Spain’s lack of alarm

Spain’s lack of alarm

I´ve been waiting all month for another state of alarm in Spain. Looking forward to it, really. Maybe three months was too long, but I enjoyed the quiet streets and the cessation of economic activity during the strict quarantine that began last March and ended in June.

I hate the traffic that now pollutes the boulevard I live on in Barcelona, though its surely less than in any other year in recent memory.

I love how everything slowed down, and how people became friendlier.

It makes me wonder why it can’t always be like that. Why can’t the economy always be just essential services? How many jobs are bullshit and how many goods and services are wholly unnecessary? Who decided that infinite economic growth was a good idea? It seems to me its killing the planet and driving us all mad.

So I’ve been waiting eagerly for the next quarantine, and watching closely as the number of new Coronavirus cases in Spain steadily increased over the past month.

As the number of new daily cases ticked up past 3,000,and then 5,000, I wanted to believe that the Spanish government would do the right thing and put public health first.

However Spanish President Pedro Sanchez made it clear that another nationwide lockdown isn’t in the cards yesterday as he took another step to encourage regions to act independently, offering them the option of declaring states of alarm regionally, or even in municipalities. Regional presidents would have to appeal before Congress for the state of alarm, though they’ll unlikely be denied to appealing regional governments.

Madrid already seems to be taking the President up on the offer, and Catalunya’s government has said that it will study the options.

There are a few reasons Spain isn´t considering a nationwide lockdown. I’ll start with the obvious ones.

Firstly, it must be said that Spain has been doing a great job with testing, and this is probably the main reason the number of cases is so high compared to other European countries. Tests are mandatory in many situations, and large testing sites are catching light and asymptomatic cases.

Secondly, the average age of patients is much lower, with several outbreaks being traced to parties and nightlife. So not only are asymptomatic cases being caught, but the rate of hospitalization is lower for symptomatic patients, so the hospitals aren’t as burdened.

Thirdly, it does make sense to contain the virus by geography since outbreaks are localized – and because health care systems are managed regionally.

Now lets get to the politics.

Spain has to borrow money from the European Central Bank (ECB) since it doesn´t have a sovereign currency and can´t print its own money. This means that in the case of a second lockdown, Spain would likely have to appeal to the EU for more funds. It took EU countries a week and a ´historic deal´ to arrive at the first (inadequate) Coronavirus bailout package just a month ago. So the EU will have to issue more funds eventually, but Spain doesn´t want to be first in asking for them. Spain might be more inclined to lockdown again if another EU country took the lead.

Maybe the biggest reason that this government doesn´t declare another lockdown is that, without parliamentary consensus, it would be political suicide.

Since the pandemic began, the right-wing (both PP and VOX) have been attacking the ´left´ parties, especially Podemos. Watching the news has been nothing but bullshit scandal after scandal. First the right alleged that the government’s death toll was inaccurate (what country’s isn’t?),and then that the state of alarm had infringed on civil liberties (from Vox God bless them). Then they tried to bring scandal after scandal out against Podemos, the most recent being the allegation that they fraudulently used election funds, because an auditor found a €300k bill for a social media marketer/videographer. The case is being investigated. (Can you imagine that even being considered corruption in the US?)

So, basically the right-wing has been scheming to try to break up the left-wing coalition government and unseat Podemos. Its amazing that the media gives attention to many of these claims which seem so trivial, but they´re fed in particular by laSexta, a private news channel that used to be left wing, but was sold to an American company around five years ago. Good old American media!

The right´s constant whining is tiresome, and should be easily seen through, but many are easily led. In addition to deflecting attention from much more serious corruption (such as the former king´s shady deals with the Saudis and tax evasion) it has the effect of preventing Podemos from moving its platform forward – much of which is more relevant and necessary now than ever.

The PSOE seems most concerned with getting the economy rolling again, as though it will recover simply by a return to normal.

The rulers of respective countries and their puppetmasters are all eager for the proletariat to return to work and for us to spend money we don’t have, because it’s all been given to or taken by the banks, to accelerate our common doom, to turn the temperature up a notch, while acting like its the end of the world when the stock market takes a turn.

But in the meantime, I may get a second quarantine, after all.

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