: Spain may be a week ahead of the U.S. in its coronavirus quarantine: Here’s what you can learn from its experience
If you are in the U.S. right now, annoyed at the postponement of a favorite sports event or a long line at the grocery store, hold my cerveza.
It’s 7 p.m. on a beautiful March evening in Madrid, and the silence is deafening. We live in the center, where tourists parade up and down the cobblestones to visit the old church up the street. We would lean out the window on a Sunday afternoon and tell the passing tour guides to pipe down and leave us to our siestas. We haven’t seen any of those groups in some time, and have been left with the church bells, the birds and the occasional passing car a street away.
As Spain’s infection rate surged again on Friday to over 4,000, and its death toll topped 100, President Pedro Sánchez said the government will meet and approve a state of emergency on Saturday, under which it will legally be able to restrict the movement of people. Reports have been popping up on social media about residents in Madrid, the capital city and the center of the hardest-hit region in the country, fleeing to the beaches and countryside, which, in Italy, only served to spread the virus all over the country.
Those in Spain who could were encouraged earlier this week to start working from home, and the schools were shut in some regions by Wednesday. A day later, reports were all over social media of parks and movie theaters filling up with grandparents — among the most vulnerable to the ravages of the coronavirus-borne COVID-19 disease due to age — watching grandchildren whose parents were at work. Partially in response, #Quedatencasa and #quedateentucasa — meaning stay at home — have been trending in recent days on Twitter.
Italy’s dire coronavirus situation — China has reportedly been sending medical teams to Spain and Italy — is exactly what every government in the world fears right now. A key priority here is avoiding a collapse of the public health system and, crucially, a situation in which drastic choices have to be made as to who can and cannot be saved. Think back to those early, horrific days in Wuhan — they are now haunting our every waking moment in Spain.
My husband ventured out Friday for some items and found the streets deserted, amid rumors of fines if you’re caught on the street. Our civic duty is to stay inside, and, by Monday, it’s possible all public transportation will be shut down.
This situation has moved fast. A week ago, this reporter traveled to London after much agonizing, when infections were still in the low hundreds. Things can change dramatically in a weekend. That’s happening all over.
So you, particularly in North America, need to be ready. Panic buying does look silly, especially early on, but I am glad we have a few extra rolls of toilet paper in the house, as well as extra groceries and any necessary medications to get us through a couple of weeks.
We can go to the store, but, with so many people infected, going out not only feels bad as a citizen but uncomfortable and risky personally, and for one’s family. In a situation like this, you do not want to be in a crowded grocery store or certainly, for any reason, to end up in a hospital. Again, #quedatencasa. Avoid the exposure to or sharing of infections.
You will also want plenty of laundry detergent and soap, and hair products, because, even if no one outside your household will see you, you’ll feel gross if you can’t get clean. Don’t deny yourself chocolate, popcorn or other treats. Pet food, litter, etc., are also needed — we got a cat this summer, and he will keep us sane. That’s my hope.
Think ahead to your kids staying home from school, for, likely, weeks. You will probably get a lot of school assignments, but think, too, about a routine, rules, when they can play electronic games and when they need to study. If that PlayStation is about to go kaput, perhaps invest in a new one, because, as of now, from where I sit, it’s unclear how we would get an item like that if a crackdown on movement of nonessential goods is imposed. Headphones for everyone — now is the time to stock up on a spare pair. My teenage daughter is studying via a virtual classroom, and a working laptop and tablet are essentials. The kids need to maintain contact with friends, and I’m trying to be generous.
I feel for parents of younger kids than my 11-year-old, because that is hard core, and here we tend to live in apartments, not houses with backyards.
But I also feel lucky because I can, and have been encouraged to, work from home. And that meant making sure my own laptop was home-office ready.
My advice for anyone not yet in this situation is take one day, or even a half-day, to look around and think about which items you need every day. Pretend it’s a workday or school day and ask the kids what they would need. Can you get through about 10 days without going to the store, or even two weeks?
The last thing to remember is that this is a process, and we are in the beginning stages of it, and it is already hard. Being kept in your house is emotionally and mentally difficult. I awoke Friday in a sheer state of panic — it helps to breathe, and I will be looking for online exercise options. The first days will be bewildering. You might feel like you’re in a weird dream.
What’s harder to think about is where the quarantine ends. China’s Wuhan response has come at a great personal cost to people there — locked down for over 50 days. Where does this quarantine end? No one knows yet.
So, you see, that initial irritation at the events canceled, the trips called off, might be just the start. A week ago, Spain couldn’t imagine this situation, but here we are. Ready, able and, at least at present, willing to #quedatencasa.
Life in the coronavirus era — first-person accounts:
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