Sunday, June 28, 2020

Last Post

Tuggerah Lake this morning
Sometime in the next ten days, and hopefully this coming Thursday, Julie and I will begin cycling north on an anti-clockwise circumnavigation of Australia.  I estimate it will take about five and a half months to cover the 16,500 kilometres and I will be publishing a blog you can access here, for which you can sign-up here.

Tuggerah Lake
We want to get away as soon as possible, both to avoid the worst of the heat in the tropics and deserts of the west, and to be home before Christmas.  However, we can't cross into Queensland, about eight days journey north of Terrigal, until the state government opens the border to recreational travellers.  The Queeensland Premier has promised to announce the opening date this coming Tuesday (30 June).  We are hoping the long-mooted 10 July date is confirmed but the coronavirus spike in Melbourne may derail that plan.  We hope not.

The Entrance channel
We are also waiting on some bike gear needed for the trip, ordered online from Melbourne a week ago and seemingly delayed, to arrive.  It's possible that may also impact our departure date if it doesn't get delivered in time or an alternative can't be found.

The Entrance channel
The bike trip also signals the demise of my plan to be fit enough to run a marathon on the 50th anniversary of my first.  The purpose of this blog was to chronicle my training build-up to achieve this goal, but I never really got going.  Through a combination of physical injury and occasional poor decision-making I never managed to run further than 15 kilometres.  It has been a disappointing and grounding experience and has me wondering whether I will ever be physically capable of running long distances again.  I won't be giving up, but am steeling myself for serial disappointment.

A secondary purpose of the blog was to chronicle my experience of, and observations about, the COVID-19 pandemic.  I would have been avidly consuming all related news and information about the pandemic anyway, but it's been a good discipline for me while locked down to synthesise what I have been reading and convey my thoughts via the blog.

Julie and I took our touring bikes out for a 32km spin north to The Entrance this morning.  My hip flexor is still bothering me a little on bike but it doesn't feel like a show-stopper.  Hopefully, the next time we ride up through The Entrance it will be on fully-loaded bikes at the start of our journey around Australia.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Quarantine testing

Wamberal beach this morning
It was disturbing to hear yesterday that international travellers arriving in Australia, who are required to spend two weeks quarantined in hotels policed by the authorities, have been allowed to leave quarantine at the end of their stay without ever being tested for COVID-19.  Apparently, to date, 30% of those leaving quarantine in Victoria have refused to be tested.  That's 5,400 people.  New South Wales data, where all travellers have been tested prior to release since mid-May, show that 0.5% of those tested have COVID-19.  Although not statistically valid, applying that rate to the 5,400 released without test in Victoria, suggests 27 infectious people have been released into the community.

It's not hard to understand why people in quarantine might refuse to be tested.  Having just spent weeks confined to a hotel room, they do not want to be condemned to another two weeks there by a positive test.  It's also not hard to see how this creates a significant loophole in the system.  A couple may arrive from overseas, with one infected by COVID-19, but asymptomatic.  During their two weeks in quarantine, the asymptomatic person may infect their partner, who if undiagnosed, may be infectious when they leave quarantine.

Looking towards Terrigal this morning
I haven't been a fan of Monday morning quarterbacks who criticise errors made by the authorities with respect to managing the pandemic.  But the decision made to not test people before they leave quarantine just does not pass the "pub test".  I accept there may be legal problems associated with forcing people to undergo invasive medical checks, but there are ways around it, as has been demonstrated by the belated decision to impose an additional ten days of quarantine on those refusing to undergo the test prior to release.

Who knows whether anybody released from quarantine has managed to infect others in Australia, but like many, I assumed that travellers would be tested on arrival and again before release.  It's common sense, with no apparent downsides.

After a week of only cycling for exercise, I walked 5km in pre-dawn drizzle this morning returning along the Wamberal surf beach before spending another 30 minutes on the bike trainer.  The hip flexor discomfort was still evident while walking, but better than a week ago.  I'm still anxious about how the hip will hold up once we start our cycling trip.  I'm guessing there is a 75% probability that it will be manageable, but that is only a guess.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Three worlds

I was saddened, but not surprised, to hear the Qantas CEO say that he did not expect international travel to resume from and to Australia until after June 2021.  Saddened, because Julie and I were hoping our postponed six month hike on the Continental Divide Trail in the US would happen next year.  Not surprised, because I don't see how the COVID-19 pandemic can be contained until a vaccine is available and vast populations have been innoculated.

