Coronavirus Diary

I am start writing this on the 29th of March 2020. Roughly two months after the outbreak started in all seriousness in Wuhan, China.

The first corona virus case appeared in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, on December 1, 2019, and, as early as the middle of the month, the Chinese authorities had evidence that the virus could be transmitted between humans. Nonetheless, the government did not officially acknowledge the epidemic on national television until January 20. During those seven weeks, Wuhan police punished eight health workers for attempting to sound the alarm on social media. They were accused of “spreading rumours” and disrupting “social order.”

Then, on February 3, after President Xi had chaired the Standing Committee’s second meeting on the epidemic, the propaganda apparatus of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was ordered to “guide public opinion and strengthen information control.” In practice, this means that cutting-edge AI and big-data technologies are being used to monitor the entirety of Chinese public opinion online. The controlocracy is now running at full throttle, with facial-, image-, and voice-recognition algorithms being used to anticipate and suppress any potential criticism of the government, and to squelch all “unofficial” information about the epidemic.

Obviously from the start it was hot news. It started confusing because the lack of openness on the situation in China. However, this did change in January, and the Hubei province went in total lockdown. Obvious, at that time, unknowingly thousands of people were already infected and the results of that started to play out in following weeks. There were horrific scenes at hospitals when suddenly all those infected people started to arrive in the following 2 to 3 weeks, a week later followed by dead bodies everywhere. A health system obviously totally overwhelmed.  The WHO was informed about the virus by the Chinese authorities on 31/12/2019. The first death occurred in Wuhan on 11/1/2020.

While at that stage human reasoning kicked in around the world that this could easily spread – as there was no treatment and no vaccine – the global human instinct did not kick in straight away. There was confusion and most governments did not show any urgency to act.

Because of the previous SARS outbreak Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and Taiwan were basically the only countries prepared. They had enough testing kits and protection gear to immediately launch nationwide actions. So far these are the countries that have been able to manage the crisis as best as possible.

Early reactions especially from the populist leaders like Trump, Johnson, Putin, Modi, Bolsonaro, were dissenting. With bravado they mentioned that they would not be affected, they were in control, they kept shaking hands and so on. As a consequence Johnson contracted the virus and experienced a near death situation.

Not as bad but a similar initial reaction from Scott Morrison in Australia who was reluctant to call of the Grand Prix and various football events planned for the weekend, indicated he would still go the football a day before a ban would be imposed. In the end he did not go. However, on a more positive note, already before this debacle the country had stopped any people travelling from China into Australia and they declared an emergency before the WHO did so. During most of February however, there was little national leadership and the States moved faster and started to take actions that were as such not yet recommended by the Federal Government. It took till March before the Federal Government started to show national leadership.

However, this was immediately followed by a massive run on toilet paper, totally unnecessary. There will be books written about this psychological phenomenon.

Anne’s toilet paper affair

Our previous HR manager Anne was shopping at Woolworth, needed toilet paper but there was nothing left. A long-time employee who knew all of the regular customers overheard her talking about this. He pulled her aside and said come back tomorrow morning and I will keep some back for you. Anne came back the following morning and the employee winked her to come to the back. She nervously waited at the door of the storage room and when the employee came out he zoomed the toilet paper in her trolley and put a cloth over it. It was all hush hush and Anne felt quite anxious about the whole situation.  He took the barcode off the packet, so she did not have to take the rolls out of the trolley at the checkout.

He indicated to let another customer go first so he could get into the check-out to whizz her through. However, at the check-out was Julie our previous sales manager. They of course knew each other well. Anne was a bit taken back when she noticed her and asked her – as she was instructed to do – to go first. Julie had done shopping for the whole family, so she had a fully packed trolley and refused that Anne let her go first, this went backwards and forwards for a while. The employee noticed the dilemma and winked to Anne that it was ok to come through and completed the purchase. The whole affair looked more like a drug deal rather than simple buying toilet paper.

Early actions in the shops

Back to early February in China, we were all mightily impressed when we saw the Chinese building a 1000 bed hospital within a week, but still this was all a far from my bed show.

Around that same time the cruise ship debacle started. The Diamond Princess ended up in Japan with over 700 hundred cases of the virus and the situation was handled terribly by the Japanese government. Far too late an evacuation plan was launched, and the Australian passengers ended up in quarantine in Darwin. Many more cruise ship disasters happened and are still happening as I write this. A totally uncontrolled disembarking of 2700 passengers from the Ruby Princess in Sydney happened on March 16, a total collapse of Australia’s Boarder Force system. This further increased the number of infections and became the reason for the country’s first official corona investigation  by the Special Commission of Inquiry into the Ruby Princess.

Another disaster happened that weekend in Bondi with overcrowded beaches and ongoing backpacker parties, resulting also in more infections. The physical distancing rule has since been enforced with fines and jail sentences. Similar reports arrived from many countries around the world. A Guardian poll indicated that 1/3 of people did think the crisis was blown up by the media. A dangerous number of people are not taking this serious enough. In general, the younger generation will only have a mild reaction to the virus and in a selfish way they feel somewhat invincible. In order to flatten the curve, we need at least 80% of the population to adhere to the new rules. Many countries reported problems like the ‘Bondi disaster’ and countries rapidly started to enforce the distancing rule even tighter. By early April the indications are that in Australia 90% of the population was adhering to the rules.

A key indicator that we learned about is the R-zero or R0 A measure. This is used to describe an infection’s level of contagion. At the height of the crisis in March research into Covid-19 found that the R0 was between 2 and 2.5. This means each infectious person will pass on the infection to at least two other people. If you extrapolate this than within weeks you get thousands of cases which as we have seen overwhelm the healthcare systems. In order to flatten the curve, the RO indicator needs to be below 1. By April, the RO in Australia was hovering around 1, which resulted in only a very few new cases per day.

Physical distancing at the planting of a new tree in Roma Street Parkland

Again, back in early February, the international focus shifted to Iran and Italy. The death toll in Iran is still rapidly climbing but there is less information coming from that country. In Italy, a rather suddenly massive outbreak occurred in Lombardy in the north. Most likely linked to the Champions League match on February the 19th in Milan between Atlanta (Milan) and Valencia (Spain). This is earmarked as ground zero for both the Italian and the Spanish outbreaks.  Soon thereafter Italy went in lock down. My brother Rob who lives in Rimini had to close his business and is occurring severe losses. I am updating the situation in the daily diary overview below.

Only by March started the western country paying more attention, but still a rather slow and confusing response. Finding a balance between the health risk issues and an economic collapse.

The Netherlands featured in these early days as one of the top 5 or six countries with people attracting the virus. This happened because of an early outbreak that  occurred in Brabant, Netherlands. This was linked to the Carnaval also in mid-February and like the initial situation in China this also became clear two weeks after the event. Our sister-in-law Bernadette van Teeffelen is a senior nurse at the hospital in Uden and this was one of the first hospitals where the crisis started, and it became an item on the daily news. They are only small and do not have enough ICU beds and all non-corona patients were transported to the northern part of the country. By now (29/3) however, this is where the outbreak has spread in this country. Tilburg and Breda were other epicenters in Brabant.

The outbreaks in Belgium and Germany are also linked to these Carnaval events and both countries also featured in the top ten of the corona infected countries in March/April.

As mentioned, by March, Australia started to become more involved in addressing the issue, as everywhere else lots of confusion, uncertainty people had clearly difficulties in facing the reality. It is clear people needed time to adjust. This is certainly also how I experienced the evolving situation. The first corona cases in Australia started to occur between 23 and 30 January, all people coming from Wuhan. They all went in isolation. Many more infected people arrived from overseas via cruise ships or air travel. Till now (29/3) these are still the majority of all the 4,000 + cases in Australia. See Wikipedia.

