The Changing Seasons – March 2020

March — Australia creeps toward lockdown.  The weather is good but.
Warning:  this story contains many bird and nature photos.

It seems an age ago that the smoke of bushfires polluted my lungs and we hunkered down for the summer in our small abode.  Then the drought broke and the new corona virus reached our shores, causing chaos and disruption, and threatening to kill a generation.  I confess that my summer experience made me hyper-vigilant for danger. Like the virus, my preparations and anxieties gathered momentum as March marched in.  Read more

Corvid-2020 Weekly Challenge #2

It may come as no surprise to you, ladies and gentlemen, that I am not as clever as I think I am.  Now I am in a bit of a pickle corvid-wise.  You see, I have a lot of currawong photos that I hoped to share with you for the Corvid-2020 Weekly Challenge, but eek, I’ve discovered after starting this challenge that currawongs are not actually corvids (of the family Corvidae).  In fact, the only corvids in Australia are the crows and ravens.  Unfortunately, I have limited raven photos.  Do you think that the powers-that-be will consider, in these dark Covid-19 times, the scouring of the city for ravens to be an essential activity?   I guess we shall find out.   I fear I might have to resort to some very bad poetry for this challenge.

The good news is that there are plenty of different species of corvids in other parts of the world with the Corvidae family encompassing ravens, crows, magpies, jays and nutcrackers.  So check out your corvid photo, poetry and story archives and join the challenge.   Aussies, we will just have to make the best of it.  You can participate by creating a pingback to this post (my pingback approval settings are set up for manual approval, so it may take a little while for your pingback to appear) and/or by leaving a hyperlink to your submission in the comments.   Tag your post Corvid-2020 or C20WC.

Here is a photo taken by my True Love.

raven2

I hope you can join me.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

Land Of Milk And Honey

It seems an age ago that the aphids were attacking my newly sprouted garlic chives.  Now as autumn makes its long anticipated appearance in the temperate areas of Australia, the black aphids are back.  This time they are attacking a beautiful succulent that my friend gave me last year.  The ants are milking the aphids for honeydew.  It is a good system. Read more

Delivering or Deliverance?

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.  Today I’ve chosen a song for all those Australian public servants who, after being derided for years, are

“to be an essential service which needs to keep working in order to keep Australians safe, and ensure that services are delivered for the Australian people. We [the Australian Public Service] can provide the support our community needs, but it is going to require the contribution of the entire APS. Every public servant who can work, should work.” Australian Public Service Commission Response to ABC News Story, Last Reviewed 26 March 2020

Sounds more like conscription to me than working together.  To add insult to injury, repeat ad nauseam, “Delivering for Australians“, the government’s latest reform agenda to make public servants more responsive.  Like what on earth were public servants doing before?  Be careful, public servants, you’ll be getting a white feather if you don’t cooperate for reasons of sanity, poor health, protecting vulnerable family members, or staying at home to flatten the curve.  I’m sure it won’t come to the feather.  Commonsense and kindness will prevail, don’t you think?  Delivering for Australians means delivering for government employees too.  It’s a partnership.

I wish I had a magic tonic/vaccine to protect all those providing essential services.  It is a lot to ask of you.  It always has been.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

 

 

 

 

 

Corvid-2020 Weekly Challenge #1

Hello Readers, I know we are all busy just trying to stay alive (welcome to the world of many trapped in refugee camps and in poverty), but if you have enough time (and photos, stories, poems in your archive), you may wish to participate in a new weekly challenge.  I am calling it the Corvid-2020 Weekly Challenge.  No, the virus hasn’t evolved.  A corvid is a type of bird.  The challenge will come out each Tuesday, all being well (if you know what I mean).

You can participate by creating a pingback to this post and/or by leaving a hyperlink to your submission in the comments.   Tag your post Corvid-2020, or C20WC.  I am looking forward to you joining me.

