Dear Ireland, a second coronavirus lockdown will be tough but be brave and go on


Dear Ireland,

I’m writing to you from Melbourne, Victoria, in week 15 of our second lockdown, just as you enter yours.

I think we need to talk about sourdough.

And Netflix. And maybe even golf courses — but more on them later.

With the first one: forget about it. The bakers of Ireland, essential workers all, will need your support. So don’t worry about that “Lockdown Mark I bread-making” obsession. It just doesn’t feel as comforting and charming the second time around.

Bugger it. Get it home delivered.

About Netflix. Yep — just like the first time, you’ll be watching a lot of it now that you’re going back into a second COVID lockdown. I’m afraid it’s mostly the same stuff, but you’ll know you’re starting to feel like your pandemic strategy is working and things are getting better when you ditch the comedy and turn to the documentaries.

Forget about becoming a lockdown sourdough baker: get it home delivered because the bakers of Ireland, essential workers all, will need your support.(Supplied: John Farnan)

This is going to get worse

As I write, this Australian state has recorded one new infection and no new deaths.

That’s right, just one new infection.

The day our premier told us we were shutting down again after the worldwide lockdown most of us went through in March, there were 191 new cases. One month after that, with curfews and even further restrictions looming, the number had grown to 732.

I’m sorry Ireland, but just like your mum might have told you when you came down with the measles — this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Our state has a population not too much greater than yours, but your infection rate is higher than ours ever went. Back in our dark days, with infections rising by the hundreds, it was hard to avoid a sense of panic — but panic at what? At the fear that a shutdown would kill off the very life of a city and state that we were trying so hard to save?

You view rectilinear windows with red borders across three storeys on a modernist public housing tower.
Back in our dark days, with infections rising by the hundreds, it was hard to avoid a sense of panic.(Supplied: Chris McLay)

Or was it panic that we could not get this thing back in the bottle? That when community spread is this wide, it’s too late?

When Victoria’s stage 4 lockdown started on July 8, with its ban on travelling no more than 5km from home, and limit to one essential shopping trip a day, the idea of achieving the Government’s target of less than an average of five daily cases seemed absurd.

Today, we are three days away from the original next step out of lockdown — and the 14-day average is 5.8. No, we can’t quite believe it either.

I wish you good luck

So, I write to wish you good luck with your lockdown. Our strategies are very similar. Although, unlike ours, your kids will keep going to school, and just getting them out the door each morning will make life so much easier and help maintain a sense of rhythm and normality that has been impossible for tens of thousands of families here.

You have a pandemic unemployment payment too — that’s good. Fight to keep it for as long as you can.

As for golf courses: do you also have those high-profile loudmouths who feel that being denied 18-holes twice a week is the greatest infringement on their personal liberties since Julian Assange was taken away? I can’t advise you on what to do about those people. I know one of them, and he has the kind of job and lifestyle that when we finally re-opened the courses here, he took a week off and played golf seven days straight. They’re just a different kind of human, they are.

Beyond that, I think you know how this goes. You have to try to find some pattern within the monotony and take joy from the clever way your community will create enchantment.

A local pub will become an absolute hero for its home-delivered meals and emergency beer. Chain letters from the neighbourhood kids will appear in your letterbox. High holidays and Holy days will be commemorated from your front door. And it will feel strangely intimate, and very beautiful.

Be brave. Go on

Dear Ireland, ancestral homeland of so many of us Australians: if I was to distil all this to postcard-size, I’d say — it’s worth it. The sacrifice is worth it.

No, we don’t really know what the full economic impact will be: we can’t see the bottom yet, but some of our best-regarded economists predict a “beautiful” recovery — they say we’ll fairly roar out of it as we head into Christmas.

But even if recovery is slower and harder than that — and like you, we will recover, we are that kind of people — know that you are doing the right thing. You closed down so that when you open up again, you’ll have as many of your fellow citizens with you as a humane and careful society can hope to have. Be brave. Go on.

St. Patrick's Day punters in Sydney
Ireland is the ancestral home of so many Australians.(AAP: Tracey Nearmy)

Back here, you can consider the US President’s weird email blitz or life on an all-meat diet. Hayley Gleeson’s excellent investigation of family violence by serving police officers, and this explainer by Matilda Marozzi, are the stories you cannot look away from.

