Tuesday, 29 September 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 255 - COOBER PEDY, AUSTRALIA

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“To wake in that desert dawn was like waking in the heart of an opal. ... See the desert on a fine morning and die - if you can!” - Gertrude Bell

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Coober Pedy is a town in northern South Australia, 846 km north of Adelaide on the Stuart Highway. According to the 2011 census, its population was 1,695 (953 males, 742 females, including 275 indigenous Australians). The town is sometimes referred to as the “opal capital of the world” because of the quantity of precious opals that are mined there. 
Coober Pedy is renowned for its below-ground residences, called “dugouts”, which are built in this fashion due to the scorching daytime heat. The name “Coober Pedy" comes from the local Aboriginal term kupa-piti, which means “boys’ waterhole". Opal was found in Coober Pedy on 1 February 1915; since then the town has been supplying most of the world's gem-quality opal. 
Coober Pedy today relies as much on tourism as the opal mining industry to provide the community with employment and sustainability. Coober Pedy has over seventy opal fields and is the largest opal mining area in the world. 
 
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Tuesday, 22 September 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 254 - FISKARDO, GREECE

“You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.” – Epicurus

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Fiskardo (Greek: Φισκάρδο) is a village and a community on the Ionian island of Cephalonia, Greece. It is part of the municipal unit of Erisos. It is the northernmost port of Cephalonia, a short distance from Ithaca. Fiskardo has a small and diminishing fishing fleet. The coast around Fiskardo is mainly rocky with numerous pebble-beached coves. The port serves ferry routes to the ports of Frikes (Ithaca) and Lefkada. It is 5 km north of Vasilikades, 24 km north of Sami and 32 km north of Argostoli. Cephalonia International Airport is 61 km to the south, by road (about 1½ hours).

The community of Fiskardo consists of the villages Fiskardo, Evreti, Katsarata, Matsoukata and Tselentata.Fiskardo is also the name of the two kilometre long bay in which the port is located. Fiskardo and the dense forest in the surrounding area have been declared areas of great natural beauty and are protected under Greek law. In recent years a small tourist industry has developed, centred on luxury villas in the area around the village.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 253 - KATHERINE GORGE, AUSTRALIA

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“The land is my mother. Like a human mother, the land gives us protection, enjoyment, and provides our needs – economic, social, and religious. We have a human relationship with the land: Mother, daughter, son. When the land is taken from us or destroyed, we feel hurt because we belong to the land, and we are part of it.” – Djiniyini Gondarra

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Nitmiluk National Park
is in the Northern Territory of Australia, 244 km southeast of Darwin, around a series of gorges on the Katherine River and Edith Falls. Previously named Katherine Gorge National Park, its northern edge borders Kakadu National Park. The gorges and the surrounding landscape have great ceremonial significance to the local Jawoyn people, who are custodians of Nitmiluk National Park. In Jawoyn, Nitmiluk means “Place of the Cicada Dreaming”. 


Katherine Gorge, a deep gorge carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River, is the central attraction of the park. Katherine Gorge is made up of thirteen gorges, with rapids and falls, and follow the Katherine River, which begins in Kakadu. During the Dry Season, roughly from April to October, the Katherine Gorge waters are placid in most spots and ideal for swimming and canoeing.

There may be freshwater crocodiles in most parts of the river, as they nest along the banks, but they are harmless to humans. Saltwater crocodiles regularly enter the river during the wet season, when the water levels are very high, and are subsequently removed and returned to the lower levels at the onset of the dry season. Thus, swimming in the Wet Season is prohibited, as crocodiles don’t respond to swimmers questioning them if they are fresh or saltwater ones. Cruises of various lengths go as far as the fifth gorge.

