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Thoughts from Galicia, Spain

Random thoughts from a Brit in the North West. Sometimes serious, sometimes not. Quite often curmudgeonly.

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 29 July 2020
29 July 2020 @ 10:27

Night’s candles are burnt out, and jocund day stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops.

 Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.  

- Christopher house:’ A Pilgrim in Spain’*

Living La Vida Normal  

  • If there's a more problematic site in Spain than Renfe's I'd be interested to know of it. Buying tickets to Santiago and Pontevedra yesterday, I had 5 new problems. And this after the page has been reformed. I won't bore you with the details, except to say the most annoying was not finding any way to get my Tarjeta de Oro discount. 
  • Talking of Spanish problems . . . It's difficult here to get wines from other countries.  Worse, it's even more difficult to get Galician wines in Madrid bars, despite the fact that Albariño is Spain's premium white wine. Yesterday, I couldn't get either this or, of course, Godello, so had to settle for Verdejo from Rueda. Of course, you can get Albariño in Madrid supermarkets. But rarely Godello.

The USA

English/Spanish

  • Three more refranes:-

- One can never know too much: El saber no ocupa lugar.

- One man's meat is another man's poison: Nunca llueve a gusto de todos. 

- Possession is nine tenths of the law: La posesión es lo que cuenta.

Finally . . 

For those interested, a Covid review . . .

Overview

  • It will be a long time before truly accurate conclusions can be reached but here, for now, is a timely but controversial one: The panic over rising Covid-19 case numbers is as irrational as it is dangerous. The number of recorded cases is irrelevant: what matters is admissions to hospital and deaths. . . .  Globally, there is a growing discrepancy between the graph of infections and the graph of deaths.  See the full article below.

Sweden 

  • The writer of this article dismisses the criticisms of the Swedish strategy, seeing it as a success which will ensure there's no second wave there and that the economy will suffer less damaged than in lockdown countries:  The secret of Sweden’s success is that its experts settled on a strategy that was realistic, sustainable and science-based.  Lockdowns don’t work, but the media continues to support them. Why? Because the media is owned by elites who see lockdowns as an effective way to exert greater control over the population. The real issue is power, not efficacy or saving lives. The Swedish model undermines this effort by providing a viable alternative that challenges lockdowns and leads countries out of crisis. That’s why Sweden has been treated with such open hostility, because elites see crisis management as a useful tool for making the structural changes they want to impose on the political and economic systems. Billionaire oligarchs do not see crises as ‘periods of intense disorder or distress’, but golden opportunities that can be exploited to their advantage.

Finland

  • A  country which has kept deaths low but where the wearing of masks has never been compulsory and where, as in the Netherlands, they are rarely seen.

Spain

  • The number of new cases started jolting upwards 3 weeks ago. Yet there is not the faintest sign yet of an increase in Covid deaths, which have fallen away to virtually nothing: 3 died last Thursday, the most recent day for which figures are available, compared with nearly 1,000 on the worst days in April. The "second spike" has been blamed on young people partying in Barcelona and elsewhere. But does it really matter if they get infected so long as the disease is kept away from elderly people, especially those in care homes, where it accounted for so many deaths earlier in the year? Logically, rather than confine everyone indoors, as is happening again with some local lockdowns, everyone in Spain under 40 ought to be invited to a 2week long beach party, where they can all get infected and perhaps build up herd immunity.
  • The region of Madrid has now also made the wearing of face masks compulsory at all times in public – including whilst sitting outside at a terrace bar or café – and where gatherings are to be limited to groups of 10.  This leaves the Canary Islands as the only region in Spain with more lenient mask usage rules.
  • National hotel chains have offered to pay for foreign tourists to be PCR-tested before they return home to avoid their having to quarantine after their trip.
  • The Catalan government has now banned 'botellons’ – street drinking parties – in an effort to stop any further spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19), and will impose fines of up to €15,000.  Last Friday it had already ruled that nightclubs, venue halls and events with shows were to be banned in all of Catalonia, as well as musical activities with dance floors. 

The UK

  • The word farce springs to mind, and continues to echo as one tries to get to grips with the hotchpotch ad hoc dismantling of air bridges mere moments after establishing them. The list of countries no longer requiring self isolation and those on the black list for returning travellers is as confusing as a twelve page tapas menu in Catalan.  . . . It’s hard to wrap one's head around the logic of it. Countries where cases are still relatively high have got the green light, while others who can report success stories, particularly islands such as the Canaries and Balearics, whose economies are almost entirely sustained by the art of tourism, are dragged into the mire due to outbreaks in cities not just hundreds of miles away, but safely separated by sleeves of sea. While we play a game of international musical chairs, other countries have taken the logical approach of testing all new arrivals and providing results within 48 hours. Those with the virus are asked to isolate themselves, those with the all clear can go about rebuilding the economies of their host nation. 
  • One assumes this is a spoof: Quarantine chaos as Brits returning from Benidorm unaware they went abroad. . .

