from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: the case of the nebuliser – illegal or not?

Johannes Leak – from the Weekend Australian 13 February, 2021

February 13, 2021.

I need to write this blog because in years to come I will read it and be amazed at the twists and turns of the politics of Covid-19. (After all it brought down the President of the United States).

So, here in Australia, 7 million Victorians are starting a ‘gold-standard’ 5-day total lockdown – till Wednesday, Feb 17. All borders are closed to Victoria except the NSW border.

Here are the facts as we know it. A returning Australian family (husband, wife and 3 mth year old baby) arrived into Melbourne on Feb 2 and went into quarantine in the airport Holiday Inn. The father is an asthmatic and became breathless with his condition. As required, he was tested before departure for Australia and when he arrived (negative). He says (insists) that he asked, and was told he could use his nebuliser to inhale the necessary Ventolin (Feb 3-4). Unbeknown to him nebulisers are NOT allowed because they create aerosols. The father was now positive, as was his wife, and through use of the nebuliser he passed the infection on to a worker in the hotel and another quarantined traveller who then left the hotel.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-02-11/how-a-nebuliser-produces-droplets-covid-19-can-hitch-a-ride-on/13140554

The spread was on.

Over 1,000 close contacts are now in isolation. But the authorities were in catch up (some sort of unexplained bureaucratic mix up). Before the contact tracers could get their act together (some confusion resulted in a delay), a ‘close contact’ had done a long shift at a café in Melbourne Airport and tested positive. Now they say over 1,000 ‘close’ contacts are in isolation and the Holiday Inn ‘cluster’ has grown to 14.

Today 20,000 tests were done in Victoria. 3,500 passengers passed through Melbourne Airport during the time the café worker was there and, unknown to her, infected. Now all states are ramping up testing. All other states face the possibility of having infected arrivals from Melbourne.

This sudden crack down in the huge city of Melbourne is particularly devastating. They had enduring a 112-day lockdown last year. They were just getting going. This weekend is:

  • Chinese New Year
  • Valentine’s Day
  • Aussie Open in Melbourne (will continue – all matches are now without spectators). All ticket holders will be refunded.

Victorian cafes and restaurants said they had stocked up were fully booked. One restaurant owner said he would lose $40,000 as a result.

Daniel Andrews, ‘the seasoned Labor leader, unparalleled in his mastery of political spin, is again using the classic tactic of deflection to steer attention away from what appears to be yet another failure of quarantine protocol and inadequate processes by Victorian officials.’ (the Weekend Australian, 13 Feb. Simon Benson).

Andrews says he has to bring in this severe lockdown as the virus that has arrived is the new UK strain which he called ‘virulent’ and is 70% more infectious. But those facts are in doubt. Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett says that the UK strain is indeed more infectious (the original Wuhan strain – an infected person would pass on the infection to 11 percent of their close contacts – a person infected with the new UK strain would pass on the infections to 14.7 percent of their close contacts.) It is (only) 34% more infectious than the original strain.

Catherine Bennett says, when there are a very few cases, as in Melbourne, spread can be contained by contact tracing, testing and limited suppression strategies. This TOTAL lockdown that Andrews has brought in for infections in four households seems unnecessary. Catherine was quoted as saying, ’We could have put suppression in place to help prevent super-spreader events without closing down every business and putting the state into a full lockdown.’

Unless, of course, your political career depends on your NOT having another break-out on your watch.

Oh, BTW, we are booked to travel to the (miserable) state of Victoria for a 10-day holiday in 10 days time. This time I am not packing till the car is about to start. It’s not looking likely that we will go – none of us wants to be in quarantine on return. We had better start looking for somewhere to go in our own backyard, which after all is rather pleasant.

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: There’ll be days like this.

January 24, 2021

First, I have to record my joy at the events of 20 January, 2021. What a relief!

When it’s not always raining there’ll be days like this
When there’s no one complaining there’ll be days like this
When everything falls into place like the flick of a switch
Well my mama told me there’ll be days like this

When you don’t need to worry there’ll be days like this
When no one’s in a hurry there’ll be days like this
When you don’t get betrayed by that old Judas kiss
Oh my mama told me there’ll be days like this

When you don’t need an answer, there’ll be days like this
When you don’t meet a chancer there’ll be days like this
When all the parts of the puzzle start to look like they fit it
Then I must remember there’ll be days like this …

Van Morrison himself. 1995 release.

Surely, Van Morrison had in mind one of those rare times when (unexpectedly) everything comes right. When you can live fully in the moment, be somewhere special with those you love, and suddenly realise that what you are feeling is contentment and it might even be the edge of happiness.

