metro, Woman’s Weekly, et al) that it closed on 2 April.
Bizarre. It has taken an unseen micro-organism to bring down the mighty pillars of neo-liberalism, with a clamour that the State acquire (for $1!) part of a magazine empire. The blessed irony of it all; state-owned media! Only a handful of other countries exist where the State owns or controls media publications.
In only thirtysix years the neo-liberal edifice of the free market has come crashing down. To paraphrase H.G. Wells, the free-market neo-liberal system was…
“…slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared; slain as the red weed was being slain; slain, after all [progressive movement’s] devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.”
This time, the “humblest thing” that slew the free market was not bacteria, but an even smaller, more distant cousin, the virus.
Even the Soviet Union last twice as long.
To drive home the point of the utter failure of the neo-liberal system, Finance Minister Robertson pointed out just how fortunate we were that the mania for “small government” by the Right had not been implemented in this country.
Host Simon Shepherd asked;
Simon Shepherd: “Is there a risk that at the end of this we’re going to be a nation with has a massive public sector and not much private enterprise?”
Grant Robertson: “No, I don’t believe so. The New Zealand private sector was robust and strong and full of innovative people coming into covid19, and it will be on the other side.
I think what we have learned out of this is that having a robust public sector is vitally important when you have a crisis like this, and so that will be important.”
Grant Robertson also made it clear that the tourism sector would have to change after this crisis was over. We certainly need to wind back the foot traffic currently trampling over the countryside. Add to that the hyper-commercialisation of our tertiary sector which is heavily reliant on students from other countries to pay our education bill (and is often a back-door conduit for high levels of immigration which our infrastructure is ill-designed to cope with).
Perhaps it’s little wonder that Simon Bridges’ earlier strident calls for tax cuts had fallen on deaf ears. People could see with their own eyes what was happening in China, then Europe, and now the United States. A strong collective response – in the form of The State – could be the only viable defence against a fast-spreading pandemic. People understood that a few extra bucks in our wallets/purses was hardly going to protect us from an invisible enemy.
Simon Bridges didn’t just “not read the room” – he was in the wrong bloody building.
Newshub Nation presented a wide range of interviews and the case of Jess Delabarca was an example that the contagion could affect any of us, young or old. The young may be “bullet proof”, but not “virus proof”.
One of the two panellists, Professor in Politics and International Relations, Jennifer Curtin, expressed her shock at Bauer Media Group’s sudden closure. She also pointed out it was difficult for the State to buy/bail out one private media company – without then supporting the entire sector. In effect, the free market model would be utterly turned on it’s head, with the State acquiring one distressed company after another.
The late Robert Muldoon’s dire warning in his “Dancing Cossacks” political ad that “one day the State would own everything and you know what that’s called” – was wrong in only one respect. The companies themselves were clamouring for a State/taxpayer buy-out.
The capitalists were jumping ship, having hit an invisible viral iceberg.
At the conclusion of the programmwe, Host Simon Shepherd announced that Newshub Nation was taking a “break for Easter and would be back in two weeks. Which, considering that the entire world is facing an apocalypse, was an optimistic view. Hopefully there will be a live audience to watch his programme in two weeks time.
On the way into work, it was another moment to observe the streets around me…
The railway Park’N’Ride carpark was empty;
The white motorhome, first noticed on 31 March parked on a major thoroughfare toward SH2 was still parked in front of the same property – but had moved – now facing the opposite way;
Spotted long the way; three ambulances; a double-tandem gravel-hauling truck; a “New World” delivery van; a “Pacific” double-tandem fuel tanker; a patient-transfer ambulance SUV; “Fulton Hogan truck; and a “Newbolds” van.
As if a weekend from the 1970s, there appeared to be few commercial vehicles on the road. What little traffic consisted of mostly ordinary motorcars.
The traffic on SH2 was still light; approximately four cars ahead, and a similar number behind me. Traffic became lighter to the north of the Melling lights. Arriving closer to Wellington on the motorway, traffic thinned out even more, with perhaps three or four cars ahead, and similar to my rear.
The day was beautifully sunny, a near perfect summery day though we’re now feeling the chills of autumn. Though the harbour was placid and calm there were no recreational boats of any kind on the water. Yachties and other recreational boaties seemed to be heeding the call to stay of the water.
At the Terrace tunnel, there were six on-coming cars, nothing to my rear.
Driving through Wellington, vehicular traffic was light to non-existent. Not the busy times pre-Lock-down, when roads were busier on Saturdays than during the working week. Bicyclists were out and about, with two or three around me at any one time. There were plenty of strollers enjoying the lovely weather but not many observing the two metre rule.
Approaching Chaffers Street New World supermarket, I noticed shoppers carrying their re-usable shopping bags and – fresh cut flowers? A brief stop at New World confirmed my observation – the supermarket was selling flowers;
A florist was supplying the retailer with fresh flowers. An “essential” service?! Oh hell, why not. Sex shops , weight loss industry, and golf courses all think they’re essential as well. In capitalism, everyone thinks their business is essential. The stench of self-entitlement – like affluent yachtie flocking to their holiday homes – is pervasive.