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Tuesday, 8 September 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 252 - SALAMIS, GREECE

“O sons of the Greeks, go, liberate your country, liberate your children, your women, the seats of your fathers’ gods, and the tombs of your forebears: Now is the struggle for all things.” – Paean of the Battle of Salamis 

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Salamis (Greek: Σαλαμίνα Salamína, Ancient and Katharevousa: Σαλαμίς Salamís), is the largest Greek island in the Saronic Gulf, about 2 km off-coast from Piraeus and about 16 kilometres west of Athens. The chief city, Salamina, lies in the west-facing core of the crescent on Salamis Bay, which opens into the Saronic Gulf. The island's main port, Paloukia, in size second only to Piraeus, is on the eastern side.

Salamis island is known for the Battle of Salamis, the decisive naval victory of the allied Greek fleet, led by Themistocles, over the Persian Empire in 480 BC. The island is said to be the birthplace of Ajax and Euripides, the latter’s birth being popularly placed on the day of the battle. In modern times, it is home to Salamis Naval Base, headquarters for the Hellenic Navy.

Salamis has an area of 93 square km; its highest point is Mavrovouni at 404 metres. A significant part of Salamis Island is rocky and mountainous. On the southern part of the island a pine forest is located, which is unusual for western Attica. Unfortunately, this forest is often a target for fires. While the inland inhabitants are mainly employed in the agricultural sector, the majority of Salamis’ inhabitants work in maritime occupations (fishing, ferries, and the island's shipyards) or commute to work in Athens. The maritime industry is focused on the north-east coast of the island at the port of Paloukia (Παλούκια), where ferries to mainland Greece are based, and in the dockyards of Ampelakia and the north side of the Kynosoura (Greek: Κυνοσούρα = “dog tail”) peninsula.

Salamis Island is very popular for holiday and weekend visits from the Athens and Piraeus area; its population rises to 300,000 in peak season of which about 31,000 are permanent inhabitants. This supports a strong service industry sector, with many cafes, bars, ouzeris, tavernas and consumer goods shops throughout the island. On the south of the island, away from the port, there are a number of less developed areas with good swimming beaches including those of Aianteio, Maroudi, Perani, Peristeria, Kolones, Saterli, Selenia and Kanakia.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 251 - ISTANBUL, TURKEY

  
“ ‘Life can’t be all that bad’, I’d think from time to time. ‘Whatever happens, I can always take a long walk along the Bosphorus.’ ” ― Orhan Pamuk 

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Istanbul, formerly known as Byzantium and Constantinople, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosporus strait (which separates Europe and Asia) between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives in suburbs on the Asian side of the Bosporus.

With a total population of around fifteen million residents in its metropolitan area, Istanbul is one of the world's largest cities by population, ranking as the world's fifteenth-largest city and the largest city in Europe. The city is the administrative centre of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (coterminous with Istanbul Province).

Founded under the name of Byzantion (Βυζάντιον) on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BCE, the city grew in size and influence, becoming one of the most important cities in history. After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 CE, it served as an imperial capital for almost sixteen centuries, during the Roman/Byzantine (330–1204), Latin (1204–1261), Byzantine (1261–1453) and Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 CE and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.

Under the name Constantinople it was the Ottoman capital until 1923. The capital was then moved to Ankara and the city was renamed Istanbul. The city held the strategic position between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. It was also on the historic Silk Road. It controlled rail networks between the Balkans and the Middle East and was the only sea route between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. In 1923, after the Turkish War of Independence, Ankara was chosen as the new Turkish capital, and the city's name was changed to Istanbul. Nevertheless, the city maintained its prominence in geopolitical and cultural affairs.

The population of the city has increased tenfold since the 1950s, as migrants from across Anatolia have moved in and city limits have expanded to accommodate them. Arts, music, film, and cultural festivals were established towards the end of the 20th century and continue to be hosted by the city today. Infrastructure improvements have produced a complex transportation network in the city.

Over 12 million foreign visitors came to Istanbul in 2015, five years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world's fifth-most popular tourist destination. The city's biggest attraction is its historic center, partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its cultural and entertainment hub is across the city's natural harbor, the Golden Horn, in the Beyoğlu district. Considered an Alpha - global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, it hosts the headquarters of many Turkish companies and media outlets and accounts for more than a quarter of the country's gross domestic product. Hoping to capitalize on its revitalization and rapid expansion, Istanbul has bid (unsuccessfully) for the Summer Olympics five times in twenty years.