Early morning swimmers at Terrigal this morning (courtesy Julie)
Australia, along with countries such as New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam and China, seem to have a very good chance of suppressing the virus to very low levels, with occasional quickly-addressed hotspot outbreaks.  But most other countries in the world seem unlikely to be as successful.  I'm thinking of those located in Europe, the Americas, Asia (with the exception of those listed above) and Africa.  I think the more developed countries in this latter group are going decide to live with a level of coronavirus so long as their hospital systems are not overwhelmed, and reopen their borders to international travellers.

Italy (averaging 224 new identified cases per day), for example, is already allowing international travel, without quarantine, from many countries where the virus is still widespread, such as the UK (still averaging 1,000 new identified cases per day).

The Haven at dawn this morning (courtesy Julie)
Until a vaccine is available and deployed, I can envisage the world evolving into three groupings within each of which quarantine-free international travel will be allowed.  The "suppressed" group, where there is little or no COVID-19 present, the "managed" group, where there is significant COVID-19, but there are effective control efforts and the hospitals are coping, and an "uncontrolled" group, where COVID-19 is everywhere and facilities are stretched.  There will be limited quarantined travel between the groups.

This will pose a test for the Australian authorities.  Do they want to participate in the wider business and recreation travel recovery promised by membership of the "managed" group, or do they want to retain their purity by participating in a much smaller grouping?  I suspect Australia will stick with the "suppressed" group, but the pressure is going to build to join the "managed" group as time goes by and we see travel in much of the rest of the developed world resume.

This conundrum is not dissimilar, in relative terms, to that faced by the Australian states where there is currently no community transmission of the virus.  Do they want to remain in the "eradicated" group, and keep their borders closed, or do they want to enjoy the economic benefits of joining the "suppressed" group of States?

I endured another 30 minutes on the bike trainer for exercise today, still feeling like I'm on an improving injury trend, but not getting carried away.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Testing! Testing!

Donald Trump has prevaricated about whether he suggested the US authorities do less testing for COVID-19.  His rationale appears to be that the less testing you do, the fewer COVID-19 cases you find, and the better you look, both internationally and domestically.  Fortunately, there is no indication the rate of testing has declined.  Widespread testing, as has been demonstrated in other countries, is key to containing the virus.

International Comparison of Positivity Rates and Tests Per Capita (Source: John Hopkins University)
The US has been doing more testing than anyone else in the world, as Trump claims, although that is only on an aggregate basis.  When you adjust for population, the US is not such a standout, though on a marginal basis (last seven days), it still ranks highly.  Of course, some countries that have brought the virus under control, aren't doing as much testing because they don't need to.

The problem for the US is that since the start of the pandemic it also ranks very highly in the number of tests that prove positive (13.86 per thousand), only beaten by the likes of Brazil, Peru, Qatar, Chile, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sweden.  Countries like South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan have a positive test rate of around 1.0 per thousand or less.

Reducing the number of tests in the US, as Trump would like, won't reduce the number of hospitalisations or deaths due to COVID-19 in the short-term, and almost certainly will increase deaths and hospitalisations in the future as the virus spreads uncontained.

My exercise for today was another 30 minutes on the bike trainer.  My hip injury felt a little better and walking around today has been less painful, so I'm becoming more optimistic.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Federal leadership needed

Crackneck pre-dawn this morning (courtesy Julie)
In Australia, both the Federal and State leaders have done well to this point in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.  There are exceptions and occasional slip-ups, but the two levels of government have worked well together to make management of the pandemic in Australia a global success story ...... thus far.

The arrangement has seen the Federal government leave the States to formulate and manage their own social-distancing restrictions, including tolerating the closing of State borders.  However, there is now a need for the Federal government to provide some firm leadership.  It should to use its substantial levers of power to open the internal Australian borders and drive a national policy for dealing with COVID-19 hotspots as they arise.

Dawn at The Haven this morning (courtesy Julie)
We currently have a hotchpotch of State approaches.  Three States (Northern Territory, Victoria and New South Wales) have no restrictions on visitors from other States, three States (Queensland, Western Australia, Tasmania) ban visitors from all other States, and one State (South Australia) allows visitors from some States.  This is compounded by "advice" from New South Wales not to travel to, or accept visitors from, Melbourne, and "advice" from Victoria for residents of hotspot LGAs not to leave their area.

