As Spain’s lock-down is extended, Olivia Wilson catches up with Spanish residents as they begin to navigate an uncertain, post-lock-down future.
Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez has extended the country’s state of emergency one final time, extending the lock-down until 21 June.
The state of emergency grants the government additional powers to deal with coronavirus, including ordering citizens to stay at home.
The country is currently implementing a four-phase plan to gradually ease lock-down restrictions in different regions across the country.
Spain’s official death toll is 27,127, making it the 6th most affected country in the world. At its peak, Spain recorded 950 deaths from covid-19 in a 24-hour period.
I spoke to several Spanish residents about their experiences and cautious optimism about the future.
Andrea Diaz Aguair, Gran Canaria
During the height of the country’s lock-down, I spoke to Gran Canaria resident Andrea Diaz Aguair, who described the risks of living in a country with one of the highest death rates.
“My mum is a doctor, and some of her co-workers tested positive. All of them were sent back home, but one of them had a previous lung illness so he ended up in hospital. Thankfully they’ve all recovered now.”
“My parents need to go outside to go to work. Whenever they come back home they just jump in the shower and put all the clothes in the wash.
“Or if they go to the supermarket, they’ll just wash all the food they’ve brought with them before putting it away.”
Elena Belmonte, Madrid
Elena Belmonte, a creative writing teacher and playwright, has been distracting herself from the concern and stress of an unprecedented pandemic.
“Uncertainty is a constant source of anguish. I plant daisies in the garden, teach online, read, write, talk to many people at a distance.”
Rosa, a special educational needs (SEN) teacher in Spain, says her family are giving everything they have.
“I have family members that are health workers on the front line, all living through this with dedication and hope. My friends and family are giving a lot, whatever we have, our time, phone calls, sewing machines, donations.
“There are lots of people that are suffering because they have family in hospital and cannot visit them.
“Nurses are trying to connect ill people with family members using phones that have been donated to hospitals.
“The lock-down has been very difficult in Madrid with all hospitals and health staff under a lot of pressure. Working under war circumstances, 76 healthcare workers have died so far.”
Victoria, a sales and marketing professional, is recovering from cancer. She describes the disillusionment of many Spanish citizens as lock-down restrictions begin to ease.
“We are all financially and emotionally affected by the uncertainty about the future. Social distancing in a country like Spain is very difficult because we love to get together to hug and kiss.
Many are finding it difficult to follow the health authorities’ recommendations.”
Victoria’s health condition means she is particularly vulnerable to the virus, and is cautious about the easing of lock-down.
“I have started going out but with fear. I don’t feel safe to use public transport yet. Instead, I go to small supermarkets or buy online to avoid places with a lot of people.
“We cannot make plans, we don’t know if we will be able to go on vacation to the beach or meet with friends and family.”
The enormous impact the pandemic is having on Spain’s economy is yet another source of worry, Victoria says.
“What if all the countries’ advice is against travelling to Spain this summer? The economy is going to suffer even more. Tourism represents 15 percent of Spain’s GDP.
Cautious optimism for Spanish citizens
Despite the virus causing cruel uncertainties, Victoria believes there have been moments of hope and unity for many Spanish people.
“There has been a lot of positive news during lock-down. My strategy to overcome the uncertainty has been to collaborate with a solidarity group working to provide PPE to health workers in hospitals and nursing homes in Madrid.
“Over 100 volunteers work non-stop to collect donations, buy or make protection materials and send on a daily basis to hospitals and nursing homes.”
Several smartphone apps have received high praise during the lock-down, helping families and friends connect while living apart.
“There have been many organisations and professionals offering free online activities to help us lead a happier life during the lock-down.
“The Royal Theatre is offering free access to opera performances and yoga teachers are offering classes online.
“The digital revolution has come to stay. Schools, university and companies are adapting to remote working.
“There is even a new term – ‘tele-families’ [referring to] families meeting over zoom. I organised a family gathering on zoom on Mother’s Day so we could all be with my mum. My mum is 87 and has been connected to friends and activities through Facebook.”
Will ‘tele-families’ become a phrase of the past, or will it become a new demographic grouping in a post covid-19 world?
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