The economic consequences are enormous. Once the hospitality industry was forced to close tens of thousands of people became unemployed. While not as massive we rapidly saw queues of people lining up for financial support like the (black and white) pictures that we saw after the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Around the world massive social and economic emergency funding is made available to soften the financial blow in order to avoid a total economic collapse. By mid-March, the global share markets had lost a third of their value. However, by mid-April it had clawed back half of that loss.

After Italy, France, Germany, Spain also started their lockdowns. The Netherlands took a what they call ‘intelligent’ lock down approach and Australia a slightly more relaxed lock down approach.

During March, the death toll in the European countries mentioned above, grew rapidly into the hundreds and into the thousands. Australia and New Zealand are still having a relative low death toll. The question is if the partial lock down will be enough or if we are going to pays for this in a few weeks’ time.

Sweden took a different approach and relied on its citizens to make the right decisions for themselves. This worked remarkably well, people started to work from home and stayed home as much as possible – especially the older people, however schools, cinemas, restaurants, etc. stayed open. Their death toll also puts them in the top ten of affected countries but with the advantaged that their economy is less disturbed. By mid-April they estimated that most people in the Stockholm area (2 million people) had been affected and were now most likely immune.

In general, I support the government actions in Australia, and it is interesting that in the other countries the people in general also accept their government’s response even if they differ slightly country by country. Perhaps except for the UK and the US. In the UK, Boris Johnson first pursued the herd-immunity approach before it followed the general scientific accepted WHO approach.  As a result, they saw a sharp uptake of the curve and there are indications that their health system is not coping with the crisis.

In the US, Donald Trump also played the crisis down and this country was also late in taking the measures that are best practice in such a situation and the country rapidly became number one in Corona cases and Corona death.  The USA might have one of the best healthcare systems of the world, but that is only available for those who can afford it and as such the system can’t cope if the rest of the country also requires access to the hospital system. Donald Trump ignores most of that and one of his many stupid comments was that he was focused on getting the economy going again by Easter and the churches being open for service. He also suggested to inject a bleach product to get immunity. In the meantime, the country is burning. Those who have health insurance often get it as part of their employment package. With massive lay off all those people are now also losing their healthcare insurance. A covid-19 hospitalisation rapidly costs US$35,000, something you cannot effort if you get unemployed. Within weeks the USA had the highest number of infected people and the highest number of deaths.

Brazil is perhaps the only country in the world that is simply ignoring any action at all. But by April the varios state governors had implemented their own measures in order to stop massive outbreaks.

However, in most western democracies it is amazing to see that after a few decades of populism and neo liberalism, social policies that would have been classified as near communism are now implemented in many western countries. Australia is perhaps one of the examples here (see some of the actions taken here, below). There is no way back to the economic situation before covid-19, as it will take a decade or more to recover from the economic fallout. This period will need to be supported with long term changes in social, economic and healthcare policies.

It is amazing to see how in Australia we now have a national cabinet, the feds plus the premiers of the states. The collaboration and cooperation are amazing.  They normally bicker that is now all set aside, and they weekly meet on how to best move forward. There are different state-wide measures as each state has a different corona profile.

 

Our situation

Cheese and wine Zoom

From the very start in China it was clear that the older you are the more difficult it gets to survive a corona attack. Most of the people that have died fit into that category. Add to that those with underlaying health issues and the risk factor doubles again.

Louise and I are both are in the risk category, with the added problem that my lymphoma weakens my immune system and therefore I must be even more careful. With low infection rates in Australia/Queensland we kept normal contact with the family till around March 20. After that we are not coming together in groups. Louise and I basically must avoid being in contact with people who still work and/or are still having social contacts that includes of course the children as well as the grandchildren who still go to school.

At the beginning we only meet on an individual base outside in the park keeping the 4 square meters space into account. As Australia seem to have the virus under control, we also started to have one-on-one meetings at home.

Since April we also have one on one walks. Louise walks with Merlijn and Caroline and I am doing heritage walks with them. Louise is learning chess and is playing with Neriya, Ravian and Sebastian.

On the economic side our superannuation funds have been going down 20%, but we hope that longer term this will be somewhat recover. More serious is the fact that Gavin has been stood down at Virgin. In the meantime, the company has gone into administration and it is uncertain what his future will look like. Merlijn just got a new permanent job for three days per week – what she was looking for, But because of thee new situation is now also looking to find work for the other two days as Gavin is looking after the household.

Siblings Zoom

Ravian is also more seriously affected. His company deals with lathe hotel chains around the world, as sector hard hit by the crisis. His work has been reduced from 5 to 3 days a week. This puts a financial burden on the family.

Erwin has so far not been affected economically. His company is continuing to do well. Everybody is working from home. They have emergency plans ready if needed but so far so good. After their move from Wagga Wagga to Brisbane Caroline is eager to start to work again as a dentist but with this sector shut down there is little hope for an early start for her.

On March 28 we used Zoom for the first time to organise a family get together and that evening also with my brother and sister. Since that time, we had regular meetings that way.

We very much enjoy the regular virtual choir meetings also by Zoom and Facebook. ABC TV interviews are now also by Skype as well as other community and business meetings.

We go out for walk and still do some shopping taking all the essential precautions. Since the bikes arrive we have an added activity for the outsides.

We are settling into our new regime. We are following online philosophy courses and have our regular choir activities. I am following online heritage lectures, business presentations, exhibition tours by curators and other interesting online offerings being made available during this crisis.

In May restrictions were eased and we had dinner with Erwin and his family and the next day lunch with the Nicholson family. That was just lovely!

Pandemic Blogs

Telecommuting and Covid-19. – 15 March

Will the NBN stand up in the Covid-19 pandemic? 19 March

The COVID-19 Commission and the NBN  – 28 March

Corona crisis – Update from Australia – 1 April – THis include information on the pronlems with international collaboration at that time.

Sustaining social and economic transformation beyond the crisis. – 5 April

The enormous economic costs of the pandemic – How did we end up in this mess?  -11 April

Encouraging online lessons from the corona crisis – 16 April

March 30, Last night further regulations will limit meetings with more than 2 people. A $160bn living wage package announced for most likely 6 million people over a 6-month period. This is aimed to keep people linked to their employer. Payments of $1500 per fortnight directly to the employers through the tax office. The curve is slightly bending, this might be a good sign. I have not been an admirer of the Morrison Government, but I am impressed with the way they are handling the crisis. Yes, lots of issues but he adjusts and makes changes for the better as they go along.

Last night we also had our first pizza deliverer through one of the chefs in the complex. He and a few colleagues started a service for residents, meat lovers very tasty! After that a Zoom get-together with Monique and Geert and Rob and Grazia. Rob is doing it tough with a significant loss of business. Grazia is getting a part time job as an online English teacher for the high school.

Yoga in the park just the two of us with the teacher. GP called they start house visits to do flu vaccinations. Cleaned the house as we have cancelled the cleaners. Jog in the park. Next door neighbour Mercury offered to buy us a bag of oranges when he goes out for shopping. Kids phoned to stay in touch.

Pictures from Sebastian and Cassie busy with their online schooling. Grace was less impressed with her home schooling as Gavin was strict in getting them started.

Trump indicated that he was happy if they could limit the number of deaths in America below 100,000. He is no longer talking with getting the country open again by Easter.

31 March Last night a video WhatsApp with friends Mart and Fely van der Heiden in Oss. They both had the corona virus and have gone through hell. Still recovering but the worse is over. Fely has underlaying health issues but refused to go into hospital – she ‘rather died at home’.  She would otherwise has ended up in the hospital I mentioned above (Uden).This morning email conversation with colleague Vint Cerf in the USA (Father of the internet) reported that he had the virus, now in day 13 and recovering, both he and his wife. He also mentioned the symptoms that we now all heard about. He indicated no apparent damage and can go out of guarantee on day 15.

