Canada, Cuba and Covid 19

Currently traveling
In March 2020 a group of 16 riders from the Australian Ghostriders cycling group travelled to Cuba to complete an extended cycling adventure around the island. This journal documents Cuba and the COVID aftermath that cut our trip short.
Currently traveling
  • Day237

    A Covid Grand Final

    October 24 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    In this year that is unlike any other, today we have the spectacle of the strangest Grand Final in football history. In any normal year, this would have already been held on the final Saturday in September. But not this year.

    This year was without doubt, weird in every respect. Football was no exception. The outbreak of the pandemic looked like it would bring a premature end to the entire 2020 season, and that's what almost happened. After a few rounds, the pandemic grew to such an extent that all matches were suspended.

    For a time matches resumed in front of empty grandstands. It was purely a TV spectacle, but the "spectacle" was more like a farce. Someone decided that we need some artificial crowd noises to build the atmosphere, but that only served to make it a sad joke. The quarters were reduced in length to 15 minutes. I am not sure why this was done, but it only added to the lacklustre season that never was.

    Soon the dreaded "second wave" arrived in Victoria and somehow all the players, partners, friends, neighbours, etc were offered free transit to Queensland. The players were supposed to be separated in a special "hub" away from the general population. Of course, many players immediately ignored that condition and proceeded to behave badly at every opportunity.

    The home and away season was reduced to only 17 matches - just enough for every team to play every other team just once during the season. The all-important Grand Final was delayed by four weeks and, in the worst insult to Victoria, was rescheduled to be held in Queensland at the Gabba. At least up there they could still have modest crowds. In the meantime, the massive MCG would sit empty.

    Somehow the season limped along to the finals. It was hard to really get very involved in such a contrived situation and many of the people I spoke to told me that they had lost all interest in what was going on this year.

    To cut a long story short, one by one, the teams were eliminated, until only Richmond and Geelong were left to battle for the Premiership of the Damned. It was somewhat ironic that the first non Victorian Grand Final would be battled out by two Victorian teams. Since I like to support the underdog, I would have liked St Kilda to win the premiership this year, but that was not to be. Both Richmond and Geelong have had more than their fair share of success over the past few years, so it will be another example of the "rich getting richer".

    Against the backdrop of the leadup to the Grand Final, we had had a steady reduction in the daily numbers of new cases in Victoria. It was actually looking like we might even reach the holy grail of zero new cases, however another stuff up in bureacracy has seen another local outbreak in the Preston region. Apparently the Dept of Health and Human Services incorrectly omitted to tell a family that one of their children should have been kept in isolation. The parents dutifully sent off the infected kid to school and the result was therefore quite predictable. We now have three schools closed for 2 weeks and hundreds of people placed potentially at risk.

    Dan Andrews had previously promised that we could expect a further easing fo restrictions tomorrow, but the latest bungle may now have prejudiced that happening. In the meantime, hundreds of unmasked protestors rioted in the streets of Melbourne yesterday. They have come to the conclusion that the pandemic is a scam, and that we should be completely freed to infect anyone we choose, in any way we choose.

    On a personal level, Maggie and I were very happy with the increase in travel distance up to 25 km. This gave us the chance to leave our neighbourhood for the first time in months. We met with friends at Gembrook, had a picnic in Garfield and, best of all, saw our youngest grandson again. It really was like a breath of fresh air and made us feel like there was light at the end of the tunnel after all.
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  • Day231

    The Big Day Finally Arrives

    October 18 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    In a few short hours all of Melbourne will be watching and listening for the long awaited announcement from Dan Andrews about what, if any, changes will be made to our lockdown rules. After enduring months of the most severe lockdown restrictions on earth, people are now at breaking point and desparately in need of some light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel.

    The last few days have finally seen a dramatic drop in the number of new daily cases. The past three days' critical numbers were 4, 2 and 1. A few minutes ago we heard that today's number was 2 (with no deaths). This brought the rolling `14 day average down to 7.5 for Metro Melbourne.

