In Spain we came out of lockdown on 21 June 2020 and so I ended my series of articles on Life on Lockdown, thinking they were no longer relevant. Four months later, here we are again. Not quite the same, but a new state of alarm was declared in Spain a week or so ago, allowing a curfew to be imposed from 23:00 to 6:00, initially for two weeks but with the expectation that it will be approved for a period of six months until 9 May. In Madrid, the curfew starts at midnight. The autonomous communities that border Madrid are in quarantine, so we are basically surrounded. For the first two weekends, travel outside the region is not allowed to discourage people from taking the puente, or long weekend, as both Monday 1 November and Monday 9 November are holidays. There have been police controls at airports and train stations and people are being advised to turn back and not travel, or face hefty fines. In some cities, the reaction to the curfew turned violent, with demonstrations and protests in Seville, Santander, Burgos, Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona.
So, why the new lockdown? Is the situation really as bad as the government would have us believe? It is true that the number of people infected with coronavirus has increased dramatically over the past four months and the number of people hospitalised has also gradually gone up. However, during the first months of the pandemic, few tests were carried out in Spain. In reality, only people with serious symptoms, many already in hospital, had access to the test, so there was no accurate figure documenting the number of people who had caught the virus. Now, testing is more readily available if you have symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus, although testing is still below that of many other countries. The total death toll is another figure that has lost all credibility, with different ways of accounting for deaths, not including certain groups and so on.
Similar to the situation in other parts of the world, we have been flooded with so much contradictory information about the virus that it is difficult to know what to believe. So many supposed experts have been discredited, fear has been the currency used by those in power and political tension has been rife. The three-month lockdown from March to June has had a devastating effect on the economy and in spite of the financial handouts from the EU, the situation is critical.
One of the most accurate pictures of the current scenario is the information provided by the Worldometer. They estimate the number of coronavirus cases in Spain to be 1,264,517 with total deaths from the virus 35,878. Horrific figures. But statistics are interesting, and looking at them from a different perspective, can show a different picture. If we look at daily new cases, on 20 March, at the height of the pandemic, there were 10,859 cases; on 1 November, 25,925, well over double that figure. But let’s look at daily deaths for the same dates. 262 on 20 March, 239 on 30 October. A similar picture to March. The highest death toll in the spring occurred on 2 April, with 961 deaths; the highest figure this autumn so far was on 27 October, with 267. Does this mean we can expect a tremendous increase in deaths over the next few weeks?
Let’s look at another parameter, that of excess mortality. According to Our World in Data, the definition of excess mortality is as follows:
“Excess mortality is a term used in epidemiology and public health that refers to the number of deaths from all causes during a crisis above and beyond what we would have expected to see under ‘normal’ conditions. In this case, we’re interested in how deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic compare to the average number of deaths over the same period in previous years.
Excess mortality is a more comprehensive measure of the total impact of the pandemic on deaths than the confirmed COVID-19 death count alone. In addition to confirmed deaths, excess mortality captures COVID-19 deaths that were not correctly diagnosed and reported as well as deaths from other causes that are attributable to the overall crisis conditions.”Our World in Data
There are many interesting charts on the website, but let’s consider the total number of deaths in 2020 from whatever cause, compared to the average number of deaths over the previous five=year period.
On the graph, we can clearly see the huge spike in April, that accounts for 20,656 excess deaths on 5 April. The latest data on the chart, 27 September, shows 8,236 excess deaths. This is comparable to the data from 8 March with 8,650 excess deaths.
So what conclusion can be made from these data? It would appear, from my non-expert perspective, that, whether we look at actual daily deaths or at excess deaths, the situation is as bad as it was in March, but not as bad as it was a few weeks later in early April. Are we in time to prevent another massive spike in deaths? Will the new measures be effective?
In April, Spain was in total lockdown, whereas now there is much more freedom of movement. Economically, we cannot afford another total quarantine. The situation in Spain is critical. Every day the country falls deeper into debt. Many businesses have been forced to close; the hospitality industry and tourism have been among the worse hit; the unemployment figures are catastrophic, with over 3.3 million unemployed, 16 % of the population, 21 % in the south, in Extremadura and Andalusia. The figures are worse if you break them down by age or sex. 15 % for men, 17 % for women. But for the under 25-year-olds, unemployment is 44.5 %; almost half the population of young people have no jobs. Even before the pandemic, we were seeing a massive exodus of young people to other countries in Europe and beyond, trying to find work.
It’s a grim picture and we need to use all the resources available to us to face the current situation and not lose hope. We must be resilient, creative and supportive of one another.
It is in times of crisis that our true character and nature shines through. As followers of Christ, we should not only be concerned about ourselves, but also need to be looking out for those around us, whether it’s to offer a cup of coffee and a chat or practical resources or mental and spiritual encouragement. The Bible tells us to do whatever we do well, as if we were doing it for the Lord. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon reminds us to make the most of life while we are here and to do “Whatever our hand finds to do”.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.Ecclesiastes 9:10
It’s not my intention to offer a trite handout of hope, or to lessen the significance of the current situation . It has been said many times over the past year that we are all in the same storm, but not all in the same boat. I have had some dark days over the past few months, but I always come back to the word of God, the Bible. When all else fails, the promises of God have become like an anchor. When you look out onto a harbour in a storm, all the little fishing boats are bobbing around, tossed about by the waves and the wind, and it seems as if they might not survive. But the anchor holds them steady. God promises that He honours His word above His name. His word never fails.
The type of hope that God gives us is solid. It enables us to see our circumstances from a different perspective. The statistics, the hunger queues, the deaths are not the only reality. God offers us hope to see beyond that. He offers to fill us up with hope. Not just a bit of hope to get us through the day, but hope that fills us to overflowing.
This hope is available to us today, in the face of lockdown, curfews, sickness, unemployment. Reach out to Him today and ask Him to fill you up. Trust in Him, the One who never changes, who is always faithful. Let His hope strengthen you to face whatever this season has for you. Let Him be your anchor in this storm.