Have a safe and happy weekend and let your microwave do the cooking tonight as we all settle in for an AFL grand final like no other — Saturday night football! A box of 24 frozen party pies should do it. Yes, I’m serious.

The reviews of Netflix’s remake of the Daphne du Maurier classic Rebecca are in — and I’m afraid they are not good.

This is devastating as it’s one of my touchstone books, and a novel I return to again and again. I recently sat down with author Tegan Bennett Daylight to discuss why I can’t shake this story.

If Rebecca — smart, beautiful, wilful and occasionally cruel — was a song I think she’d be this.

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Go well.



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Police arrest demonstrators at Melbourne protest against Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown restrictions


Hundreds of protesters calling for an end to Victoria’s coronavirus lockdown have clashed with police in Melbourne.

Police used pepper spray during scuffles with some of the demonstrators — many of whom refused to wear masks — at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Police arrested 16 people and issued 96 penalty notices for offences including not wearing a mask, breaching public gathering directions, travelling more than 25 kilometres from home, assaulting police and failing to state their name and address.

“Victoria Police was extremely disappointed to yet again arrest a large number of protestors who showed a complete disregard for the safety of the broader community and the directions of the Chief Health Officer (CHO),” police said in a statement.

Many of the demonstrators were not wearing face masks.(AAP: James Ross)

Police describe protesters as ‘selfish’

Police said they were investigating an incident where several police horses were hit in the face with a flagpole by a man.

“Thankfully the horses were not injured during the assaults,” the police statement said.

Officers are also investigating damage to a police van after it was pelted with items thrown by protesters.

Three police officers were injured, with one taken to hospital as a precaution.

“Victoria Police will not accept the selfish behaviour of those who continue to breach the CHO directions,” the police statement said.

An aerial image shows police surrounding demonstrators at an anti-lockdown protest at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne.
Police surrounded demonstrators at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.(ABC News)

About 200 to 300 people were estimated to have attended the rally, making it one of the larger events of its kind over the past few months against Premier Daniel Andrews’s tough measures to control COVID-19 infections.

Protesters in the Shrine forecourt held placards with slogans such as “media is the virus”, “COVID-19 is a scam” and “wake up Aussies”.

Some were wearing t-shirts that said “let Victoria work”.

Many people pulled their face masks under their chin or were not wearing them at all.

Officers surrounded the protesters on foot, with more forming an outer wall, and many were on horseback.

Protesters could face two separate fines for attending the rally at the Shrine of Remembrance.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius warned that protesters could fall foul of legislation governing behaviour at the Shrine.

A group of masked police officers scuffle with a man who is on the ground.
Police have made several arrests.(AAP: James Ross)

While some lockdown rules have been eased this week, Melburnians can still travel no more than 25 kms from their homes and are not permitted to have visitors to their home, except for permitted reasons.

They also can be fined if they gather in groups of more than 10 from more than two households, and must wear masks as well as social distance.

Premier calls protesters ‘selfish’

Earlier, when asked about the demonstration at his daily press conference, the Premier said the protest was unhelpful.

“Protests are not safe. Protests are selfish,” Mr Andrews said.

“Protests are potentially very dangerous to the strategy we have in place.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.
Speaking before the protest, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said the Shrine was no place for demonstrations.

“We want to get the place open and make announcements on Sunday, and if people are out protesting, that does not help.

“I think common decency would see people only go to the Shrine when they wanted to remember and to appropriately commemorate the sacrifice of hundred of thousands of others.

That is what the Shrine is about — it is not about making political points one way or the other.”

Three men with face masks below their chins stand in a crowd.
Protesters chanted slogans including “free Victoria”.(AAP: James Ross)

There were scuffles and several arrests last month as police broke up a protest at the Shrine.

A website for the protest tells participants: “Daniel Andrews must resign and lockdowns must end. Restore our freedoms now.”

AAP/ABC

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Police arrest anti-lockdown demonstrators at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.



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A patchwork of red, yellow and green – A second wave of covid-19 sends much of Europe back into lockdown | Europe




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The mantra the Penrith Panthers used during COVID-19 lockdown


“Every session. All the time. It was always the same intensity,” Fisher-Harris said.

“We just bounce off each other. We are working towards something.”

James Fisher-Harris and Panthers training partner Zane Tetevano pushed themselves during lockdown.Credit:Penrith Panthers

When equipment from the Panthers gym was divvied up among the players, Fisher-Harris ended up with an assault bike and the majority of the weights. His main training partner, Tetevano, made do with a watt bike and some barbells. They chronicled their journey via a series of videos, which they reflected on the day after the Panthers booked their first grand final appearance in 17 years, via a semi-final win against South Sydney.

