Spain has ended the “alarm” as strangely as it started and the chaos surrounding the number of victims is not resolved
The calendar summer had just started and the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, when Spain ended the alarm state at midnight on today’s Sunday. This also tore down the wall that had been built between Spain and France for 14 weeks and that divided the Basque Country and Catalonia. It had caused considerable resentment on both sides of the border.
When the French police in Behobie and the Spanish national police and the paramilitary Civil Guard on the other side of the river in Behobia cleared the barriers at midnight, a little bit of a party atmosphere emerged. In the middle of the night, people walk across the border laughing to celebrate the event. Peio went from Behobia to Behobie to Xaia pub to have a beer with friends after 98 days.
The fact that the district of Iruns in the Basque Country of Spain and Urruñas in the Basque Country of France have practically the same name shows the connection between the two parts of the city, which are connected by a bridge over the Bidasoa. Life takes place here on both sides of the border, which people have now felt painfully. Like many others, this transition was completely blocked for more than three months. In the wide corridor there was only the crossing on the “International Bridge” between Hendaye and Irun, on which Hitler and Franco once shook hands.
The transition has so far been closely guarded and closely monitored by French and Spanish security forces. It was a gruesome time for the inhabitants of the region like Gema, who like many live in the French Basque Country but work in the Spanish part. She was allowed to work across the border, but “that was a daily ordeal”. The Hendaye crossing became a bottleneck with huge traffic jams in the morning and evening.
The situation was even more dramatic for Jean Pierre, who lives in Sara in France and Basque and works in Bera in Spain and Basque. Instead of traveling 11 kilometers and 20 minutes as usual, he had to drive 45 kilometers via Hendaye, pure travel time: one hour. There were also long traffic jams and controls. “I had to calculate two hours a day for the return trip,” he explains. He is glad that the spook is over now. Nobody here could understand the border closure in a “Europe without borders”, especially since the infection numbers on both sides of the borders in Gipuzkoa and Lapurdi were always very low. Districts were separated here, Peio could not see his friends and maider for months.
Neither Gema nor Jean Pierre or Peio are sure that the spook is really over. They fear that the tourist rush will only introduce the virus from other regions, that infections will flare up and that a new lockdown and border closures may occur in autumn at the latest. Peio also cannot understand the hasty, complete opening. He is now suddenly allowed to go to France, to move around the country, but to this day he has not yet been able to visit Bera, 15 kilometers away in Navarre, to see his girlfriend. Because borders between autonomous communities have not been allowed to be crossed so far.
It was an egg dance performed by governments in distant Paris and Madrid. On both sides of the border, however, it is agreed that France’s approach was clearer, more reasonable and more sensible. Nobody understood that in Spain you had to continue working despite an absurd alarm state. A real lockdown was only ordered when the death numbers exploded.
But after 10 days it was loosened again and people were sent back to work. Everyone found it particularly abstruse that in Spain one was not allowed to go on the streets for long weeks except for care and commuting. On the other side of the border, relatives and friends in France were allowed to spend an hour outdoors with children or for sports. For six weeks, children in Spain were completely banished to partly dark apartments.
And the Madrid egg dance in particular continues to this day. In the meantime, Spain had even started a quarantine war with France. It was secretly added quietly. And all of a sudden, the border was opened on June 21 instead of July 1 as was originally planned in Madrid. Only the border with Portugal remains closed until this date.
It is obvious that the Madrid swing has to do with the fatal economic forecasts. The Spanish economy is slumped by 14.4% this year like no other country in the EU. Against the previous strategy, Madrid is now doing everything it can to save the tourism season because the country’s economy is 30% dependent on holidaymakers from all over the world. So a week ago German vacationers were allowed to fly to Mallorca again, while the Basque Peio was not allowed to visit his girlfriend in the neighboring region. It is not understandable.
The Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is not sure about his new course, however, when he has heralded the “New Normal” after 98 days in alarm condition. He warned: “The virus can return and we could be hit by a second wave of infections.” Therefore, the head of government appealed to the citizens to continue to be careful, to use masks, to keep their distance and to wash their hands frequently.
He talked to me a lot of self-adulation about the “unknown virus” that “quietly entered our lives”. Nobody knew “that we were facing one of the greatest health challenges.” Sánchez spoke of a “nightmare that has struck every country.” The primary goal was to save human lives, which is why everyday life had to be stopped. “We did it, and we did it together and contained the spread of the virus.” He even ventured to the statement that the measures had saved 450,000 lives. How he comes up with the number is completely unclear.
On the other hand, it is clear that thousands of lives could have been saved if Spain and Portugal had drawn conclusions from the events in Italy at an early stage. However, those responsible said in February that “Spain would only get a handful of cases”.
The social democratic central government is still watching to this day that the health workers for which the regions are responsible were sent to the “war” without sensible protective equipment, as Sánchez happily explained. They still demand reasonable equipment, working conditions and pay. The central government watched to the bitter end that the right-wing government in the capital region let thousands of old people die in retirement homes. According to the available protocols, they were refused hospitalization. Only those who had private insurance received medical treatment in the hospital.
Almost a fifth of all residents of retirement homes died in the Madrid region, exactly 7,690 of 42,523 residents. And since the central government in Madrid is struggling to accept this, the official death statistics for the region only result in 8,691 corona deaths. Even the right-wing regional government is more honest on this question spoke of more than 15,000 in May. And so the central government continues to mess around with the death toll. On Friday, they were suddenly revised up significantly by more than 1,000 to 28,313 deaths. The Ministry of Health had previously suspended the data collection for another twelve days. But you don’t get any closer to reality, you just hide it. Even the National Statistical Office (INE) speaks of one between March 9 and May 10 alone Indicating mortality of more than 48,000.
The chief epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Fernando Simón, now even admits that there are a number of coronavirus deaths that have never been tested and do not appear in the statistics. The mortality rate also shows people who have not gone to hospitals for fear of the virus or who have died because of the strain. Neither one nor the other number depicts reality.
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