Plague Diary Season 3 Week 1

Hello. It's been a while and a lot and not much has happened. I wrote half a dozen draft posts over the last few months but deleted them last night. I think I'll restart afresh. Meanwhile, you may or may not know, New Zealand has been in a Level 4 lockdown, so once again I'm keeping a Plague Diary. We don't know how long this one is going to last, another assessment is happening tomorrow, so it may be a short-lived Diary, but here goes nothing.
Day 0, August 17. Level 4 lockdown starting midnight tonight, for three days for us, seven for Auckland, provisionally, because we may have a Delta in Auckland. We had been warned of this a week ago. Supermarkets and other retailers worked well last time, so though hoarding has started, folks on the telly were buying one extra pack of loo paper for e.g.
Day 1, August 18. Almost forgot about this diary on the first day, although this may end up being a very short one if lockdown lasts only three days. Or not. 
Last night, we had one community-transmitted case; tonight there are 10, nine loosely connected, but one not to the cluster but to border quarantine work. The first "index" patient had a busy holiday on the weekend while already transmissible. The main cluster that includes the index patient's workmate, a group of flatmates, went to bars, casino, church and a tertiary course lecture with 84 classmates. Top Doc says these folks were "out and about a lot" and there may be as many as 120 or so cases in all. Now I'm thinking, let's hope it stops there. And it's a NSW strain. 
On the home front, Ben had the day off. Originally we were supposed to have our second shots. But we've had this terrible cold, Ben for nearly a fortnight, we postponed them to mid-September. 
During the first lockdown, Kanopy, a video rental service we can sign up through our public library, offered ten videos per account per month. That was reduced to five late last year. So Ben had his library membership reinstated last week. Good thing because this afternoon, after the 1PM update, Ben's laptop suddenly screamed; he had on the newest Japanese Godzilla movie! I ran into the kitchen to kneed sourdough and juice limes while watching a documentary on Gustav Stickley; a much more pleasant viewing. 
Day 2, August 19. Woke up to the news one of the locations of interest, Bar 101, a "premier student bar" in Auckland, had upwards of 900 folks when one of the cases visited, and that was a slow night in a venue that routinely have upwards of 1800 kids drinking, shouting, dancing and sweating. Lordy. 
Then my thoughts turned dark: for over a year there was almost no case here, (all lockdowns were local and not at Level 4, although my memory is a tad vague on that); we've only started getting vaccines in large amounts five or so weeks ago, and in spite of the big rush in recent weeks we're only approaching 20% with two jabs. A friendly Aussie Delta hops across the ditch, and presto, we're just the cleanest petri dish. 
In the afternoon we also learned something of the process used in determining (one) likely origin of this outbreak via genome sequencing. I imagined this could one day become a simple case study in... virus tracking 101 textbooks, because it's got to be a relatively compact, straight-forward case, compared to larger countries or sicker places with competing strains? 
Sourdough waits for no one, even for those with a prolonged cold and a stuffed head. It turned out funny looking and the crust is overbaked, but the inside is OK. Or that's what Ben tells me. 
Day 3, August 20. Numbers are up as expected; as of tonight we have 31 Delta community spread cases, while a few were ruled out as they are unrelated border cases. I don't know what that means, because it doesn't change the fact these folks testing positive were out and about, which you'd think is a big deal. But the more relevant issue today was three of the new cases were Wellingtonians who only spent the weekend in Auckland. 
Contract tracing has since shown it's now possible Delta is all over the country, and locations of interest have ballooned to around 200, but this number doesn't include schools and churches, because... (checks notes) Health Ministry is working directly with each organization in obtaining complete student/staff/member lists rather than appealing to the public. Testing is so busy folks have been turned away from some locations. So now, the whole country will stay in Level 4 until Tuesday. Folks interviewed on the telly and many in comment sections agree the extension is the right decision. Kiwis are rushing to get vaccinated also, although we also have pockets of anti-lockdown idiots. 