The USA

  • The USA us now within a day or 2 of overtaking France, rising to 4th in the Deaths Per Million table. That said, the astonishing rise of the South American countries means that Peru and Chile have overtaken both countries, while Brazil and Mexico are also rising rapidly and will soon do the same. Doubtless allowing Trump to claim that the USA is doing so well it's falling down the table.
  • Closer to the truth? Sweden was on the right track from the very beginning and is rapidly returning to normal while the US sinks deeper into a crisis of its own making.

THE ARTICLE

Panic over rising Covid-19 case numbers is as irrational as it is dangerous. The number of recorded cases is irrelevant: what matters is admissions to hospital and deaths: Ross Clark, Daily Telegraph. 

Why is anyone interested in the number of recorded cases of Covid 19? It might sound a daft question, given that we are in the middle of a pandemic, but it ought to be clear to anyone who spends a few minutes digging around the figures that it is a meaningless statistic. Count deaths, by all means, hospital admissions, ICU admissions – but as for the official figures of how many people have tested positive for the disease, it is pointless worrying about them.     

Why? First, because we are only – and only ever have been – detecting a small fraction of total cases of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid 19. Take the UK. Officially, as of Monday evening, there have been 300,111 recorded cases of Covid 19. Yet serological tests by Public Health England suggest that 6.5 per cent of the population of England have antibodies suggesting they have at some point been infected with the virus – which works out at 4.2 million. In other words, the official count has only managed to capture one in 14 cases of the disease. Why so few? Because in the vast majority of cases – between 70 and 80 per cent according to some estimates – Covid 19 causes no symptoms whatsoever. Those infected have no reason to assume they are infected, no need to seek medical attention and no reason to seek being tested.

Globally, there is also a growing discrepancy between the graph of infections and the graph of deaths. The World Health Organisation (WHO) keeps on telling us that the pandemic is accelerating. On Friday, it counted 218,307 new cases – a fresh high. In April, when the pandemic peaked in Europe, the daily count of cases globally never exceeded 100,000. Yet look at the figures for recorded deaths, and while there has been a small rise in recent weeks, daily deaths have flattened off at around 5,000. This is markedly less than was being reported back at April’s peak, when more than 8,000 deaths were being reported on some days. There is a slight lag between reported cases and deaths, but not enough to account for the discrepancy.

Why the divergent paths of recorded cases and deaths? Either the world is recording more cases of Covid 19 because it is testing more, we are recording fewer deaths because we have become better at treating the disease, or fewer cases are going on to develop into medical emergencies because a greater proportion of new infections now are among less vulnerable groups – they are in younger, healthier people – than was the case in April. Perhaps it is a mixture of all three.      

Look at the US, where recorded cases are currently running at more than twice what they were in April but where deaths have more than halved since then. How come? Tests for Covid 19 are now running at around 800,000 a day. In the middle of April, by comparison, the US was carrying out 150,000 tests a day. Testing is, as Donald Trump said recently, a "double-edged sword" in that increased testing has allowed authorities to establish where the disease is spreading, but at the same time it makes the epidemic look worse on paper than it actually is. He was, of course, vilified for saying this as he is vilified for whatever he says, foolish or sensible. But perhaps his critics would like to explain the divergent paths of recorded cases and deaths. Again, a lag between infections and deaths cannot explain it alone.   

In Spain, the subject of this week’s panic, the number of new cases started jolting upwards three weeks ago. Yet there is not the faintest sign yet of an increase in Covid deaths, which have fallen away to virtually nothing: three died last Thursday, the most recent day for which figures are available, compared with nearly a thousand on the worst days in April. The "second spike" has been blamed on young people partying in Barcelona and elsewhere. But does it really matter if they get infected so long as the disease is kept away from elderly people, especially those in care homes, where it accounted for so many deaths earlier in the year? Logically, rather than confine everyone indoors, as is happening again with some local lockdowns, everyone in Spain under 40 ought to be invited to a fortnight-long beach party – the equivalent of a measles party – where they can all get infected and perhaps build up herd immunity.

But whatever policy a country chooses to follow, can we please stop fretting over meaningless graphs of the number of new infections and look instead at what really matters: hospital admissions and deaths? So long as they are falling, any rise in recorded infections matters little.  

 

* A terrible book, by the way. Don't be tempted to buy it, unless you're a very religious Protestant.  



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