Early morning swimmers at Terrigal (courtesy Julie)
It should be possible to come up with a set of nationally implemented criteria for defining hotspot LGAs and the actions to be taken in response.  This would recognise that the great majority of the country is virus-free and allow residents of those areas to more quickly resume normal economic intercourse with the rest of the country.  State borders are too arbitrary a tool to manage COVID-19 hotspots now the virus is largely under control, and it seems the decision to keep borders closed has become very political in some States.  The Federal government taking control would provide cover for State leaders to open their borders despite it being politically unpopular.

For exercise, I rode for 30 minutes on the bike trainer this morning.  There were a few sharp twinges in the hip initially, but when warmed up, the pain was very low-level.  I remain optimistic about coping with the demands of everyday biking when we leave next week, and will have those anti-inflammatories for backup.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The new normal

Tuggerah Lake this morning
With respect to COVID-19, South Korea and Australia have much in common.  Both have the benefit of being islands (discounting the closed land border between North and South Korea), and both have similar per capita case and death rates.  Both have relatively compliant populations, good testing and tracing capacity, and excellent health systems.

COVID-19 surfaced about 20 days earlier in South Korea so it might be a good short-term predictor of what will happen in Australia.  If that is the case, then we should get used to what is currently happening in Melbourne where virus hotspots are causing such angst.

The Entrance this morning
In South Korea, with double Australia's population, an average of between 40 and 50 new cases of the virus have been identified each day during June, predominantly in Seoul, the capital.  The South Korean authorities are fearful that they may lose control of the virus and are contemplating reimposing regional restrictions if the number of new cases does not decline in the next few days.

All of this sounds very similar to what is happening in Melbourne, where new cases have been averaging between 10 and 20 in June with a recent uptick.

I am skeptical that either Australia or South Korea can eliminate the virus.  The new normal will be an underlying base of community transmission, identified hotspots and temporarily-tightened regional restrictions in both countries.

For my exercise today, I took my touring bike out for an hour and a half to see how the hip flexor coped with real biking, as opposed to the trainer.  There was pain there, but it was low level and easily tolerable.  Not that different from when I took some long bike rides a month or so ago, so I'm feeling a little more optimistic that my body will cope with our looming bike adventure.  Nine days to go, assuming the Queensland government does the right thing and announces this weekend that they will open their borders on 10 July.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Earlier than we thought

Italy's National Institute of Health recently announced that analysis of sewage water sampled on 18 December 2019 showed traces of the COVID-19 virus.  That was two months before the first identified cases of the virus in Italy and about the same time virus cases were first identified in Wuhan in China.

Crowds on the Terrigal beach this wintry afternoon
These findings are consistent with analysis from Spain showing genetic virus traces in their sewage from mid-January, 40 days before their first identified case, and findings in Washington state in the US that two patients who had COVID-19 symptoms in December 2019, but were not identified as virus cases, were later found to have COVID-19 antibodies in their systems.

None of these instances is proof that the current pandemic cases in those countries was sourced from those early cases, but it is fairly conclusive evidence that the virus was around months before the authorities knew of its existence.

It would be interesting to see historic analysis of sewage for Wuhan to determine how long it was before the Chinese first recognised that there was a new virus circulating.  I suspect it was months.  There may have been a subsequent Chinese cover-up, but given the virus was present in other countries months before it was identified as such, I think it is safe to assume that it also took the Chinese some time to realise what they were dealing with, by which time the virus had taken hold.

I did a 30-minute session on the bike trainer this morning without much hip flexor pain.  Later, I limped around the block feeling very sore.  Walking clearly causes more pain than cycling.  During that limp, I filled a prescription for anti-inflammatories that was given to me by my GP prior to our aborted Continental Divide Trail hike.  I'm not going to start taking them yet, because the discomfort is tolerable, but will take them when we start the cycling trip if I really need them.

I used many kinds anti-inflammatories during my running prime with mixed results.  I have come to the view that inflammation is the body's way of repairing injuries and that anti-inflammatories may slow that healing process.  I also know, from bitter experience, the pain-masking attributes of anti-inflammatories can entice you to cause more damage to the injured tissue.  Better to feel the pain and know how you are going, unless it is intolerable and there are things that must be done.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Re-evaluating

Crackneck at dawn this morning
As predicted in yesterday's post, Victoria is re-evaluating its COVID-19 restrictions.  It's possible that this move heralds the end of Australia's exceptionalism with respect to the virus.  Australians (including me) were beginning to think that, with closed international borders, there was a chance we could eliminate the virus in Australia as has been done in New Zealand.  We were looking at the rest of the world's efforts with a mix of scorn and triumphalism, perhaps prematurely.