“That’s a story on its own,” Tetevano said. “We made sure we were training every day.

“Me and Fish, we were just talking about it [on Sunday]. In that period we had our videos and we were showing each other the memories, why we are here today.

“We were making sure we were accountable. It’s paying off now, we always talk about it.

“We knew we put in a lot of work during that six-week break. We haven’t stopped ever since.”

Their efforts have been rewarded. Prop Fisher-Harris and back-rower Kikau were named in the Dally M team of the year, while Tetevano has a chance to be part of a third premiership outfit after switching from the Roosters during the pre-season.

Whenever things got tough, they would look to an inspirational quote for motivation. Often, it was Jackson’s words that got them through sessions.

“He’s the quote man,” Tetevano said pointing at Fisher-Harris. “He would chuck up different quotes when we were in the gym. If you’re hurting, nobody really cares. You just do the work.

'We made sure we were training every day' ... Zane Tetevano training during the season shutdown.

‘We made sure we were training every day’ … Zane Tetevano training during the season shutdown.Credit:Penrith Panthers

“That’s how we looked at it. Things are hard but nobody cares if you’re hurting. That’s what kept us going.

“These are the things that got us to where we are. It was tough. We reap the rewards now.”

Fisher-Harris and Tetevano have become close in a short space of time.

“I roomed with him throughout the year with the Kiwis and I knew what he was like,” Fisher-Harris said. “When I saw him rock up at Panthers, I thought ‘this is good’.

“Naturally, we want to test ourselves anyway. It’s who we are.”

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The Panthers bonds have been formed on and off the paddock. Many of the current squad came up through the lower grades together, culminating in an under-20s premiership in 2015.

“There was about six or seven,” halfback Nathan Cleary said. “That makes it even more special to be able to do it with a group you have grown up with. We have gelled so well. I am super grateful to be part of this group. I am riding the wave and absolutely loving it.

“I think everyone gets along so well. It has been a dream of mine to win a grand final together. To be able to win it with your mates is pretty crazy.”

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Lockdown over but not coronavirus threat


In his seventh address to the nation amid the nationwide lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday urged Indians to remain alert against the threat of coronavirus during the ongoing festive season.

“We must keep in mind that lockdown may have ended but virus is still there,” he said in a pre-recorded video messaged that was beamed across media at 6 pm.

 

Modi said that any negligence on the part of the citizens during the festival season can bring grief to families.

India is currently celebrating Navaratri and Durga Puja festivals, while it will also mark Diwali in the coming weeks.

While suggesting that the COVID-19 fatality rate in India is 83 for one million population, while figure is more than 600 in countries like USA, Brazil, Spain, he added that people must not be careless or believe that COVID-19 has ended.

The prime minister also took cognisance of the repeated violations of safety protocols, referring to various recent videos that show many people failing to take precautions against the virus.

 

If you are careless and moving around without mask, you are putting yourself, children, elderly at risk, he said.

The prime minister also asked media personnel and social media users to campaign to spread public awareness on COVID-19 guidelines.

On the question of the much anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, Modi said that the government is making all efforts to ensure that vaccine, whenever it is launched, reaches every Indian.



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Covid: Wales’ lockdown job support gap ‘a barrier to firms’


Related Topics

  • Job Support Scheme (JSS)

media captionWhat do businesses think of the lockdown in Wales?

A gap between the start of Wales’ lockdown and the UK government’s new Job Support Scheme is a “significant barrier” for firms trying to survive, a business group has said.

A scheme to cover 67% of wages is not due to start until 1 November – just over a week after the firebreak starts.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) urged the UK and Welsh governments to work together.

The Treasury said employers could use furlough until the end of October.

“There is no gap in funding between our schemes,” a spokesman said.

However, CBI Wales director Ian Price warned some people may fall between the cracks of furlough and the new Job Support Scheme (JSS).

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has declined to bring the JSS forward, but the Welsh Government said it offered to pay the difference in the cost of wage support of bringing the JSS forward a week.

The Welsh Government wrote to Mr Sunak asking if firms could access the scheme a week earlier.

In a letter to Mr Drakeford, Mr Sunak said he was “unable to bring the claims date for the expansion to the Jobs Support Scheme forward from 1 November to 23 October due to limitations in HMRC delivery times”.