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Tuesday, 25 August 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 250 - SKYROS, GREECE

 
“Gradually the magic of the island settled over us as gently and clingingly as pollen.” - Gerald Durrell. 

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Skyros (Greek: Σκύρος) is an island in Greece, the southernmost of the Sporades, an archipelago in the Aegean Sea. Around the 2nd millennium BC and slightly later, the island was known as The Island of the Magnetes where the Magnetes used to live and later Pelasgia and Dolopia and later Skyros. At 209 square kilometres it is the largest island of the Sporades, and has a population of about 3,000 (in 2011). It is part of the regional unit of Euboea. The Hellenic Air Force has a major base in Skyros, because of the island's strategic location in the middle of the Aegean. 

The north of the island is covered by a forest, while the south, dominated by the highest mountain, called Kochila, (792 m), is bare and rocky. The island's capital is also called Skyros (or, locally, Chora). The main port, on the west coast, is Linaria. The island has a castle (the kastro) that dates from the Venetian occupation (13th to 15th centuries), a Byzantine monastery (the Monastery of Saint George), the grave of English poet Rupert Brooke in an olive grove by the road leading to Tris Boukes harbour. There are many beaches on the coast. The island has its own breed of Skyrian ponies.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 249 - MANLY, AUSTRALIA

 
“The heart of man is very much like the sea; it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths, it has its pearls too.” – Vincent van Gogh 

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Manly is a suburb of northern Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, Australia 17 kilometres north-east of the Sydney central business district and is the administrative centre of the local government area of Manly Council, in the Northern Beaches region.

Manly was named by Captain Arthur Phillip for the indigenous people living there, “...their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”. These men were of the Kay-ye-my clan (of the Guringai people). While scouting for fresh water in the area, Phillip encountered members of the clan, and after a misunderstanding he was speared in the shoulder by one of the clan; to his lasting credit, the progressively-minded Phillip ordered his men not to retaliate.

Manly is most notable for its sandy beaches right on the Pacific Ocean, which are popular tourist destinations. The suburb features a long stretch of sand on the ocean side, that runs from Queenscliff Beach to North Steyne Beach and Manly Beach. This is followed by rock pools and sandy beaches called Fairy Bower and Shelly Beach. There are also a number of beaches on the harbour side of the peninsula.

Norfolk Island pine trees are also symbolic of Manly and are a prominent feature of both the ocean and harbour beaches. Transport services to Manly include a Ferry service from Manly Wharf, and bus services to the city and other suburbs. The Manly Ferry journey takes 30 minutes and allows for scenic views of Sydney Harbour, surrounding national parks and Sydney icons including the Harbour Bridge and Opera House.The ferry service once advertised Manly as: “Seven miles from Sydney, and a thousand miles from care”.
 

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Tuesday, 11 August 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 248 - AORAKI, NEW ZEALAND

 
“My dream home would be a fishing lodge in New Zealand.” - John Rocha 

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Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is in the South Island of New Zealand, near the town of Twizel. Aoraki / Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest mountain, and Aoraki/Mount Cook Village lie within the park. The area was gazetted as a national park in October 1953 and consists of reserves that were established as early as 1887 to protect the area's significant vegetation and landscape.

Even though most of the park is alpine terrain, it is easily accessible. The only road access into Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park is via State Highway 80, which starts near Twizel, at 65 kilometres distance the closest town to the park, and leads directly to Mount Cook Village, where the road ends. The village is situated within the park, however, it consists only of a hotel and motels, as well as housing and amenities for the staff of the hotel and motels and other support personnel.

The park stretches for about 60 kilometres along the southwest-northeast direction of the Southern Alps, covering 722 km2 on the southeastern side of the main spine of the Alps. The valleys of the Tasman, Hooker, and Godley glaciers are the only entrances into this alpine territory that lie below 1,000 m. Glaciers cover 40% of the park area, notably the Tasman Glacier in the Tasman Valley east of Aoraki / Mount Cook. Eight of the twelve largest glaciers in New Zealand lie within Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, all of which terminate at proglacial lakes formed in recent decades due to a sustained period of shrinking.