With Victorian mid-year school vacations starting at the end of next week, many Victorian residents will be seizing the opportunity to travel to warmer climes.  They will not be allowed into Queensland, but they can come to New South Wales.  It's unlikely that those who feel unwell will cancel their trips, and of course, cases may be asymptomatic.  The sources in 21 of the new cases identified in the last week in Victoria have not been identified, making it highly likely that there are other unidentified cases in the community.

It's not hard to envisage a situation where these unidentified cases infect people in New South Wales, and that over the course of the next month, the latter travel to other states as borders open.  Within three months, there could be much wider community transmission.  Australia's contact-tracing is very good, and it's unlikely that the virus cases will escalate rapidly, but I wouldn't be surprised if Australia has to be become accustomed to scores of daily cases of community transmission and occasional deaths.  The hospital system will not be overrun, but large gatherings will continue to be prohibited.  States will be tempted to keep their borders closed, but the Federal government has already indicated it will join the legal case to challenge the closed borders on constitutional grounds, so I think they will reopen in July as mooted.

I have been forced to re-evaluate my returning to fitness strategy.  After yesterday's 6.5km walk/jog, my hip flexor injury was quite sore all day.  I decided to modify my planned run/jog of 11km today to just a walk, but after only 500m, I decided that too was unwise.  My hip was sore and it seemed likely to be sorer by the end of my walk.  I returned home and tested the hip with 30 minutes of cycling on my trainer.  It wasn't too bad.  The most important fitness goal now is to be bike-capable by 2 July when we will leave on our big bike adventure, so I will likely abandon my plan to step up my walking/jogging distances by one kilometre every two days.  Very disappointing. 
Instead, I will now focus on getting as much exercise as I can each day compatible with the hip improving and being able to ride the bike.  Running a 50th anniversary marathon on 22 August is now looking even more unlikely.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Second wave?

Terrigal lagoon this morning
The number of cases of community transmission of COVID-19 in Victoria has tripled this week compared to last week.  The number of cases is still low, 21 this week compared to 6 last week, but are still a matter for concern.  The authorities aren't yet willing to reimpose restrictions, or delay the planned easing of restrictions, but have said it will happen if numbers continue to rise.  We returned from a short vacation in Victoria this week and Julie received an SMS from her employer asking her not to come into work if she was exhibiting any virus symptoms!  A demonstration of the concern the surge is creating.

Terrigal sunrise this morning
Although not directly comparable, Beijing has also seen a spike with 183 new cases of the virus in the past week.  In contrast to Victoria, these cases all seem to derive from a single source, a wholesale market, where the Chinese suggest the virus may have been imported with Europe products (however this has not been scientifically proven yet).  The Beijing authorities claim the outbreak has now been contained, but doing that required the suspension of public transport, the closing of schools, the delay of planned restriction easing and the testing of 360,000 people.  Melbourne may yet have to follow suit.

The best example of what a second wave of infections would look like comes from Iran (see chart).  They were one of the earliest countries to be hit by the pandemic, and eventually seemed to get it under control, but since then, with the easing of restrictions, has come a severe second wave that is still growing.

I walked and jogged 6.5km this morning, with the damaged hip flexor causing some pain the whole way.  It's not real bad, but definitely impacting my movement and enjoyment.  Given it is only 12 days until we head off on our bike adventure, and I'm keen to improve my general fitness before then, I'll persevere.  Once on the bike ride, I'm hoping the injury will get a chance to repair.  I followed my walk/jog with 30 minutes on the bike trainer.  It's toughening my butt up, if nothing else.

Friday, June 19, 2020

App or InApp?

The UK government has just announced that it is abandoning the development of its COVID-19 tracking app, after three months development and millions of pounds of expenditure.  During testing on the Isle of Wight, the app, based on Bluetooth handshakes between devices and the centralised collection of data, only connected with Apple devices 4% of the time and with Android devices 75% of the time.

The UK will now switch to an app, based on technology being jointly developed by Apple and Google, which will take several more months to be ready for deployment.  Similar apps developed by Italy and Germany, and based on the Apple-Google model, were released in those countries earlier this week and were rapidly taken up.

