High stakes in a time of great uncertainty


    I said plaintively to one of my nearest and dearest recently that I just wanted someone to give me a list of what I should be stocking up on to get through – a sad decline in one who once quite satisfactorily stored a yacht to sail for four years around the world, on a shoestring and off the grid for months at a time.

    Her text half an hour later itemised the tins in her (impressive) store cupboard and I settled down to suggest a few more tins of tomatoes (all that flavour). Cosy, but hardly useful in the radically changed Covid landscape we are now in.

    Blamed by many kiwis for foisting Delta on our borders, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison  told his own citizenry, with brutal frankness, that they had two choices: “You can push through, or you can lock down. We’re for pushing through.”  

    With the arrival of first Delta and now Omicron across our transTasman borders, we’ve been towed into the same conundrum and, with the numbers now being predicted, we are likely to be forced, at a household level, to both lock down and push through. 

    Needing to prepare to nurse Covid patients in our own family while devising and maintaining a safe environment for the rest of the now-locked down whanau. And telling everyone’s boss/ teachers et al that none of you will be out of quarantine for the next three weeks. More, if any of you test positive along the way.

    Your employer should apply for Leave Support Scheme payment or a  Short Term Absence payment to support employees not able to work because they have Covid-19, are isolating as a contact or are awaiting test results. Both are paid at the same rate as the wage subsidy and details for help for self-employed are also promised.

    By then, of course, employers will already be tearing their hair out attempting to keep enough workers on the tools or the weekly workflows covered, so to save pain all round, it’s best to make some rules for ourselves. A giddy round of indoor gatherings and unnecessary close-quarters activities in the meantime will not go down well with workmates.

    A lot of difficult stuff may be coming down the pipeline, especially, as usual, for those in poor circumstances with housing, overcrowding and hand-to-mouth employment.

    Countdown, for example, is predicting significant disruption this time – even singling Waiheke out as of particular vulnerability – with a worsening of gaps in supply chains and up to 30 percent of staff  out of action – a reason to work out tasty store-cupboard meals for when weekly provisioning is disrupted.  Note to self: Meals at sea – mostly rice and fish – would have kept body and soul together much better if I had known then the flavour magic of soy, oyster, fish and Thai sweet chilli sauces. 

    The Government’s check-sheet for households includes a few lists: a buddy system, emergency contacts, care and support plans for children and dependants, signals to others you are isolating and instructions for food delivery, pet care, maintenance and paying bills.

    The first aid kit could need nasal sprays, throat lozenges and cough medicine, paracetamol, ibuprofen and prescription medicines, while   masks, gloves, tissues, hand sanitiser, rubbish bags and cleaning products are recommended for home nursing.

    This time, masks and specifically the certified P2 or N95 will be the only real protection for those indoors. And, Professor Michael Baker says even 4.5 million rapid antigen tests won’t be enough to screen essential workers to keep operations functioning. 

    In Australia, Rapid Antigen Tests (RATS), can sell for $500  for two test kits on line and $74 a piece in some supermarkets. 

    Some or all of this will come to pass here, according to professional modellers, probably reaching a crescendo in March and showing signs of abatement by May. At the same time, macro adjustments, as before, will be made in the transition from isolation to the new situation when Omicron is everywhere.

    I would be a lot more dismayed about all this if we hadn’t had the most spectacular of summers, compared with the Christmas of, say, 2019 when we barely knew Covid existed.  The main roads on Waiheke reeled under a stream of fast-moving vehicles that gridlocked every sideroad and the only smile one could get out of anyone on the main street was a furtive grimace from a fellow-islander, however distantly known. 

    This year, by comparison, the smile ratio was almost 100 percent.  Cars, if bigger and shinier, were keeping an informal social distance and strolling families parted to let slow-moving vehicles through the middle of the road.  

    Of course, this is perhaps the most fortunate place to find yourself in in a global pandemic but it’s good to know that the lucky few here are appreciating the place and the luck that got them here.

    We can be grateful. And put aside some time and money to make ourselves useful.
    • Liz Waters


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