Here is my first contribution to kick it off.

corvid
Don’t Scratch Your Face

I must fly now (very punny).  I have to work out a way to get food to this self-isolating household.  The last plan worked for about 10 minutes.  No wonder governments everywhere are struggling to come to grips with this crisis.  Three cheers for all those government, health and logistics workers (paid and unpaid) who are working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy.

Stay well.  Stay apart.  Join in.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

Also linking in to the Ragtag Daily Prompt — Flounder.

Operatic

Welcome to my regular Friday song/tune day, ladies and gentlemen, where I pick a piece of music that reflects my mood or the times, to share with you.  I hear that singing is good for the lungs.  You can do it in the privacy of your own home, in a massed choir, or anywhere really.  It is multicultural and multi-generational.

Anonymous Doctor:

“Please don’t give in to fear, don’t amplify hatred or outrage or racism or disgust. Hold the line as a citizen of the moral community. Think of every tiny way that you can help others every day. And do it.”

Facts first.  Act.  Sing/Pray.

Anything else is inhumanity.

Kind Regards.
Tracy.

An Abundance Of Caution

Covid-19 — a personal view on the Australian response.

It seems I am incredibly naive, I heard several statements relating to the Covid-19 response last night that deeply troubled me.

The first was that there were only 2,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds in Australia (ABC Q&A, 16 March 2020).  Hold that thought.

The Australian Government has its Chief Medical Officer stand beside the PM or the Health Minister as if to provide a veil of professionalism and competency regarding its response. And yet, the response has been at best mediocre and at worst …..  Beyond the ban on flights from China into this country, the federal government doesn’t appear to have done anything that was timely or ‘ahead of the curve’ to reduce the infection rate.  The federal government spokespeople are quick to tout that one particular measure as decisive government action when questioned.

However, current social distancing measures appear insufficient and impractical.  The ludicrous suggestion for those needing to take public transport was to use hand sanitiser.  Who has hand sanitiser?  Schools will stay open (up to a point) and the risk of infection will be managed through good hand-washing.  Some schools don’t even have soap.  Have you seen some of the kids toilets?  Closing schools before kids have chance to spread the virus around just seems sensible.

Australia is still waiting for practical, preemptive (life-saving) social distancing measures that will make a significant difference in flattening the infection curve.  In this respect, we are far behind the curve with the Government unable to plan even 24 hours ahead.  Schools and universities are still open.  Some temporary closures have been made after the virus has already made its way into those institutions.  Unlike the private sector, there does not appear to be a policy to actively promote working from home within federal government agencies, perhaps because government IT systems are not up to the challenge.  A certificate from a doctor is often required to access special work from home arrangements.  My mother/my partner might die if I give her a virus that I don’t yet have, really doesn’t cut it with the universities, and maybe not with some employers either.  To their credit, some government agencies are being flexible.

I must declare a conflict of interest at this point.  I have a tiny house and two adult children living at home.  We only have one bathroom.  I also have a number of chronic health conditions, including Type 1 diabetes.  I use an insulin pump that my family don’t know how to operate.  Also, I’m no spring chicken.  The death rate for diabetics is high.  I’m not sure why.  It could be because those with diabetes are statistically more likely to have a range of serious health issues like kidney damage, heart disease, etc.  Or maybe it is because when push comes to shove and decisions are being made in the hospital system about who should receive life-saving intensive care, having diabetes is a threshold test?  I don’t know.

Self-isolation at home, particularly if I am unable to manage my diabetes myself, would be hugely challenging for my family.  The alternative, going to hospital, could be deadly.

Personally it would help me immensely if universities suspended classes right now.  In six weeks, my son will finish his university course.  He is keen to do whatever it takes to finish his degree.  So, in the meantime, he is stuck in lecture rooms with two hundred other students and in science laboratories working in small groups.  That can’t be good.  Who is responsible for making the decision as to when universities should close?  If it is a decision by the federal government, they need to explain why this decision has been delayed.