The Australian COVID-19 tracking app, which doesn't centrally collect data, but does reply on Bluetooth handshakes between devices, has also had problems.  When released in late April, the app performed poorly in some situations, especially with locked iPhones, but the connectivity has steadily improved (see chart) since that date, with more improvement intended.  Some critics say that Australia should switch to use the Apple-Google model, but the government shows no signs of changing.

The Australian app has now been downloaded by more than 6.3 million people, reaching the government's claimed goal of 40% of the smartphone using population.  In practice, data has only been downloaded from the app about 30 times in Australia as part of contact-tracing efforts, and in all those cases, did not reveal more contacts than had already been uncovered by traditional contact tracing methods.  However, as Australians increasingly travel internally and attend events in greater numbers, the app is likely to prove more useful.

I have the app on my phone and noticed earlier this week, when on a long walk in Lysterfield Park, that twice when I was passed by joggers, my Bluetooth headphone music feed paused momentarily.  Was this the app at work?

I walked 3km and jogged 7km this morning to reach my scheduled 10km target.  The jog was very hard work, primarily due to unfitness and weight, though my right hip was also a little painful.  I was very pleased to reach the end.  Shortly after, I spent 30 minutes on the cycle trainer, trying to build up some bike fitness in preparation for our adventure starting in thirteen days time.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Foreign infections

Timing of UK Sources of COVID-19
A preliminary report was published last week that analysed the source of COVID-19 infections in the UK.  It examined the genetic sequence of the virus in 20,000 infected people to build a sort of family tree that could be used to trace back the original source of each line of infection.

Sources of UK COVID-19 infections
The research showed that the 20,000 cases analysed originated with 1,356 people who entered the UK primarily in March and primarily from European countries. They estimate that 34% of lineages arrived from Spain, 29% from France and 14% from Italy.  Very few of the lineages originated in China.

UK Inbound Travellers and Infection Rates
The study, which hasn't yet been peer-reviewed, clearly shows how important closing international borders was in the early stages of the pandemic.  Even now, in Australia, I find it interesting how many new cases are reported each day in returning travellers held in compulsory quarantine.  It is clear, that without compulsory quarantine, it would be very hard to control the spread of the virus in Australia.

Australia's tourism minister said yesterday that it was unlikely foreign tourists would be allowed into Australia until at least 2021, and I suspect it will be longer.  Julie and I are still hoping to travel to the US in late March next year to begin our postponed hike along the Continental Divide Trail, but I'm not counting my chickens yet.

I walked and jogged 6.5km this morning, feeling very stiff and sore after yesterday's first jog in a while.  I was a bit looser by the end and followed up with 30 minutes on the bike trainer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Racism and nationalism

Worshiping the sunrise at Terrigal this morning
The pandemic, because of its disproportionate impact on minorities, probably exacerbated the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests around the world.  And those protests have caused me to ponder my own racial biases.  I would claim not to be a racist, but suspect I would also have failed the Implicit Association Test recently conducted in Australia to test implicit biases against Indigenous Australians.  Three out of four Australians tested were found to have a bias.  The test, developed by Harvard, is based on the speed of association of positive or negative words with images of Caucasians and Indigenous Australians.  For the sake of clarity, the test identifies bias, which is not necessarily racism.


Crackneck this morning
I know from my travels in Australia by bike, that I have been particularly careful with my belongings when in remote towns with many indigenous inhabitants.  I have also been extra careful in black neighbourhoods in my times living in the UK and US.  I'm not comfortable with my wariness and would like to think that my caution was unjustified, especially since I have never had a bad experience in these places.

My (self-serving and amateur) explanation for my bias, implicit and explicit, is that humans are primarily tribal.  That is, we are implicitly suspicious of outsiders and people who look different, and implicitly comfortable with those who look like us and have a shared culture.  Fear of the "other" is in our DNA and probably evolved as critical to survival in ancient times.

Wamberal lagoon this morning
I think the cure for this implicit bias is to recognise it for what it is, to continually examine our own response to racial cues, to embrace opportunities to interact with other races and cultures, and to try and see things from their point of view.  I believe all humans have the same motivations and ambitions, good and bad, and the world will be a better place when we see that and treat them the same as we would wish to be treated.

