A Spanish Confinement III: My third coronavirus diary in the Daily Telegraph

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DAILY TELEGRAPH

Will the Spanish summer be too hot for coronavirus?

Alexander Fiske-Harrison
8th April 2020

Predictably, the left-wing coalition that governs Spain has extended our confinement to quarters. This is done in a singularly Spanish manner: no outdoor exercise, with police or armed forces personnel checking your grocery receipt to ensure you did not dawdle on your way home. With 50,000 fines for breaching the rules in Madrid alone, the government seems to have found a way to raise some of the money they lost putting our economy into what they call “hibernation.”
This is, of course, the same government that defied all medical advice and allowed a third of a million people to march arm-in-arm through the streets of Madrid on International Women’s Day last month. Inevitably, hospitalisations in the capital quadrupled within five days, and the course was set for the present contagion.

Alexander's Andalusian town
Alexander’s Andalusian town Credit: getty

However, after 24 days of climbing the walls and running around the apartment – some 40 miles covered in 1,600 laps of a small two-bedroom flat – the data finally seems to show the curve is not only flattening, but beginning to descend. Here in our little town of Jimena de la Frontera, the voice of hope can be heard, in part because of what many regard as the bane of the town: its summer.

The hard scientific data is that for every degree Celsius – or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit – the mercury rises, each new case of Covid-19 is a little less transmissible, by 0.04 people on average to be precise.

While in the UK this will only pull the transmission rate down to around 2 at best, meaning each infected person will infect two more people – this in the absence of confinement, social distancing or other measures – Spain’s summer is a little hotter. Nowhere is this more true than here in Jimena, which recorded the highest temperatures on the Iberian Peninsula last year, clearing the medically magic figure of 40C in the shade (104F). At this temperature transmission falls below 1, and the virus will wither away and die – at least for a while.

This has led the town mayor to ponder whether Jimena is “too hot for the virus to handle”, and everyone from hoteliers to bartenders have a little hope in this bleak economic climate. And that hope is that come mid-June’s heat, the 90-minute road to Malaga airport – and 45-minute one to Gibraltar – will begin to clog with desperate tourists eager come and eat, drink and explore the 650 square miles of Los Alcornocales Natural Park, one of Spain’s largest, to which we are the gatekeepers. With airlines and hotels on the verge of bankruptcy, the currency exchange rates will become irrelevant, and the old bandit trails that lead from the coast via Jimena and on up to Ronda will once again have hikers and horse-trekkers (including from our own Riding Andalusia) revelling in the purifying sunlight.

Speaking of making hay when the sun shines, Telegraph readers’ generosity has already given us sufficient funds to save two horses from the horrors the abattoir. EOCA, the Equine Orphans of Coronavirus in Andalusia, is up and running thanks to this newspaper. Now we are looking for more – every pound counts, and while my fiancée Klarina Pichler and I lack the training to save human life, we can happily look after another 30-or-so horses until the crisis lessens or we hand them over to a more established charity once they have more space. Help us to flatten our own little curve for the horses, donkeys and mules of southern Spain.

Meanwhile the great, green hills of Andalusia roll out from beneath our balcony, for the moment beyond reach, so we sit all day with our books. Suitably, I am presently reading first-hand accounts of the 14 waves of plague that ravaged this land in the 17th century. As one local apothecary put it so well: “We wait now for sun to turn the land gold and clean this pestilence from air, stone, and, we pray, the people too.”

Our herd of horses here in Andalusia (Photo: Klarina Pichler)

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