I’ve been waylaid for three weeks fighting the Coronavirus. It’s hardcore, but we can beat it.

coronavirus covid-19 spanish property market

When I first heard about the coronavirus COVID-19 I assumed it was just another type of flu, and the reaction a bit over the top. Now that I’ve been personally roughed up by this bat fever from China I realise we are dealing with something much more hardcore, but still just like a flu that the vast majority of us can beat without going to hospital. The economic side effects, on the other hand, could be worse than the disease.

I apologise to my readers for being so quiet over Easter. I was fighting my own personal war with COVID-19 whilst trying to care for my wife and kids. It’s been a challenging few weeks.

My experience of Chinese bat flu was one week of what felt like a cold coming on before things turned nasty with 10 consecutive days of fever ranging between 37.5º in the morning and 39º in the evening, a relentless unproductive cough, a semi-permanent headache, a runny tummy, total fatigue, an achy body, bed sweats and zero appetite. I also had feverish dreams of eating raw bat meat. I don’t remember ever feeling so bad for so long, though I’m relieved to say I never felt short of breath or suffered any problems breathing, which is why I never went to hospital.

I tried to get tested, but it turned out to be too much hassle. In Spain you have to go to hospital to get tested, which you don’t want to do unless you are so sick you need to go to hospital. So people like me don’t get tested. It goes without saying that the Spanish number of confirmed cases is just a fraction of the real number, I guess less than 10%, which makes the fatality rate look much worse than it really is.

Having felt the force of the virus in my own body, I can see why it is going to put a lot of people in hospital, especially the elderly. But it seems to me, if you are fit and healthy, with no weakness in your lungs or heart for this virus to exploit, you have little to worry about other than getting through two weeks of feeling rotten. Without a vaccine I assume everyone has to catch it at some point. Many people, especially kids, won’t even notice they have it.

Destructive lockdown

coronavirus covid-19 spanish property market

Here in Spain we are just ending the fifth week of lockdown with no real end in sight, and I dread to think how much economic damage is being done. There is bound to be a huge amount of distress playing out under the radar as the media dwells on the health side of this crisis. But soon the economic drama will become the main story.

Although I understand the need for an initial lockdown to give the health system a chance to prepare, not least to give medical staff a chance to catch and recover from the virus before they are overwhelmed with sick people coughing all over them, I fear the cure will end up worse than the disease. An economic depression will come at a high price in terms of human health and happiness.

Every day the lockdown continues, thousands of families lose their livelihoods. In my opinion they should end the lockdown right now, and get everyone back to school and work except for high risk groups, who should continue in isolation. So, what is the plan in Spain? Officially the ‘State of Alarm’ ends on the 11th of May, after which we can expect a two-phase return to work, though the details are still vague. I have read that tourism will remain locked down for the rest of the year. If so, the Spanish economy really will be in deep mierda. Sadly, Spain in currently run by a weak and incompetent government.

Now that I have the virus behind me I can turn my attention and energy to looking at the threats and opportunities faced by buyers, owners, and sellers of property in Spain. These are going to be interesting times, and information will be more valuable than ever. I’ve already seen a couple of cases of developers slashing prices to levels unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

During my sick days I spent some time researching where the virus came from. It seems it might have come from one of China’s diabolical wildlife markets, or from a sloppy Chinese lab mucking around with bat viruses. However it started, the Chinese government turned it into a global catastrophe by trying to cover it up. We are all paying the price for the irresponsible behaviour of Chinese Communist Party bosses and officials, and it’s important that the world lays the blame at their feet. At the very least, I hope our leaders stop kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party.

The geo-political fallout from this virus is likely to be dramatic, with a big impact on Chinese demand for property in countries like Spain. where the Chinese have long been the biggest investors in Spain’s residency by investment ‘Golden Visa’ scheme.

Informed arguments against a total lockdown policy

SPI Member Comments (17)

Thoughts on “I’ve been waylaid for three weeks fighting the Coronavirus. It’s hardcore, but we can beat it.

  • Mar, I’m very pleased to hear you are healing. Your account of your experience of the virus is really interesting. I’m horrified to hear that you think that tourism will be banned in Spain for the rest of the year. As for the Chinese Government and its culpability in the spread of the virus, well, I couldn’t agree with you more, but no European government is going to point the finger at Beijing because they have too much to lose from future investment, etc. It’s the unacceptable face of realpolitik.

  • I am delighted that you, Mark, have come through Covid19 without needing hospitalisation. But I’m afraid the jury is still out on how severely the virus will strike different ages and states of health, although there certainly a degree of sense in your generalisation.

    I would tend to be cautious about how and how quickly the lockdown is ended. And with the Spanish government we have, I think it likely they will err on the side of incaution, putting economic recovery before the cost of human lives.