Terrigal Beach this morning
Nationalism, in my mind, is akin to racism, and seems to have grown with the pandemic.  The politicians and commentators who argue for putting their countries first, who denigrate other countries, and who fight to prevent jobs "going overseas" are really de-humanising the people in those other countries.  They present those countries as amorphous blobs, rather than workers and families trying to get ahead and live happy lives.  This is not a zero sum game.  The Australian job that goes to a Chinese factory worker or Indian call centre worker comes back to Australia as a Chinese tourist or Indian student.  The more Chinese and Indians who visit Australia, the more comfortable we will be with those cultures and the more likely we are to treat them fairly.  Each country has comparative advantages in some goods and services that it produces.  It should play to those strengths and we will all be better off, economically and socially.

I stepped up the exercise this morning, though it's all relative.  I covered my scheduled 9km, walking the first 4km and jogging the last 5km, my first running in 10 days.  It was slow and hard work, with the hip injury no worse at the end than at the start, which I'm hoping is a good sign.  Back home, I cycled for 30 minutes on the trainer to see how the hip would handle cycling.  Pretty much the same story as when jogging this morning ..... no sorer at the end than at the start.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Apartheid continues (everywhere)

Sunrise over Westernport Bay
There is substantial statistical evidence in the US and the UK that minorities are suffering disproportionately in the COVID-19 pandemic.  Both the infection and mortality rates are significantly higher in the black and minority populations.  In the US, the death rate for black Americans is 2.5 times higher than for whites, and in the UK, blacks are 70% more likely to die.  Although race may seem to be a key factor, it's more likely poverty is the critical determinant.  Poor nutrition, unhealthy lifestyles, dense habitation and lack of access to medical services, all consequences of poverty, are very important.

Bushfire regrowth
The same factors are at play in South Africa's black townships, where the virus seems to be spreading rapidly and disproportionately.  For example, the largest black township in the Western Cape province has 12% of the province's infections, but only 6% of its population.  Wealthier areas have far lower rates of infection.  Poor testing capabilities, combined with mismanagement, have seen the townships suffer badly.  South Africa's infection rate is rising, and the situation is likely to become much worse.

A touring cyclist in bushfire-ravaged East Gippsland
We were driving all day today, on our way back to Terrigal from southern Victoria via East Gippsland and the Monaro high plains.  We passed through some areas that had been badly affected by the summer bushfires, and there were still crews out repairing the road infrastructure and clearing dangerous burnt trees from the roadside in a number of places.  There was lots of green regrowth, but the black scars remain and will be there for a long time.  It was a 13 hour drive and I didn't manage any exercise (though did eat lots!).

Monday, June 15, 2020

Changing plans

The Granite Peak Trail in
Lysterfield Park this morning
It's looking less likely that I will be running my 50th anniversary marathon on 22 August as intended.  But the reasons are good.

Although not yet officially confirmed, all of the press reports point to Queensland state borders re-opening on 10 July to visitors from other states.  Assuming this happens, Julie and I intend to set out on a 16,500 kilometre bike ride around Australia in a counter-clockwise direction starting in early July.  It will take us about eight days to reach the Queensland border, so it should be open by the time we get there.

Although running a 50th anniversary marathon has a lot of appeal for me and was good motivation to get fit, I would much prefer to be on the cycling adventure.

More trails in Lysterfield Park
I still have some serious concerns about whether my body can deal with the physical demands of five months continual cycling, and particularly how my hip flexor injury will cope. When we get back to Terrigal from our current Victorian trip in a few days, I will take the bike out for a few rides to see how the body handles it, and then we'll make a final decision about the bike ride.

Lysterfield Park inhabitants
Julie suggests that we can still run a marathon wherever we are on 22 August (likely in remote far north Queensland), but I doubt I can switch to running from cycling as quickly as her.  We'll see.

Lysterfield Park
Today, I walked 8km in Lysterfield Park along very pleasant, if a little muddy, trails.  It's decades since I've run in this area, and it was pleasing to see how it has been protected and improved for recreation.  After a couple of kilometres, my hip flexor injury was barely perceptible, which was encouraging.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Mutating?


Outer Circle Trail this morning
Queensland had one new coronavirus case yesterday, a 30yo male returned traveller who had completed his mandatory two-week quarantine and was back in the community before being found to have COVID-19.  There may be a simple explanation for this, but it brings to mind some news stories coming out of northeast China last month suggesting that the virus may be mutating.

