Handel’s Messiah

April 10, 2020

ABC Classics

Sydney Philharmonia Choirs sing Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah, live from the Sydney Opera House.

Performed by Celeste Lazarenko (soprano), Nicholas Tolputt (countertenor), Andrew Goodwin (tenor), Christopher Richardson (bass-baritone), Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and Christmas Choir, Sydney Philharmonia Orchestra, Brett Weymark (conductor).


Confusion and disconnection undermine confidence

April 3, 2020

There’s general agreement on the need for wider testing to determine how widespread community transmission of Covid-19 is but confusion on whether it can be done:

Healthcare workers say coronavirus tests are being withheld because of limited supply, despite the prime minister’s insistence clinicians have both the resources and permission to test.

A new coronavirus testing criteria was released late on Wednesday, permitting the testing of patients with Covid-19 symptoms but no connection to overseas travel or another coronavirus case.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who announced the expansion of the criteria the day prior, again said there was ample testing capacity at a Wednesday press conference — it just hadn’t been used by clinicians.

But a Wellington GP, who spoke to Stuff on the condition of anonymity, said there were not enough testing swabs for the number of patients presenting Covid-19 symptoms. His clinic had ordered 30, but received five as the laboratory was trying to preserve supplies.  

And some swabs of patients were not run by the laboratory for failing to strictly meet the prior testing criteria.

Staff from two Wellington clinics told Stuff on Wednesday morning they had not received any information from the ministry regarding the expanding criteria, and their clinics would go ahead and test people with possible Covid-19 symptoms until further guidance was issued. 

But at a Canterbury GP clinic, a nurse said her practice had been told to continue using the former, stricter criteria in the absence of an update from the ministry. 

The nurse, who similarly spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the ministry had told clinical leaders there were not enough swabs and the labs did not have enough reagents to test everyone with symptoms.

“We are seeing many people with coronavirus symptoms who we cannot test.”

She said GPs at her practice had used their discretion – as the prime minister and director general of health Ashley Bloomfield had repeatedly recommended – and swabbed people with symptoms, only to have the labs refuse to test them.  . . 

If clinicians think people should be tested, and put them through the discomfort of the swabbing process, how can labs not test them?

Either the PM is right and there are enough swabs but there’s a problem with the distribution and also with communication between the Ministry, clinicians and labs;  or the doctors and nurses are right and there aren’t enough swabs and labs aren’t testing all they’re sent.

Whoever is right, the issue must be sorted and sorted urgently.

Compliance with the draconian loss of liberty to which we’re all being subjected and the costs imposed by it requires community buy-in, and that requires confidence in what’s being done and how it’s being done.

These mixed messages over testing undermine confidence.

It doesn’t help when the Minister of Health drives 2km to go mountain biking when the police have told us we have to exercise close to home, not drive then exercise.

And the disconnection between key agencies doesn’t help either:

Today’s meeting of the Epidemic Response Committee has shown how disconnected the three key agencies, Health, Customs and Police, are in enforcing the self-isolation of New Zealanders and shows why a quarantine is needed immediately, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.

“The Director-General of Health has been clear that all returning New Zealanders should be visited by a Police Officer within the first three days of them returning home.

“Today outgoing Police Commissioner Mike Bush admitted while they would like to visit all returning New Zealanders, they’ve failed to do so, confirming officers have been unable to visit all of the more than 4000 people who’ve come back to New Zealand within three days.

Police would like to visit all returnees but have failed to do so. That doesn’t inspire confidence that the lockdown will work.

“Following that admission, Customs Minister Jenny Salesa was asked about how Customs saw self-isolation being enforced, and she said Police were not expected to check up on all returning New Zealanders, instead they could do spot checks. That isn’t good enough.

“There shouldn’t be this much confusion. These agencies need to be a cohesive team. Instead New Zealanders are just seeing more and more mixed messages.

“It is clear from today’s questioning that New Zealand needs an enforced quarantine for those entering New Zealand at the border. For weeks our borders have been porous, with no thermal testing being undertaken and the self-isolation of New Zealanders not being policed well enough. That has to stop.

