A few days ago, though it seems like weeks already, we were just continuing with our mundane daily routine. Now we are in lockdown. If caught leaving my home I could be fined or even arrested for carrying out non-essential tasks. So weird how just in a few days our lives have gone from normal to a controlled house arrest the following week!
Like many of you, I heard about the development of Coronavirus at the end of December. We’ve just returned from our Christmas break in the UK and felt detached from the panic that was emerging in China. I read the news and kept up to date with new developments, but never felt directly threatened – until a few weeks ago.
On the first week of March, we were getting excited about the upcoming Fallas festival. My son had things planned with his friends and was looking forward to the new opening of our local skatepark. With spring just around the corner, my husband and I were getting ready to start some projects around the house. We even planned a get together for a friends birthday. Life was pretty normal.
Then the news coming from Italy started to cause a little bit of panic, somehow, this situation is now too close to home. At this point, cases were also increasing in Spain. A few days later, confirmed cases began to rise at a worrying rate, we were starting to feel the panic. Still, we continued with our daily life and made plans. On March 11 Madrid closed all schools. Then Catalunya also followed. This is when we realised that this shit just got real. As expected, a few days later the entire Valencian community also closed their schools.
On the 12th of March, Spain announced that it’s putting its 47 million citizens under partial lockdown for 15 days – while it might seem harsh they are not taking any chances and will try to stop everything to decrease the spread of the virus.
Even though we knew these measures were being imposed, it was unclear how we are supposed to deal with the situation. Will the shops still open? Can we still get together for our friends birthday celebrations as planned?
And just like that on the 13th of March, Spain declared a national state of emergency. Meaning that the government is allowed to take over the regional governments to take the necessary measures it considered appropriate to keep the community safe from the virus. The Valencian Community had no choice but to close bars, restaurants, cinemas, parks, gyms, theatres, and leisure centres effective on Friday 13th starting from 00:00hrs.
Saturday 14th March, my son wanted to meet up with his friends. As we were unsure about the ‘rules’ I allowed him to go out for a couple of hours. An hour later he texted me to say that he was scared as the plaza was empty and a lot of people were wearing masks.
A strange stillness has fallen over our typically busy town, this was not normal. His group decided that it was time to go home. The whole of Spain are getting increasingly worried and the hashtag #quédateencasa began trending, warning others to ‘stay at home’. This was the start of our lockdown.
- We are only allowed to leave our homes for necessities. This includes going to the supermarket, work, bank, getting fuel and going to the pharmacy.
- If visiting a health centre you must have an appointment to prove just in case the police stops you.
- Personal driving has been limited on public roads and you are only allowed if you are carrying out the activities mentioned above.
- You cannot go for a stroll, bike ride or jog. Walking the dog is OK but you cannot venture very far.
- Only the driver is allowed to be in the car.
- The EMT buses are still running but passengers can only access the middle door and cash is NOT accepted as payments for tickets.
- All festivities including the Fallas and Semana Santa have been cancelled.
- Beaches in the Valencian communities have been closed.
So far the majority of Spain are following the stringent rules that the government has imposed. This might have something to do with a fine of between €600 and €30,000 if you are caught disobeying them. At the time of writing this, 88 people have been arrested for breaching the rules.
Our Life On Lock Down
My husband and I work from home, and I am an introvert. But there’s a huge difference to not wanting to go out to be told that you can’t! We are fortunate enough to have a garden, compared to many Spaniards who live in apartments. At least we live in an area where it’s not constantly patrolled by the authorities. We have it relatively easy. I can only sympathise with parents who have small children or for people who are unable to work from home and in fear of losing their jobs.
Going to the supermarket now have become a strange affair. I was greeted by a member of staff wearing a mask instructing me to apply the hand sanitiser. People wandering around in their masks and gloves. The bustling aisles with people talking over each other have gone, replaced by an eerie silence. Visible signs at every corner reminding you of the rules; keep 1 metre apart, only 6 items of the same things are allowed.
It’s been 7 days since we saw anything beyond than our local supermarket. My son who is usually out with friends is starting to feel the pressure. The school is doing their best to send work and one teacher even scheduled an online class next week. At the moment the future is uncertain. We don’t know when the schools will open again. Initially, they announced 15 days, but who knows, this could extend to weeks or even months. I hope not.
For a culture that is well known for being together and staying outdoors, this sudden lockdown has been a shock but also respected by many Spaniards. From day one of isolation, many have taken to their balconies every night to thank the emergency services and healthcare workers. I admire the Spanish peoples great sense of community, resilience and sense of humour. And I guess this is what’s keeping them going.
We will be OK!
If you are in self-isolation or anxious that you might be forced to self-quarantine soon don’t worry. Considering that we have been on lockdown for 7 days, we are OK. Yes, it’s not nice, but this minor discomfort is better than spreading the virus to those who are vulnerable. Strict as it may be, locking down is the best way to reduce the risks. Just look at Italy, we have to learn from their mistakes.
Stock up on the essentials, but within reason. There is no need to panic buy and consider that other people need the necessary items too. For the past week, our routine has changed a little, but we are still working, though, I am doing more cooking than usual. Netflix and Amazon Prime have been a godsend. I have also managed to catch up with a few things ‘to-dos’ around the house, such as cleaning, a little decorating and gardening.
I have kept myself up to date with the latest news in the UK. We have been keeping in touch with family, thankfully no-one that we know has been affected. We are keeping things positive and having a sense of humour during this challenging time is important. I particularly love following the #quedateencasa group on social media. Despite the uncertainty that’s happening at the moment, the Spaniards have retained their sense of community.
At the time of writing this, the latest coronavirus infections in Spain is at 17,147, with 939 patients in intensive care and 767 dead – 169 in just the last 24 hours. However, a total of 1,107 patients with COVID-19 have recovered and have been released from the hospital since the epidemic began in Spain.
From normal life to life under lockdown, our lives have been changed within a week. Most of us probably thought that we’re immune from the terrible tragedies of life, but we are not. After all, this is not about us anymore. It’s about our loved ones, our friends and their families. It’s about everyone. Follow the rules of social distancing, isolate yourself if possible.
This small discomfort can make a difference in the long run. I am sure when this is over, we will emerge through with a different outlook in life. But for now, stay safe, be positive and more importantly be considerate.