I have to say that when Biden and Harris were sworn in and there were no untoward incidents, I felt we (those who felt Trump was a disaster for the USA and for the World) could not ask for more. It was a rocky ride from election night, with the uncertainty of the following days, waiting through the 62 election law suits Trump raised (61 failed and he raised US$200 million to fight them). The courts held firm, the electoral system held firm and finally Mike Pence did not roll over in the face of the attacking mob, enraged by Trump.

So, for a little while, we can bask in the sense that we might be heading to a more stable, sensible, kind USA, led by a team of people prepared to roll back Trump’s xenophobic enactments.

Meanwhile …

Alert-SA on going fires in South Australia

On the other hand, here at home in South Australia, today is one of those summer days when the temperatures rises over 40°, we draw the curtains against the glare and the hot windows, we huddle inside and hope the power is not cut.

Worker bees collecting water to cool their hive

It is hard to describe just how strange it is when the temperature is 35° at 8.30 am with a strong gusty wind and the humidity level is around 14%. These are dangerous numbers. We were up early watering and switching on the sprinklers. We put out basins of water for the birds, the koalas and the bees. I noticed our resident koala climbing down out of a tree. They know what kind of day it is going to be. In the mid-afternoon when the temperature was 40 degrees C (104F), I looked for and found him – or found his grey furry back as he is buried deep in a pile of succulents at the base of the tree – seeking some sort of shelter.

Visitors to our bird bath. Koalas do not normally drink. They have no ability to lap – as dogs do.

We have not had rain for weeks and the countryside is brown and tinder dry. The eucalyptus trees around our house are dropping their leaves and our gutters gather their wind-blown drifts.

We are all recommended to have an emergency ‘Bushfire Survival Plan’ for days such as this. ‘Be Bushfire Ready!’

https://www.cfs.sa.gov.au/simplethings/index.html

The first decision is whether to go or to stay and that decision must be made long before any fire front is close. Most deaths during catastrophic fire events are due to people leaving their properties too late. Some of our friends, who live in the Adelaide Hills surrounded by forest, pack their dogs, cats and other precious items in the car and spend the day in town with relatives. They realise there is no way that they can defend their houses which are surrounded by towering eucalyptus.

Our plan is to STAY and defend, in the event of a bushfire. We are on the fringe of the city fringe facing north. The dangerous fires come from the north with a hot wind out of the centre of Australia. We are sort of prepared. But most dangerous is an ember attack and that can come from any direction.

On the top of our house there are water sprinklers. The plan is that the water will fill the gutters (we have to block the down-pipes with sand-filled socks) and prevent flying embers getting sucked into the roof. But the sprinklers are powered by an electric motor and in the event of a fire in this area the power would most likely be turned off.

We also have a petrol fire pump, which I would struggle to start! In the house, we keep a bucket in the laundry filled with the gear that you would need in the event of firefighting: leather gloves, cotton long-sleeved shirts, blankets, etc. (No artificial materials that melt on your skin).

Finally, we have a ‘bolt hole’ under the house with a fireproof door and backed by the water tank – where we store our wine!

We all have smart phone apps (Alert-SA) that warn us of any fire within a circle of say, 10 km. You can see from the image where the current fires are in South Australia. At the moment, there are 12 fires listed and only three of these are ‘contained’. Every time I look, there is another fire listed. One larger fire, Cherry Brook, is on the edge of getting into a precious national park called Scott Creek. They also list how many ‘units’ (think fire-trucks and aircraft) are attending the fire and what type of fire it is. (grass, forest, vehicle, building …)

This time last year Australia, was ravaged by fire like never before. Since then, with La Niña we have had rains in most of the country and the drought is over but for a few isolated patches. Even so, summer means fire season for us in South Australia – the driest state in the driest continent in the world. ‘On a continual quest for water’.

UPDATE ON THE 2021 AUSTRALIAN OPEN.

Today it has been reported that 10 of the 72 people associated with the Aussie Open (players, coaches and supporters), all who are in quarantine, are infected with Covid-19 and 3 of them have the new UK Covid-19 variant strain. The player, Paula Badosa, who complained about quarantine rules, has now tested positive. She is now apologising profusely. Three of the 15 flights chartered by Aussie Open Admin for the players had infected people on board.

Victoria State has had 18 days without community transmission, they certainly don’t want any infection to escape due to the 2021 Aussie Open being held in Melbourne.

In the days to come, more news will surely evolve from this tennis story!

from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: Tennis Anyone?

18 January, 2021

Our son, David Adams, at the Australian Open. 2000

Our son, David, was a professional tennis player on the ATP Circuit for 15 years until 2003. Every January we would be at the Australian Open in Melbourne supporting him: sitting on the sidelines anxiously watching match after match. David succeeded as a Men’s doubles and Mixed doubles player and won two Grand Slam titles and 19 ATP titles.

