I waited before writing an article about what it is like in Spain during the coronavirus pandemic. I wanted to have some perspective on the situation first and was hoping that I could write about it in the past tense. Unfortunately, we are going through a severe second wave right now which shows no signs of slowing.
We went from a feeling of euphoria everyday since we retired in 2017, spending the winters in sunny Spain to a feeling of fear and helplessness, not understanding what the future holds.
Will Covid-19 ever fully go away? Will life go back to normal when the vaccine is ready? Will we ever be able to hug again and travel the world safely?
The virus hit us in Spain like a brick. We were all going on with our sunny life thinking that it was only a problem in China. Then, the reality hit us when the virus took over Italy. The government of Spain imposed a 2 week quarantine lock down in mid-March. We were pretty casual about the thought of being home for two weeks resting from the frequent partying and entertaining that retirement allows.
The two weeks became two months in one of the world’s most strict quarantines.
We were only allowed to leave our house to go grocery shopping, one person per car, or to go to the pharmacy or the doctor. You had to be prepared to show proof of where you went. I was stopped twice coming back from the grocery store when I had to show my receipt. Small shopping trips were not allowed. They wanted us to buy for several days and stay home the rest of the time.
We could not even go for a walk. Being avid walkers, that was really hard. We could only take Amy Lou for 50 meters away from the house to do her business.
We were blessed to have a big house with a large garden. We tended to the garden, did all the chores we never seem to have time to do and I even designed a circuit to bring my daily steps count to 6000. I was so happy to have 52 steps to climb repeatedly everyday from the pool to the parking to get some exercise!
Many others were not so lucky living in small apartments, some even without a balcony to step out. I can only imagine what that was like for those with children or violent spouses.
We became mentally tired and the impact on many was devestating. I can’t help thinking, were these draconian measures necessary? Wouldn’t a daily walk at least been good for our mental and physical health?
The Spaniards we asked were adamant that these strict measures were necessary in Spain. Their answers were that Spanish people are very social and would not be able to stop themselves from meeting friends and family on their walks. They would find a way to meet on picnics or on the street. Give them an inch and they will take a foot, we were told.
Our flight back to Canada was booked for the end of May and we were pretty confident that things would go back to somewhat normal by then. We decided to stay until then and enjoy our house even if we could not go out. We held zoom meetings with friends weekly, prepared theme meals and enjoyed them together for 4-5 hours in front of our IPads and computers! Thank God we had each other and our weekly virtual parties to stay sane.
Everyone in Spain, including our neighborhood got out on their balcony at 8pm every night for 2 months, to sing along with Resistiré, the famous song about surviving in difficult times. Originally released by Spanish pop’s Dúo Dínamico in 1988 and further popularized on the soundtrack of Pedro Almodovar’s 1989 dark romantic comedy Átamé, the song became Spain’s national anthem during the lockdown and an ode to the health care workers overwhelmed by the rapid surges of cases requiring hospital care.
The government started to lift the lockdown mid-may by region. We went through 4 phases and got our borders reopened at the end of June.
The curve was flattened. The strict measures worked but they also devastated the economy and put millions out of work. The heart and soul of our pueblos have been sucked out it feels. The tourism industry came to a dead halt. Our house is rented during the summer months when we are back home in Canada. We had 88 nights booked this summer but all of them, yes 100% cancelled. Normally, vibrant cities and villages are now almost empty leaving restaurants and shops struggling to survive.
Was all of this really necessary I wonder? Was Sweden’s relaxed way of dealing with the pandemic better? It is too soon to tell. We will likely not know until a year or two from now.
We are now in the second wave in Spain and the numbers are worse than the first one. Most of the cases are in the north and our region on the costa del sol is once again spared for the most part. The big difference with the second wave we are experiencing right now is that the infected are the young ones. They are better at fighting the virus and most recover. So, the second wave so far, is not as bad and much easier to manage for the health care system. So far anyway.
It appears that the virus is transmitted when large gatherings are indoors and the spread is sustained. Everyone is wearing masks but the lockdown fatigue causes people, especially the younger ones, to relax. Bars now close at 1am but you can see packed bars and restaurants everywhere with people clearly too close to one another.
We still go out but prefer to stay outside on terraces and keep our circle of friends small. Frankly, we are afraid of getting the virus. This is why we decided to stay put this summer and not return to Canada to avoid airports and flying.
Our May flight was cancelled and the July 6th as well. We then looked at the numbers of cases of transmission on planes and it clearly became evident that flying was riskier than staying at our home and in our tiny village, Frigiliana, which had no reported cases.
It is incredible what the entire world is going through. Cases are going up everywhere now during this second wave. We are trying to go back to normal but it is too soon. Without a vaccine, there is no going back to normal.
What a life we had before all of this. My thoughts lately have been about the sociological changes we are about to live in the years ahead. With new eyes to see it, I hope we will be more appreciative of our freedom, our precious health and of each other. In the end, this pause, may prove to have been a good time to reflect on what matters most.
Stay healthy and happy dear readers! Happier and lighter posts to come in the weeks ahead, I promise!