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Sunday, 9 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS DIARIES XIII

 

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” - Rene Descartes 

Today, I am interviewing a medical expert, researcher, published author of many scientific, peer-reviewed articles and medical textbooks, a well-known professional, and an academic of many years, who currently works for a government agency that supervises medical care in Australia, ensuring that the public are protected and that they enjoy safe, effective and evidence-based treatment and care. I shall refer to this person as Dr X.
 
Jammy: Dr X, thank you for agreeing to this interview on the COVID-19 pandemic. Your expertise is valued and your time is appreciated. 

Dr X: you’re welcome, I am happy to provide as much up-to-date and accurate information as I can in a language that an average lay person can understand. 

Jammy: Please explain to me, what are viruses? 

Dr X: Viruses are interesting aggregates of organic matter, that technically are not able to be classified as “living”. They don’t respire, they don’t respond to stimuli, they cannot reproduce themselves and many of them, if purified, can be crystallised like sugar or salt and stored in a jar on a shelf, unchanging for many years. They are of two major types, depending on whether they possess their genetic material in the form of RNA or in the form of DNA – not both like our cells have. 

Jammy: So are they cells? 

Dr X: No, they are not cellular. They are very simple compared to cells possessing in most cases only a little genetic material in their core and a surrounding, protecting shell of protein, with or without an external envelope of lipid, depending on the virus type. They are exceedingly small. A red blood cell of a human is 7,500 nanometres (a nanometre is a billionth of a metre), a typical bacterium is around 1,000 to 2,000 nanometres, and a large, complex virus is only around 400 nanometres, while a small one is about 25 nanometres. 

Jammy: So if they cannot reproduce themselves, how do viruses multiply? 

Dr X. They are expert fraudsters and master deceivers. When viruses come into the body, their external proteins latch onto cell receptor molecules and thus they enter into living cells. Inside these, they take over the metabolism of the cell and they force the cell to make more and more viruses instead of more cell. As the cell fills up with viruses, it bursts, is destroyed and thousands of new viruses emerge, to infect more body cells, or come out of the body to infect other people. 

Jammy: Hmmm, seems like a pretty pointless existence… 

Dr X. Well, no more pointless than many living organisms, or even some people! 

Jammy: When viruses come into the body, can’t we take antibiotics to destroy the viruses? Just like we do with bacterial infections? 

Dr X. Bacteria, fungi and protozoa can be relatively easily managed with antibiotics and other drugs because they are living organisms with their own metabolism, which in many cases is quite different to human cells. Antibiotics interfere with the metabolism of these microorganisms, killing them or suspending their growth so the body’s immune cells can destroy them. Viruses, as we said, are not alive and do not metabolise. Thus they are not susceptible to antibiotics and most antimicrobial drugs. 

Jammy: But AIDS is caused by a virus and HIV infection can be treated effectively nowadays with drugs, can’t it? 

Dr X: Yes, HIV infection can be effectively managed nowadays with a cocktail of specific drugs because HIV is a rather special virus. It is a virus which can only make the cell manufacture more virus by getting the cell it infects to first make a special enzyme that doesn’t exist in human cells (the enzyme is called reverse transcriptase). Many of the anti-HIV drugs interfere with this special enzyme’s activity in cells, hence preventing viral replication in cells. 

Jammy: So, theoretically, it’s possible to have a drug that interferes with COVID-19 replication in cells? That would get rid of virus from the body, and hence infection? 

Dr X: This is much more difficult. COVID-19 is a more or less quite ordinary virus, which comes into cells and takes over cell metabolism easily, utilising all of the cell’s own enzymes and nutrients to make more virus. If we interfere with these cellular metabolic pathways with a drug, we would be interfering with the metabolic process of all cells in our body, which could effectively kill us. A rather drastic way of overcoming a viral infection. 

