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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: 6 September 2020
06 September 2020 @ 10:45

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  

As expected, the US deaths/million total has passed that of Sweden and - ignoring South America - these are now the top worst countries. More stats here.   

Belgium 854

Spain 629

UK 611

Italy 588

USA 582

Sweden 577     

Who'd bet against the USA - with its never-ending first wave - reaching the second slot?  Even the first.
As for 2nd waves, it looks like Spain is now out in front. Though with a much greater gap between cases and deaths. See the article below for relevant factors, where the highlighting is mine.      

Living La Vida Loca in Spain and Galicia 

Last year saw more immigrants coming to Galicia than since 1990. Inevitably, the largest contingent was from troubled Venezuela. Followed by Colombia, (Portuguese-speaking) Brazil Peru, and Cuba. Not much potential for cultural or religious clashes, then. Lucky Spain.

Given the number of 'pilgrims' albergues that have sprouted in Pontevedra city - and maybe along the rural camino too - 2021 had better be a much a much healthier year for the owners/investors than this one. Grounds for optimism stem from the fact it'll be un Año Santo Jacobeo**, preparations for which have been in process since the last one in 2010. 

María's Dystopian Times, Day 22  


I've always thought that prenda was a skirt/garment but, seeing it in a recent refrán, I had to check and discovered it also means ‘a pledge’. No obvious connection that I can see.

Perhaps it lies in the several meaning of prenda here.  


Another (less well-known?) refrán:-  

-  A rule  isn’t unfair if it applies to everyone: Ley pareja no es dura/rigurosa.  [Truth to tell, in Spain all rules are unfair, unless you can bend them to your own advantage. Or just ignore them as being inconvenient to you.]

Finally . . .  

I have 3 grandchildren, aged 19 months, 3 and 5. The youngest in is Madrid and the other 2 in the UK. By some freak coincidence, they all attended the first day of some sort of school last Friday.  


Coronavirus: Spain reckons with Europe’s worst second wave: Spain’s resurgence of coronavirus is driven by the capital, where people complain of poor testing and tracing.   The Times

In the working-class neighbourhood of San Diego, anger is growing among residents who face the highest rates of coronavirus infection in Spain. The barrio, bordered by railway tracks and Madrid’s circular motorway, is part of the Puente de Vallecas district, which over the past two weeks recorded 987 cases per 100,000 people, twice as high as the capital’s average and almost four times that of the country.

Outbreaks in Madrid have pushed it to the fore of a second wave in Spain, where the pandemic is spreading at its fastest pace in Europe. Politicians again stand accused of acting too late, They puzzle over the causes, but those in San Diego have their own explanations. “This is a poor neighbourhood,” Margarita Martínez, 55, who works as a carer for elderly people, said. “The government gives money to wealthier areas but they have abandoned us.” Julián de Diego, 62, who was born in San Diego and has been a taxi driver for 39 years, added: “Why has it happened here? Because we are working people who go out to clean people’s houses, stations and offices, and we drive public transport and work in shops. We are at risk. And they don’t send resources and trackers and tracers here.”  Some blame overpopulation. “Lots of people are living in very small houses and sharing flats,” said Aroa Garcia, 36, a mother of four. Others said young people were not distancing or wearing masks. “They meet in large groups,” Edberto Realba, 26, a food courier from Venezuela, said. “They party a lot.”

Madrid has recorded 467 cases per 100,000 people over the past two weeks, with the highest incidences concentrated in Puente de Vallecas and three other poor southern districts. The capital accounts for a third of infections in Spain, which in turn has had about a third of Europe’s new cases if Russia is excluded. In the past fortnight the number of cases nationwide has reached 236 per 100,000 people, compared with 27 in Britain, 28 in Italy, 105 in France and 19 in Germany.

Spain’s record is causing alarm across the Continent. Experts and the public question how the authorities were caught off guard and what measures they will take to curb the escalation. Today the country registered 8,959 new infections, the highest number since the resurgence and one that will fuel fears about the return from summer holidays to schools and offices. The Socialist-led coalition government of Pedro Sánchez, who this week ruled out another national lockdown, has acknowledged that things “are not going well”. Spain was one of the hardest hit countries during the first wave of the pandemic and has lost about 29,000 lives to the virus, although estimates based on excess deaths put the figure at about 45,000. The government points out that the mortality rate is half what it was at the height of the crisis and that the majority of positive results are asymptomatic. However, the surge is being felt on the front line. “Our hospital has started to have to reorganise entire floors and operating rooms and non-emergency consultations,” said José Curbelo, a senior doctor at the Princesa hospital in Madrid, where the average number of Covid patients has increased from about ten in June to 80 now. More worrying, Dr Curbelo observed, is that the capital’s primary healthcare centres are “saturated” with Covid cases, which has compounded Spain’s much-criticised lack of track and tracing. “Primary care colleagues are overwhelmed and they’re actually trying to do the tracing,” he said, adding that laboratory bottlenecks meant it could take a week or longer to do the PCR test and get the results back.

In San Diego most people interviewed by The Times volunteered that they were waiting for delayed medical appointments. Several said they had friends who could not risk or afford being tested in case the result was positive; that would mean isolation and loss of work. “Many people here can’t afford to self-isolate,” Mrs Martínez said. “If you don’t work you won’t eat.”

Health experts including Dr Curbelo also believe that the country came out of confinement too quickly. After the strict lockdown was eased on June 21, Spain rapidly opened its borders to foreign tourists and its famously gregarious social gatherings got under way. 

Mr Sánchez said last month that outbreaks in July among itinerant farm workers in Aragon and Catalonia were a turning point. He cited nightlife and family reunions as causes of the new wave. Today the Madrid region announced tighter restrictions on social gatherings, including limiting the number of people at ten to match measures reimposed elsewhere in Spain. Health experts have welcomed such measures but analysts have pointed to deeper problems afflicting Spain: its political fragmentation and polarisation and a debate over the powers of its decentralised system of 17 regional governments. “This crisis has shown the deficiencies of the Spanish state, that it’s not a federal state and it’s not a centralised state,” said Miguel Otero-Iglesias of the Elcano Royal Institute, a think tank in Madrid, who served on a government committee on the transition out of lockdown. “One of the biggest problems in Spain is that it does not have a sufficiently institutionalised and assimilated culture of co-operation.”  Ildefonso Hernández-Aguado, a former director-general of public health for the Spanish government, said the regions had underestimated the second wave. “There has been a problem with not enough health workers for the contact tracing,” he said. But he disagreed that decentralisation was an added issue. “The problem is more with governance and with democratic quality,” he said. “I haven’t seen the presidents of the regions being accountable for all the measures that they have been taking for the last two months when they are the ones responsible.”  Ignacio Rosell, professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Valladolid, added that the regional system means that data can be affected by delays. “The autonomous communities send their information to the health ministry’s central epidemiological surveillance base. But if any region has problems or information delays, it affects the general data.”

With no national picture, no national strategy and a paucity and disunity of data, botched plans by regional governments have added to the impression of political improvisation. This week there was chaos outside a Madrid testing centre where thousands of teachers had been sent at the last minute before the start of the academic year next week.

On the front line that lack of a national strategy is being felt. “Authorities must understand that they have to invest heavily in detecting and treating those infected. It is a priority,” said Dr Curbelo in Madrid. “It is not necessarily more hospitals or more doctors needed, but a better network to detect and isolate and monitor cases. Without that it is impossible for the disease to be controlled.”


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

** When 25 July falls on a Sunday and a special east door is opened for entrance into Santiago Cathedral.


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