The Australian Open (AO) is one of the ITF’s four Grand Slams on the circuit and a ‘must-attend’ for every professional tennis player. Just getting into the main draw is a huge achievement. The money and points they can earn at the Grand Slams is a major drawcard for all players. The players all say they love coming to Australia and the tournament is well run. Sometimes they would play run-up tournaments in Brisbane or New Zealand or in Dubai on the way.

AO, Melbourne Park, one of the open-seating, outside courts. Max Mirnyi facing.

I need hardly explain how big an event this tournament is for Australians, for all tennis enthusiasts and for sports fans worldwide. If you did not get tickets to attend Melbourne Park, two weeks in January were spent watching the tennis on TV. The sound of the ball smacking back and forth was a backdrop to our days. We did not have to stay up until the midnight hours as we had to for the French Open or Wimbledon. The AO is our local Grand Slam.

With Covid-19 changing our world, holding the Australian Open was put in doubt. How to bring players, their coaches and their entourage to Australia safely? How to manage the crowds?

It was finally negotiated that the AO would be delayed to begin on February 8th, that players would come in early and quarantine for 2 weeks and then play. Qualifying rounds were to be held offshore in Dubai (men) and Doha (women). All teams would be tested before they leave, and when they arrived on our shores. During quarantine they would be allowed out to practice and exercise for 5 hours a day in controlled circumstances. What could go wrong?

Tickets have gone on sale with special arrangements in place. ‘The Australian Open has a new game plan to ensure the safety of everyone onsite. As part of this focus, the Melbourne Park precinct will be divided into three zones, each including one of our three major arenas. Each zone offers its own unique combination of live experiences, food and beverage and tennis action. Please note that your ticket is specific to a zone, and travel between zones is not permitted after entry.

It all seemed set to go ahead smoothly. Except ….

The new covid-19 strain is very infectious. Apparently three people on the first tennis-player charter flight tested negative when they left LA and were found to be positive when they landed: one crew member, one coach and one journalist. All the people on that flight have now been put into HARD quarantine. Since then, passengers on another two flights with AO players and supporters have been found to be infected and all passengers have joined the others. Now 72 players are in hard lockdown quarantine. (Some of these details are now in dispute – were the infected people really infectious or were they just ‘viral shedding’ and not infections? A fine point.)

This means, no practicing, no leaving of their hotel rooms. There is much complaining! Tennis players don’t like being confined. They have honed their skills and their training to reach peak performance at the AO, the first of the four Grand Slams. The difference between winning and losing (often after 4 hours on court for the men) might come down to one or two points. You have to be on top of your game.

And there is the money!

A first-round loser in the main draw wins $100,000 (USD 76,850). The total pool of prize money is $80 million AUD. The prize pool has increased 12% from last year. And your chances of getting past the first round are enhanced if you are seeded. Seeding depends mostly on ranking and ranking depends on your ATP points. Here is the men’s ranking.

https://www.atptour.com/en/rankings/singles

and explained

https://www.atptour.com/en/rankings/rankings-faq

and the women’s

https://www.wtatennis.com/rankings/singles

Ranking depend on points earned in tournaments. More points means higher ranking and less chance of being knocked out in the first rounds. The points are accumulated and drop off when you play the same tournament the next year. Thus, all those players who did well in the 2020 AO will be defending those points this year. They don’t want to miss out.

And players are skittish. They are highly tuned physically and mentally and the idea of being subject to HARD lockdown is causing great anxiety. Based on the timing, they will have one week to get back into fitness before the tournament begins.

Novak Djokovic, the former president of the ATP Player Council, and no 1 ranked men’s singles player, has demanded that Tennis Australia provides ‘equal and better conditions for all players stuck in quarantine’.

Here are his demands:

  • Fitness and training material in all rooms.
  • Decent food for all players, after a number of players complained about their food on day one of quarantine.
  • Fewer overall days of isolation for the players hotel quarantine, while also carrying out more COVID tests.
  • Permission for players to visit their coach or physical trainer, as long as both have passed COVID tests.
  • Permission for players and coaches to be on the same floor of the hotel, if they pass COVID tests.
  • Relocation of many tennis players as possible to private houses with a court for their isolation period.

Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, was NOT sympathetic. He has said that the rules applied to the tennis players were the same for everyone else: that they were advised of the conditions before they left and they knew the risks. There’s no negotiating with him!

Some media are saying that the AO will not go ahead, others say it must be delayed. And then there is a vocal outcry about allowing ANY players in. After all, 37,000 Australians are struggling to get back home. Emirates airlines have cancelled all flights to three major Australian centres (they will still fly into Perth) due to ‘operational requirements’. They say it is not economical. No more Emirates. Our government is now promising they will charter 20 flights to bring Australians home. Due to arrival restriction in major cities these flights will land in Northern Territory, Canberra and Tasmania.

It’s getting more complicated each day.