There was a rare occasion during the press conference today where Top Doc stated he recommended Auckland and the Coromandel remain in Level 4 until the end of the month, dissenting from the official government view... (checks memory...) who prefers to look at the whole country at this time. I didn't understand what Jacinda really meant, because from the start we had two tiers, three days for us, seven for Auckland/the Coromandel. 
In the first lockdown last year, I was far more concerned about what I should do every day, and lamented not having a Big Plague Art Project. This time I appear to spend more time learning about the bigger picture, trends, numbers, policies. Some mornings I surprise myself (pretending to) read medical research which, for a fleeting moment, seem to make sense and convinces me of whatever the author is trying to convince me of. It may have something to do with having had a pretty bad cold for a week or so, and not having the gumption to do much. 😃 
And then in the evenings, I feel deeply indebted to whoever first thought of potato chips.
Day 4, August 21. Expensive Toms. It's the dead-ish of winter here so these tomatoes were $14.99/kilo at the supermarket. At the end of the summer they can be as cheap as $3, even cheaper outside supermarkets, but more importantly, so much better. 
There was, in Japan, a popular, fancy curry shop Ben and I used to go when we were dating and soon after we got married. (I can't believe I just used the word "dating". That feels several lifeties ago!) Their curries were good, but they also had lovely cakes, and back then Ben didn't have a sweet tooth, so for cakes it was either there or a particular cafe chain we went. Anyway, this curry shop served a small tomato salad before the curry and every now and then we still make a facsimile of that salad. 
A while ago, having heard a terrible story of labour conditions surrounding canned tomatoes overseas, we started buying local, scooping out the seeds but saving the juice, not peeling the skin because that's a lot of work, to use in our cooking. And in the warmer seasons, even these with-acid kind, they've been delish. 
This time of year, though... no matter how many days I let them sit, they're not prime salad material. Today's taste like how I expect Japanese food samples to taste - plasticy. I'm not sure whether to dunk it in stronger dressing, or just cook it. But we need a little more veg in our lockdown diet. 
Aforementioned Japanese curry shop tom salad had smaller, uniformly-sized tom pieces, of course. After 31 1/3 years, we're not too fussy. 
The main Delta cluster is now 51 cases; around 10,000 folks were pinged. Considering the last 14 months, New Zealand is on fire, but most Kiwis are super compliant, posting funny or creative pictures on social media from the comfort of their homes. There is a strong sense of "we've been here before." 
Meanwhile, situation in some parts across the ditch is... dire. NSW, the state that includes Sydney, had a whopping 825 new cases yesterday. Melbourne finished her 200th days in lockdown. Yet when I see footage from Australia, their lockdowns look very unlike ours. (Mind you, different states have different rules, and NZ television have shown mostly Sydney and Melbourne CBD.) 
I hear more and more from Aussies in the press saying it's time to "learn to live with Covid," and that... irks me. With what looks to me like a half-hearted, (and you know I really mean a different part of the anatomy,) lockdown unable to control Delta, you're just going to quit and... live with it? With the proximity and amount of traffic between New Zealand and Australia, this means eventually they are going to drag New Zealand down the same path. And if you can't be bothered about NZ, what about all the conscientious Aussies who lock down the "proper" way? (Right, I've got to walk this off now; I'm getting too worked up.) 
Ben wanted to bake a cheesecake this afternoon but I've been dying to try this recipe, so I insisted. I've loved to bake since I was in high school, and only learned to cook meals out of necessity, like after getting married, but it's always been such a hit and miss affair. This lot, however, turned out spectacularly. I'd like it a little better moist and cakey in the middle, but this is the texture Ben loves, and I blew my mind!! 🤣 
Before you ask, base recipe is Nigella's. I've substituted quite a few ingredients, because I'm using what I have. I also used 70g of coconut sugar per batch; I mate two, one with big choc chunks that melted away, one with walnuts. 
Day 5, August 22. Today dragged on. We ate too much of my awesome cookies. And croissant with cream cheese and smoked salmon for brunch, but the baby spinach leaves were too wilted. And Ben watched a dreary Japanese dystopian science fiction animation. I watched it with him. 
