19 Aug 2022

Surviving coronavirus in Spain

Cathy Hogan continues her diary on her days in lockdown in Spain

Surviving coronavirus  in Spain

Enjoying Easter lunch!

It seems to me that the new ʻBig C’, normally referring to cancer, is Covid-19.
Following two weeks of mild symptoms of something, I’m happy to report that I’m improving a little every day. And happier still that if it turns out to have been COVID-19, it was never at a serious level. Alan, with whom I’m isolating, now has symptoms, but again, nothing worrying.
A friend of mine in New Zealand is amongst several people that I know around the world who have had a strange illness in the past few months. Common symptoms are fever, headaches, upset stomach, extreme fatigue, and a lack of ‘normal flu’ symptoms (like stuffy/runny nose). What we all share is the sense that we’ve had a ‘vague virus’ which lasts weeks. A former member of the British military tells me that many of his friends in the army have had similar symptoms for months now.
Obviously I’m relieved that we aren’t suffering from the full effects of Covid-19, but the ongoing fatigue that comes with our current illness is something we could do without while we battle to stay active and positive during lockdown. But I know that most of the world’s population is dealing with much more serious challenges so, I count myself extremely lucky. Perspective is everything; there is always somebody worse off than you are.
Last month the Spanish health authorities purchased 640,000 rapid diagnostic tests from a Chinese manufacturer. These arrived on March 23, but hospitals found that they gave back negative results on patients who were known to have the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus so, the shipment was returned.
Now, due to a shortage of human and material resources in hospitals in the Covid-19 hot spots of Catalonia (where I live) and Madrid, only the seriously ill and health professionals are being tested. The rest of the population is told that if we develop symptoms we are not to go to the doctor but to quarantine ourselves and to go to hospital only if we cannot breathe.
Now the plan is for the government to test 30,000 families for research purposes. I guess it will be months, if ever, before we find out if we have developed the antibodies, and whether this will offer us short or longterm immunity.
I still hope that ‘Immunity passports’ will be created soon to give key workers the confidence that they are no longer at risk of contracting the virus. It would then speed up the easing of lockdown measures for the general population. In Germany they are preparing a study of 1000,000 volunteers to assess how many people are already immune to the Covid-19 virus, but funding is yet even to be finalised for this.
Knowing who has already been affected would be helpful since antibodies can be used to treat COVID-19.
We’re all about crunching numbers these days and trying to analyse doubling rates - how many days it takes for the number of coronavirus cases or deaths to double.
Flattening curve
We celebrate when we see these slow down because the reported infection rates and deaths are growing less quickly and the curve is flattening - our favourite sound bite of the season.
Some numbers that I do like came from Imperial College London, who stated in their March 30 report that, because of social distancing and lockdown measures taken, ‘up to 120,000 deaths may have already been averted in 11 countries, including the UK, Italy and Spain’. They estimate that between 2% and 12% of our populations have already been infected with the virus. The Imperial College website and Facebook pages are mines of trustworthy information.
If you really want to number crunch, their epidemiologists publish a weekly forecast of coronavirus deaths and transmissibility, globally.
I want to get excited about last week’s reduction in infection and death rates in Spain and elsewhere but the figures have been on such a roller coaster ride for the past two weeks, but I don’t want to get my hopes up - especially so since we’re told that there are delays in reporting during weekends so there will be even more in the week following the Easter holidays.
My fear is that, if we all haven’t had a proper Easter Lockdown, we can look forward to our first Christmas Lockdown.
Back on the farm we have the best distraction in the form of six hens. It’s been both entertaining and comforting to sit amongst the clutch and watch them strut about, enjoying their new world. It’s our default place to enjoy a cuppa a few times a day without family gatherings.
I was never much interested in celebrations like Christmas or Easter, per se, but I found myself making plans all last week.
There’s just the two of us in lockdown but still we spent days researching what dishes we could prepare for ourselves.
Then, lacking a hairdresser’s visit, I got Alan to buy a hair dye on his last supermarket run; he had to quickly get used to shopping for everything for his girlfriend of just a few months. Alan even managed to give me a restyle with his hair clippers. Last weekend Walmart in the US said that hair dyes and clippers are the new coronavirus panic buys so, I’m not alone!
When I began to wonder which of the three outfits that I have here (we were supposed to be moving all of my possessions from Ireland this week...) that I would choose to wear for our elaborate meal, I realised I was answering a need to plan something - anything - because I’m completely isolating in an remote area, apart from scheduling the occasional call with a friend or Zoom gathering with family abroad, I’m unable to make any future plan.
Even our farm work is weather dependent, especially if we need to make use of our burning permit for the olive and almond pruning.
So, organising a day, however insignificant, gave me comfort in my ability to control something in life. According to a psychologist from the WHO (another essential and fascinating resource during these times) weʼre all going to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. We need to look after ourselves individually and collectively.
Possessing patience, a sense of humour, and being self-sufficient mentally and emotionally, are essential attributes to have in general - and a lot more so these times.

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