Massive government announcement to basically temporarily nationalise the private health hospital system and align it with the public system operating at one system across the nation, very impressive.

Louise Zoomed with her friends today.

1 April This morning we had the GP giving us the flu vaccinations, great service, done within a few minutes.  After that I opened a zoom test meeting for the BuddeComm staff to log in and see how it all works as we are having a get together on Monday. Nice having a few individual chats with them.

April 2 Government now also pay for all pre-schools as they do need to stay open but don’t have enough children to cover the costs.

Erwin has done the shopping and we had coffee together. Later that day we zoomed with Fred and Elaine in the Netherlands.

April 3 We crossed the 1 million mark of global infections. However, it is estimated that the real number is 5 to 10 higher. The US had more than a thousand death the highest one-day death rate of any country. The KLM is organising 5 flights in April to bring home some 2,000 backpackers.  The last time KLM flew to Australia was 20 years ago.

April 4 University of Pennsylvania is testing a potential new vaccine based on the small px scratch method. Netherlands is among the most affected countries number eight on the list. Question has been asked if Australia’s low rate has to do with the warmer climate? Most of the European epicenters started to report a stabilising effect.

Amazing what y find out in a crisis. Unknown to us before we have first class chefs in our complex. Tonight Degustation Dinner from City Wines organised a 4-course dinner. 100 people around the city booked. They prepared and delivered. It was 5-star delicious. Rose and candle included. We also have a pizza baker in the complex and somebody set up a small convenience shop with take away coffee and cake and gourmet frozen meals.

 With all the extra telecoms traffic, the various networks are registering between 40-70% more use. This in contrast to public transport that it down to 5-10% of their normal traffic. They still need to run for the essential travel required for medical staff as well as people that need to travel for shopping and medical visits.

April 5 Louise had an early walk with Merlijn in Pullenvale, she needs that level of contact with or without the crisis. Later, she played online chess with Neriya and Ravia. In the afternoon we met Erwin, Caroline and the kids in the park and we zoomed with Alex and Marleen and in the evening with the van Daal’s in the Netherlands. So, we had a busy day not even time for our walk.

Louise has prepared Easter packages for the three families, the one to the Blue Mts went out by mail today, the other two will be home delivered.

April 6 Zoom with the BuddeComm team.  Slowly more voices are talking about easing some of the restriction. Working from home especially with little children is proving to be difficult. Can people be tested to be free of the virus and then start working again? Can we make some arrangements that the hospitality industry can in a reduced style open? All of this will still be weeks away but now is the time to start planning for what is possible and what is not. China is experiencing a new wave, be it much smaller. Sweden is paying the price for being to open and SE Asia is also starting to increase restrictions after a few months of rather low infections also here the rate is growing. The USA – totally unprepared – is now suffering the most.

There is also the issue that Italy is angry with the Netherlands. Italy wants European debt relief. The Netherlands and Germany are happy to assist financially but not through Eurobond. What plays in the background here is that Italy’s populist government ignored many financial rules from the EU in recent years. At one of the EU meetings last year the tore apart the resolution accepted by the rest of Europe. They now have an E$2 trillion!! debt. 180% of their net-GDP. In Australia is that 18%, Netherlands 40%. The EU is reluctant to now take over all this debt and let the other countries pay for Italy’s refusal to follow EU rules. Having said all that of course they should and will assist but not by taking over the debt. Closer to home we should rapidly assist our Pacific neighbours…and what about Africa. Let’s hope the crisis will not hit them that badly.

April 7 Some Brisbane observations.

As we are still allowed to go out for shopping and exercise and being so close to the city. I often jog and walk in the Parklands and then via Albert Park I am using one of the many ways to get into the centre of town. From the beginning it has been quiet all-around town. There is plenty of room to keep distance. Being in the higher risk category in most situations, I will have to be the one to ensure we keep enough distance from people coming towards me. However, most people adhere.

By far most people that are in the city are the younger generations. I would say they are between 20 and 40 years old. You see some homeless people, Aboriginal people and people with some mental disabilities that still get together, shake hands and so on. But in all honesty, I have not seen more than half a dozen situations like this. Especially around King George Square there are often police and they obviously keep en eye on the broader area. They are relaxed, friendly, talking to people. Nothing like the heavy-handed scenes that we seen in Sydney and Melbourne.

Most of the smaller shops are still open but all fashion shops, departments store and many other shops are closed as of course all the cafes and restaurants.

There is still moderate car traffic. Trains are all still rattling around – there don’t seem to be any rationalisation in the number of trips – with perhaps only 5-10% occupation. The same applies to the busses, many are simply empty.

It was remarkable busier in the city on Maundy Thursday (9 April) both in relation to cars and pedestrians.

For the State of Queensland, the total of known coronavirus cases now sits just under 1000. The growth rate is now much lower than in late March. In the first week of April there were 93 new cases, down from the peak week in March which recorded 380. At the same time most people who fell ill would only have a mild illness and just 5% were forecast to end up in intensive care. Death rate remains under 1%.

Modelling suggested the state would need about 1,000 intensive care beds during a coronavirus peak, which is less than the current number of available ICT units in the public and private health systems. All will now depend on what will happen when restrictions will be eased.

April 8. Yoga in the park with Kathryn (she is a professional teacher and lives in Bdg 3). She also made a sheet of the exercises she does with us and I am doing these now also at home.

Good Friday

This morning we coffee in the hallway of our floor with two of our neighbours, of course adhering to the distancing rules. It was a lovely morning with a range of interesting discussions. Our choir director Jaq Larson has done an unbelievable good job in getting a fantastic video together of 89 contributions of the choir in “We are Family”.

We also enjoyed Handel’s’ Messiah with the compliments of the Brandenburg Orchestra who made available – free of charge – their performance of 2017 on YouTube. Merlijn brought us the Easter presents from the Nicholson’s, have a lovely lunch on the balcony.

Easter breakfast

This Easter will be one for the history books. An estimated 95% of the global population is in one way or another into lock down restrictions. Obviously, people in many developing countries will have great problems adhering to such rules, simply getting food will soon become a bigger threat to live than the virus. The US has now become #1. More than half a million infections and over 20.000 death.

This morning recorded the two age old Easter songs that traditionally are sung in Ootmarsum on this day. Alleluia den Blijde toon and Christus is opgestanden and send them to my brother and sister.

Zoom contact with Erwin and with the siblings in the Netherlands.

Easter Monday

As you can see on the picture the Brisbane CBD is dead. Today I did set up a zoom get-together for the cousins, no adults allowed. The girls chatted for an hour, Neriya popped in occasionally and Sebastian was teenagered-out.

Brisbane in lock down

Wednesday 15 April The world is getting more and upset by the erratic and dangerous behaviour of Donald Trump, who according to the Governor of New York is behaving like a king.

The official total number of global infections has now passed the 2 million. However, some people are estimated that this could 4 or even 10 times more, even in the developed countries. The curve is flattening in those countries. However, as it is now spreading more and more into developing countries it becomes even harder to get reliable statistics.

Today we did a virtual pub crawl with Erwin and Ravian, Erwin at our place and Ravian by Zoom. Deep and sometimes a bit loud about improving the world. Still no final solutions.

Thursday 16 April Release of the 2nd song of our virtual choir who selected a new name for its viral activities The Corooners.