Jammy: What about hydroxychloroquine? Doesn’t that help with overcoming COVID-19 infection? 

Dr X: For a while, some initial studies with it showed promise. Unfortunately, examination of these initial trials with this drug, indicated that they were conducted in a rather haphazard manner and the results of the studies were not interpreted in a scientific manner. More trials were conducted, and at this time, there are very limited data to support the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Clinical evidence is emerging, but results are inconclusive. Besides, prolonged use of hydroxychloroquinone (especially in compromised patients or together with other drugs) has numerous side effects, some of which are life-threatening. Hydroxychloroquine is definitely not the wondrous cure for COVID-19 as some very vocal people are vehemently suggesting – I wonder if these people have shares in drug companies manufacturing hydroxychloroquine? 

Jammy: What about a vaccine against COVID-19? 

Dr X: Vaccines are the standard, safe, cheap and effective way to prevent a whole variety of different viral diseases, for example: Polio, measles, hepatitis B, rubella. Will a vaccine be developed as easily for COVID-19 as for the diseases I just mentioned? The answer is maybe yes, maybe not. The “maybe yes” comes from the observation that in animal studies, coronaviruses stimulate strong immune responses, which seem capable of knocking out the virus. Recovery from COVID-19 may be in large part due to effective immune response. The “maybe not” comes from evidence just as strong, at least with earlier SARS and MERS viruses, that natural immunity to these viruses is short-lived. In fact, some animals can be reinfected with the very same strain that caused infection in the first place. 

Jammy: Some people suggest that we should not bother with restrictions and precautions and just rely on herd immunity to get us over the pandemic. 

Dr X: Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a community (the herd) becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. As a result, the whole community becomes protected not just those who are immune. Often, a percentage of the population must be capable of getting a disease in order for it to spread. This is called a threshold proportion. If the proportion of the population that is immune to the disease is greater than this threshold, the spread of the disease will decline. This is known as the herd immunity threshold. What percentage of a community needs to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity? It varies from disease to disease. The more contagious a disease is, the greater the proportion of the population that needs to be immune to the disease to stop its spread. For example, measles is a highly contagious illness. It is estimated that 94% of the population must be immune to interrupt the chain of transmission.

There are some major problems with relying on community infection to create herd immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. First, it isn’t yet clear if infection with the COVID-19 virus makes a person immune to future infection (as we said, that is one of the problems with making a protective vaccine against this virus).

Even if infection with the COVID-19 virus creates long-lasting immunity, a large number of people would have to become infected to reach the herd immunity threshold. Experts estimate that in the USA, 70% of the population (i.e., more than 200 million people!) would have to recover from COVID-19 to halt the epidemic. If many people become sick with COVID-19 at once, the health care system could quickly become overwhelmed. This amount of infection could also lead to serious complications and millions of deaths, especially among older people and those who have chronic conditions. 

Jammy: Oh dear! We are in a bind… So what can we do? 

Dr X: We must slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus and protect individuals at increased risk of severe illness, including older adults and people of any age with underlying health conditions. To reduce the risk of infection we must all:

  • Avoid large events and mass gatherings.
  • Avoid close contact (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.
  • Stay home as much as possible and keep distance between yourself and others (within about 6 feet, or 2 meters) if COVID-19 is spreading in your community, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness. Keep in mind some people may have the COVID-19 virus and spread it to others, even if they don’t have symptoms or don’t know they have COVID-19.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Wear a cloth face covering or face mask in public spaces, such as in shops, where it’s difficult to avoid close contact with others, especially if you’re in an area with ongoing community spread. Dispose of the face mask safely in a rubbish bin.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw away the used tissue in a rubbish bin.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Avoid sharing dishes, glasses, bedding and other household items if you’re sick.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, electronics and counters, daily.
  • Stay home from work, school and public areas if you’re sick, unless you’re going to get medical care. Avoid public transportation, taxis and ride-sharing if you’re sick.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms and self-isolate at home until you get the results.