Tomorrow Cabinet meets to decide our fate and we'll hear from Jacinda at 4PM. Auckland is likely to remain at Level 4 for a couple of weeks; there are half a dozen high schools, and at least as many supermarkets and churches involved. One supermarket is closed until the end of the month because too many employees are required to isolate. Delta cluster is now 72, six of whom are in Welly, the rest in Auckland; 8677 folks are in isolation. In spite of repeated threats, there have been none from the South Island so far. 
I'd rather be told Level x will go on for y weeks rather than being drip-fed every few days. Businesses want things opened and there is talk of the South Island being at a different level/openness. Regardless of the changes, Ben's work will be physically closed next week so he'll work from home. 
I'm looking for will power, gumption, resolve, and the like to be productive starting tomorrow. Maybe I'll start by folding the laundry I dumped on the floor yesterday. 
Day 6, August 23. 33 new cases in Auckland, two in Wellington. Total in the community is 107. All of New Zealand remain in Level 4 until end of Friday, pending another assessment/announcement on Friday; Auckland will stay at Level 4 until August 31. This piecemeal extensions is really getting on my nerve. Jacinda may be losing weight; her features look sharper and her nose looks like late-stage Michael Jackson. Her temper seems shorter; I don't blame her when taking media questions, but her displeasure didn't seem this evident last year, in my recollection. She cuts them off more, and when she does the "be kind" routine, somehow it doesn't appear as genuine as last year. It could all be in my head, of course. 
Had a very long shower. 
Washed bedding. 
Washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen. 
Made another pot of voo doo cold not-remedy. 
Peeled lime peels to dry and squeezed 400ml of juice. 
Folded the laundry on the floor and put them away. 
And it's not yet 4.30PM so I may still get something else done. Or not. I have to light the fire at least. 
Didn't, in spite of early morning intentions: 
Weed the pots. 
Sweep the patio. 
Sow seeds in new terracotta pots. 
I noticed kowhai flowering outside the stash room a few minutes ago. Earlier in the season it was a sorry sight, with about 10% of the flowers of last year. Usually by now they are all gone. The other tree by the driveway, which didn't flower well either this year, is well and truly finished this year; it had two flowering this afternoon. 
Day 7, August 24. 41 new cases, kids, three in Wellington; the community cluster is 148 with six sub clusters. None on the South Island. Close to 16000 contacts; 400 locations of interest. 
Oz PM ScoMo (Australian PM Scott Morrison) has been dissing New Zealand's eradication approach. And while I don't take him seriously, I have been wondering how feasible this approach is, considering a lot/most of the world has taken a different approach. I find this direction very depressing. Then, I found this, an episode from Australia's Covid podcast by Dr Norman Swan, (yeah, that's Papa Swan,) with a not-so pessimistic view on eradication.
We had a beautiful early spring day, but I dithered inside waiting for the 1PM update. I remembered from later in the lockdown last year that if I miss 1PM, I can always watch it later, and it didn't matter if I was a few hours late in learning the latest. I was feeling so ugh, Ben suggested I put my genius to work and bake more cookies. Pic's Peanut Butter ones turned out great; expensive 99% dark choc ones, not so much. 
Feeling I hadn't done enough, I read all parts of the Covid tracer app, loaded personal info which hitherto I avoided, and entered where I was for all but three days of the 30 days. After all that work, I learned that unless I've tested positive or have been in close contact, I can't and don't need to forward my whereabouts. Bummer.


  1. Hi Meg,
    Good to hear from you. Sorry covid is ravaging NZ...it is here too, as you know. I'm vaxxed and fine though.
    I need you to friend me again on FB. My previous acct was shut down by FB for an innocuous reason. Still same name and pic of BeeGee as my avatar.

    1. Hey, Hi. I can't find you on FB. A whole bunch of Cate Roses, but not you. Can you request again?


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