3 February 2022: Useless lockdowns?; Franco the Mad; The weather; That song contest; & Other stuff.

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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  

Controversial? Covid lockdown prevented only 0.2% of deaths in first wave. Researchers say the costs of lockdowns to society far outweighed the benefits and argue that they should be rejected out of hand. See the full article below.

Cosas de España/Galiza

I will flesh out this bone tomorrow but, after reading Paul Preston’s, A Country betrayed,  one is left in no doubt that Franco saw himself as at least the equivalent of a medieval king, quite possibly an emperor. And that he was as mad and as nasty as the worst of these. And yet he still has a large number of fans here in Spain. If nowhere else. Like the vicious Peter the Great in Russia, I guess.

Is this evidence to support my claim that this is The Age of the Bureaucrat?

The sun shone so brightly across Britain last month that it set a record for the sunniest January ever in England. All of which helped to banish the gloom of last December, the dullest since 1956. I wasn’t in Galicia for December but things seem to have been identical here. The same weather front, I guess. 

Maria has advised that fingers are not being pointed at the (real) foreigners on the Spanish Eurovision panel but at the 3 Spanish jurors, mostly because of their ties to the winner and to the music companies behind her. These are the public voting numbers. Living in Spain does tend to make one cynical.

The Way of the World 

At last some common sense . .  Breeding British bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels violates Norway’s animal welfare laws because of the high prevalence of hereditary health problems in both breeds, a court in Oslo has ruled. The judges sided with animal rights campaigners who argued that centuries of selected breeding had left both British varieties with a catalogue of debilitating medical issues.  It’s a start

Spanish

Un coche escoba: A broom wagon. A vehicle which follows a cycling road race “sweeping” up stragglers who are unable to make it to the finish within the time permitted. 

Finally . . .

We might just have the Lenten ceremonial immolation of an effigy this year. Along our coast, this is normally a huge sardine. But in Pontevedra city it’s a large parrot, called Ravachol. This is what he looked like 3 years ago:- 

Usually he’s festooned in political slogans aimed at some local entity, political or commercial.

For new readers: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.   

THE ARTICLE

Covid lockdown ‘prevented only 0.2pc of deaths in first wave’. Researchers say the costs of lockdowns to society far outweighed the benefits and argue that they should be ‘rejected out of hand’: Sarah Knapton, Science Editor, The Telegraph

Lockdowns prevented just 0.2 per cent of deaths in comparison with simply trusting people to do the right thing, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University, in the US, Lund University, in Sweden and the Centre for Political Studies, in Denmark, said the costs to society far outweighed the benefits and called for lockdown to be “rejected out of hand” as a future pandemic policy.

The team even found that some lockdown measures may have increased deaths by stopping access to outdoor space, “pushing people to meet at less safe places” while isolating infected people indoors, where they could pass the virus on to family members and housemates.

“We do find some evidence that limiting gatherings was counterproductive and increased Covid-19 mortality,” the authors concluded. “Often, lockdowns have limited people’s access to safe outdoor places such as beaches, parks, and zoos, or included outdoor mask mandates or strict outdoor gathering restrictions, pushing people to meet at less safe indoor places.”

To calculate the benefits of lockdown, the researchers looked at 24 academic papers estimating their effectiveness as well as other interventions such as wearing masks, business and school closures, border closures and stay-at-home orders.

They found that some measures did save lives. Closing non-essential businesses was estimated to have lowered mortality by about 10.6 per cent, a fall largely driven by closing drinking establishments.

Shutting schools probably also lowered deaths by 4.4 per cent, while asking people to stay at home prevented 2.9 per cent of deaths and border controls roughly 0.1 per cent.

However, the researchers found that legally enforced lockdowns were only a tiny bit better at cutting deaths than allowing the public to follow recommendations including working from home and limiting social contact, as happened in countries such as Sweden.

The first lockdown prevented just 0.2 per cent of deaths, they concluded – which for Britain in the first wave would mean it saved about 100 lives out of 52,000 – when compared to letting people take precautions themselves.

Jonas Herby, a special adviser at the Centre for Political Studies and one of the study’s authors, told The Telegraph: “When we look at lockdown, we don’t find much of an effect. 

“We think that most people don’t want to get sick or infect their neighbours, so if you just give people the proper knowledge they do the right thing to take care of themselves, and others, and so that’s why lockdowns don’t work.

“In general, we should trust that people can make the right decisions, so the key thing is to educate them and tell them when the infection rates are high and when it’s dangerous to go out and how to protect yourself.

“One possible reason that lockdowns seem ineffective is that some measures are counterproductive. There is some evidence that putting limits on gatherings actually increased the number of deaths.”

The authors criticised the original Imperial College London model which suggested that Britain could see 500,000 deaths without a lockdown, saying it did not take into account the real-world behaviour of people during a pandemic.

Researchers said it was clear that the public would naturally socially distance and cut their contacts even without state intervention, leading to a large drop in deaths. 

Steve Hanke, a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University and another of the study’s authors, said: “Lockdowns in Europe and the US decreased Covid-19 mortality by a measly 0.2 per cent on average, while the economic costs of lockdowns were enormous. I find zero evidence to support lockdowns.”

One of the studies cited in the review found that voluntary behavioural changes are 10 times as important as mandatory behavioural changes in combating Covid. It found that lockdowns only regulate “a fraction of our potential contagious contacts” and cannot enforce hand washing, coughing etiquette or how close people stand together in supermarkets.

Countries such as Denmark, Finland and Norway, which all kept mortality relatively low, allowed people to go to work, use public transport and meet privately at home during the first lockdown, the authors said.

‘Lockdowns should be rejected out of hand’

They concluded: “Lockdowns during the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic have had devastating effects. They have contributed to reducing economic activity, raising unemployment, reducing schooling, causing political unrest, contributing to domestic violence and undermining liberal democracy.

“These costs to society must be compared to the benefits of lockdowns, which our meta-analysis has shown are marginal at best. Such a standard benefit-cost calculation leads to a strong conclusion: lockdowns should be rejected out of hand as a pandemic policy instrument.”

Critics of the study claimed the authors have conflicting interests, particularly Prof Hanke, who has been an outspoken critic of restrictions that damage the economy. 

He also voiced his support for the Great Barrington Declaration, which called for the shielding of t he most vulnerable while allowing the virus to spread through society, allowing the build-up of natural immunity.

Many scientists believe lockdowns were essential before vaccines and antiviral drugs were available, with one study suggesting the first lockdown saved 20,000 lives in Britain. Imperial College estimated that lockdowns saved about 3.1 million lives in Europe, including 470,000 in Britain.

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