Covid dispatch from Madrid

by Malcolm Kennedy

Madrid, March 25, 2020

I gaze out of the window at a clear blue sky and feel cheered up.

Watching the TV brings me back down to earth as I receive the news that the total of deaths in Spain has reached 3,434. It has risen inexorably since I arrived on February 6th to spend some time with my Spanish wife and celebrate the birthdays of her son and our friend, Gertrud.

Little did we know that come Gertrud’s birthday we would be forbidden to travel and would largely be confined to our apartment.

For over a week, now, my only ventures out of the apartment have been to put out the rubbish and go to the local supermarkets and pharmacy. Every trip out feels extremely stressful in a bustling city which has now ground to a halt.

Normally Madrid is a vibrant place with bars full, people lunching on the many terraces and tourists visiting the many cultural attractions. Around the corner from us, the teeming transport interchange for buses, coaches and the Metro in Avenida de América has died. The line of taxis is stationary and unused.

Shocking news emerges of a major ice rink being commandeered as a temporary morgue while the major exhibition centre IFEMA is transformed into a hospital.

We are in the middle of a storm and the restrictions are wisely draconian.

From afar, the lockdown in the UK seems like a half-hearted response.

I have been very impressed by PSOE President Pedro Sanchez and his government. The communication of facts, how problems are being addressed and the use of experts appears on a different level to my experience in the UK.

Well, at least, in the past decade.

There was a time when I could be proud of our country’s leaders. Pedro Sanchez and his government are making me similarly proud.

Life has been put on hold. My flight to the UK on the 23rd was cancelled. My flight back to Spain on the 8th for Holy Week obviously is useless even if it became possible.

Anyway, Holy Week has been cancelled during this unholy crisis. In a Catholic country like Spain this is unprecedented. On top of all the religious processions being cancelled the annual exodus to the Costas has been put on hold. The damage to the hospitality industry of this and the other measures is simply incalculable.

What have I learned apart from a reinforcement of John Lennon’s dictum that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”?

Well, I hope we have all learned the importance of good political leadership and the importance of experts and science. Above all I hope we have learned the importance of health workers, shop workers, rubbish disposal workers and all those in the frontline who are helping us get through all this.

Hasta la vista.

Malcolm Kennedy is a member of Liverpool City Council. He tweets @CllrKennedy

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10 Responses to “Covid dispatch from Madrid”

  1. Anne says:

    Thank you for your account of life in Madrid at this present time. Stay safe.

  2. Alf says:

    Spain shows that Labour can’t go back to the Tory-lite approaches of the fag-end Blair cultists. Privatisations, attacks on our social security system, more student debt etc only favour the rich. Our socialists are right to press for more robust provision of basic services.

  3. Tafia says:

    If Malcolm Kennedy is so proud of the Spanish government’s handling of this, perhaps he would like the same death ratio inflicted on his Liverpool? And council employees abandoning nursing homes, leaving the dead and dying.

    We are doing very very well in comparison to most of the countries of western europe, And the few that are doing better than us have significantly greater private involvement in their health system and/or calculate deaths differently.

    In UK, we count every corpse with Covid as a covid death. France and Spain do similar.

    Italy only counts deaths from covid in hospitals, Those who die in a nursing home or their own home are not counted.

    Germany and the Scandics only count a covid death as such if that is the main cause. If the victim has a very serious underlying health condition (which most covid victims have) – such as cancer, heart disease or whatever, then that is recorded as the cause of death, not covid.

    Please remain in Spain Mr Kennedy – you deserve each other.

  4. Vern says:

    Noting to see hear – just another bitter individual, whose lifestyle is funded by the tax payers doing our great country down. Probably read it in The Guardian.

  5. Hank Rearden says:

    Times like these require some diversionary humour, so try this one

  6. Rocinante says:

    @Alf, you’re dead right we can’t go back to Tory-lite – thanks to Corbyn we’re stuck with full-on Tory. You proper socialists (all 3 of you) keep “pressing”, see how far it gets you.
    Seriously, this is your takeaway from that post? FM.

  7. Tafia says:

    NHS Wales is run by the Labour Government in Cardiff.

    For those that think the UK is doing badly, this is the tally of covid deaths per 100,000 of population across western Europe at the time of posting.

    Italy 20.55
    Spain 17.55
    Belgium 6.18
    Holland 6.05
    France 4.51
    Switzerland 4.35
    UK 2.72
    Denmark 1.61
    Portugal 1.55
    Ireland 1.12
    Germany 0.82

  8. Anne says:

    Sorry to hear you are in self isolation Dom following a possible contact with Covid 19. I am sure you will be missed at number 10.

  9. Tafia says:

    As of time of posting, countries to watch after the weekend, in order of falling off a cliff first:-

    Sweden (still no lockdown in place)
    And moving up really fast on the rails, Ireland, Portugal & Germany.

  10. Anne says:

    Congratulations to Kier and Angela. A great team. To all my fellow Labour members – we can pull together.

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