    In spite of this, we are continually being warned to not expect too much change to the current restrictions. The most hated restriction is the 5 km travel limit. This is the one that everyone really wants to be scrapped. Apart from split families, the other major group suffering at the moment is the retail sector. With the majority of retail shops still closed, there is a very real danger that many will not survive if they cannot open and start to gain even some benefit from the upcoming Christmas period.

    So what else has been happening over the past week ? For people looking for some diversion from the doom and gloom of Covid, we have had the AFL football season finally limping towards a conclusion. With the MCG closed, all matches have had to be held interstate. The final preliminary final was held last night at the Gabba in Brisbane. The two teams fighting for the final spot in the Grand Final were Brisbane and Geelong. Although Brisbane put up a brave struggle for most of the match, they were overun by Geelong in the final quarter. The final margin was 40 points. This now gives rise to a somewhat ironic situation where, for the first time in history the Grand Final will be held outside of Melbourne, but the two teams competing are both from Victoria. Geelong will now face Richmond for the title of the weirdest premiership ever. I will be barracking for Geelong.

    Later today I will post an update with what changes have been announced to the lockdown. In the meantime, I will have some fun by making a few predictions.

    I predict
    1. That the 5 km travel limit will be increased to 20 km.
    2. That Melbourne will still be cut off from regional Victoria.
    3. That some retail shops will be allowed to reopen (eg hardware, clothing, etc)
    4. Cafes will still only be able to sell take away.
    5. Groups of up to 10 people will be able to meet outdoors.
    6. No indoor gyms, dining, etc.
    7. No change to mask wearing laws.
    8. All students to return to school as soon as possible.
    9. Next major date for updates will be 8th November

    I don't pretend to be Nostradamus, so I wonder how many I will get correct.

    Update at 1.30 pm
    Now that the important press conference has been held, I can report on what sort of score I received for my predictions.
    1. Almost correct - the 5 km was actually increased to 25 km.
    2. True - Melbourne is still surrounded by a ring of steel.
    3. False - most shops remain closed for another two weeks, but somewhat amazingly, hairdressers can reopen.
    4. True - cafes still closed, apart from takeaway.
    5. True - groups of 10 can meet outdoors, but only if they are from no more than two households.
    6. True - gyms and restaurants remain closed
    7. True - masks will be worn for just about forever.
    8. True
    9. False - next major announcement will be on the 1st Nov.

    I think that means I got about 6 and half out of 9 - a reasonable pass grade.
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  • Day222

    Another Week with Nowhere to Go

    October 9 in Australia ⋅ 🌧 13 °C

    It's been a long seven days since my last update, so I thought it was time to make another record of my observations.

    So what has happened in the past week ?

    In the USA we have the ongoing spectacle of the upcoming Presidential election. The narrative was diverted for a few days by President Trump, his wife and an ever increasing number of White House staff being infected with the virus. Of course Trump was never going to a well behaved patient, and spent his time enthusiastically spreading his contagion to just about everybody within a 10 mile radius. He even interrupted his time in hospital to conduct an expensive (and very dangerous) drive around the neighbourhood. It would be crazy if it was made up, it's even more crazy when it actually happened.

    After a few days in hospital, treated with the very best drugs that power and money can buy (and that few others in the USA could afford), he made a very public return to the White House. He claimed that he had assessed himself and discovered that he was a "perfect physical specimen" and that he felt better than ever. He went on to make the even more ridiculous claims that the coronavirus was a "gift from God" and that he was "extremely young". And this is the man that is the supposed leader of the free world. I really hate watching that guy, but somehow his behaviour is so outrageous, that it is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You shake your head in disbelief, but you can't take your eyes off it.

    What about things closer to home ? The biggest event in Australian politics in the past week has been the Federal Budget. Twelve months ago we were promised that we would see the very rare spectacle of a budget surplus. Of course, the arrival of the pandemic quickly sent that promise sailing somewhere out over the proverbial rainbow. The government immediately went into a lather of furious spending, in an attempt to keep as many people as possible still in jobs (even if those jobs were just sitting at home, watching TV, and waiting for the pandemic to pass).

