Tag Archives: covid crisis

Covid BCN 07: crime and (physical) punishment

I wanted to open this blog with some positive news: a couple of days ago the death rate in Catalonia dropped for the first time! I was hopeful we were reaching our peak even as the toll continued to rise in Spain (bearing in mind they didn’t go into full lockdown until around two weeks after Catalonia). But unfortunately it was a false alarm, just a blip on the graph. People are dying as fast if not faster than ever. So sorry, no encouraging news. I’ve been desperate to avoid falling into the trap of constantly regurgitating depressing news (hence I haven’t posted for a while). Unfortunately with this crisis, however, we haven’t a huge amount of choice.

Moving on, I want to urge people to stay safe in another way. Tuesday I went down to buy my organic veggies. I was surprised to see there was no Covid (or any other sort of) queue and the veggie woman seemed to be picking up a mess in the back of the store. She told me she had just been robbed. They had taken all her cash and her mobile phone. It is fortunate so many people have been paying by card to avoid virus spread, so she won’t have lost everything. She was most annoyed about losing her phone as all of her business info was on it. I called the mossos (police) on my phone and she reported it. Apparently, one guy had come into the store and started to browse the fruit down the back. She had thought he was shifty even before he tipped a box of lemons onto the floor. She went to help him pick them up and at that point another guy, whose face was covered (as everybody’s is nowadays), entered the shop and rifled the till (which presumably she had left open). She called out and ran to grab him, but he pulled his arm back as if to punch her so she let him go and he left. The other guy also left hurriedly and she is sure he was collaborating with the thief. They took advantage of the fact there are so few people on the streets right now, knowing they wouldn’t be seen or stopped. So remember, even in this coronavirus crisis, shit happens. Crime still happens. Be alert and stay safe.

And now for some overseas news – from Croyden, UK. A friend of mine who works as a primary care pharmacist, told me how he is collaborating in the fight against SARS-CoV-2, as it is officially called:

“I’m supporting a project – electronic repeat prescribing – so that stable healthy patients are able to be issued 12 prescriptions on one signing and they just collect it from the pharmacy every time they need a prescription [thereby relieving strain on GP surgeries]. The technology has been in place for years but was never pushed as it is a hassle to set up at GPs. So us pharmacists in primary care will do the set-up but that’s only until we get redeployed for work into hospitals to cover all those who go sick – till we might [get sick]. Then it’s a lottery as anyone can be a victim of death.”

He also shared a bit about the reality of patients who are on ventilators and necessarily sedated:

“Nurse to patient ratios are normally 1:1 in usual circumstances, but now it will be 1:4, so that means patients are sedated to level -3 to -5 (the scale is -5 to 0). In normal circumstances you get sedated to level 0 which means you’re asleep but wake up when your name is called and stay awake for at least ten seconds. Level -5 is no response when touched or spoken to. The reason for higher sedation is so that nurses can manage four patients. It would be terrible if a patient pulled out the ventilator tube suddenly and that risks virus [escaping] into the air; and sedation is given in the first place so the patient is comfortable with the tube down their throat. A long-term side effect of -5 sedation is that no memories are formed, and that means that mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder are likely in the future.”

But on the positive side (yes, there is one), all of this staying at home (and working out there) means you no longer have any excuse not to get to the gym.

Image of barbell made from cartons of milk in shopping bags on a bamboo pole
A little bit of Kiwi ingenuity and a bamboo pole can turn your improvised dumbbells into improvised barbells, saving you thousands in gym fees and exercise equipment every year

I have some aches and pains today as yesterday I did quite a lot of weights – and also skipping! Who knew that somebody who worked as a physical actor for over twenty years could have become so uncoordinated? Aiming to skip for a mere twenty jumps left me panting and out of breath – and I don’t even smoke! I blame it all on the lockdown. Now I know why all the boxing films show Rocky and his crew skipping rope for hours; it’s the ultimate tough-guy endurance activity. Don’t trust those devious eight-year-olds who make it look so damn easy. They’re just setting you up for a fall, entangled in your own rope.

