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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: 21 November 2020
21 November 2020 @ 11:16

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

A nice overview in the article below

Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain

I don’t recall seeing this annual report before. And don't really know what to make of it. But it seems we’re lucky to have the Quirónsalud group here in Galicia.

How's this for chutzpa/cara? The company responsible for the AVE high-speed train is promoting the now-open Galicia-Madrid stretches with journey times promised in 2018 which don't accord with actual times. Is there no Advertising Authority in Spain to stop this sort of dishonesty? Which is beyond mere ‘puffery’.

Talking of Madrid, here’s some lovely fotos from the city’s archives.

In the 19 years I've been here, 2 female ‘celebrities’ seem to have got younger, rather than older - Ana Rosa Quintana(64) and Ana Obregón(65). Quite remarkable. I think La Obregón (a 'socialite') once put this down to only ever washing her face with soap and water . . . I must try it. Thorough perhaps it’s a bit late.

María's Riding the Wave - A sombre Day 6 

The UK

Richard North (a temperate Brexiteer) here looks into the nearish future . . An extreme version of Brexit was always going to be unsustainable and, therefore, unstable – meaning that it could never be the last word. By going too far out on a limb, the [extremist] Brexiteers may end up with nothing other than the break-up of the United Kingdom. 

The USA 

A must-read article on the ongoing American 'civil war'.

If you don't fancy that long read, here's a must-see video on Goldenhair.

The Way of the World

Black Friday started it. Now we have Black Pre-Friday from Harnet and, from the Gadis supermarket chain, BlackGadis. Or, as we used to know them - 'sales', 

Spanish 

Chungo/a: The RAE: 1. ’Of a bad aspect; in a bad state; of bad quality’.  Una película chunga. El tiempo está chungo; va a llover otra vez. 2. Difficult, complicated. Con ese rival, lo tiene muy chungo.  

Finally . . .

What has happened to architecture since the Second World War that the only passers by who can contemplate it without pain are those equipped with a white stick and a guide dog? Bernard Levin(1928-2004)

THE ARTICLE 

Talk of ‘beating Covid’ was always nonsense

After immersing myself in the science, it’s clear to me that phrases like ‘all-out war’ only scared the nation out of its wits  Matthew Parris. The Times

I’m trying something new here. Such is the imperfection of our knowledge about Covid-19 and how best to handle it, that perhaps a little humility is called for.

I myself was being a bit cocksure when, in a Times column three weeks ago, I accused scientists of sunding “cocksure” while ducking big questions. But, turning away wrath, an organisation called the Science Media Centre rose to the challenge, and put the questions I said had been ducked to a range of experts. Many answered. I then asked further questions, about “herd” immunity and the possible evidence that London is developing some resistance to the virus. Again, a range of scientists sent me answers: often tentative, often admitting ignorance.

It is these experts’ thoughts, suggestions and admissions that I want to discuss. I’m reluctant to attribute to individuals my own summaries of their (often lengthy and dense) submissions. My responders have been (professors all, except for one. I’ll draw from tens of thousands of words a few pointers to what we do and don’t know. I’ve sensed disagreements here and there but overall there’s a consensus on the big questions, if not always on how the answers have been presented, or what context or caveats should have been flagged up.

Facemasks, my responders appear to agree, have not been absolutely proven to work, but it’s likely they will help as there is now broad agreement that Covid-19 spreads most often and most easily in exhaled water droplets, rather than from surfaces.

How about “herd” immunity? This is the point during a virus’s spread when so many people have had the disease and gained immunity, or a degree of resistance, or, of course, died, that the virus runs short of new people to infect. Past this point its prevalence begins to decrease. All agree on this, with one important reservation to which I’ll come later.

But when is this point reached: at 20, 50, 60, or 80% of the population? There is widespread agreement among the experts that, at the outset of the crisis in March, the figure was thought to be between 60 and 80%, because this virus is very good at spreading itself. And that’s what government was advised. Ministers took this as a massive fire alarm, because the hospitalisations and casualties involved in getting to 80% looked unacceptable.

However, many of my responders now think that in addition to the antibodies our immune system produces there may be other kinds of partial resistance in the body’s armoury, and that this may explain why cities like London, which took a big hit in the first wave, may not be so badly hit the second time round. Herd immunity as a concept begins to come apart if we make too concerted a mental grab at it, and some of my responders emphasise that it only works perfectly if you assume that everyone experiences infection in the same way.

My impression is that the “80%” herd immunity stuff in March was an over-simplification born partly of gaps in knowledge and partly by a widely shared feeling that there was an urgent need to wake up non-scientist politicians (and the public) to the scale of what might happen if the spread were not suppressed.

Crude projections that took no account of “mitigation” (the way people might — indeed would — modify their behaviour to stop the virus spreading) frightened ministers and the media. Some scientists felt the need to shock because an alternative approach, simply to “let the virus rip”, might indeed have produced shocking results. They were not claiming anything that conflicted with the state of knowledge at the time, but their wider, non-expert, audience (us) drew a scarier and less complicated message than if we’d understood the assumptions behind the projections.

And politicians (and, to some degree, experts) allowed a feeling to grow that I believe has damaged both our understanding of science and our understanding of how and why we need to modify our behaviour. I characterise this as the “all or nothing” approach to the pandemic. This approach emerges in the vocabulary of “war” on Covid-19, or “beating” the virus, or (in the prime minister’s as-ever memorable but misleading phraseology) “wrestling the virus to the ground”.

This “war on Covid” metaphor has bled into the popular attitude to social distancing, hand-washing, mask-wearing and the like. There’s a creepy feeling that once the enemy — the virus — “gets in” to a railway carriage/car/sitting-room/ office then, as in the film Alien or with the vampire’s bite, all is lost. As though a belt of trees planted as a windbreak has failed in its purpose if any gust gets through. As though the individual who forgets his mask or shakes hands has breached the dam, and we shall be swept away. The implication is clear. The dam holds or the dam collapses. Either mankind wins or mankind is beaten.

But this, meant to be a rallying war cry, could so easily become a counsel of despair. Not one of my responders suggested that we could “eradicate” Covid-19. “The herd” (wrote one of them) will never be “immune”: the virus will be contained, that’s all. It will lurk. Take-up for vaccination may prove patchy: the disease, after all, is not believed by the great majority to threaten them personally. Every nation will have its peculiar difficulties. New Zealand, Australia and many Asian countries now aiming to eliminate the virus will wonder how they can ever open themselves up to the world again. Here in Britain I can see an idea regrettably gaining ground that if the very old, obese or unwell don’t want the disease they can always get the vaccination.

But in the end the world, including Britain, will learn to live with this disease, and the sooner we develop coping strategies the better. It will never be all or nothing. It will always be a matter of balancing medical against other human needs. My temporary immersion in “the science” this month has shown me that, from the very start, few scientists ever suggested otherwise. One could wish they had been more explicit and that our politicians had not taken the easy, lazy course of scaring a nation out of its wits.

 

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



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