    The promised meager surplus quickly transformed into the biggest deficit that the country has ever faced. Now that the budget has been finally brought down, we can see how huge that deficit actually is. In the space of six short months, we now face a devastating deficit of over 200 billion dollars. That is really a massive number, almost as big as the personal fortune of Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.

    For those of us who do not understand the mysteries of economics, it is always staggering to see where such sums of money can be just made to appear out of thin air. And of course, Australia is not the only country that is currently performing such Herculean feats of Monetary magic - every country on Earth is doing the same thing. So where does the money actually come from ? We are told that it is all "borrowed money". If that is the case, who then is it borrowed from ? If every country is simultaneously also "borrowing" stupendous amounts of money, then even Jeff Bezos would not be able to provide the loans. There appears to be a bottomless pit of virtual money that all countries can access in such times.

    The day after the handing down of the Federal Budget, the Leader of the Opposition is given his chance to put forward his own alternative solution. We then had the incredible mental gymnastics of Anthony Albanese promising to throw even vaster sums of money at everything and everyone in sight. And this has come just a few hours after he had enthusiastically criticized the government for creating a debt that would put everyone's grandchildren into penury. His solution ? To spend even more. It is little wonder that politicians are held in such low regard around the world.

    And what about the situation in Victoria ? With only little more than a week to go before Dan Andrews promised to further relax the restrictions, it is looking more and more obvious that the lockdown is set to be extended for an indefinite time into the future. The target of achieving a 14 day rolling average of less than 5 new cases a day was always going to be unrealistic. Now is it rapidly becoming a mathematical impossibility. With another 11 cases today, the 14 day average is sitting stubbornly around 9.8.

    We have now endured the lockdown for many weeks and people are finally reaching the tipping point. The 5 km travel restriction means that families are split. Many people have been denied almost all human contact and their mental states are suffering. On a personal level. we have not seen our youngest grandson for many months, and he has now achieved many important developmental milestones without us being there to share them with him. As to when we will be able to see our family in Queensland, that is beginning to seem unlikely for at least another six months.

    More and more people are stating publicly that they will not allow the lockdown to be extended any longer. The government is facing the very real probability that many will just ignore the restrictions if they are not relaxed a little.

    This is all taking place against the backdrop of the ongoing fallout from the hotel quarantine debacle. Dan Andrews continues to refuse to answer any questions about the fiasco, instead choosing to hide behind the lame excuse that he will wait until the inquiry hands down its findings. In the meantime, the ex health minister has made the extraordinary claim that Dan Andrews' testimony is not to be trusted. Although the mistakes made in administering the quarantine have been responsible for most of the deaths and infections in Victoria, not once has anyone apologised or admitted making a mistake. Victorians continue to suffer, without a clear end in sight.

    So is there any good news ? To finish on a positive note, I should record that the number of active cases in our state has continued to fall. It now stands at around 200. We also now have only 17 Victorians still in hospital with COVID, and no one is currently on a ventilator. At the height of the second wave we had almost 700 in hospital, so that is a cause for some celebration at least.
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  • Day215

    Covid 19 in the White House

    October 2 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 22 °C

    Just when you think this year couldn't get any more extraordinary, the twists keep coming. This afternoon we received the incredible news that President Trump and his wife have both contracted coronavirus. This announcement has sent shock waves around the world, the stock markets have dived and the US has launched its so called "Doomsday Planes", What else could possibly go wrong ?

    With the US President now potentially facing the prospect of being unable to perform his duties (not that he was capable of doing anything sensible when he was well), the constitutional experts have been rapidly examining the succession plans. Since Trump was proud of the fact that he seldom wore a mask, it is quite possible that he has already passed it on to the Vice President as well. Who then takes command ? God only knows. And what are the doomsday planes ? They are two airborne command posts that can control the US nuclear arsenal in the event of a surprise nuclear attack.

