Now into our second week of lockdown in Spain, we’re learning a lot about human nature despite being confined to our homes. We are allowed out only to buy food and medicine or to walk the dog – and that just a few metres from the house.
All the parks, beaches and children’s playgrounds are closed as well as all shops except those selling food and chemists. Over 46 million people are confined to barracks, so to speak. The police have been vigilant in stopping people making unnecessary journeys and in fact during the first week, 40,000 people had either been fined or arrested for flouting the Law.
My own town of Palafrugell saw 600 cars being turned away last Saturday. Presumably the majority were heading for our 3 gorgeous beaches of Tamariù, Llafranc and Calella de Palafrugell. All are out of bounds except for the few people resident.
In Barcelona, wild boar have been videoed in the streets. Air pollution has almost disappeared and nature is recovering from human interference. There is no doubt a lesson in that.
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Orderly and calm
Despite the comparatively small number of people who have flouted the lockdown, I am surprised at how correct and polite people here in Spain are when out at the supermarket or local produce market.
The supermarkets have quickly imposed their own rules: only a certain number of customers allowed in the store at any one time, hand gel and plastic gloves provided, everyone must stay a metre and a half away from another person and Esclat, a Catalan supermarket, closes every afternoon from 2.45 to 4.00 pm to thoroughly clean and disinfect the store. Opening times are slightly reduced but apart from that everything is as it has always been.
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Queues to gain entry are quiet and orderly. I haven’t waited more than a few minutes to get inside. Once there, the shelves are stocked as normal with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables and the only shortage I have encountered is not loo paper – but hand sanitizer and medical alcohol. The fresh fish and butchery departments are open as usual too. There is enough for everyone and I have seen only one or two carts full to capacity as most people buy just what they need.
My local food market is open six mornings a week and every stall is full of all the fruit and vegetables in season.
My local food market is open six mornings a week and every stall is full of all the fruit and vegetables in season. The stallholders all wear masks and gloves but there is still banter between them and customers and jokes too. We all stay a fair distance from each other but there is much needed human contact. Occasionally, I bump into a friend and we allow ourselves a little chat. Limited though our social contact may be, the fact we can from time to time meet people face to face is one blessing in these dark times.
In my area there are few cases of COVID-19. To date, only 2 in my town. Barcelona and some of the surrounding towns are the epicentre in Catalonia. There are, though, some sick people in our local hospital in Palamòs where the front line medical staff are doing the utmost to keep people alive. As in Italy and other countries, there is a shortage of masks and other equipment. The King of Spain, Felipe VI, made a plea to China to help and they have sent 500,000 masks. There are daily tweets and messages from medical staff urging us to stay home for the sake of the wider community. In general, the Spanish have done just that.
I would like to share with you a video of an event outside Palamòs hospital last week. As you will see, all the members of emergency services are involved.
People here are finding ways to survive the time spent confined to home. Numerous websites have appeared with classes for foreign languages, yoga, keep fit, cooking, keeping the kids amused (it is hard for parents living in a small flat with several children and no way of letting them outside) and plenty of Spanish humour. Click here to read one uplifting story. Then there are those who think dinosaurs aren’t bound by the lockdown.
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There are lots of Whatsapp and other social media groups keeping people sane. My son in London and I are playing scrabble remotely every day. In fact, I think people are spending more “time” together now than before the virus hit the world.
I think people are spending more “time” together now than before the virus hit the world.
Kindness is now something affecting each and every one of us in Spain. My neighbour offered to get anything I needed. A lovely Moroccan guy who does odd jobs, sent me a text to ask if I was OK and if he could help me. Friends from all over the world are checking on each other regularly. Respect for the people on the front line of this battle is growing. To my knowledge, so far 2 young policemen with families have died from the virus due to their contact with us and trying to keep us safe.
All is not lost
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently declared that Spain is one of the world’s safest countries (Coronavirus apart, as the report was produced before the current epidemic). As far as violent crimes are concerned, Spain has four times fewer murders than any other developed country. Life expectancy in Spain is 83 years and 5 months with only Sweden and Japan having longer lives.
Once this crisis is over, people will return to Spain as tourists and also as future residents because it is the safest place in Europe and the way of life is healthy and enjoyable.
Once this crisis is over, people will return to Spain as tourists and also as future residents because it is the safest place in Europe, the way of life is healthy and enjoyable and the stringent measures temporarily imposed by the Spanish government have shown the Spanish to be excellent citizens.
May all of you reading this, stay healthy and strong.
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