“Effective quarantining has been the foundation of other countries’ successful responses. Here in New Zealand we’ve been waving people through and trusting them to self-isolate.

“Today’s questioning has raised serious concerns about how well this lockdown is being policed and shows exactly why we need to be quarantining at the border. New Zealanders are sacrificing a lot right now, the key agencies involved in the response need to ensure they aren’t leaving the barn door wide open.”

Never before have New Zealanders been asked to give up so much and at such a horrific economic and social cost.

The government and its agencies can’t expect us to do all we can to comply if they aren’t demonstrating they are doing everything they can, and should, be doing to ensure the lockdown achieves its aim of eliminating COvid-19.


Some can learn from others’ mistakes

March 30, 2020

It’s early days, but most people are responding responsibly to the draconian requirements of the state of emergency.

News of the escalating rate of Covid-19 overseas and here, including the first death*, is helping keep people in their isolation bubbles.

But acceptance and compliance won’t last long if the shutdown doesn’t work, or there’s a second wave because there’s too little testing, or because the disease keeps on being imported.

Deaths from the disease will be counted and broadcast. It will be harder to track those caused by the economic and social cost of the shut down but they will come.

Businesses will fail, homes will be lost, suicides and domestic violence will increase.

A four-week shutdown that eliminates the disease and saves lives might justify all that, but only if the disease is eliminated and stays out of the country and we are then able to get the economy up and functioning at full speed again.

That will mean closing the borders completely, or requiring all arrivals to be quarantined for two weeks. Trusting people to self-isolate before the shutdown didn’t work and it won’t work afterwards.

Had it done so, Covid-19 would have been confined to people who contracted it overseas and we wouldn’t have to be locked down.

Some of us can learn from others’ mistakes, their rest of us have to be the other people.

The government didn’t learn from the mistakes other countries made in not closing borders properly.

Until it decides that all arrivals will be quarantined, it’s not even learning from its own mistake in not going harder, sooner.

* The person who died had an underlying condition which begs the question was the death due to Covid-19 or the underlying condition?


Rural round-up

March 26, 2020

COVID-19: Support rural businesses – Rural Women NZ – Pam Tipa:

We need to make sure that our rural businesses are well supported, says Fiona Gower, Rural Women NZ national president.

“With the lack of tourists coming through we need to ensure the small businesses can survive because without them we don’t have a community,” she told Rural News last week.

“Once they are gone it is really hard to get them back.

She says digital communication will also play an important part in the coronavirus response.  . . 

Rural businesses band together – Colin Williscroft:

Rural businesses Farmlands, PGG Wrightson and FarmSource have pledged to work together during the covid-19 response.

In an open letter, the companies’ chief executives said they will harness their collective supply chain to maintain productivity.

“It is time for us all to do what we can to try and continue to support you through these challenging times,” the letter says.

“We are working closely together to ensure that all farmers and growers across New Zealand have the necessary products and supplies to keep your businesses operating.  . . 

Rules driving farmers out – Sudesh Kissun:

New farming rules around sustainability are driving elderly farmers out of the dairy industry, says agri-economist Phil Journeaux.

He says over the past three years, there’s been an increase in farmers, in their 60s and 70s, looking at other options. Journeaux, AgFirst Waikato, spoke at a Smaller Milk and Supply Herds (SMASH) seminar in Te Aroha last week.

Attended by about 50 farmers, the event went ahead despite the coronavirus outbreak. . . 

Maize volume okay but feed still tight – Richard Rennie:

The maize silage supply has shaped up better than might have been expected despite one of the driest summers on record stifling production.

Bill Webb of Bill Webb Feed Solutions near Te Puke said crops on lower, wetter country have performed better this year than last season when heavy rain washed out many crops on the same land.

“But on the higher, drier country the yields have proved to be quite variable. Average block yields would still be 22 tonnes a hectare but there are some on that lower country that would be up to 26t.”  . . 

2020 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medals winners announced:

In a world that’s a little topsy-turvy it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to celebrate great New Zealand produce with the announcement of 2020 Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards medal winners.