    These really are uncertain times, and 2020 just keeps taking us further and further down the rabbit hole. If anyone had written a book about the events that we have seen unfolding over the past 7 months, I doubt that anyone would have thought it even remotely possible.

    At least our situation in Victoria is stabilising a little. Today we had another 7 new cases, bringing our 14 day rolling average to just under 13. Since Dan Andrews is refusing to relax our restrictions any further until this number falls to 5 or less, it is looking like we will have a considerably longer time separated from our families and friends.

    Even closer to home, today marked Maggie's birthday. Normally we would have celebrated with a family dinner, but that was not possible today. We did manage to meet our eldest son and one of our grandchildren for lunch in the park, so that was some cause for celebration. The weather is really starting to warm up now, although the howling wind detracted from the pleasantness of the day. This wind has been a feature of the past couple of weeks and looks like it will be around for the next few days at least.

    So life in lockdown continues. Each morning we wait for the release of the latest figures. We try to use our time constructively by doing chores around the house, but everyone really is over this. There are clear signs that more and more people are just taking the law into the own hands and ignoring the laws. The premier keeps telling us of how many people have been fined each day, however I would really like to know how many of these fines ever actually get paid. I suspect that it would not be many.

    This is definitely not a year that anyone will be sorry to see draw to a close. Please let 2021 be better.
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  • Day210

    The Lockdown Drags On and On

    September 27 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 6 °C

    Part of the reason that lockdown is difficult to endure is the fact that every day is pretty much the same as every other day. Without the normal events that help to punctuate and define our weeks, we seem to be stuck on a perpetual 24 hour loop. Every day is like Groundhog Day.

    Since we now have been trapped in a lockdown of varying degrees of severity for over 6 months, we are all getting near to the limits of our endurance. As I have said many times before, the hardest part is being separated from our family and friends because of the 5 km travel limit. This is also a huge problem for those who do not have a suitable and safe bike path network in their neighbourhoods. Their choices are either to not ride at all, or to take the risk of cycling on busy public roads.

    Today was a very significant day on Victoria's so called recovery roadmap. Dan Andrews had promised that, due to the steady reduction in daily new infection cases, he would be able to reduce the restrictions in several steps. I am sure that the whole state was eagerly waiting to see exactly what changes would be introduced. Personally, I had been hoping for something important, but expecting very little. And that's exactly how it turned out.

    From tomorrow Melbourne will no longer have a nightly curfew, but the dreaded 5 km travel limit will apply for at least the next three weeks. The only other significant change is that up to 5 people from a maximum of two households can meet outdoors for a maximum of 2 hours. That can only take place if both households are within 5 km of each other. For us, this makes very little difference as we will still not be able to see our youngest grandson . The misery drags on and on.

    All of this has been taking place against the backdrop of the hotel quarantine enquiry. Every day we are faced with an unending series of denials from just about every government minister and senior bureaucrat, all claiming that they "knew nothing" and that the bungles must have been someone else's fault. We are being told to believe that the disastrous decision to use private security to run the quarantine program was made by nobody. Yet it was that dreadful decision that led to 99% of all subsequent Covid cases and over 700 deaths. So far the only casualty of this debacle has been the Health Minister. Jenny Mikakos finally quit the ministry (and parliament) when Dan Andrews threw her under the proverbial bus. I wonder how many other heads will roll when the enquiry finally hands down it's finding at the end of the year ?

    Another factor which has made lockdown seem even worse than usual is that the past few days have been wet and very cold. It has been a return to winter with a vengeance. This has meant that we are spending even more time indoors than usual. This year just goes on giving.
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  • Day206

    Six Months and Counting

    September 23 in Australia ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    It's now just over six months since the COVID 19 pandemic burst out all over the world. At that time I was partway through a cycling adventure in Cuba, when the Australian Government put out an urgent message to all Australians abroard, warning them to return home as quickly as possible by any means possible.