Perhaps it just too big a hit to the economy if schools and universities close down?  If we fail to act now, then we are on a trajectory to a major infection crisis cannot be avoided.  The countries that have done best at flattening the infection curve are those that have engaged in widespread testing and introduced extensive social distancing measures.  So far it has been a paltry effort in Australia, and with only 2000 ICU beds nationwide and the government unable to confirm the paltry number of test kits available, it will only be a matter of weeks before our health system succumbs.

John Daley, Chief Executive Officer of the Grattan Institute was interviewed for The Business last night (ABC, 17 March 2020),  He said that all the economic modelling of similar novel infection outbreaks showed that the more countervailing measures put in place to deal with public health emergencies, the more these public health measures adversely impacted the economy.  In his words,

The largest part of economic impact will be a consequence of what governments decide to do, essentially from public health measures to try and slow the diseases, the more economic damage they will do on the way through.  That is the horrible trade-off they face and that we as a community face.”

Money or life?  For those with strong constitutions that can survive the virus, it may be the economic impacts that harm them most.  Am I getting to the nub of the Federal Government’s response here?  This is a deeply conservative government that has managed to convince many in the electorate that it is a better economic manager than its opponent.  Yet many of the elderly who are most likely to vote for them, will be the ones most affected by the virus.  Awkward.  Of course, the really wealthy can bunker down in their huge mansions with multiple bathrooms and have their groceries, sanitisers and toilet paper catered.  If no sanitiser, there is always the drinks cupboard.

Several state and territory governments have declared public health emergencies.  Shouldn’t that make the public health response the number one priority?  So far our national government hasn’t stepped up, nor has it levelled with the Australian public about where it sees the balance of priority.   Like this government’s other catchphrases, will the oft-used phrase “an abundance of caution” go down in history as more marketing spin.

Crisis Management

Australia today.

Given the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment for health workers and the shortage of test kits, Australia appears unprepared for Covid-19 to accelerate rapidly. Governments have a duty of care to take all necessary steps to prevent infection or face another catastrophe.  If the Australian government is not getting this advice, it is consulting the wrong people.  If Government is getting sound, evidence-based advice (including on the level of preparedness) and ignoring it, then that is a significant issue.  The advice of the Australian Medical Association should be heeded now.   Is this a re-run of the bushfire disaster?  I’m hopeful for a better response this time around.  Much is at stake.

Irrespective of official advice, organisations that run public events and employ staff should consider the legal implications for their organisations, including the potential personal liability of directors/officials, if their event or business acts as a host for the spread of Covid-19.  They should also consider their duty of care to participants, staff and the wider community, including the impact on local health systems and critical supply chains.  Risk management should be part of all organisations’ planning.  Thankfully, many are doing just this and are leading the way in responding to the crisis.  Organisations/companies should not expect governments to indemnify them for bad decisions taken, should they?

Without a vaccine, enough PPE, or test kits, social distancing appears to be the only practical option to buy more time.  This is not business as usual.  Now where have I heard that before?

There is no time to waste, Australians.  I went to my doctor for my pneumococcal vaccine last week. I overheard the receptionist talking on the phone about a potential Covid-19 patient who they had sent back to their car to wait to be triaged there. The office staff gave the distinct impression of rabbits caught in a spotlight.

UPDATE – I have been hearing from friends who work in the health system that our governments have been too slow to ban community gatherings.  Those are on the front line are asking citizens to voluntarily quarantine themselves right now.  NOT TOMORROW BUT TODAY.  Act now to prevent the transmission of this virus in the community.

We (governments and the community) must do everything possible to protect front line staff and if that means being overly cautious, so be it.  Be calm, but act.

How apt this video seems now.  Sorry about the political stuff tacked on the end of it though.  Let’s keep politics out of it and be guided by best practice.

Regards.
Tracy.

Further information:

https://ama.com.au/media/ama-federal-council-covid-19-national-public-health-emergency