Jammy: Thank you Dr X, sound advice indeed! 
 Dr X: My pleasure. Stay safe and take care.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 247 - CORONAVIRUS DIARIES XII

 
“A pestilence does not have human dimensions, so people tell themselves that it is unreal, that it is a bad dream which will end. But it does not always end and, from one bad dream to the next, it is people who end, humanists first of all because they have not prepared themselves.” ― Albert Camus 

Last Sunday, our Premier declared Victoria to be in a “State of Disaster” as the second-wave  COVID-19 cases and deaths continued to rise despite the second lockdown and Stage III restrictions that had been imposed about three weeks ago. These measures, however, failed to control the outbreak and hence the Stage IV restrictions imposed now. The new restrictions will last for six weeks, at least, but hopefully will be curbing the alarming spread of the virus in the community sooner than that.

Under Melbourne’s new restrictions, beginning 6pm Sunday night, only one person in each household can do shopping once a day. Exercise can be undertaken once a day for one hour, and no more than two people can exercise together. Residents can’t travel more than five kilometres from their home for shopping or exercise. The wearing of masks by everyone is mandatory and social distancing rules still apply. Regional Victoria will enter stage 3 restrictions from midnight on Wednesday. Travel of course, is out of the question, especially so travel for pleasure. The state borders have already been closed and there is no international flight traffic into or out of Melbourne Airport.

From the 2nd of August, a curfew will be in place in metropolitan Melbourne. Curfews will be in operation from 8pm to 5am every evening, with people only allowed to leave their house for work, and essential health, care or safety reasons. Furthermore, retailers that have been deemed non-essential will need to close for six weks from 11.59 pm on Wednesday 5th of August. The list of retailers forced to close includes furniture and homewares, stationery, electrical and electronics, motor vehicle and motor parts, recreational goods, department stores, and clothing and footwear retailers. Hardware, building and garden supplies retailers will be allowed to serve only trade customers in stores; consumers will have to rely on online delivery or click and collect.


Perhaps more alarming for some people is the declaration of a “State of Disaster”. Deeming our current situation thus, confers extra powers on the police minister to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. It allows the minister to direct government agencies to act in certain ways (or refrain from doing so) in order to deal with the disaster, and they can also override legislation. Other relevant powers conferred on the minister include the power to control movement within, and entry into or departure from, the disaster area (which is the whole of the state) or any part of it.

Most people reacted positively to the declaration of a State of Disaster and realise that the current situation with spread of COVID-19 is a grave emergency that warrants such drastic measures being taken. However, we also have the minority component of the population who are screaming and shouting that our civil liberties are being eroded, our democracy is being suspended and that a totalitarian regime has been imposed on us. Needless to say that there are also those people who believe that COVID-19 is not real and that we are being duped by a multinational conspiracy. The latter groups are usually the ones that engage in behaviours that are risky and contribute greatly to the spread of virus in the community.

The truth of the matter is that people are becoming sick, are being admitted into hospital, some in intensive care, and some unfortunately dying. The elderly, the infirm and those with pre-existing health conditions are more vulnerable. The pandemic has revealed immense deficiencies in our aged care sector, with many nursing homes for the aged being substandard in their level of care and in basic hygiene procedures. This has caused enormous numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths in the sector. Needless to say, psychological problems and suicide rates are on the increase throughout the community, with depression becoming a common affliction.

The economy is taking nosedives into abysmal regions and many businesses have been forced to close their doors permanently. For the first time in many decades we are seeing deflation and the price of real estate is decreasing while the gold price is increasing. Many people have become unemployed, our unemployment rate jumping to double figures and predicted to rise even further, making people dependent on special government allowances in order to survive. Many are dipping into their superannuation funds, making withdrawals so as to cope financially. It seems that our affluent, pleasure-seeking and lackadaisical lifestyle has been disrupted in a major way and the future may be quite a different one to what most Australians had planned and envisioned for themselves.