    So what has happened in the past six months ? In a nutshell summary here it is. Firstly I took the DFAT advice to return home. It took numerous changes of flights and a great deal of money, but three days later I was safely back in Melbourne. Although it was a nightmare journey around the planet, I am so glad I acted quickly. We are now being reminded constantly that there are still tens of thousands of Australians scattered overseas, with no definite idea when they will be able to return. The problem is that there are very few international flights taking place and the few planes that do make the journey are only permitted to carry a handful of passengers. It is likely that most of those still waiting to get home will not be home before Christmas.

    I arrived back in Melbourne, just in time for Lockdown Number One to begin. Maggie and I packed the dog, our bikes, some groceries and clothes, and headed down to our holiday home at Inverloch. That's where we spent the next three months. When it appeared that Melbourne had endured the worst, the restrictions were briefly relaxed a little. We returned home to Pakenham and were able to see our families again. But it didn't last.

    Almost as soon as our freedom was in sight it was snatched away again. Largely due to unbelievable errors made in the running of hotel quarantine, the state was plunged back into a dreaded "second wave" of COVID. This was much worse than the first wave, with daily infections soaring to over 700. We were trapped in Lockdown Number Two. Once again we were cut off from family and friends, unable to venture more than 5 km from our home for only one hour a day. Every time we do leave the home, we must wear a face mask. It was not easy to face another indefinite period of isolation after we could almost feel the end was in reach.

    Now, after weeks of lockdown, the daily numbers are finally starting to show a consistent drop. We are told that the all important "14 day rolling average" has dropped below 30. Today's figure has just been released and it stated that the state had 15 new cases and 3 deaths. That's a lot better than 700 and gives us some hope that the restrictions might be relaxed a little this coming weekend. We will have to wait and see.

    And what is happening in other countries ? Europe is also suffering from a terrible second wave. This morning the British PM announced that the country would be reintroducing restrictions. Apparently, after 11 weeks of relaxed living, the virus has once again escaped at a frightening rate. The most common offenders are people between 20 - 29. Although they are often asymptomatic themselves, they are eventually passing their infections on to older people who suffer badly. Most other European countries are also experiencing a resurgence in cases. This is a reminder that we are not out of the woods yet.

    On the other side of the ledger, there are almost daily reports of the progress being made with the development of a vaccine. Some of the vaccine candidates have now moved to the third stage of trials, where they being tested on tens of thousands of people. The world is hoping that at least one of these vaccines could be the game changer that we need. Only time will tell.

    It will be interesting to read this journal in the future when 2020 has long been relegated to the history books. Things are always much easier to see with the benefit of hindsight. For anyone reading this in the year 2025 or beyond, I can assure them that 2020 was not a year we ever want to repeat. I hope that 2021 will be much better.
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  • Day196

    I Had (another) Dream

    September 13 in Australia ⋅ ☁️ 12 °C

    I don't know whether it is a result of lockdown or because of some other strange cause, but recently my nights have been filled with some rather vivid dreams. It certainly makes going to bed each night a bit more exciting, since I don't know where my dreams will transport me before I wake up in the morning.

    Last night I had another memorable dream. I think I was returning from some sort of boat trip and, as I approached the wharf, I could hear people on the shore loudly celebrating. The church bells were peeling and people were crowding the streets and cheering. When I asked what the cause for the celebration was, I was told it was because "there is now a vaccine". In my dream the celebrations seemed as animated and joyful as the newsreel footage of people celebrating in the streets at the end of WW2.

    It is true that there has been a lot of media coverage about the possibility of a vaccine becoming available in the next few months. Some of this publicity has been encouraging and others have been rather negative. A recent report came out that told us that the trials of the Oxford vaccine have been halted because one recipient had an adverse reaction. That was certainly a disappointment as the Oxford vaccine seemed to be the most favoured of the 160 or so candidates that are in development around the world.

