Diary of Spain in Lockdown 14th March

SPAIN is now fifth in the world for coronavirus cases and everything here seems to be following the same catastrophic path as Italy.

All week there have been stories coming out of Madrid of the health system collapsing. There simply aren’t enough beds and resources for those who are seriously ill.

We’ve been encouraged to stay at home, but with a population which mainly lives in apartments and where many city dwellers have second residences at the coast, it’s proving impossible to keep people indoors.  Social media was full of messages yesterday about Madrileños fleeing the capital and taking the virus with them. The motorway leading south towards Andalucia was packed. On the Costa Blanca there is anger among residents towards the people from Madrid going to their second homes. People are terrified.

Schools, nurseries, sports facilities, pubs and restaurants are all closed until further notice. We’ve been warned to keep away from playgrounds and other public spaces, but the people who go to their beach apartments don’t stay inside, they go out to the communal gardens, they take a walk, go to bars, enjoy the warm Spanish sun, all the while potentially spreading the virus.

Parts of the country are already under lockdown and people are calling for it to be extended nationally, primarily to halt the flow of people out of Madrid, as well as more draconian measures to make people stay indoors.

The situation in Valencia

The main festival here of Las Fallas, due to start this weekend, was officially cancelled on Tuesday (10 March), on Thursday (12 March) the Valencia government, like rest of Spain, brought out a decree saying that schools would be closed from next Monday (16 March) until further notice. On Friday (13 March) as the rise in coronavirus cases continued exponentially,  the government declared a state of emergency.

The immediate effect of this has been that the panic buying going on all week went into overdrive. This morning (Saturday 14 March) long queues could be seen outside supermarkets before they opened. Getting hold of some basic food items is a struggle. We went out to do our weekly shop last night and managed to get about half the items. My husband went this morning and managed to get a few more, although toilet roll can’t be found for love nor money. He only managed to get eggs and a chicken because he was standing in the right place when the staff came to replenish stocks. We’re told to use special cleansing wipes or rubbing alcohol on our hands, door handles and electronic devices but these have also become a thing of myth.

I teach in two secondary schools just north-west of Valencia and this week we had an emergency meeting about how to deal with school closures, and when students left on Friday they took all their books home with them. We also had to provide two-week’s worth of work to send home. Younger children will be using their books while older ones will have a combination of books and online classes with teachers. The general idea is to try and keep students following the curriculum as much as possible from home with only the teachers going into school to connect with their pupils online. Although with the outlook changing by the hour who knows what the reality will be come Monday.

For me personally, being at home with my children for the next few weeks and teaching online doesn’t look such a terrible prospect, as long as we can get food to eat. We’re some of the lucky ones; we have a fairly large garden, a trampoline, a swimming pool, room to run around or even get away from one another. The ones I feel for are those crammed into city apartments, with not even a balcony to go out onto, those with little children who need to run around and tire themselves out. For them the next few weeks will seem like an eternity.

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