Thoughts from Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain: 16.4.21


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’ 

NOTE: Info on Galicia here. Detailed info on Pontevedra coming soon. 


Clots: Scientists insist that he risk of severe cerebral blood clots following Covid-19 is about 8 times greater than that associated with having the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Researchers said the figures, taken from a database of more than half a million Covid-19 cases in the US, should help regulators and the public to better understand the “risk-benefit question” when looking at the side effects of vaccines.

Denmark: Has suspended use of the AZ vaccine. As with all other related decisions, could this possibly be because it’d be easier to sue for negligence, say, in respect of a clot death than a Covid death? 


1. Bad news: Spain reports more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases as the 4th wave takes hold

2. Less bad news: While contagion rates are rising in most regions, they’re falling in Valencia, Galicia and Murcia, where the epidemic is more under control

Click here for more on this.

Analysis: A few days ago. I wrote that: Some time in the future, hard lessons will be learned from the last 15 months. The biggest, perhaps, is that it must never be allowed to happen again. Quicker, better action will be necessary the minute a new dangerous virus emerges. Probably based on Asian models. Now, the Chief Economics Commentator of the Financial Times has written: After this is over, we need to learn further lessons to ensure such a disaster is not repeated. But the big lesson when dealing with such a highly infectious disease is already clear: suppress it quickly, by controlling both the borders and the domestic spread. This is the way to return quickly to a relatively normal life. If one fails to achieve this, all options become horrible. Nice to be endorsed. Not that it’s a hugely unique view.

See a couple of relevant – and opposing? – views below.

Cosas de España

Our State of Alarm will end on May 9 but what happens thereafter is none too clear. National restrictions will end but regional restrictions won’t. On the other hand, the government will take regions to court if they exceed their authority, whatever that actually is. My big questions: Will I be allowed to leave Galicia and will my daughter be allowed to come here from Madrid? No one currently knows, of course. And I fear the Galician government will want to retain – legally or illegally – its current ‘superior’ position. Meanwhile, several regions are calling for the State of Alarm to be extended, presumably because they aren’t legal allowed to implement what it entails. All very confusing. A reflection, I guess, of the fact that this is a pseudo federal state. Lawyers  of the Constitutional variety look like being kept happy,

Mark Stücklin 

1. Good news for spouses of EU citizens re the need for a Spanish visa.

2. Another pot at ‘Spain’s squatter-friendly judicial system’.

Trivia: I bought a J&J/Janssen product yesterday and noted the price had tripled since the last time I did so. Apparently because the company attained price freedom after the government  – as an austerity measure – dropped it from its schedule of subsidised medicines.

Cousas de Galiza 

I’d like to re-do the camino from Tui, on the border with Portugal, first done in 2009. Trouble is – there’s no direct train or bus service to Tui, 46km from Pontevedra. Normally, I’d take the Oporto airport bus and alight in Valença in Portugal on the other side of the river Miño and then walk back to Tui across the bridge between the towns. But this option isn’t on the cards right now. And probably won’t be even when/if the State of Alarm is lifted on May 9. So, I’ll go to Vigo and cadge a lift from a friend there. Tough times.

An Irishman who’s just taken up residence in Pontevedra had an article yesterday in the Voz de Galicia on Ugliness(Feismo) in Pontevedra city. Ironically, I’m not aware that anyone Spanish in Pontevedra knows I’ve been writing about the place for 20 years. Which must say something . . .

The UK

Horses for courses. If your country had crises with the EU, Ireland, Scotland and a pandemic, would your first choice of Prime Minister be an inveterate liar with the image of a buffoonish scarecrow?

As regards Scotland . . . A couple of nice questions: Will an independent, ‘democratic’ Scotland allow its Border Counties to have a referendum on returning to Cumbria and Northumberland in England? If not, why not?

Here in Spain, I’d guess the same questions would arise in respect of Navarra in an independent Basque Country. Or Pontevedra Province in an independent Galiza . . .

Religious Nutters/Crooks Corner

A few days ago I wondered if John Wycliffe had been the first victim of cancel culture. It turns out that the televangelist and scam artist Jim Bakker thinks he was . . .

Finally  . . . 

I’m re-seeding the lawn ruined a few months ago by the JCB that went into my neighbour’s garden. The volume of small stones led me to get this explanation of their ubiquity: Stones are better conductors of heat than soil, so a stone conducts heat away from the warmer soil beneath it. Over a period of time this repeated freezing, expanding, upward push, and filling underneath eventually shoves the stones to the surface. More on this here.


1. Lessons brutally learned: Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times

Few in [the UK] government come out of this story well. In particular, there was a failure to understand what the Chinese, New Zealanders, South Koreans, Taiwanese and Vietnamese understood—namely, that there is no trade-off between suppressing the illness and the health of the economy. 

The evidence on this is quite clear: other things being equal, countries that suppressed the disease were also more economically successful. As I pointed out in the FT, the explanation for this lack of a trade-off is also reasonably evident. People will not go back to their normal lives in the midst of a raging pandemic, especially when there is also a high death rate. The idea that the economy could ride this out while we sought “herd immunity” was ridiculous.

After this is over, we need to learn further lessons to ensure such a disaster is not repeated. But the big lesson when dealing with such a highly infectious disease is already clear, in my view: suppress it quickly, by controlling both the borders and the domestic spread. This is the way to return quickly to a relatively normal life. If one fails to achieve this, all options become horrible.

2. Striking the balance: Charles Goodhart, emeritus professor, LSE

The essay that you [Prospect magazine] published on Covid-19 did not mention the failure [by the UK government] during the first few months to protect care homes—by far the most scandalous occurrence of the epidemic.  

But the real question is how far there is a trade-off between shutting down the economy and society on the one hand and defeating the virus on the other. Of course there is such a trade-off. The decline in output in the first half of 2020 was the most severe in living memory. If there had been no trade-off, we would have maintained the most severe lockdown right from the outset until everybody was vaccinated. But that would have been even more disastrous.  

Partly in order to encourage people to maintain lockdown, the media has focused on regular league tables of hospitalisations and deaths. That, in turn, meant that it became politically and socially almost impossible to countenance a less locked down, “Swedish” approach. 

The correct statistic, however, is not the overall number of those dying after a positive test, but the excess deaths beyond those that could be expected at the time. The Covid deaths this winter have probably been somewhat offset by lower than usual deaths from ordinary flu: if you look at the figure for excess deaths over this period, it has been considerably less dramatic. 

Your authors imply that the politicians failed to introduce lockdown sufficiently early and severely. But given the enormous costs of lockdown, it is very difficult to be sure where the balance of advantage actually lies. Indeed, we cannot begin to make such estimates until the full consequences of all the measures undertaken have played out. It will be for historians to estimate whether what was done went too far in one direction or the other. It is far too early to jump to any such conclusions now.