    Over the next couple of days the story was refined a little to tell us that the reaction was not particularly serious, and that it was only one person out of thousands of people who had now received the vaccine. Apparently the trial will resume soon.

    There is no doubt that we are all holding out for the arrival of a successful vaccine. It is now six months since the pandemic broke upon our world and so much has changed in that time. We are separated from our families and friends, we cannot venture more than 5 km from our homes and we live in daily fear of catching the disease. All travel has just about completely stopped. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs and businesses are struggling to survive. We all hope that a vaccine will quickly restore so many of these things that we are now missing.

    But will we dance in the streets if a vaccine works ? Was my dream a prophetic forecast of a medical breakthrough ? I really hope so.

    In the meantime, life in lockdown continues at its suffocatingly slow pace. At least this morning we had the welcome arrival of the Woolworths home deliveries. We now have new supplies of tomato sauce, toilet paper, milk, butter and milk. It's always a cause for some celebration, but maybe not quite enough justification for dancing in the street and sounding the church bells.

    The Weather Bureau has been warning us that this weekend will be very wet. We might even get a month's worth of rain in the space of a few hours. That is hardly cause for celebration.

    So what else has been happening in the past few days ? The daily release of new COVID numbers suggests that the trend is heading downwards, although not as rapidly as we would have liked. Today's tally was released a short time ago and it stood at 41. It needs to drop a lot more before we can move to the next stage of easing of restrictions.

    Christmas is only a little over 3 months away. It may be a vastly different Christmas to the ones we were used to. A couple of days ago Myer announced that, for the first time in decades, there will be no Christmas displays in their windows this year. It was just another reminder of how this year is unlike any other.
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  • Day188

    When is old ?

    September 5 in Australia ⋅ 🌙 10 °C

    Last night I had a weird dream. I went to bed a bit later than usual, due to watching the Tour de France. Maybe my mind was too active. Maybe it was a question that I had been thinking about, somewhere deep in my subconscious. Whatever the reason, it certainly was a strange thing to happen in a dream.

    I can't actually remember what the dream was about, but one thing did stick in my mind, even I had woken up the following morning. Somewhere during the night, while I was travelling in the Land of Nod, someone asked me a question. It was quite a philosophic question at that. "At what age is a person old ?"

    Even in my dream I remember having trouble coming up with an answer. In the morning I decided to share my nocturnal problem with Maggie. It started us both wondering.

    When I was a teenager I probably would have considered that anyone over 50 was definitely old, but as the years passed by, my definition continued to evolve. While we agreed that someone over 80 was definitely old, somehow even 75 didn't really seem old at all. So at what age does a person officially become an old bugger ?

    We decided to enquire of Google. Surely it would know the answer ? It didn't. While turning 65 seems to make us a "senior citizen", I am not sure if that is the same as being "old". I am now 69 and getting closer to a significant birthday. So am I already old, or will I become old in a few months time ?

    Do I feel old ? Well the face I see every day in the mirror is not the same person that I feel inside. Perhaps the mirror is faulty, or perhaps I am just too old to know that I am old. When it's all said and done, what difference does it make ? The fact of that matter is that somehow I don't really care whether I am old or not. It is far more important to be able to enjoy life and do the things that bring me pleasure.

    I would be interested to hear what other people think about this vexed question. In the meantime, I wonder what strange questions I will battle with during my slumber tonight.
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  • Day186

    Magpies on the Warpath

    September 3 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    The first couple of days of springtime have given us a welcome relief from the cold and bleakness of winter. It was a welcome experience to be able to go outside, without being enclosed in a multitude of layers of clothing. Everywhere in the neighbourhood the blossoms are decorating the streets and gardens. If it wasn't for the gale force winds, it would actually be almost perfect.

    The other unwelcome feature of this time of the year is that many of the local birds go completely psycho. Why is it that tiny feathered creatures suddenly take on the behaviour of demons ? As if the COVID 19 was not bad enough, now when we leave the house for our 60 minutes a day of freedom, we have to run the risk of having our ear lobes ripped off.