Songs from our Viral Choir (YouTube)

·         Don’t Give Up On Me

·         Into the unknown

·         Something inside so strong

·         We are family

·         Y’re my best friend

·         Photograph

·         Love is Easy

·         Diamonds

·         Don’t get around much anymore

·         Stand in the light

Monday Friday 17 April.  This morning I did my first heritage tour through Brisbane CBD with Merlijn. Plenty of time to prepare for the various new projects that are evolving during the crisis. We also drove to Wacol to make pictures of what remains of Camp Columbia where the NEI Govt in Exile resided from 1944 till 1946. From here they organised the ill-fated re-colonisation of the Dutch Indies. I put the pictures on the Old Brisbane Facebook page and received a whole lot of interesting reaction that I have added to the information I have written about this.

Weekend 18/19 April. Gavin came for a chat and helped us with a few little jobs. It is great to still be able to have these one-on-one meetings.  Louise now has a multitasking set up in her study for sowing, quilting, puzzling, and studying. Recorded a new video for our Corooners Choir: “Into the Unknown”. We had another pizza night thanks to our local pizza chef. Louise went on a walk with Merlijn and did a sheet-cuddle with the grandkids. I walked to South Brisbane to make a few pictures for the QUT Digital Archives. Also Zoomed with friends Ken Jolly and Marie Eddy on the NSW Central Coast, whose son was interested in the weekender in Bucketty, unfortunately that fell through.

Philosophy Zoom

Monday 20 April. After a close to three-hour test drive we have bought two e-bikes. Louise was not all to enthusiastic about using push bikes in Brisbane, but she still decided to join in.

Tuesday 21 April, I had my first zoom lecture with Kerry Sanders our philosopher teacher from t

Zoom with the Dutchies

he WEA in Sydney. We were missing going to her lectures. Thanks to the crisis she is now giving these lectures online and I im

mediately joined. This course is about one of my favorite philosophers Baruch Spinoza, who is one of the most influential one at the start of the Enlightenment.

Wednesday 22 April. We Zoomed with the Zalms and Louise got instructions regarding the

 problems with her bonsai plant.

Statistical Update

Today just 12 new cases were reported nationwide. Overall official figures put the total number of affected Australians at 6654. There have been 75 deaths, including 21 passengers on the notorious Ruby Princess cruise ship, which yesterday left Australia.

Total cases 25/4: New South Wales 2,994. Victoria 1,346, Queensland 1,026, Western Australia 549, South Australia 438, Tasmania 209, Australian Capital Territory 106, Northern Territory 27. Total death 80.

The economic costs are increasing. Overall unemployment has dropped by 6%. Hardest hit are hospitality down 26% and arts and recreation down 20%. Unknown yet are the number of business failures.

Global stats 25/4:  Total cases 2,790,986, recovered 781,382, death: 195,920

Thursday 23 April History walking tour with Caroline. Interesting medieval history lecture by Professor Guy Geltner on Piedmont, Italy about the role of field wardens (campari) these were appointed by cities to manage the hinterland. Launch of our third song “Into the Unknown”

The Bdg 6 Parkland Bvd AGM was done by Zoom (picture to the left).

 

Friday 24 April Shocking story. Our friends Desmond and Christine had to fly to Perth as they were told that her mother was dying. On arrival they had to go first in 2 weeks quarantine and the nursing home would not budge despite the official policy that allows visits in such circumstances. Our second philosophy course started today – on Democracy – and Louise also joined for this one. Our e-bikes arrived today, and we bicycled through Spring Hill. Online beer with Erwin followed by a Greek takeaway.

ANZAC Day Saturday 25 April. Many people gathered on their balconies at 6am. We had somebody playing the Last Post on a trumpet in bdg 7 and we heard another trumpet in Spring Hill. Merlijn and neighbour Dina had baked ANZAC biscuits which we enjoyed that day.

Sunday April 26. Today I did a city walk with Sebastian. Telling him something about the early history of Brisbane and more about WWII, as was interested in stories from my dad and about the Netherlands East Indie Government who was situated in Brisbane during the war. Some 20,000 Dutch people had fled the NEI and most had established themselves in Brisbane.

Today the Government launched its COVIDSafe App. It traces every person running the app who has been in contact with someone else using the app who has tested positive for coronavirus in the previous few weeks, in a bid to automate coronavirus contact tracing, and allow the easing of restrictions.

During the rest of the week the usual routine of choir rehearsals, zoom sessions, lectures, yoga, bike rides and walks.

 

Online schooling

Online studying and working from home in Australia

A week before the Easter holidays all the grandkids were home. There was good feedback from Aiyana and Cassie regarding their online schooling that seems to work very well. Sebastian and Abigail also fall into that category.

Bas and Maaykes’ kid schooling at home

The primary school kids will start to become involved in online schooling after the Easter break. In the photo below I have also included Ravian as he developed the online schooling site for Neriya’s school, the Blue Mountains Steiner School.

We also have a rising online teacher star in the person of Gavin, who now – as he is at home – is dedicating a lot of his time in assisting his girls with their online schooling. He also adds his own research to it in finding other online material to assist him in this task.

Also in the Netherlands the same online schooling story. Here are Rens and Janne and Arne and Nina busy  with their online schooling.

Long (Labour) Weekend 1st of May

Dinner and lunch again with the families

There is a small relaxation in the lock down and we used together with our own judgements we had dinner with Erwin and his family and the next day lunch with the Nicholsons. It was really good to be able to do this and it brought the message home how important these contacts are.

On Sunday evening we had another Zoom session with my siblings. Rob and Grazia will for the first time in nearly two months move more freely. They have also developed a new business model utilising technology and working with convention centres to find new ways of organising events. So hopefully they will be able to generate new business for them.

Monday was a public holiday and Louise went out for a walk with Valerie and we had an interesting discussion over coffee. I went out on a bike trip and it was good to see that the Brisbanians maintain physical distancing on a beautiful holiday despite the relaxations.

 

Snapshot Corona Statistics 5 May 2020

  • Current number of cases in Australia is 6,849
  • There have been 96 deaths
  • There was an increase of 25 cases over the last 24 hours
  • The slight increase in the number of cases is mostly related to the Victorian meatworks outbreak
  • There are still 27 people in intensive care, with 20 on ventilators
  • 665,000 tests have been carried out

Statistics for Queensland: 1,043 total cases (5 new this day), 980 recovered, 6 deaths

International

Country Deaths Deaths /1M pop New Deaths Tests Estimated Cases
Belgium 7,924 693.7 +80 440,700 50,267
Spain 25,428 544.2 +164 1,932,455 248,301
Italy 29,079 481.2 +195 2,191,403 211,938
United Kingdom 28,734 432.2 +288 1,291,591 190,584
France 25,201 376.2 +306 1,100,228 169,462
Netherlands 5,082 294.9 +26 235,909 40,770
United States 69,220 211.6 +622 7,386,800 1,205,680
Germany 6,893 83.1 +27 2,547,052 165,786
Louise has picked a previous hobby of hers, quilting

Mother’s Day 10th May

In the morning we cycled to Erwin. Had pancakes and coffee and then with the whole family we cycled from Graceville to South Bank and finally to Parklands. We had lunch here and afterward the family cycled back to Graceville. Soon after that we went to Pullenvale and met the family there. A very pleasant afternoon followed by dinner.

 

More corona pics. Bas back to work as a physiotherapist. Bank robbers Monique and Geert. Cassie online cooking and piano lessons. Sebastian online trumpet lessons.
Queensland’s Roadmap – May 2020

Monday 11th May

Over the weekend I chipped one of my front teeth. To my surprise I could immediately come to the dentist, she perfectly fixed me up.  It is amazing the PPE (personal protective equipment) they must use because of the pandemic.