He said employees who have been furloughed for at least three weeks in the past can be re-furloughed until 31 October.

However, people who have never been furloughed will not be covered.

The firebreak, which will see pubs, restaurants, cafes and non-essential shops shut, is due to start on Friday.

Conservative Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has accused First Minister Mark Drakeford of taking a decision that would cause people to lose their jobs.

What is the Job Support Scheme?

The JSS plans to cover 67% of workers wages in businesses that have been forced to close.

It pays up to a maximum of £2,100 a month and staff must be off for seven days to be eligible. Payments are due to begin in December.

It replaces furlough, which ends on 31 October and covered 80% of pay, with government paying 60% and employers 20%.

‘It’s an absolute dog’s dinner’

media captionSA Brain chief executive Alistair Darby: “The industry is running out of time rapidly”

Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes have only been allowed to serve customers indoors since restrictions were lifted on 3 August.

From Friday they will close again, as the firebreak lockdown begins, and remain shut for 17 days.

Alistair Darby, CEO of brewery and pub chain Brains, which employs 1,400 people in Wales, said the pumps were being switched off again.

Mr Darby told Radio Wales more clarity was needed from the Welsh Government to stop businesses from trying to plug a wage gap, at a time no money was coming in.

“We have got to work out how to communicate to our staff what’s going to happen to them, and what support they are going to get in three days,” he said.

“It’s an absolute dog’s dinner.

“We’ve done everything that was asked of us to support the government in the fight of coronavirus… if they are going to shut us down again they need to do their bit and fast.”

‘We’ve only been open weeks’

image captionLandlady Sarah Hudson says she feels “alone” after having to shut again weeks after reopening following flood damage

The Bell at Skenfrith, Monmouthshire, was badly damaged after being flooded twice during storms in October and February.

After being unable to get builders on site during the pandemic, the hotel only reopened on 4 September, and is now having to close again.

Landlady Sarah Hudson said: “We’ve only been open weeks, it’s devastating.

“We were fully booked, we’ve had to cancel guests again… it’s really upsetting, it really doesn’t do much for our reputation as either flooded or shut down.”

Ms Hudson said she was determined for the business to survive, but did not want to have to take out any more loans: “I feel very much on my own.”

What have business groups said?

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionNon-essential shops will have to close, as well as venues, gyms and beauty salons

Ben Cottam of FSB Wales urged the UK government to “urgently respond” to Welsh Government’s request and said the offer to pay the cost of the extension was a “practical response”.

“The current one-week gap between the beginning of lockdown on the 23 October and the beginning of the Job Support Scheme is a significant barrier for businesses who are working incredibly hard to stay afloat,” he said.

“In order to inspire confidence in businesses at this difficult time, as well as help minimise uncertainty and remove as many of the hurdles that firms will be facing as possible, we urge UK and Welsh Government to work together in order to make this happen”.

Mr Price said: “It appears that some people may unfortunately being falling through the cracks of the JRS and JSS.

“It’s imperative for business, government and employees that we make this work.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We offered to pay the UK Government the difference in the cost of wage support of bringing the Job Support Scheme forward a week instead of relying on the Job Retention Scheme… The Chancellor declined this offer.”

image captionSimon Hart said Welsh ministers knew it was not possible for the Treasury to bring forward the scheme

On Monday, Mr Hart said the Welsh Government knew “full well” it was not possible for the Treasury to bring forward the JSS before announcing the lockdown.

He said the lockdown announcement was “very, very unfair” on people “caught by the time gap” before the start of the JSS.

But Plaid Cymru said it was a “question of fairness”.

Liz Saville Roberts, MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, said: “A firebreak gives us the opportunity to buy more time to build up a resilient test, trace and isolate system.

“But for that to work, the UK government must also do its part by giving appropriate financial support.”

What has the UK government said?

image copyrightPA Media
image captionGyms will have to close again, only months after they reopened for members

A Treasury spokesman said: “Employers in Wales can use the furlough scheme until 31 October to help them through this difficult period and can then get support through our new Job Support Scheme from 1 November.”

A UK government source said the chancellor called all finance ministers before the announcement of the expansion of the scheme to explain how it would work, when it would come into effect and that it would be UK-wide.

He asked finance ministers to keep restrictions as consistent as possible across the devolved nations, the source said.

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