I got to go back to the mountains and swim in a few more high lakes (I promise to give you a break from alpine lake pictures after these). Some more stellar summer weather took us up the Wilkin Valley to visit Lakes Lucidus, Castalia and Diana, beneath the stunning peaks of Castor, Pollux and Ragan. We had a relaxed trip with enough walking to keep us honest but not too much exhaustion. I was amused while up there to be reading a book by Matt Haig entitled ‘Notes on a Nervous Planet‘. I read his book ‘The Midnight Library‘ recently, which is an excellent novel about a woman who is thinking of committing suicide, ends up in a library of all the lives she might have lived, and tries out a bunch of them for size.
‘Notes on a Nervous Planet’ is non-fiction, about how modern life feeds anxiety and hinders happiness (and had a role in Haig’s serious consideration of suicide). Two of Haig’s biggest take homes are read books to take yourself out of the information flow and into another world, and take yourself into the part of the world without a continuous flow of information, which of course was exactly what we were doing. When we got back to ‘civilisation’ the jet boat driver gaily told us that New Zealand would be moving into the red traffic light setting tonight, and all major events are being cancelled. At least he left off telling us until we had arrived back in Makarora, rather than prior to our ride down the Wilkin River. In rejoining society, we rejoined the information flow without option, and all the attendant stressors.
I pondered on how long to hold out before I switched my phone off airplane mode, but it wasn’t that long because Chris pointed out that it would be better if I checked messages in the car rather than all through lunch in Wanaka. So I downloaded 81 emails and a bunch of texts and slogged through the easy responses, leaving the harder ones till later. I trawled quickly through what the state of Omicron is, obviously out in the community with it likely to be in far more places than we actually yet know it has reached.
Before I got the Omicron news and was thinking about what I might write today, I was considering how the big picture of the pandemic in New Zealand has felt like a game of snakes and ladders. I wrote a blog previously about snakes and ladders, but at the smaller scale. The bigger snakes and ladders game I am thinking of goes like:
- There’s a pandemic sweeping the planet (March 2020) SNAKE but NZ is an island nation – close the borders! LADDER to country without COVID
- Damn, the virus has already spread widely in NZ (March 2020) SNAKE – lock the country down! LADDER to country without COVID
- We can’t keep our borders locked down forever because our economy will suffer and people will be trapped inside or outside NZ SNAKE but, hurrah, several companies have developed vaccines (late 2020) LADDER to country without COVID.
- There are vaccines available except they aren’t yet available to/in New Zealand SNAKE but, hurrah, the government has got access to Pfizer vaccines (March 2021) LADDER to country without COVID.
- Our vaccine rollout is taking place (albeit slowly) so we are definitely on the LADDER to a country without COVID but, damn, Delta variant has arisen and is spreading around the world (June 2021) and we aren’t yet vaccinated enough to consider having open borders without our population getting double vaccinated, which will take most of the year SNAKE.
- We are doing absolutely brilliantly on vaccination, surpassing stretch targets and well on track to over 90% of the eligible population being vaccinated in 2021 so we are on the LADDER to country with manageable endemic COVID, except, damn, the Omicron variant has arisen and is spreading around the world (December 2021) and it looks like you need a booster to stop you getting it and spreading it and we are still rolling out our first set of vaccinations, not to mention that the first people to get vaccinations i.e. the most vulnerable are overdue for their boosters SNAKE.
- We have had a nice holiday break with lots of wonderful summer weather and Omicron hasn’t yet got us LADDER, oh but it actually has got us and our summer break is done SNAKE.
In the Snakes and Ladders board game the end is when you have got high enough up the ladders and with your dice throws to escape off the board. At some point we will live with whatever we decide is acceptable impact from COVID but in New Zealand we remain in the dark as to how high we need to climb. No escaping this board game yet, I’m afraid, even though it feels well past bedtime.