The longer people willfully flout the lock-down the longer this crisis will be with us. The longer law-abiding citizens will have to live with the massive upset to their lives whilst others are enjoying their impromptu holiday. The more people will get sick.
And the greater the likelihood that the death toll will rise.
I liken those who flout the lock down as those who drink and drive. They endanger others with their recklessness.
If this worsens, it’ll be time to borrow a leaf from our Aussie cuzzies and go hard on those who are putting the rest of us at risk;
I don’t care what excuses – usually concern for poor families – are put forward. Having retail outlets such as The Warehouse open for public trading will be an open conduit for the transmission of the virus. If low income people need blankets, heaters, and other winter-ralated goods, let them be distributed free of charge by the State. The greater the need, the lower the cost should be commensurately.
If the State can subsidise private companies and their employees we can assist those at the bottom of the socio-economic heap.
Continuing my drive to work, I took the Oriental Bay route. I saw a light-sign asking people;
“Enjoy your beach walk but don’t linger”
— clearly a reference to people previously congregating on the beach, often in close proximity, and adding to the threat of viral transmission.
Most people were doing the right thing, with only a couple of dozen people on the sand and two in the water;
As I drove around the bays, another observation struck me. Where pedestrian numbers were heavy, the 2-metre physical distancing rule was mostly ignored. Where pedestrian traffic was more sparse, people made more effort to walk around each other.
In effect, where physical distancing was most needed, it was less employed.
Another reason to minimise and restrict retail outlets opening and recreational activities that attract crowds.
I also noticed a fair number of bicyclists riding on the footpath, making it harder for pedestrians to physically distance themselves from the riders. Which was mystifying considering the near lack of vehicular traffic on the roads. At this point in time, bicyclists could practically “own the roads”.
Arrive at work. Carry out formal sanitising protocol before entering premises; sanitise hands; wipe shoes with disinfectant; send call to unlock gate. Inside, re-wash hands with hot water and soap. Routine completed, work begins. Remember to re-stock my satchel with latex gloves and ASTM Level 1 mask. (The latter offers minimal protection. Practically pointless to wear it when outside. But with so many people flouting lock-down protocols, any protection is better than going out “naked”.)
The afternoon and evening passes quickly. All clients are reasonably health, except one. He is diabetic T2, obese, and in poor health. He is suffering diabetes related complications. He is nil symptomatic of covid19 but if he caught it, my belief is that it would be a death sentence. Luckily the facility is in total lock-down – even management are banned from entering (and this has been rigorously enforced).
I work in close proximity to him. If he is infected, it will be on my conscience.
It is night by the time I leave.It is again deathly quiet. No pedestrians. No vehicular traffic. No sound of cars, trucks, or motorbikes. The airport is silent. It is a deathly silence I’m still finding hard to get used to.
Except for the lights on in houses along the street, I could be the last human on Earth.
And something else… smells I never noticed before. Without low vehicle and almost no aircraft emissions, the air is cleaner than ever. There is a subtle sweet smell in the air. Flowers? Perfume?
I sanitise my hands in the car.
The trip home is uneventful. Along the motorway I do a rough count of vehicles-per-kilometre: two.
I see four ambulance on my trip homes. One bus. Three police cars (two of which are attending an incident by the Kilbirnie Fire Station). There is a Hyundai radar-van parked on the side of the motorway just south of he motorway. Pointless, considering the near non-existant traffic. It’ll be slim picking tonight for traffic enforcement/revenue gathering. Another police car sighted on SH2, lights flashing, parked behind a car that may have broken down.
Then home. Shoes are removed and left outside (a habit I’ve always practiced); open door; straight into the bathroom to wash my hands. Keys wiped with disinfectant.
“Dinner” is light. It’s too late to cook anything so it’s cold left-overs.
Tomorrow, it’s a day off. Watch TVNZ’s Q+A; mow the lawns; go for a walk along my street. Rest.
As the Bauer Group exploit the covid19 crisis lock down and close down a long list of well-known magazine titles, this letter to the editor in the April 4-10 edition (the last ?), by former Minister of Communications, Ian Shearer, was published. It appeared before Bauer Group made their announcement to shut down The Listener and reads almost like an epitaph dripping with irony;
Mr Shearer was a minister in the Lange-led government which initiated the mad craze of privatising state-owned (ie; owned by you and me) assets. Like The Listener. [Blogger’s correction: Ian Shearer was actually a Minister in the Muldoon-led National government from 1975 to 1984. Apologies for the error. – Frank Macskasy]
Like privatising and re-nationalising Air New Zealand several times over, it hasn’t worked out well, has it?!
Number of deaths: 1
Mediaworks/Newshub: Coronavirus – Grant Robertson hints at potential rent freeze for business
Wikiquotes: H.G. Wells
NSW Gov Clinical Excellence Commission: Application of PPE in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
Elemental: Hold the Line
Previous related blogposts
Acknowledgement: Sharon Murdoch
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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