Outer Circle Trail this morning
It is thought the virus in this region of China originated in Russia, and anecdotal evidence suggests that cases are asymptomatic for longer.  This means a virus carrier tends to infect more people before they are identified.  One hundred million people in the area have been locked down while the authorities fight to control the outbreak.  Patients also seem primarily affected in the lungs with fewer of the other symptoms typically associated with COVID-19.

Disinfectors at work in a children's
playground this morning
The virus also has a different gene sequence to that previously found in China, though typical of the Russian strain.  This mutation may affect the development of accurate tests and effective vaccines in China.  It's still early days, and the evidence for the mutation and its impact is primarily anecdotal, but if proven to be correct, it will make the virus even harder to control.

For exercise today, I walked 7km on a beautiful winter's morning along the Outer Circle trail in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.  There were still plenty of autumnal colours evident and they were brilliantly illuminated by the rising sun.  The hip injury seems to be improving, though I wouldn't describe myself as being even cautiously optimistic.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Ghoulish interest

View north from Flinders Peak in the You Yangs
It's fascinating, in a sort of ghoulish way, to watch how the US deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Their libertarian heritage is incompatible with social compliance, and coupled with a good dose of denialism, the country seems destined to grapple with widespread COVID-19 infections for a long time to come.

Atop Flinders Peak
Only a month or two ago, I was telling friends that I had great confidence the US, after a slow start, would rise to the challenge of the pandemic, overcome it, and lead the world's economic recovery.  I was thinking of how they dealt with World War II and the Global Financial Crisis.  However, although I still think they will bounce back faster than many countries, economically, I think it will be accompanied by many deaths and social pain.

View from Flinders Peak
In the last few days I have read a number of startling statistics about the US reopening.
  • Trump is going to resume campaign rallies on 19 June (in Oklahoma! ... see below).  Attendees will have to sign waivers absolving the Trump campaign of responsibility should they become infected.
  • Florida, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama and North Carolina have just reported their highest daily numbers of new cases.
  • In Arizona, the number of infected people on ventilators has quadrupled since mid-May.
  • Oregon and Utah are pausing their reopening because of a rise in new COVID-19 cases.
  • US deaths from the virus are now projected to reach between 124,000 and 140,000 by 4 July, and some models are predicting a sharp jump in deaths in August and September.
I watch with interest.

I walked my scheduled 7km this morning, and later hiked 4km to Flinders Peak and back in the You Yangs with Julie.  The hip was still bothersome, but seems to warm up and become less painful the further I go.

Friday, June 12, 2020

False dawns

I always wondered how effective COVID-19 restrictions and reporting would be in the developing world, particularly in Asia and Africa.  Many were quick to impose shutdowns, such as India, Indonesia and South Africa, and now, in line with the developed world, they are easing them.

However, it seems that the virus is not really under control in these countries and they are still experiencing rapid spread and pressured medical systems.  Their published statistics cannot be relied upon and their reported death rates are likely to be wildly underestimated.

It's obvious that COVID-19 is going to be around in these countries for a long time, and they will remain a source of risk for countries that have the virus under control.  However, they are very unlikely to reimpose restrictions to stop the spread, so will have to deal with continuing high death rates, stretched medical systems and sluggish economies.

Developed world countries who have the virus under control will feel pressure to support the smaller developing countries in this predicament with economic and logistical support, and maybe medical resources.

I walked an easy 5.5km today on a very cold morning along the Geelong foreshore, still with some pain and limited movement range in my right hip, but it wasn't too bad, and not enough to deter me from continuing.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Not too fast!


Cold and hazy morning in Melbourne's eastern suburbs
New South Wales has had no cases of community virus transmission for fourteen days and is continuing to ease restrictions, but not fast enough for some people.  The state's Deputy Premier wants to see crowds allowed back into sporting fixtures now, and the risks of doing so would seem low.  The Premier is resisting, and rightly so in my view.

The Anniversary Outer Circle Trail this morning
With transmission rates so low, the chances of an infection spreading at a sporting event also seem very low.  But what's to be lost by waiting for another couple of weeks.  Sure, everybody wants things back to normal, but given that we have adapted to the restrictive regime, persisting for another couple of weeks doesn't seem onerous to me.  People can go to restaurants, shop and gather in groups.  Quality of life has improved considerably in the last month.  Let's wait a couple more weeks or a month before having big crowds.  Better safe than sorry.

