Time for reflection as we count the Coronavirus cost

Cathy Hogan concludes her column on the pandemic and her time in Spain, and considers a time for reflection

Time for reflection as we count the Coronavirus cost

Alan, Cathy and Alfonso

Last weekend the world surpassed the ten million infections mark, and over half a million people have lost their lives due to Covid-19 so far. Yet, many countries have yet to peak.
I was always under the impression that Spain was doing much worse than Ireland, which I still believe to be an extremely safe country to be in during a pandemic.
But when I checked the ever-interesting wordometer website I learned that, when it comes to the number of deaths per population, Spain ranks fifth and Ireland is 11th out of 215 countries. Not comfortable places for either to be in. And for the number of infections per percentage of population, Spain is 19th and Ireland lies in 25th place.
Spain ranks higher on average, yes, but not as bad as I had thought for a country that borders Portugal, Gibraltar, France, and importantly, Andorra, which is still third highest in the world for the number of deaths per population.
On tests being carried out, Spain is in 21st place and Ireland is 31st; both are doing much better than I had thought.
In Spain we are back to yo-yoing with daily death rates, but they are single digits instead of many hundreds. And we have daily infection rates of a few hundred, instead of the 7,000 or 8,000 during April.
Of course, we cannot trust all of the numbers we read, but it is a good indicator of how the world is doing. Indeed most officials estimate the number of infections to be 10 to 15 times higher than is reported, based on a country-wide sample study of seroprevalence carried out on 63,000 people by the Spanish Ministry of Health.
After 98 days of State of Alarm and lockdown in Spain we entered the New Normal on June 21. Unfortunately, the following day several towns near us had infection spikes and reverted to lockdown Level 2. But no restrictions can be imposed on freedom of movement without Prime Minister Sánchez requesting a new State of Alarm from the Council of Ministers.
The last time a State of Alarm had been imposed was in 2010 during the air traffic controllers’ strike. And that was the first time a state of emergency was invoked since Francisco Franco’s regime.
With all of these uncertainties I cancelled my trip to the UK with Alan next week. As I am not an official resident of either Spain or the UK, if restrictions are increased in either country, or while driving through France, I could get stuck on either side of three borders.
Returning to ‘real life’ after three surreal months brings as much fear of the unknown as it does relief and excitement. And we realise that the tedious things in life, like vehicle maintenance and dental appointments, immediately return.
This is when we start to question the necessity for non-essential items and costs, while we dream of a changed, better and greener world. And most realised it was the people, not the pubs that they missed.
Here are the experiences and hopes of a few friends:
Malcolm Noonan, TD:
“Lockdown has afforded us a unique opportunity to rethink everything. We adapted how we work and live so quickly.
“Having campaigned for decades on issues of sustainable mobility, I’m amazed at the number of people walking and cycling now. Can we keep this up when we return to work and school? I hope so!
“I spend half my time working from home, half in Leinster House. Zoom and Teams are brilliant online tools – my children make the odd appearance at Parliamentary Party meetings which is fun!
“I really hope we don’t waste this opportunity; how we can recalibrate our often chaotic work-life balance. And that we value the great sense of community brought about by this. We’re loving the time we have with our children but I’m missing live music, the arts festival and summer hurling.”
Kilkenny women Jane and Caroline Blunden in the Cotswolds:
“The mighty lockdown lifts here in Gloucestershire. As we are over 70 years old the government guidelines were quite strict and we complied. Rather than travel back to Kilkenny we are staying in an annex to a friend’s house in a blissful village surrounded by beautiful countryside.
“We have better relationships, with kindness and generosity no matter what. And that we were lucky to make new friends over stone walls as we walk far and wide. We grew a veggie garden from seed and now enjoy our own fresh salads. We contributed daily to a Covid-19 Research Study and had our first ever Zoom meetings all over the world: lockdown has been a huge IT learning curve! All of this has woven into a wonderful feeling of gratitude.”
Last Sunday, I topped up water at a font on my return from a long ride up the Pas de l’Ase (Donkey Path) mountain range.
I must have looked particularly hot and tired because a car with an older couple in it pulled up and asked if I had a puncture or needed any help. We may be engulfed in a pandemic but the kindness of strangers knows no bounds nor risks.
As this is my final report from Spain in the Kilkenny People, I would like to thank the paper for its continued support and especially you, the readers, for your interest. If you wish to continue following my life here online, check out my daily Facebook blog at ‘Cathy Hogan Surviving Coronavirus Spain’.
In the meantime, stay safe and I’ll see you all in Cill Chainnigh soon!

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