Politicians here in Australia are struggling to cope with these enormous social, health and financial problems, while at the same time juggling with populist policies to appease an increasingly disgruntled and skeptical electorate. We are seeing a wide spectrum of political responses and quite often the blame game is started, with opposing sides finger-pointing and trying to exonerate themselves from past inappropriate decisions that allowed us to reach the present critical situation.

Internationally, some politicians are doing even worse. There are deniers, obfuscators, and blatant, arrogant and deceiving demagogues that have blood on their hands as they have done next to nothing to protect their country’s people from this scourge that the world has to deal with. They abjure science, twist facts to suit their own agendas and label anything that they cannot logically discount as “fake”, but at the same time they fabulate their own personal little worlds that have nothing to do with reality or truth.

We are travelling on rough ground here in Melbourne and the road ahead is uneven, precipitous and bleak. I look out of my window on this dark, wet, cold Winter’s night and the normally busy road outside is deserted and eerily lit by the sickly street lamps. As the rain falls, a solitary car careers down the street, and one hopes that the person in it is not rushing to some emergency that has forced them to break curfew. Travel Tuesday is rather gloomy today, but excuse my melancholy, as these are sad times we are experiencing.

I leave you with some wisdom and some hope, some simple and effective advice that we should all heed and try and follow. These are the thoughts and words of 92-year-old Joss Ackland:
 
This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme,

and also part of the Blue Monday meme.

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Tuesday, 28 July 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 246 - CORTE, CORSICA

 
“We had a Corsican wine that had great authority and a low price. It was a very Corsican wine and you could dilute it by half with water and still receive its message.” -  Ernest Hemingway.

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers shall be removed immediately.
Corte is a commune in the Haute-Corse department of France on the island of Corsica. It is the fourth-largest commune in Corsica after Ajaccio, Bastia, and Porto-Vecchio. Sites of interest include the Fortress (A citadella), the Museum of Corsica (Museu di a Corsica), and the University of Corsica (Università di Corsica).

Corte has become a major university town in Corsica since the Pasquale Paoli University opened up again in the 1980s. Corte was the birthplace of Joseph Bonaparte (1768–1844), the eldest brother of the French Emperor Napoleon I, who made him King of Naples (1806–1808) and Spain (1808–1813).

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

TRAVEL TUESDAY 245 - SINGAPORE

 
“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.” – Anonymous 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers shall be removed immediately.
In the tropics, sunsets can be quite spectacular and Singapore is no exception. When you add some palm tree silhouettes to the equation, the message definitely reads: “Holiday and good times”. This photograph, however, was snapped quickly while I was at a conference and I remember during this trip I did not get much of a chance to do any sightseeing nor much photography... Nevertheless, even during a busy business trip, one could enjoy the exotic location and take in the excitement of being in a distant destination far from home.

Now in the thralls of a COVID-19 lockdown with no end of restrictions in sight, this photo from the archives is tinged with more than a small dose of nostalgia. Those good old times when travel was frequent, for both business and pleasure, when the world was a much safer place and when people could mingle freely in tourist spots, crowded markets and busy shops. As we remain confined at home, we can at least reminisce and hope that in the near future travelling around the world can begin again with no restrictions.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Ruby Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme.

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Sunday, 19 July 2020

CORONAVIRUS DIARIES XI

 
“All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it’s up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.” ― Albert Camus, The Plague 

And here we are in Melbourne, living in Lockdown #2, back to confining ourselves at home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out. Many people are now jobless, many shops have closed indefinitely, some businesses having closed down for good. Traffic has become greatly reduced, people are staying indoors, the City has ground down to an almost complete halt. International flights can no longer land in Melbourne Airport and Melburnians cannot leave the City on the pain of stiff fines. The police are maintaining the quarantine on all major routes out of the city and people are once again afraid of the invisible enemy, COVID-19, a “wicked virus”, in our Premier’s words…

The number of cases to date: Australia has recorded 11,611 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 122 deaths. These figures are from a national dataset of every confirmed case since January 25, when the country’s first four cases were reported. The death of three more coronavirus victims overnight in Victoria now means that more people have died in our state during the second wave of the pandemic than in the first. A total of 38 Victorians have now passed away since the first case in Australia was identified on January 25. Today, Victorian authorities also announced an additional 363 new cases, pushing the state’s total number of cases to 3,898 since the pandemic started. Our Premier is justly distressed and so should every one of us! 