    This morning I headed off on my bike for a short ride to Pakenham East and back. That is as far as I can go at the moment, without incurring the wrath of the 5 km bubble police. Although the wind was blowing at about 40 kph, it was actually quite helpful for about half of the time. I was actually feeling quite good until I heard an ominous sound coming from somewhere behind my right shoulder.

    A shadow of a large bird appeared on the ground in front of me. I was instantly gripped by an irrational fear of all things avian. I decided to look the evil attacker right in the eye, even though I am pretty hopeless at looking behind me when I am riding. For a fleeting instant the approaching magpie seemed to reconsider its intentions and changed direction. I felt like I had scored a minor victory.

    A short distance further along the path, the entire sequence was repeated. Once again the attack was aborted. but by then I was rattled. For the rest of the ride I could not get it out of my head that the magpie was going to return, accompanied by about 20 of his psychomates. I did not finally relax until I had ridden into my own driveway.

    The other news today was that the day's count had risen to 113. This was a disappointing result, when we were all wanting it to go down. There have been rumours of what the next stage of restrictions will entail, but the Premier has claimed that they are all false. If they are true, we will have very little to look forward to, other than a possible increase in the time allowed for daily exercise from one hour to two hours. After such a long period of separation from our family and friends, we are really longing for human contact again.
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  • Day183

    At Last a Reason to Celebrate

    August 31 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    The path out of this pandemic was never going to be an easy one. The past four weeks of lockdown have been the toughest so far and it has become increasingly evident that people's mental health has been suffering. When you combine social isolation with an extended period of cold and wet weather, the result is not going to be good.

    On a personal level, I cannot help but think of what I should be doing at this time. According to my diary I would now be in Maastricht in Holland, getting ready for the start of our ride around the Five Countries Bike Route. It would have been something special. Instead of that I am still locked in a 5 km bubble, unable to even meet with my children or grandchildren.

    Well that's the bad news. Now for some better news. Over the past few days the weather has warmed up markedly, the trees are covered with new buds and blossoms and the magpies are swooping with a passion. All of these are signs that Springtime is almost here.

    In fact yesterday was so warm that we were able to walk without wearing coats or jumpers. We bought some take away coffees and a couple of cakes and sat in the sunshine to eat them. It actually brought back lovely memories of this time last year when we were riding along the Loire. For some reason the surroundings triggered a memory of a particular village in France where we enjoyed our lunches in the sunshine. That is the wonderful thing about travel - the memories are all in the mind somewhere and they keep emerging when you really need them. It might be a while before we will be able to travel again, but I am so grateful for the storehouse of past memories that I can savour when I am feeling down.

    Another cause for celebration is that the Tour de France started on Saturday. It was meant to take place two months ago, but was postponed due to COVID 19. Over the next three weeks there will be many late nights watching the riders make their way around France. Although the mask wearing spectators are a constant reminder that the pandemic is far from over, at least it is a small step back to the life we once enjoyed.

    How long will the current "Level 4" lockdown last ? The premier keeps telling us that he has no idea. I guess this is just the same as his ministers had no idea of how to correctly conduct the hotel quarantine process that put us into this mess in the first place. The only thing that everyone now seems to agree on, is that we need to see a drop in the daily numbers of new infections. That is finally starting to happen.

    Two days ago we breathed a sigh of relief when the numbers dropped below 100 for the first time in many weeks. A few minutes ago, the new numbers were released for today. The total was "only" 73. That was certainly the lowest for a long time, although there was also a tragic total of 41 deaths reported.

    I am hoping that, by the end of this week, we might start to see numbers less than 50. Perhaps then we might be able to finally believe that the current restrictions could be relaxed a little. Anything would be better than where we are at the moment.

    As a matter of interest I have been looking at the numbers and thought that it might be interesting to see how they looked in graphical form. This is shown below. You can certainly see what is meant by the dreaded "second wave".
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