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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: 27 January 2021
27 January 2021 @ 13:23

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

Good news: More here from Spain.

The UK: Here's the Guardian's explanation of the country's awful numbers. But someone has told me this morning that no deaths from flu or 'old age' have been recored this winter. If true, it's also a factor.

Inexplicable: The first 2 sufferers in the UK were from a family of 3. The son and then the mother went down with the virus but the father/husband didn't.

Living La Vida Loca in Galicia/Spain

An example of our culture wars, courtesy of Vox.

Marìa's New Year Same Old: Day 26. I also know of a café which had placed more tables on the pavement/sidewalk and ignored the 2m rule, while reminding me they couldn't serve me inside.

Portugal

The ‘nationalist, far-right’ party, Chega!, got only 1% of the vote in the general elections in 2019. This week, its presidential candidate got 12%. It’s reported that Portugal has not so far seen the same anti-establishment surge from the right that have reshaped the political landscape in some larger EU nations in recent years, although it has seen a rise anti-immigrant violence. Things might be changing for the worse, as here with Vox.

The EU

Europe faces an identity crisis over the vaccine trade war. See here.

The EU and the UK

Probably the majority British view: The EU’s collective approach to vaccination has been slow to order, late to get going, incompetently rolled out, and possibly for reasons of vested interest, riddled with bad bets. The European Commission’s complaint against AstraZeneca is instructed more by the need to find scapegoats for its own failings as anything else. It also seems in some way to have been conflated with the ongoing sense of grievance over Brexit, and the UK decision to go it alone on vaccination strategy, rather than join the collective European effort. Allegations that AZ is deliberately prioritising UK and US markets are essentially just sour grapes. Apparently officially sourced German press reports – now denied by the German health ministry – that the vaccine is largely ineffective among the over-65s have fuelled the flames. AZ is a global healthcare company which is not directly beholden to any country or government; it is as much Swedish as British, and ironically it is run by a French national. It is, moreover, selling its vaccine at no profit to itself, and is establishing local sources of production around the globe as fast as is logistically possible. The idea that it would deliberately favour one country over another is preposterous.

Possibly a minority British view: The EU's vaccine fiasco threatens the very future of Project Europe. The botched vaccination rollout has been a reputational disaster, proving the European Union to be a petty and dysfunctional bloc. . . .  The UK has made serious mistakes – our high Covid death rate isn’t only due to our global connectedness. But the vaccine challenge has been a reputational disaster for the EU – with these latest moves revealing it to be spiteful and dysfunctional, a shabby, protectionist bloc. Full article below.

The USA/Nutters Corner

If you're wondering how all those Christian 'prophets' who said God would give Trump a 2nd term dealt with actuality, this is for you. As the Friendly Atheist says: If God exists, He should seriously smite them for making Him look this bad. Or just laugh. I wonder if any of them have retired from the (profitable)) business of conning the (gullible) faithful. I'm guessing none.

The Way of the World

De-platforming, it is now clear, works. Without the megaphone of social media, Trump is no longer the booming and scary Wizard of Oz but rather the pathetic little man behind the curtain. But the silencing has come at a price. It has shown the enormous power that privately owned social media has. In response, both social media companies and also mainstream news outlets as well as think tanks have stepped up the policing of speech. Likely motivated by a misguided effort to prove they are balanced, these powerful centrist institutions are now engaged in an active effort to silence voices that make conservatives mad.  . . . The social media clampdown combined with the firings at the Times, the Niskanen Center, and Fox News all point in the same direction: Major institutions are now trying to placate the Trumpian right. The cost of Trump’s being quieted as a public voice is that many other voices now are going to be silenced as well. This is too high a price, and reminds us that, though Trump has gone, the real battle for media democracy has just started. Full article here.

Finally . . .  

For Spanish speakers and folks with Google Translate or similar. How to treat your masks:-


THE ARTICLE

The EU's vaccine fiasco threatens the very future of Project Europe: The botched vaccination rollout has been a reputational disaster, proving the European Union to be a petty and dysfunctional bloc: Liam Halligan, Telegraph

The EU’s Covid vaccination programme is a fiasco. So badly has the bloc bungled its vaccine rollout that an escalating row between Brussels and the 27 member states, to say nothing of voter outrage, is damaging “project Europe” itself.

At the start of the pandemic, the European Commission decided that it would take responsibility for sourcing the vaccines, despite its limited competence in the area. It reasoned that its size and the “efficiency” of its bureaucracy would enable it to seize a lead on its rivals in the vaccine race, and show the tangible benefits of European unity.

Instead the experiment has turned into a catastrophe. The UK has administered 10.3 doses per 100 of our population, including four-fifths of the over-80s. No EU nation comes close. Germany has managed just 2.1 doses per 100, the EU average is 1.9 and it’s 1.7 in France. Other member states, such as the Netherlands and Sweden, are lagging further behind.

Now public confidence across the EU is deteriorating fast. Parts of the German press have accused Angela Merkel of sacrificing lives by overriding the vaccine policy of her own government and entrusting it to Brussels. There have been riots in some member states among populations who can see no realistic hope of an exit from lockdown. That’s why the Eurocrats are lashing out, indulging in dangerous vaccine nationalism and seeking scapegoats for their own failures.

In doing so, however, they are exploding another EU myth: that it is a rules-based body devoted to international law and truth. The commission is threatening to obstruct exports of vaccines made in the bloc, including to Britain, in breach of commercial contracts. We’ve also seen what appear to be attempts to discredit the UK-made vaccine. Such disinformation wars are reckless. The AstraZeneca vaccine is vital – set to be used across the world, given that it is cheap and can be stored in a domestic fridge. The UK is right to be furious.

Of course nobody in the EU is prepared to own up to their mistakes. Instead they are doubling down on the ridiculous suggestion that Brussels has received unfair treatment at the hands of the vaccine manufacturers. But at a time of intense demand, shortages are inevitable. Production is an unpredictable biological process and both AstraZeneca and Pfizer have admitted to understandable delays. 

The bottom line is that, for all the UK’s failings during the pandemic, this country invested much earlier and to a far greater extent in the production, clinical trials and procurement of vaccines than the EU. So did the US – and again, America’s vaccine rollout is far superior.

The commission has displayed its usual combination of cack-handedness, bureaucratic torpor and a tendency to bend to special interests. Having dithered over the summer, Brussels buckled to pressure from Paris, ordering 300 million doses of the GSK-Sanofi vaccine. That bet back-fired – a major trial setback means this “French” vaccine won’t be ready until at least the end of 2021.

Brussels placed no firm order with Pfizer until mid-November – even though its partner firm BioNTech is German and had emerged as a front-runner months before. By then, other customers having moved much faster, the EU was way down the list.

“Obviously, the European purchasing process was flawed,” says Markus Söder, the Bavarian premier among the favourites to replace Merkel as chancellor. “It’s hard to explain why people elsewhere are being vaccinated more quickly with an excellent vaccine developed in Germany.”

As for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the European Medical Agency has claimed its “higher standards” have prevented it so far granting approval. And, even then, there may be further delays as labels for the vaccine are printed in the EU’s multiple languages.

The Brussels-made vaccine fiasco will result in more deaths, a longer lockdown and a deeper recession. As government debt ratios across the bloc spiral upward, a repeat of the 2011 eurozone crisis looms into view.

The UK has made serious mistakes – our high Covid death rate isn’t only due to our global connectedness. But the vaccine challenge has been a reputational disaster for the EU – with these latest moves revealing it to be spiteful and dysfunctional, a shabby, protectionist bloc.



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