Lockdown – Spanish Style
Buenos Dias and greetings from not-so-sunny Spain! No, I’m not complaining about the unseasonable grey and windy weather, it’s making the lockdown here a little more bearable. If it were a warm and sunny day I would be itching to go for a stroll along the paseo, maybe stop for a coffee or a glass of vino at one of the beach bars. But the bars are all closed, the promenade and the beach are closed, everything is closed except essential services and we are not allowed to go for a stroll anywhere unless we have a dog or a child under 14. And even then only a short distance from our home, for 10 minutes with a dog or an hour with a child. The kids have only been allowed to go for a walk or bike ride since yesterday, they have been cooped up for nearly seven weeks in their own homes up to now. I was surprised to see parents out today still with hair. The rest of us are limited to a walk to the communal bins – the highlight of my day!
Lockdown here is strict and I mean really strict. The authorities are not asking us to stay at home, it is not a request or a recommendation, it is an order and anyone disobeying opens themselves up to a hefty fine. We are only allowed to go out for essential shopping, petrol, pharmacy, medical appointments, vets or – somewhat bizarrely – the tobacconist. You can’t nip to the corner shop for a bottle of wine and a packet of crisps; these can be bought but only in conjunction with essential items. There are (apocryphal) stories about people being fined 600 Euros for being caught on the way back from the supermarket with only a case of San Miguel to show.
Only one person per car is allowed unless you are a single parent or taking an elderly or vulnerable person to a hospital or doctor’s appointment. Strangely, though, you are allowed to take a taxi. Many people don’t see the sense in this rule, surely you are less likely to catch or spread the virus in a car with a member of your household than with a stranger in a car where other strangers have also been? But that’s the rules and you don’t argue with the police here.
We can only go to our nearest supermarket. The police have regular checkpoints set up where they check proof of address and receipts, and if you have strayed out of your locality you are also likely to get a 600 Euro fine. At Easter road blocks were set up around the major cities to stop people trying to get to their second holiday homes down here in Andalucía, strictly forbidden, and police patrolled local supermarkets asking for ID and proof of address to catch those who had managed to somehow sneak through. More fines.
Seven weeks ago when lockdown was announced and non-essential key workers were told to work from home, I wasn’t all that bothered. No problem, I thought. I’ve been working full time from home as a transcriptionist, writer and proof reader for several years now. Nothing to worry about. I soon learned differently. What I had failed to take into account was that my three housemates would also be working from home. My usual peaceful day while they were all out at work had become a thing of the past. My dining table was suddenly covered with monitors, CPUs, laptops and keyboards, cables and extension leads trailing across the floor. If a health and safety elf had turned up to do a risk assessment they would have shut us down on the spot. Plus the aforesaid housemates seemed to find it impossible to work without having the TV on in the background. This, as I am sure you can imagine, is not conducive to audio transcription work. I stuck it for a couple of days, but after about series 3 million of ‘The Walking Dead’ interspersed with interminable repeats of ‘Family Guy’ I gave up and relocated myself to the basement. I lost my lovely view across the Mediterranean to the Rock of Gibraltar but hey ho, at least I had peace and quiet.
There is a lot of chatter on social media and in the local press complaining that Spain is reverting to a Fascist state. But the strict lockdown seems to be working, at least here in the south. We are told today that there may be a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Andalucía has far fewer new cases than in the more populous northern areas and the municipality I live in had only three new reported cases in the past week. There is talk that our regional authorities may start letting the rest of us out for exercise from 2 May and maybe even open the beaches, with restrictions. So we are waiting with bated breath and everything crossed.
In the meantime, I’m off to the bins.