The dentist and her assistance in full PPE gear

Wednesday 13th May

After our weekly yoga session, we took the car and drove to Redcliff. It felt like going on holidays, how quickly perspectives change. We did the convict trail here. Red Cliff (the original spelling) was the very first settlement in Queensland. A penal colony was set up in 1824, but within a year abandoned and moved to Brisbane. They have developed a walking tour along the sites. A few remnants of the kiln and weir are the only visible elements left. We used an excellent audio tour that told about the history of the settlement.  We also visited the Bee Gees Way, the brothers were born in Redcliffe.

We also supported a local fisherman and restaurant owner and bought lovely prawns from him (Picture to the left).

 Back home we visited newborn baby Thomas van Gent via Zoom. We had a lovely chat with Marleen and Alex and enjoyed big brother Felix running around on and off the screen.

 Thursday 14th of May

We did a close to 3-hour cycle trip to Breakfast Creek, another historic spot in Brisbane. Surveyor General John Oxley and Governor Brisbane stopped here when exploring the river in 1823, 1824 and 1825. On the way back we followed the meandering river which added an hour to the half hour it takes when taking the short route.

Covid notices an shop windows

In the afternoon, a meeting with some of the Parkland execs to discuss the development of an online community portal for the complex.

The national discussion is now moving to the economic side of the crisis. In April over 600,000 people became unemployed. The unemployment rate went up to 6.2%. However, without the JobKeepers subsidy that figure would be much higher. Some 2.7 million people are receiving $1500 fortnight payments. If we count them in the unemployment rate would be above 12%. Big decisions will have to be made on how to continue as there is not an endless supply of money. Across the country more and more activities are being allowed. In comparison the unemployment rate in the USA reached 15% today. It shows how important it is to have a social safety net.

Saturday 16th of May

In the afternoon we played bowls opposite their house, where the bowls club is situated. We have become members so we will play here more often.

Thursday 21 May

I had my first business meeting again with the Committee of Brisbane, talking about smart cities.

Mid May

The discussion has now been moved from medical to economy. With more and more information becoming available it is now thought that by just passing people or meeting them outside for a few minutes is not going to be that dangerous. The main infection cause is at large indoor gatherings, especially were singing, kissing, loud speaking and movement is allowing the so-called supper spreads to occur. So, we are seeing a more relaxed regime regarding social distancing especially outdoors. With low infection rates in Australia also cafe and restaurant restrictions are being relaxed. There is a bit of a spat between state governments in relation to opening the boarder. NSW is pressuring the other states to open their borders but at this stage the remain reluctant to do so.

Every other day or so we have gone out on the bikes, very enjoyable.

Sunday 23rd of May

Sebastian’s birthday party

We celebrated Sebastian’s 14th birthday together with the Nicholson’s family. We met at the Saint Lucia golf course (just opened again) where we played mini golf (putt putt) after that dinner at Erwin’s place. We could not meet on the actual birthday on the 25th as Erwin had started sniffing and we didn’t want to take the risk)

 

 

Thursday 28th May

Still life

In the afternoon I followed the online smart city conference organised by ASCA. There we over 1,000 delegates and as such became the largest smart city event in Australia.

We have collected money from the choir and had an artist making a painting for our director Jaq Larsen. It was presented to her during that night’s rehearsal, it shows the virtual choir in the clouds and Jaq her daughter Harmonie and son Cooper and husband Tim as well as Anthony who forms part of the three people assisting Jaq at home during the online rehearsals.

 

 

 

Saturday 30th of May

When we walked into the city there was a large and illegal gathering of protesters on front of Town Hall. They included anti vaxxers, anti 5G, anti-lock-down, against the corona conspiracy and a few other issues.

There were more demonstrations the following weekend for Black Life Matters and the officials are worried that this could lead to new hotspots, but fortunately that did not happen.

 

Sunday 31st of May

After a visit from the Nicholson family we went to the Tichi Tambi and Boondall wetlands at the North Pine Rover and Cabbage Creek on Moreton Bay.

 Monday 1st of June

As from today Queenslanders will be able to travel anywhere within the state, except for Indigenous communities. Stage 2 of the roadmap was down for June 12, but the easing of restrictions was brought forward by the State Government. That takes their gathering limit up to 20 at: The State border remains closed.

Birthdays of Gavin and Erwin

On the 4th of June, Gavin turned 50. In the morning I did a heritage tour with Caroline and Gavin. That night the Brisbane families came together. I had prepared a song for the occasion that we all sang for him. On Sunday, the 7th we all gathered on our bikes and cycled to St Lucia. On Wednesday 10th, Erwin turned 43. We had coffee with him in the morning and dinner with his family in a Japanese restaurant in Graceville. That Sunday the whole Brisbane families came together again and played board games and celebrated Erwin’s birthday.

Thursday the 11th June

Originally, we thought we had a day off, so we planned to drive to the Glasshouse mountains. However, in the morning Merlijn and Gavin came over for coffee and we certainly did not want to miss that. So, we left a bit later. We took the hinterland route through D’Aguilar NP, and along the Wivenhoe (bottom pic) and Somerset Dams (top pic). Beautiful natural surroundings. We did not arrive at the Glasshouse Mts until 16:30. A quick stop but decided to visit them properly at a next occasion.

Statistical update mid-June

The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 cases in Australia reached 7302. Of these, some 6812 cases have seen the patient involved recover, while there have been 102 deaths. While the numbers have certainly dropped, they have not stopped coming in. There are still around 10 new cases a day.

Overall, New South Wales has emerged as, by far the most affected State, with 3119 cases reported since January 22, followed by 1711 in Victoria, 1065 in Queensland, 602 in Western Australia, 440 in South Australia, 228 in Tasmania, 108 in the ACT, and just 29 in the Northern Territory.

There have also been some 4536 cases of Australians who became infected overseas, or 62 percent of the Australian total. Some 2750 cases were acquired locally. Deaths have been reported in the case of Australians aged between 42 and 96 years. Most deaths have involved males aged between 70 and 89. There have been no deaths reported of people aged under 40.

Slowly going back to normal #1

As the virus was not spreading, the situation slowly became more normal again. Bit by bit restrictions were eased. Restaurants, shops, musea and other places opened up again. However, large gatherings such as sporting, events, concerts, movie theatres, etc remained closed.

The grandkids all went back to school again.

Louise and I went back this time directly to the Glasshouse Mountains and we had a few walks in this spectacular area. I also did another heritage walking tour with Sebastian.

July 2020

In the first weekend of July the Brisbane families rented a big holiday house in Caloundra and we had a lovely long weekend together. The next day Louise went to Ballina to catch up with Glynis and Julia. The day after I drove to Ballina to pick up Louise and we drove on to Bucketty, stopping overnight in Port Macquarie. We had Anneke staying over one night, a coffees morning with the old BuddeComm office team. On Sunday we went on a whale watching cruise with Ravian, Zohar, Aiyana and Neriya.  It was on a small boat, just the 7 of us, the weather was calm and sunny so ideal for this sort of a trip. We saw whales in the distance but many dolphins around the boast. It was a lovely morning out on the ocean.

Ravian and the kids went back with us to Bucketty and stayed there for 5 days, which was lovely. We did catch up with the neighbours (Karina and Joel who bought our house) and did a walk with them in the catchment. On Tuesday we went with the kids to Tree Tops, always fun to do some of their activities.

As Erwin was in Newcastle at the same time I did catch up with him in Wyong for a beer and meal. Very strong warnings from the pub about the covid restrictions.

The Victorian crisis

In early July there was a sudden community outbreak, traced back from slack security at the hotels where people from overseas were quarantined. Within a week the number of infected people had risen to 3000 with daily growth in the hundreds of new cases. The other states started to close their borders with Victoria. The state went back into total lockdown and for the first time in Australia people in Victoria were asked to wear face masks in situations where it is impossible to keep social distance.

