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Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain

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

Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 5 August 2020
05 August 2020 @ 09:42

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 Howse: 'A Pilgrim in Spain'* 

COVID 19 

  • A contentious view (from a rightwing US commentator)?: The Netherlands' top scientists, having examined key data and research, have declared there is no firm evidence to back the use of face coverings. Indeed, they argue that wearing the wretched things may actually hamper the fight. More here

Living La Vida Loca in Spain 

  • This must rank as good news: A mask which deactivates the SARS-CoV-2 virus is now on sale across Spain. More here.  I wonder if there’ll be any left on the shelves by midday.   
  • Despite - or because of - Brexit, there’s been a huge upsurge in Brits applying for residence in Spain. Some of these, of course, must be those who’ve been living here below the wire for years and now need to come out of the long grass, to mix metaphors.
  • It’s a regular - and very valid - complaint of Lenox Napier of Business over Tapas that the Spanish government concerns itself greatly with short-term tourists but not at all with us ‘residential tourists’. By coincidence(?), here’s his latest comment on the wisdom of the Spanish government putting all their eggs in the tourist basket.        
  • If you agree with the Podemos view that Juan Carlos has fled from Spanish justice, you must have assumed he'd face it one day. Which is something of a stretch. Makes for a good headline, though. Which might push us a tad closer to a republic. Even a de jure federal state, perhaps. In place of the de facto one we have now.
  • Here’s Maria with Days 50 and 51, the latter addressing the issue of the ex-king and his tainted forbears and descendants.

The UK

  • In the last 48 hours the government’s handling of the ongoing crisis has reached a new pitch of incoherence. the Prime Minister has simultaneously slammed on the brakes, executed a U-turn and pressed the accelerator. No wonder the government appears to be drifting. What is more, the rationale for all this frantic manoeuvring collapses under the slightest scrutiny. 
  • The second wave hysteria is a smokescreen for No 10's abysmal failures, says the controversial columnist of the article below. 

The USA

  • Fart’s interview with Jonathan Swift has to be seen to be believed. Some will see it as evidence of his genius. The rest of us will see it a proof that he is, inter alia, a narcissistic cretin who doesn’t understand even the simple - and misleading/erroneous - data he’s been spoonfed.  

English 

English/Spanish

  • Three more refranes:-

- The darkest hour is before the dawn: Las cosas suelen empeorar antes de mejorar.

- The devil looks after his own: Mala hierba nunca muere.

- The die is cast: La suerte está echada.

Finally . . . 

  • Rates of dementia in men have been falling around the world for 3 decades. Two of the risk factors for the condition are said to be smoking and deafness brought on by 'excessive noise'. Hmm. I'm in the wrong country for avoiding these. I wonder whether the improvement has been observed here.

THE ARTICLE

Second wave hysteria is a smokescreen for No 10's abysmal failures:  Perish the thought that Downing Street Machiavellians prefer it that way. Sherelle Jacobs, Daily Telegraph

A Prime Minister slamming the brakes on lockdown easing. The highest number of daily cases in a month. Restrictions reimposed in the North of England. A ‘major incident’ declared in Manchester as cases surge. Scientists who previously advocated herd immunity now warning pubs may have to shut. You’d be forgiven for thinking the second wave was upon us.

But probe a little further, and you realise the public is being bombarded with potentially meaningless – if not outright misleading – numbers. We are being routinely deprived of the one basic figure that would give us a much clearer picture of the state of play: the number of Covid cases being picked up, adjusted for the number of tests done over time. As such a figure takes into account the increase in the testing being conducted across the country (Leicester has ramped up testing dramatically in a short space of time for example), it would give us a much better idea of whether Covid transmission is indeed spiralling out of control.

But as Prof Carl Heneghan wrote for Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine on Sunday, when you adjust the rise in people testing positive for changes in testing over time, it appears that the rate of cases in healthcare settings is dropping and the rate of cases in the community is flatlining rather than rising, as widely assumed. Even this may be an exaggerated picture, he claims, as false positives risk inflating case figures.

Underlying this academic confusion is an outrageous scandal. Let's pause and take it in for a moment: more than half a year into this crisis, No 10 (and the media) is still allowing incomplete, poorly interpreted and potentially inaccurate data to be widely circulated, fuelling public hysteria.

A cynic might wonder whether premature panic suits Downing Street’s agenda on some perverse level. The public still overwhelmingly supports lockdowns as the best weapon against the virus. 49 per cent of Brits remain uncomfortable returning to a pub, according to Yougov. Polls by Opinium and Ipsos MORI show that more than half the public think the Government is relaxing the lockdown too fast, while just one in seven think lockdown is being eased too slowly. 

A Machiavellian politico might take the view that if the electorate is panicking about a second wave that is already here, then it isn’t scrutinising the Government for failing to prepare for the one potentially around the corner. Covid-19 may be subsiding but it could yet prove seasonal, striking again this winter. That is still some months away, which means No 10 has some time to get its ducks in a row. But voters aren't really picking up on this time frame. The risk is that they then have accepted that the Government has little time or room to manoeuvre to avoid a second lockdown; this could yet prove No 10's Get Out Of Jail Free card. Or perhaps this Government is genuinely just incompetent. 

Either way, the false narrative that No 10's hands are tied needs to be challenged. With hospital rates dropping, and the evidence that infections are surging still uncertain, the Government does arguably in fact have time and space to get Britain’s chaotic Covid strategy in order.

Although the roll-out of two new ‘game-changing’ 90-minute tests for whole cities and towns is welcome news, what Britain really needs is a flawless and focused testing regime to protect vulnerable groups. Instead, a pledge for routine testing in care homes this summer has been quietly abandoned. Nor has the Government explicitly committed to a timetable for routine weekly testing in the NHS. Last time, Covid ripped through hospitals with some of the country’s worst-performing NHS hospital trusts among the most badly hit; where are the emergency measures to get failing hospitals up to scratch?

So is history doomed to repeat itself if coronavirus returns for a second winter? That rather depends on whether the public is whipped into such a state of panic that, once again, it gives politicians the benefit of the doubt over their failure to avoid lockdown. 

 

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



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