What next? Come Thursday this week, all people over 12 years of age will need to wear face masks or other suitable face coverings if they venture out of their homes for the only four legitimate reasons they can do so:
1)    To go to work or study, only if they are unable to do those activities at their home;
2)    To obtain medical care or provide medical care;
3)    To go shopping for essentials, but only locally;
4)    To exercise daily under strict social distancing guidelines, and only locally.

Of course some people are self-isolating under quarantine conditions, for example, if they have been tested for COVID-19 and they are awaiting results; if they are positive for COVID-19 and they are symptomless; if they have contacted confirmed cases of COVID-19. Needless to say that hospitalised patients suffering symptoms of coronavirus infection are also quarantined and being given the necessary treatment for their disease. Fortunately, the vast majority of people diagnosed with COVID-19 have not needed to be hospitalised. Of 2,930 current or “active” cases, only 135, or 5 per cent are receiving hospital care. This includes 29 patients in ICU (or 1 per cent of current cases).

As the COVID-19 pandemic resurges in our city, there has been considerable discussion in the media about the impact the virus is having on our psychological state, our mental health, our propensity to abnormal behaviour patterns including suicide. While physical distancing is preventing the spread of coronavirus, it has also created multiple problems, including isolation, loneliness, anxiety and in some cases increased tendency for violent or aberrant behaviour. For those who are now jobless or whose business is going under because of the economic downturn, the impact on the individuals involved, their families and careers is significant, and the uncertainty about the future hard to deal with.

Still, many of us have been able to deal with the tough measures of the restrictions and the home isolation has been a catalyst for relationships to be strengthened and reaffirmed, including developing new ways to work together in order to cope with the new status quo. Students have had to deal with novel ways of instruction, including remote learning and technology-assisted education. Many workers are logging onto their workplace from their home computers and there are even reports that productivity has increased while staff are working from home. Thus there is proof of the renewal and importance of reaching out and being socially connected even while physically separated.

We must acknowledge that both Federal and State Governments have put in place measures to try to reduce the negative effects of COVID-19 restrictions. These measures have included significant initiatives to support employment and maintain financial security. I consider myself lucky to be living in a country where there is still enough social conscience in our politics so that governments are doing all they can to support all who need looking after in these dire times.

As far as we as individuals are concerned, what can we do to support others and help our loved ones, our families, our friends our community? Simple, really:
1)    Look after yourself – be cautious and prudent. Follow the directives of the experts and law-makers, for they will help you stay safe and healthy.
2)    Support the people close to you, first in your household, then your family and friends further afield. Keep in contact – the ways to do this nowadays are numerous and within reach of everyone.
3)    Volunteer to do some work for a mutual aid group in your community (for example, go here: https://www.volunteer.com.au/)
4)    Support local businesses as much as you can by shopping in stores that are struggling to survive. Small businesses have a much tougher time surviving times of economic crisis.
5)    Support the FoodBank if you can (see: https://www.foodbank.org.au/covid-19/?state=vic)
6)    Write a letter to a stranger! Contacting your local nursing home or elderly people’s home you can obtain information on residents who may be lacking visitors while their family and friends stay away.
7)    If you have a garden and you produce fruit and vegetables, consider sharing your excess produce with nearby friends and neighbours. You may also give them seeds and seedlings that you have in excess.
8)    If you can, help students studying at home with some tutoring in your area of expertise (see: https://www.embrace-education.org/volunteer)
9)    Give to charities and support groups caring for those in need: Homeless, people experiencing mental health problems, those who live alone.
10)    Join an online companionship and entertainment group. You can find many of these catering for people with similar interests (see: https://www.abc.net.au/news/science/2020-03-17/coronavirus-online-support-groups/12060530)

Keep safe, think before you act, be kind, support those around you, be well!