Image of dumbells made out of full cartons of soup and milk in shopping bags
When you run out of milk for your morning coffee and have to raid your homemade dumbbells …

So after the lockdown lifts I expect you all to leap from your homes into the brisk spring (or autumn) air, showing off those ripped, toned bodies you have been working on so hard while inside.

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Covid BCN 04: reporting from the containment zone

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Day five and I’m considering hammering nails into the walls so I can physically as well as mentally climb them.

Yesterday, having donned both mask – a single-use one from Jordi since he gets them free from hospital (civilians can no longer acquire masks for love nor money) – and latex gloves – the latter from a glove pack I bought to keep the oil from my hands off my charcoal drawings – I leapt out the door, desperate for any excuse to savour the outdoors, however virus-laden it might be. I was hoping my organic veggies woman had turned up and so was thrilled to spot a Covid queue immediately. They are recognisable by the number of apparently unrelated, disparate individuals randomly scattered across an empty space like a 1980s grunge band LP cover. Proof the veggies woman was open for business.

I called out in my best Catalan, ‘Qui és l’últim?’ (who’s the last in line?), that particular rallying cry traditionally used in the markets since Catalan people are thoroughly queue-phobic (one of the reasons I love living here). It is serving them well in the Covid crisis, where linear order is a thing of the past. I was pointed to a solitary woman communing with her phone in the centre of the square over three metres distant from anyone else. I found my own suitably lonely spot and settled in to wait.

People not obviously standing in a queue outside the organic veggies pop-up shop
Spot the queue: A Covid queue in action, camouflaged within the urban landscape

Returning home with my basket of veges, I activated recently learnt glove-removing skills to avoid getting any icky virus on my hands or into the house. If you don’t know how to do this, here’s a good video on hygienically removing your latex gloves. I do love that accent!

At noon today there was a cacerolada, that popular protest when everyone comes out onto their balconies banging pots and pans until we’re all good and deaf. I couldn’t work out what it was protesting against and wondered if it was due to the sudden rise in cases in Spain. In the last 24 hours they have risen by over 2500, an 18% increase, bringing the total to just under 14,000. It should be borne in mind that people on the street are no longer being tested, only those in hospital, so the true figure is likely to be far higher. However, according to the director of the Health Emergency Coordination Centre, 18% is an increase similar to the day before, suggesting that the infection rate might be peaking, though it is still too early to say. Spain in total has 28 cases for every 100,000 residents. There are 774 people in Intensive Care (i.e. requiring ventilators), and 5717 hospitalised. Over a thousand people have now recovered.

The king of Spain is slated to speak at 9 pm tonight, and there is another initiative to hold a cacerolada while he speaks, as a protest against the alleged corruption and right-wing political stance of this head of state who is supposed to remain politically neutral. It is also to demand that the money his father, the king emeritus, salted away in tax havens for him is donated to the health authorities. Politics enters every facet of life here, and the Covid19 crisis is no exception. Apparently the 12-noon cacerolada was promoted by the king’s sympathisers so he wouldn’t be drowned out this evening.

Masks and gloves are also political. The Catalan health service is complaining that Madrid is intercepting orders of surgical masks destined for Catalan hospitals, while the mayor of Igualada, focus of Catalonia’s biggest outbreak, has officially complained that 4,000 masks destined for Igualada Hospital have been held up in Madrid. Madrid claims it is “redistributing” material throughout Spain, but the Catalan Health minister is saying this is creating unnecessarily long bureaucratic delays. A Zaragoza company has been caught holding a secret auction of surgical masks.

My income this month has shrunk to a pale vestige of itself, minus 15% tax retained at source and monthly Social Security payments that do not shrink regardless of my income. So I am now officially paying out good money to be self-employed here in Spain. Most other self-employed people here are in the same boat, but then nothing has changed in that regard since the days of Felipe – and I don’t mean Gonzalez but the one who built the Escorial palace.

What we really need now is a sudden burst of early hot summer weather to take the temperature above 27ºC, which it is reported would kill off the virus. Come on Global Warming, we’ve been investing in you for almost two centuries – time to do your thing!

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