I'm trying to apply the same principle to my running comeback.  No family golf game tomorrow, and only gentle exercise for the next few days.  I walked 6km this morning and could feel the strained hip flexor (or whatever it is) the whole way, though it wasn't particularly painful and didn't affect the weight-bearing capacity of the leg, which is a good sign.  It's just the range of motion that is limited.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Is COVID-19 losing its punch?

The Murray River at Albury
A senior Italian doctor recently claimed COVID-19 was losing its potency. He observed that the infected patients they were seeing at his hospital carried a much smaller viral load and said "In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy."  Since then, a New Zealand expert has agreed that this could be happening

Looking over Albury from Monument Hill
I have occasionally wondered whether this might be the case.  My casual observation has been that the infection rates have been slowly declining in countries such as the US and the UK despite seemingly early relaxation of social distancing restrictions, when my expectation was that it should still be growing.

The Murray River at Albury
However, other experts, including the World Health Organisation, say there is no statistical evidence that the virus has become less potent, and I'm inclined to believe them.  Casual empiricism can be valuable in formulating a hypothesis, but doesn't cut it as proof, so far as I'm concerned.

We spent our day driving down to Victoria, punctuated by a 4km walk in Albury to break the journey.  The hip felt a little better, which was cause for some optimism.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

New Zealand

Showery morning at Terrigal
New Zealand is COVID-19 free and removing all internal restrictions.  It is good news and a reward for their single-minded pursuit of eradication which involved restrictions more onerous than Australia's.

However, maybe the achievement is more symbolic than seems at first glance.  The NZ authorities accept that cases may yet emerge.  They know that to restore the NZ economy they will have to allow foreign tourists to enter from countries who have not completely eradicated the virus, such as Australia.  Tourism is directly responsible for 5.8% of NZ GDP and 21% of their foreign exchange earnings, so is an important part of the economy.

North Avoca cliffs from the Skillion
The real achievement is an effective testing, tracing and isolation process that has identified and contained all know coronavirus transmission chains.  This capability can be deployed when new cases are imported, as will inevitably happen over the next twelve months.  To wait for complete eradication before opening their borders would condemn NZ to a long period of isolation.  I suspect they will be more pragmatic and accept travellers from low-transmission countries.  This should be the goal for all countries (and states) wanting to lift their restrictions, rather than total eradication.

The Haven rocks this morning
I walked my scheduled 5km this morning, with the hip flexor injury uncomfortably limiting my stride the whole way.  I preceded the walk with five minutes on my cycle trainer to see how the injury affected me riding a bike.  There were twinges, but it wasn't too bad.  There was a press report on the weekend that the Queensland government will announce a border opening date some time this week.  Assuming that date is in the first three weeks of July, Julie and I will embark on our bike ride around Australia in mid-July or earlier.  My interest in my cycling capability is more than academic.

We are driving down to Victoria tomorrow for a week to visit family, so my blog posts maybe sporadic, depending on the time I have available.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Shambolic

The UK continues to surprise and disappoint with its shambolic approach to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking towards Avoca this morning

Wamberal lagoon bar this morning
Firstly, they toyed with the concept of "herd immunity" for a week or so back in March before realising how many deaths could actually result.  Then, after switching tack, they were slow to shut down because they were worried about restriction fatigue.  Even then, the restrictions imposed tended to be advisory, with devastating results in their nursing homes.  The seriousness of the restrictions were further undermined when two of the leading architects were caught blatantly breaching them.

Looking towards Wamberal lagoon bar this morning
Now, the UK is imposing a mandatory blanket two-week quarantine restriction on inbound passengers, just as other European countries are easing their own travel restrictions.  Most of those countries now have lower infection rates than the UK and are reopening their economies as the summer vacation season is getting underway.  It seems nonsensical.  The UK's budget travel airlines are trying to resume operations and now find that both inbound tourists, and returning resident vacationers, will have to spend two weeks in quarantine.  It's hard to believe this policy will be sustained.

Surf breaking at The Haven this morning
The UK has mishandled the health crisis and now looks likely to sabotage its economic recovery as well.

The UK's stumbles mirror my own fitness management during the pandemic.  I have switched between plans and then crippled my own recovery after my three week "shut down" by risking a golf game.  I walked 4km with Julie this morning as she recovered from her 100km run yesterday. I could feel some pain whenever I lengthened my stride, so can't risk running until that diminishes.  I'll adhere to my exercise plan of increasing distances by one kilometre every two days, but it will be walking not running.