Today is April 14th 2020 and it is our 32nd day under the Coronavirus lockdown orders here in Spain.
I thought I’d paint a little picture for you of how life has been for us since the state of emergency was declared by the government on March 14th. Spain has one of the tightest lockdowns outside of China with people being required to stay home except for trips to the grocery store, trips to the pharmacy for medication, and to walk dogs. Dog walking can only be undertaken by a single adult (no couples, no kids) from a household and has to be within close proximity to home. Fines starting at €600 and up to €30,000 are meted out for any infractions.
I took my dogs out for a walk on the first morning of the lockdown and passing a kids playground I saw a sign from the local council stating that the park was closed due to the Coronavirus. Schools had been shut the previous day so the council didn’t want children congregating in parks, potentially infecting one another. The sign was dated the day before the the state of emergency lockdown, and so the Stay at Home order very quickly made it redundant!
I went grocery shopping on day one as well, and found that while there was no shortage of toilet roll in the shop (!), the meat and fish counters had been stripped bare. The only thing remaining was a few plant based Beyond Meat burgers, so I finally had an excuse to introduce them to my family (two of us loved them, the other two, not so much).
In the following days, the supermarkets’ supply chains stepped up and now there are no shortages in the stores. Practices in shopping have changed though. Shops are pushing people to shop online and choose home delivery as much as possible. Delivery times are typically reasonable and usually come within 24-48 hours though you can be unlucky. If you do need to go to the store, shops now provide disposable gloves for shoppers and require their use when using a trolly or shopping basket.
Physical distancing is enforced when queuing to pay, and most shops now shun cash in favour of contactless credit card payments.
Interestingly Amazon delivery times are way out of whack. I don’t know if this is just a Spanish thing, but ever since the pandemic hit delivery estimates have been in the order of weeks for most orders. However, having then placed the order, it more often than not arrives in a day or two rather than the weeks that had been estimated. I’m assuming Amazon are still adjusting their logistics, taking on lots more companies, onboarding them, etc. so this too will be sorted in time. The good thing is that they are erring on the safe side, not promising delivery in a day or two, and then taking weeks to deliver!
Apart from the good weather, another advantage of being based in Spain is that at 44%, Spain has by a significant margin the highest penetration of Fibre to the Home (FttH) internet connections of any country (Portugal is next closest with 37%). This investment in infrastructure is now paying big dividends with so many people needing to work, or continue their education online. My home connection is a 600mb synchronous connection, so four people simultaneously video conferencing doesn’t put too much strain on the connection. Very occasionally there are glitches in the video connections, but I put that down to upstream congestion with the increased traffic on the network.
Classes are being delivered online using a combination of Zoom, and Google Classroom. Fortunately the school my sons attend made a decision a couple of years back to issue all the kids with iPads, and deliver all their educational material that way (i.e. they have no physical textbooks). The unintended positive consequence is that all the kids in the school have their own tablet containing their curriculum, and because of the high penetration of fibre, most have a decent internet connection. As a result of this, the school hit the ground running and the transition to delivering lessons online was made that much easier. This is a public school btw.
Other changes – traditional big extended family lunches at weekends have been replaced by virtual get togethers with the family on Zoom. It is not the same, to be sure but it helps maintain a semblance of normality.
Finally, I do venture out to walk the dogs daily. Part of my walk brings me past a (formerly) busy intersection. Now that intersection is eerily still with only the very occasional car passing. And now you hear the sound of birdsong there instead of the constant growl of heavy traffic.
The air quality has improved, as you’d expect as well. I carry a Plume Flow personal air quality meter with me at all times so I have air quality data for this area going back many months. The two screens above show the air quality in February (before the lockdown) and March (two weeks after the lockdown) respectively with the February screen having large portions of the air quality map being either yellow (moderate air quality with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 21-50) or red (high pollution with an AQI of 51-100). Two weeks after the lockdown though and the air quality index is reading under 20 almost for the entire walk, which is a vast improvement.
These last few weeks of lockdown from the pandemic haven’t been easy, there is no doubt. But the outcome speaks for itself. The cleaner air is welcome, sure. But the fall in new infections and the fall in the number of people dying daily from this pandemic here in Spain is very welcome. If you are in the early stages of a lockdown, look at those two graphs. This will happen where you are too if the proper measures are taken to enact and enforce a lockdown.
Yesterday the Spanish government partially re-opened sectors of the economy to allow some people back to work. They required everyone travelling on public transport to wear face masks and they had police and volunteers in every public transport station handing out masks to those people who didn’t have any.
Was it too soon to re-open the economy? Possibly it was. We will know in one-two weeks time if we see the number of new cases increase once more. We are all just feeling our way in this new world. Until there is a universally available vaccine I think we will have to proceed extremely cautiously on all fronts. Stay healthy, stay safe, and above all, stay SANE!!!