As the crisis continued, we were happy that we had planned this trip the way it worked out. The border had been opened on July 10th so we could go back without quarantine just a border pass. On the way we stayed on the beach in Coffs Harbour. There was an Eastern Low so wild seas, so we did a nice beach walk. The motel we stayed in was all covid safe so no problems staying there. Also, the restaurant we went to very well organised.

The next day we went to Yamba, another lovely spot and we walked over the breakwater of the Clarence River, quite a spectacular walk. We only had a 15-minute delay on the border between NSW and Queensland and with are pass ready we were waved through.

In the weeks after we were back the Victoria crisis increased and more and more restrictions came back. While Queensland remained a safe haven that changed when two irresponsible teenagers travelled from Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane. Dodging quarantine and testing.

Infections remained high with more than 700 cases a day recorded in late July and early August. This led to a total lock down of the State of Victoria. On August 8, the border between Queensland and NSW was again closed. Returning Queenslanders will be quarantined for 14 days at their own costs in selected hotels.

By mid-August, the situation started to ease but still with daily 20+ deaths mainly in aged care facilities. Improvements continued during September and the situation in regional Victoria was eased, but Melbourne remained in lockdown. While the numbers stayed down unresolved community transmissions continued both in Victoria and in NSW. This could also affect the opening of the boarders. The planning was that the Queensland border would be reopened at the end of October.

Brisbane and the Parkland Apartments

Social distancing in Roma Street Parkland
Sanitiser and Covid info in the lift of our apartment.

After the 15th of July, more restrictions were eased, and we used the opportunity to visit the Old Government House and the Convict Museum.

We had to enjoy this quickly as Louise had to go in hospital on July 27th for a hysterectomy. All went well and three days later she was back home, recovering.

As from August 1 the facilities in our Apartment buildings are open again. This means that after several months of yoga in the park we can now move inside again, and the gyms and swimming pools are also open again. Great to be able to get back into the gym!

There was significant bureaucracy involved in getting the yoga classes back. They took place in the recreation room and they typically have half a dozen of people per session.  One would think with gyms and pools open where many more people can gather that this was a non-issue, but it went on for the whole month of August, with the sessions continuously being diverted to the park. It now looks like they can start in September however, there needs to be a day in between sessions for cleaning purposes, yes this is all beyond belief. Finally in September the bureaucracy was cleared and we were back in the rec room.

 

August 6th

Fireworks at Ekka – over Roma Street Parkland

No Ekka this year, no crowds for the fireworks but live on TV. We could watch it from the balcony

Family picnic in Roma Street Parkland

We also had our first Parkland Man’s Lunch this day at the Garden Room in the park. Nice event with some 40 resident men. Unfortunately sit down only because of corona, so no mingling.

Lots of zooming taking place in relation to interests such as philosophy, history and art as well as business. On the business side I have been speaking in relation to the NBN and smart cities, chairing a session of masterclasses on 5G and of course also participating as a delegate in several other sessions. We quite like the convenience of it all. It is also easier for senior people to present, as they are often reluctant to fly around to conferences. However, in this webinar and zoom environment they are happy to participate, often from their homes.

Thanks to Covid we couls also be part of Alex Budde graduation at the University of Utrecht, which took place by Zoom. Of course it was sad for him that this could not be real life event. The age group Alex is in is hard hit with Covid as this is the time of your life when you go out with friends, have parties, travel and so on

Alex Graduation

We also had a family picnic in the park and the grandkids have started their sporting activities again.

Birthdays also happened, we celebrated mine in the Garden Room with the Brisbane families and afterwards birthday cake in the apartment. Ravian’s birthday was a zoom affair. At Louise’s birthday we cycled to the Powerhouse had lunch here and in the evening dinner with the Brissie crowd at Erwin’s place.

Shortly after that we went on a 2-week campervan tour into the Queensland Outback. Bunya Mts, Roma, Tambo, Longreach, Winton, Barcaldine, Emerald, Carnarvon Gorge, Roma, Dalby. In all over 3,000 kms. There was nowhere any feeling of being limited by Covid. While the places we stayed. Visited and dined all had to have the usual precautions in place, it was all very relaxed.

During this period Trump ended up in hospital and that was the big Covid news at the time. The situation in Europe is also deteriorating and we had a family discussion on the issue as the Netherlands is now one of the hardest hit areas in the 2nd wave. The consensus from the Dutch family is that there is a lack of leadership, clear information and guidelines. The Prime Minister basically leaves it up to the people to do what they see fir and that is creating a lot of confusion.

Zohar’s trip to Paris

Already in 2019 Zophar had arranged to participate in a fashion how to show her jewellery collection Obviously, such events require long term planning. The plan was to prepare for the European Spring Show, however that one was cancelled because of Covid. The organisers indicated that they would plan for an Autumn Show in September.

With Covid cases increasing in Europe and especially in France, there were big clouds gathering over the event. However, the show organisers were adamant that the show must go on and they took all the precursory measures needed to provide for a safe show – without the public.

Zohar was just able to book her flights before the Australian Government introduced the rule that you had to pay for your own quarantine hotel accommodation when coming back to Australia. But just in case she couriered her jewellery separately to Paris in case she would have problems with the flights.

Despite some of the horror stories that you hear about Aussies trying to come back Zohar’s flight went all without a hitch although is was eery to have only a few handful of people on the plane. However, she was tested numerous times before, during and after her travels. She was in Paris when the cases increased to 10,000  a day. (This was rapidly climbing to close to 40,000 by late October)

Covid has some advantages to the fashion show, however, as there was now an enormous focus on the online presentations. This of course provided for the opportunity to have an extended range of exposure.

It also provided Zohar with some excellent marketing material to promote her jewellery.

When in Paris her jewellery was so popular with the fashion designers and the models that several more models wore her jewellery during the show.

Back in Australia she had to go in a two-week quarantine at the Novotel in Sydney. Totally isolated with various test during her stay. She was not allowed to leave her room; meals were serviced in front of her door and the washing had to be left outside as well. She was regularly checked by Red Cross volunteers regarding her wellbeing, but a rather boring and frustrating experience.

 

Slowly back to a new normal #2

Social distancing concert at City Hall Brisbane

After half a year we had our first choir rehearsal again. Still a bit strange, saying hello from a distance and sitting 2 meters apart. Singing in one direction. Nevertheless, it was great to be back again.

Finally, at the end of October infections had gone down to under 5 over a 28-day average. To the relief of millions of Victorians, the Melbourne lock down ended. A few days later the Queensland Government announced that the border to NSW (except for Sydney) would be opened on November 3. We went to NSW in mid-November. While we were there the border was finally reopened on December 1.

At the same time, the situation in Europe and the USA is getting worse by the day. Germany and France in lockdown, Britain set to follow next week, Netherlands still holding out. They are registering around 8,000 new cases a day. Over the next month the situation deteriorated in Europe and unfortunately a friend of ours in Oss, Henk van de Veerdonk,  died of the virus. He did have underlaying health problems.

Concert at St Peter’s. The screen show how the kids had to rehearse online for the performance.

Australia is a heaven compared what is happening in other parts of the world. We had the first and at the same time last concert performance for the year from Cassie and Sebastian at St Peters. Cassie played the flute and Sebastian had two trumpet performances in two different bands he plays in. Social distancing with her even more extreme. Nobody could sit together, so Louise and I had to sit 4 seats apart. This was according the Covid plan they had agreed upon, schools have been always been more cautious in relation to adults and this was for the first time that adults other than parents were allowed back at the school.

The Christmas performances of Hannah and Grace were still restricted, only Gavin could go (one person). Merlijn watch the video streaming from Brisbane and we from Bucketty.