Twenty-five judges and eight stewards worked in panels to assess a record 225 food and drink entries at AUT School of Hospitality & Tourism on Saturday 7 March 2020. Following the judges’ assessment of aroma, appearance, taste, texture and quality which accounted for 75% of marks, products were assessed for sustainability and brand story. Shoppers will recognise outstanding food and drink as they proudly wear Outstanding NZ Food Producer Awards gold, silver and bronze medals—a guarantee of product quality. . . 

Maori orchardists capitalise on global demand for organic produce – Bonnie Flaws:

Māori orchardist Otama Marere has embraced organic kiwifruit production, converting a total of 7 hectares of its 45 hectare block into organic SunGold kiwifruit, with further conversions being considered.

The trust that manages the land has also held educational days on the land for other Maori kiwifruit growers interested in organic production, says orchard manager Homman Tapsell.

The land, near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty is a former Māori settlement on the banks of the Kaituna river, with the name coming from a nearby pa site that was occupied by Rangiiwaho and his whanau. Trust members are the descendants of Rangiiwaho, he said. . . 


Word of the day

March 11, 2020

Momist – a harsh or persistent critic; one who persistently finds fault; a faultfinder.


International call for IPCC to consider GWP*/GWP-we for greenhouse gas emissions

March 6, 2020

Sixteen agricultural organisations from England, Irealnd, Scotland, New Zealand and Wales have untied to call for different treatment of short-lived gases by the IPCC:

Climate change is one of the world’s most urgent challenges and farmers are amongst the first to see its impact on food production as they deal with the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather, such as droughts and floods.

But farming offers solutions, including:

    • Improving farming’s productive efficiency to reduce our GHG emissions
    • Farmland carbon storage in soils and vegetation
    • Boosting renewable energy and the bio-economy, to avoid GHG emissions from fossil fuels, and to create GHG removal through photosynthesis and carbon capture.

Agricultural organisations are calling on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to evaluate the more accurate global warming potential (GWP) metric of GWP*/GWP-we to measure the contribution of short-lived greenhouse gases to global warming.

All greenhouse gases aren’t equal. Fossil fuel emissions are long-lived, methane from stock is a short-lived gas.

Planting trees is just a bandaid for offsetting fossil fuel emissions, it is effective in offsetting methane emissions.

Given the scale of the climate change crisis facing the planet, we consider it vitally important that the best scientific information and tools available are being used to inform and build trust in the decisions that global and domestic policy makers are taking.

While GWP100 is the accepted metric for describing the warming impact of greenhouse gases, it is acknowledged to have shortcomings when it comes to the temperature response of short-lived emissions such as methane. GWP-we provides a more accurate measure of the behaviour of methane in the atmosphere and its net contribution to global warming.

Using metrics that inaccurately capture the contribution to warming of short-lived gases could lead to poor policy decisions. While all parts of our society must show leadership and play their part in addressing climate change, policy advice needs to reflect solutions that distinguish between the dynamics of biogenic methane and gases that persist in the atmosphere for long periods.

Too many policy decisions are based on emotion and politics, not science.

Whatever the IPCC’s decision on GHG metrics, farmers are committed to broad based action on climate change. We cannot afford to wait for more accurate measures to be developed: urgent action is needed now to improve productivity, conserve the carbon already in our pastures and grasslands, and store more carbon for the good of society.

The signatories to this call are National Farmers Union, National Farmers Union of Scotland, National Farmers Union CYMRU, National Sheep Association, Quality Meat Scotland, The Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland, Country Land and Business Association, British Meat Processors Association, Hybu Cig Cymru, Ulster Farmers Union, The Livestock and Meat Commission for North Ireland, Scottish Beef Association, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, the Meat Industry Association, and Federated Farmers.

Policy must take into account the difference between short and long lived gases, it must also take into account the value of what’s produced from what produces the emissions.

Methane, which is a by-product of food production should not be treated the same way as fossil fuel emissions from non-essential products and pursuits.


Word of the day

February 23, 2020

Pluviophile – a lover of rain; someone who finds joy and peace of mind during rainy days.


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