    As Ian Olpin (above) puts it: ” Economies recover.”

    Unfortunately the loss of human life does not.

  • Thanks for all the great information in your posts. I really don’t know how you have the energy to maintain the supply. Glad you seem to have recovered from the China disease. An interesting year ahead. Good luck.

  • Chris Nation says:

    I am no economist, not by a long chalk, but have been puzzling away at some of the economic issues arising from the pox.
    News clips are shown of restauranteurs and shop/bar owners sadly closing the doors and [metaphorically or really] handing back the keys.

    Handing back to whom? The bar or restaurant or shop – the real estate – and the fixtures and fittings will not evaporate. If the proprietors can’t afford the rent/loan finance/rates/utilities etc, what benefit is it to any institution to foreclose on a business – many thousands of businesses – that have ceased trading because the customers are not permitted by law to spend money there?

    Where does the buck stop? What is to become of all these businesses that have not gone down because of incompetent management but a government policy adopted to save the lives of the customers, as advised by their most knowledgeable medical experts?

    It seems to me that an existential issue for business and commerce has arisen due to this virus. My flat was on sale for a couple of weeks before the lockdown. When the lockdown is lifted, the flat will still exist and the agent will try to sell it. Will the agency still exist? What use is a nationwide chain of estate agents’ offices to a bank? What use to the banking industry are chains of pizza franchises, hardware stores, et al?

    As many hotels and holiday villas, bar, cafes, restaurants, real estate offices etc will exist when the lockdown is lifted [for that sector] as did this time last year. Some economic modus operandi is going to have to be formulated by governments and banking, from the IMF and WB down, to re-start all these businesses, ideally with the people who ran them at the time the plugs were pulled.

    This is different from the financial crises of former years. The property bubble in Spain, for example, fuelled by greed and financial incompetence in the banking sector, created a glut of estate agents, plumbers, chippies, sparks etc who were swept away when the bubble burst. When I suggested, to an architect, in 2016, that there must be lots of tradesmen willing to work at bargain rates, he said, “They have all gone back to being car mechanics, fruit farmers, video salemen… ”

    A friend of mine had a notion to write a book, “Where does the money come from?” Good question. There is money not being spent on goods and services. There is money not being spent on rates, utilities, stock and wages. There is money not being spent on aircraft fuel and landing charges. There is money not being spent on mortgage payments and insurance premiums. Does that mean that all that money does not exist? Has ceased to exist? If so, how did it exist in the first place? If not, where is it now? And can it be brought back into the economies where it recently circulated? And by whom and how?

    I leave the answers to these questions to people with experience and expertise in the matter.

    • Mark Stücklin says:

      Chris I regret to say I don’t have the expertise to answer any of your economic questions. All I can say is that idle resources don’t contribute anything to economic activity.

      C-19 has come at a bad time for your flat sale. Did you get any interest before coronavirus?

  • Chris Nation says:

    Good to hear you are back on all four wheels, Mark.

    “Every day the lockdown continues, thousands of families lose their livelihoods. In my opinion they should end the lockdown right now, and get everyone back to school and work except for high risk groups, who should continue in isolation”

    Unrealistic – not enough testing available [by miles] to make that call. And, as has been seen repeatedly, everyone, down to infants and small children, is in a ‘risk group’ – some higher than others.

    The economic pain and the death toll is the spur to develop a vaccine. One might say that both of those are development costs. They are two sides of the same coin.

    Penicillin was first used as a remedy for infection in 1942. If ever there was a mighty call on introducing such a medication, WW2 was it. But it could not be issued without being trialled and those trials cost thousands of lives in the interim and the life of the first patient to be treated.

    A man was admitted to hospital in UK with scepticeamia from a scratch on the cheek by a rose thorn. He deteriorated into coma and was within short hours of death. He was given a shot of penicillin and within hours was awake, talking , recovering. Then he went back down again. Another shot. Another recovery.

    This process went on until they ran out of penicillin and he died. The lesson learned was that penicillin requires a course of treatment. The time taken to discover this and make suitable provisions cost time and lives. A similar situation exists now. It is a responsible policy by governments to ensure that as few people die in the interim as possible before the vaccine for C19 can be reliably introduced.

    ‘The economy’ is not an abstract entity. It is the sum total of the financial activities of people. In the same way that a government’s first duty is the security of the state, it’s second duty is to the health of its citizens. Without them there is no state, no economy.

  • Really happy to hear of your recovery Mark, having a close relative who has mirrored your experience, I thought your post was a good read, surprised that it got the reaction is has from some folks. If I had, had the same trauma I might have felt entitled to refer to it in reaction as ‘bat flu’, and for sure we can’t stay locked down much longer, so it was good to know you were up and about, and for that am really very happy to know you are in such recovery. Cheers

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