On the Mend

Home sweet home. After a short hospital stay, I’m home. And the good part of it all, now I know I can walk the Camino next month, being cautious about my asthma, of course, but with no other important impediments. A big upside to the drama of the last few days.

And in other good news, our rates of contagion are falling dramatically in Lugo. The fifth wave has peaked. Which is such a relief. HULA, a huge hospital in Lugo larger than even Harborview Regional Trauma Centre in Seattle, had people on beds in the hallways. We just need to get young people vaccinated. I was very, very lucky to be given a room. It seems that soon we will be back to normal.

All of the Autonomous communities are starting the effort at vaccinating 12-19 year olds now. The rate of vaccination in Spain is among the highest in the world. Of those eligible to receive the vaccine, we are over 70% are fully vaccinated. And in the over 40 yrs range the rate hovers over 90%.

Vaccine hesitancy is not a widespread thing in Spain. The government has determined that around 4% of people will still refuse to take it. This group is to be separated from the doubters, The campaign to get doubters to come to their appointments will focus on those whose minds can be changed, if someone goes to their home with the facts. But the Ministry have made it very clear, they will not spend a single euro trying to convince anti-vaxers. ‘There is no point. It is a waste of precious resources.’

Everyone we know is vaccinated. Like us, they were thrilled to get the call. Our Spanish friends here introduce us to others, often adding ‘They got the Pfizer vaccine at the HULA.’ As though it adds to our street cred as newcomers to the community. A Don’t worry. They are safe sort of thing.

With August holidays here, the rate of vaccinations has fallen. One of the downsides of citizens being attached to a specific health area is that in a large scale vaccination rollout, leaving on holiday to another part of the country puts quite a crimp in the rollout plan. But Jeff said yesterday he saw them lined up at the HULA entrance, just like we did. ‘They’re still going strong.’ Thousands want their turn.

We have noticed in town that all locals still wear masks out of doors, even though they are no longer mandatory. But Peregrinos mostly do not. It’s an odd phenomenon. Especially since they are all living with the results of the pandemic by fighting for the precious beds in Albergues this year, due to Covid restrictions.

I have heard reports of foreign Pilgrims being outraged by the cut in the number of beds at Albergues. ‘The Spanish Government should do something!’ Or ‘If they just opened the Albergues to 100% and let people in, it would be safer than having them sleep outside’. On some nights, hundreds are left without beds. But what I think some foreigners do not understand is that Spain was at the tip of the European spear of Covid, along with Italy. Our two countries had real lockdowns – as in we were actually locked in our houses. For months. Not just inconvenient mask mandates. Police and the army patrolled the streets and we had checkpoints right outside our apartment in Valencia to stop all cars, determining if they had a real need to be out of the house. Few other countries have experienced this level of restrictions, nor had five waves of it. And our people are fatigued.

So I would ask of Pilgrims in online forums, and those traveling here this year, to please be kind and compassionate to those you meet (even digitally) living and working on the Way. Some Albergues and hotels, or cafes have shuttered for good. Livelihoods and dreams turned to dust. Others are barely hanging on by a thread. These people are doing their level best to remain in business, comply with restrictions, keep everyone safe, and serve the Peregrinos. They have looked forward to your return with breaths held, only to be knocked down, again and again with wave after wave. Please understand the position they are in. And why a bed in an Albergue might cost more this year. You may lose a night’s sleep in a sleeping bag on a park bench. They could lose everything.

The Spanish, Autonomous, and local governments have done anything and everything they can think of to curb contagion and to keep us all safe. Has it been perfect? No. But who amongst the governments of the world had a roadmap for exactly what to do, step by step, in the face of such a global threat. If there is one, except magically becoming an island nation in the South Pacific, I am unaware of it. With Spain’s number one economic engine being tourism, the government, at every level, wants to swing the doors of all establishments wide open, as soon as possible. Believe it.

And, at last, now the contagion is starting to drop in Galicia, and even faster throughout the rest of Spain, due to the success of the vaccine rollout. And with the population generally following all the prescribed guidelines laid out by each autonomous community and municipality, a September/October Camino seems like a much safer bet.

For those who have been hearing how scary things have been here, it was. And I understand why your Camino might have been delayed. Makes sense. But if you are arriving next month to enjoy a Fall walk to Santiago, I think it will have served you well. Less people, more bed choices, and perhaps you’ll find our country, the one we all love so much, on the verge of being fully vaccinated. A country on the mend, and one ready to breathe a collective sigh of relief. So, for both you and me, it really will be a Buen Camino. 🙏

12 thoughts on “On the Mend

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