Christmas 2020

While a month ago I reported life going back to normal. New cases in NSW in mid-December changed everything again. An outbreak at the Northern Beaches had the whole country on alert again. It started to spread in Sydney and to Victoria. Border closures were announced again.

All together – Christmas Brisbane 2020

This threw a spanner in the wheel of Ravian and Zohar’s trip to Brisbane to celebrate Christmas together. Sebastian was the first to pick up the news – announced early afternoon on Sunday 20th of December – Neriya’s birthday.  Erwin started an immediate conversation with Ravian, indicating the quickest route the Queensland border via Goondiwindi an 8-hour drive from the Blue Mountains. Ravian and family were in town, rushed home, loaded the car, and left the Blue Mountains at 16:30hrs. The border would close as 01:00hrs Monday morning, Queensland time. At 0:30 they arrived at the border only to find out that the border control was not set up yet. They continued their trip and arrived at 04:00hrs in Brisbane, where they all crashed into their beds.

Thanks to this we had a lovely Christmas. Ravian and family were in an Airbnb at Brookfield. We had the Christmas eve dinner at our place, Christmas Day at Merlijn’s place and on Boxing Day we celebrated, at Erwin’s place the birthdays of Neriya and Aiyana. On the 28th we had a farewell picnic at Seventeen Miles Rock and the next day the NSW family travelled to North NSW to continue their holiday.

 

Brisbane Lockdown

The Grand Chancellor Hotel from our balcony where the virus originated from an overseas traveller.
2nd Brisbane Lockdown 9th January 2021

A week later, Covid did strike again. A cleaner at a hotel opposite our place on the other side of Parklands was tested with the more severe British strain of the virus. As a preventative measure the State Government declared a 3-day lockdown for the Greater Brisbane area from 9-11 January. Exercising and shopping was allowed so I could make these pictures of a deserted CBD.

The dire situation in the UK is a clear warning of what can be expected if the virus gets out of control.

Den Bosch received its share of the riots as well.

Later on that month the situation in Europe deteriorated fuelled by the new virus variants from Britain and South Africa. In the Netherlands for the first time since WWII there was a night curfew.  This led to serious riots from young hooligans across many cities, amazingly several smaller cities and towns were the hardest hit.

On Australia Day we went to a community event in Oxley with a few thousand people all mingling, a few days later I went with Sebastian and Cassie to a cricket match between Brisbane and Adelaide (Brisbane won). There were 21,000 visitors and no masks required, what a contrast to the situation in Europe and the USA.

Mostly back to normal

Fully packed QPAC – The Beatle Boys Concert

During February and March, we went to several concerts and performances where we were sitting right next to each other. The Beatles concert was fully booked out at QPAC with thousands of attendees. In the beginning that felt a bit uneasy as we were drilled to keep social distance, but it makes life much more pleasant again. Here in Australia, you would hardly notice that there was a pandemic raging.

However, at the same time the rest of the world were facing a third wave with the more effective variants from the UK, Brazil, and South Africa). Following the developments in Europe and of course particularly in the Netherlands we saw how disastrous the situation was. The had to set a curfew, people could only have two visitors and family, social and economic life remained severely affected.  At the same time more and more people protested the restrictions, which makes the situation even worse.

The roll out of the vaccines were also problematic, especially within the EU where the countries combined tried to find a solution of equality.  The vaccinations in the UK and the USA are clearly ahead of those in Europe. Increasingly there is also the worry that with the developing countries being left behind, it could take years for them to catch up and in the meantime new more powerful variants could develop. These in turn could be a further threat to the developed economies.

Empty airports and no restaurant open in the airport hotel.

In early March we flew for the first time again in more than a year to Sydney. Spend a weekend with Ravian and his family in the Blue Mountains, visited the new developments around Darling Harbour and met de Dutchies in Newcastle. When flying you notice the effects that Covid has on the travel industry and the international hotels.

The dining room at Governor’s House ready for the Covid dinner

We also visited Fernberg, the Governor’s House at Paddington, where we also briefly met the Governor himself His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC. The dining room was made ready for a dinner that night where the Governor hosted the leaders of the major organisations involved in fighting Covid.

 

 

New snap lockdown for Brisbane

Presentation at World Science Festival at QPAC with Dr. Norman Swan

In Australia, all new infections are coming in from people returning from overseas. While they all go in quarantine, mistakes happen. We saw that in the case of Melbourne in mid-2020 and in March a doctor at the Princess Alexandra hospital in Brisbane got infected from an overseas visitor. Later, also a nurse at this hospital tested positive for corona, both had not yet been vaccinated. Two new clusters evolved of community transferred cases.  This led to a lock down of Brisbane on Monday 29th March, 5 days before the Easter break.  One day after the World Science Festival had ended where we had visited various events and where we also with several choirs performed at on outside venue to celebrate Earth Hour.

Following the outbreak massive testing occurred (36,000 people) and it looks like the outbreak was under control again. At noon on the 1st of April after just over 3 ½ days of lockdown the city was open again be it with some restriction, including the wearing of masks at indoor places outside the home.

Erwin and Caroline and the kids could go to their holiday in Hamilton Island. But the famous annual Blues Concert in Byron Bay – to where the Brisbane cluster had also escaped – was cancelled for the 2nd year.

 

The vaccination debacles

While Australia is not under the same pressure to get its population vaccinated ASAP, with regular short lockdowns also here there is more pressure to speed up the process. Australia depends on, among others, Europe to deliver the vaccines that they have ordered. But with a lack of production and the far more pressing pandemic problems in Europe, delivery has been slow.  As in many other countries, the result is that the ambitious targets to get people vaccinated is running into problems. They are often based on politically motivated promises of rapid roll out of vaccines.  Israel, Chili, the UK and the USA have been able to manage this better.

In early March in the Netherlands Stephan was the first one of our family to get the jab, and he was sick, but that lasted only one day Bas was next being a physiotherapist and in Italy Grazia because she also has work in the jail. In Australia Caroline, the dentist was the first one in mid-April, she also had some mild side effects. We got our first jabs on May 5th and apart from a bit of a sour arm from Louise, no side effects.

International the focus is now on India, where the pandemic has clearly gone totally out of hand. Two Australians stranded here have died.

Trips in April and May

In April we made another trip to NSW. We visited Mahn and Sally in Marrickville and went with them to a Brandenburg concert in the city. From here we went to Hazelbrook and spend the weekend with Ravian and his family. Then up to Canberra to the Botticelli to van Gogh Exhibition and we also celebrated King’s Day here and drove back via Jan and Ria in Forster.

Happy times in Hazelbrook
NSW Entry Declaration (e-format)

Reference number: 5513649 Lodgement date: 23/04/2021

Dear Louise Budde,

Your NSW Entry Declaration has been received.

Details

Have you been in Brisbane City Council, Logan City, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Ipswich City or Redland City in the last 14 days? Yes

Will you be entering New South Wales within the next 24 hours (or have just entered)? Yes

Have you been to a Category A place of high concern (close contact venues) at the time and date listed in the COVID-19 concerns notice? No

Have you been to a Category B place of high concern (casual contact venues) at the time and date listed in the COVID-19 concerns notice? No

Do you currently have any COVID-19 symptoms? No

Traveller details

First name: louise Last name: Budde Email: paul@paulbudde.com Phone number: 0418438183

Residential address: 6 PARKLAND BVD, BRISBANE CITY QLD 4000

Recent travel details

Address(es) stayed in Queensland in the last 14 days:

Address 1: 6 PARKLAND BVD, BRISBANE CITY QLD 4000

Future travel details

Date of arrival in New South Wales: 23/04/2021

Do you have any dependent children under the age of 16 years travelling with you? No

Please keep a copy of this declaration on you at all times while travelling in NSW. You will also need to carry any supporting evidence associated with your travel.

Thank you, Service NSW 

Zoom meeting with my colleague spread over four continents
NT Border Entry Form

The next trip in early May was to Uluru – we had planned this for May 2020 but was cancelled because of Covid. So, all the vouchers used to book the new trip.  In the days before our departure a mystery case appeared in Sydney and that made all the authorities nervous again. We received our NT Border Entry Form and hoped for the best.

Covid Border Control Ayers Rock Airport

On arrival we were ‘welcomed’ by the NT Covid Airport team. Fortunately, we were the first out of the plane as the whole procedure was rather cumbersome and took easily 3 to 5 minutes per traveller. So many were standing line for a long time.

 

The most amazing Covid sight was Alice Spring Airport where hundreds of national and international planes are parked. Because of dry desert climate it is an ideal place to mothball them for better times.

Planes parked in Alice Springs.
Example of staff shortages.

At all travels in recent months, we noticed the shortages of staff, nearly all retail and hospitality business are struggling to get good staff. A key part is that there are no backpackers available for such casual work. As everybody is limited to travel within Australia many places are booked out months in advance. In Yulara for example also the camping grounds were fully booked, and people were diverted to Curtins Springs 100 km back towards Alice Springs.

While these were the signs of the still raging pandemic, for the rest we did not notice anything else in the Northern Territory, if anything the adherence to sign in rules were rather slack. We also for the first time again had a breakfast buffet (in Kings Canyon Resort) something that is as far as we know not yet done elsewhere else in Australia.

Delta is coming – New outbreaks in June and July

The more infectious Delta strain arrived in Australia in mid-June. Bondi quickly became the major hotspot. I had a business meeting at Barangaroo in Sydney on the 25th when the strain was already active. That day the Queensland Government decided to close the border on midday the 26th for people who had been at the Sydney hotspots. I travelled back that evening and in following days the virus has spread to include Sydney CBD. I just dodged that bullet. A week later the virus has spread to such an extend that Sydney had to go into a two-week lockdown. With hindsight they waited far too long as the outbreak had gone out of control.

It also spread to Queensland, WA (Perth) and NT (Darwin and Alice Spring), so soon there were lockdowns everywhere. Masks were compulsory again and a few days later Brisbane went into a 3-day lockdown from the evening of the 29th of June till the 2nd of July. This means cancellation of yoga, singing and a few other things we had planned. The gym in the building was also again closed. The lockdown was at the last minute extended with one day. After that mask have again become compulsory.

The Federal Vaccination Program remains the major issue with still less than 8% of the population being fully vaccinated at the start of the new outbreak, we are at the bottom of the OECD list. The Federal Government had left far too late to order vaccines. At the start of the pandemic when Australia was doing relatively well, they indicated they were not in a hurry with the vaccination program. The country – in particular NSW – is now paying the price for this.

The other issue – again a federal one – remaining overseas visitors with leaks in the quarantine system. There is now finally an agreement to build a large quarantine centre for 1,000 people in Victoria. Queensland and WA might follow depending on federal approval. Changes to lockdown and quarantine were in principle agreed upon by the National Cabinet based on certain national levels of vaccination, but that is where the problem lies there is still a large shortage that prevent the current restrictions to be eased. With the Delta outbreak, they finally allowed the states to start building dedicated quarantine centres.

National Plan to transition Australia’s National COVID Response’. Announced July 2021

The country is currently in Stage 1.

The second stage will come into effect when 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated with two doses, while the third phase will kick in at 80%, based on the population over the age of 16.  After that, each individual state and territory also must hit those thresholds for that phase to specifically apply in that state or territory.

Restrictions will be eased for those vaccinated, including around lockdowns and border controls. Low-level restrictions will still help minimise the spread of cases and assist contact tracing, and the vaccine booster program would begin. This is when inbound passenger caps for unvaxxed returning Aussies will be restored to previous levels, too, and when more vaccinated returning Aussies will be allowed to come home.

The 3rd phase starts when the 80% threshold comes in, vaccinated Australians can travel overseas again without restrictions. This third phase also has minimal restrictions on daily life and no lockdowns and frees vaxxed Aussies from all those domestic restrictions. At this point in the plan, there’d be no caps on returning vaccinated. Also, vaccine boosters would keep being delivered.

August

The Sydney outbreak has gone worse with daily figures around the 200 infections. Victoria and South Australia each had a rapid but short-lasting lockdown in July to get its few Delta variant infection under control. SE Queensland went into a snap three-day lock down on July 31.

At the start of August 17% of the population over 16 years of age were fully vaccinated, 39% has had one doses. By mid August NSW had seen its rate going up to 50% who at least had one jab. The national number (one jab) is just over 40%. Full national vaccination rate stands at 22%.

Things can change rapidly and a day later the lockdown was extended to 8 days. The outbreak is around schools. It started at Indooroopilly high school, but rapidly St Peters was added, the school of Sebastian and Cassie. The family had to be tested and isolate until further notice. They tested negative and the school was taken of the list. Another school effected by this outbreak is Brisbane Boys Grammar, on the other side of the park. Several students and their parents live in our building. Among them our friends Isabella, Masa and Max. They will stay in isolation for 4 weeks.

Neriya made this picture of our video chat.

While Queensland returned to zero cases (donut days) on August the 16th, cases in Sydney had crossed the 600 marks. They were also spreading to regional NSW and authorities are getting worried about the vulnerable Aboriginal communities. In the me]meantime Victoria has again gone in lock down, this is their 5th time. It is race with the time to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Australia is paying the price for not staring early enough, they are still struggling to get supplies.  The desperation is clear, the PM has secured a deal with its counterpart in Poland and 1 million vaccines that are surplus in that country are now used to battle the situation in Australia, 50% of the delivery went straight to NSW.

Masks on at the West Side Story

On the home front we are now really starting to miss the contact with Ravian and his family. There is only so much you can do with Zoom. We have a lovely contact with Neriya and we are chatting on Facebook messenger and have regular video chats. A real highlight!

Louise went with Sebastian, Abigail, Cassie and Hannah to a performance of the West Side Story at QPAC. By the time the performance was on restrictions were eased with the exception of wearing masks.

 

 

Statistical overview mid – August 2021

As per Wikipedia

Top ten – COVID-19 pandemic cases by Country 

Country Cases Death
World 209,759,451 4,398,843
US 37,870,104 635,739
India 32,077,706 429,609
Brazil 20,494,212 572,641
Russia 6,684,531 173,700
France 6,557,356 113,182
UK 6,392,160 131,373
Turkey 6,157,772 53,891
Argentina 5,106,141 109,652
Colombia 4,877,323 123,761
Spain 4,758,003 83,004
#20 Netherlands 1,911,699 17,933

Australia – COVID-19 pandemic cases by State

State Cases Death
Victoria 21,271 820
NSW 15,717 115
Queensland Q,961 7
WA 1,062 10
SA 868 4
Tasmania 235 13
ACT 207 3
NT 200
Total 41,522 971

Numbers are rising with the Delta outbreak in NSW . The lockdown there has been extended to the end of September. At the end of August the country crossed the 1,000 death rate, which included the first indigenous person. Daily infection rates in NSW passed 1200.

There is another major event happening in the extended family Geert and his friend are on their e-bikes to Italy. They had planned this trip for 2020 but that one was cancelled because of Covid.  They started from Maastricht and via Belgium, France and Switzerland to Italy and than to Kufstein in Australia were the two wives will welcome their husbands and enjoy a week in the Austrian Alps. In all the trip will take 6 weeks and they will cover 3,000 kms

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