Feature: Life under coronavirus lockdown in Spain

Feature: Life under coronavirus lockdown in Spain


Waking up from a bad dream, Gonzalo Resa Heras looked at his watch and saw that it was already 11 a.m., but he still felt tired after a very restless sleep once again.

As Spain has the second largest caseload of the coronavirus in Europe, Gonzalo and his fellow countrymen have been faced many changes after the country imposed a national lockdown on March 14.

Until a few days ago, this 21-year-old Spaniard had been living a normal happy life.

He used to wake up at 6:50 a.m. to take the train for a short journey from his hometown of Torrejon de Ardoz to his university in Alcala de Henares.

However, everything has changed since the coronavirus outbreak: classes in schools in the Madrid region were suspended indefinitely from March 11, and three days later Spain declared a State of Alarm and was effectively placed under lockdown nationwide.

In order to cut down on the risks of contracting the virus, he goes out shopping just once a week. Now, there are no face masks or hand gel available in any shop, and he noticed that there is less bleach and disinfectant on the shelves.

He goes back home and tells his mother about the situation, and with nothing else to do, he starts to clean the flat once again.

The hospitals are under extreme stress as they can only treat the severest COVID-19 cases. So, his family attempt to keep their home as clean as possible in which they can get some psychological comfort.

"It's stressful, worrying and frustrating, and I even feel very sad at times. That's why I find it hard to sleep and to carry on with my obligations," he said.

At 8 p.m. every evening Gonzalo and his mother savor their only happy moment when they and their neighbors go to their respective balconies to dedicate a long and heartfelt round of applause to everyone working in the health service. The song "Resistire" (I will resist), originally recorded by famous Spanish musical duo Duo Dinamico in 1988, has become the one that best captures the mood of the nation.

Gonzalo said it is important to remain optimistic in the face of the health crisis, expressing confidence that people are showing the responsibility needed at this difficult time.

"We are facing a considerable tragedy, but we are not going to let it become total chaos and that is also worthy of applause," he said.

A stock manager, whose given name is Yolanda, also has her own problems.

Her company -- Madrid's Adolfo-Suarez-Barajas Airport -- has issued a Temporary Regulation of Employment after closing all the shops in the airport amid the worsening pandemic. This means that she only earns 70 percent of her normal salary.

"It's the first time in my adult life that I haven't had a job," she said, adding that some companies may face bankruptcy if the crisis drags on for months.

Juan Manuel Hidalgo, a member of the Independent Union of Radio Television Espanola (RTVE), used to visit Madrid and other cities on business on a weekly basis. But the travel has suspended and now he works through holding video conferences.

For 56-year-old Juan Manuel, though unable to go outside, he is lucky to live with his family in the countryside, and for the moment, his income from the RTVE has not been affected. But he is worried about the medium-term economic effects of the crisis and possible cutbacks.

He follows the news about the pandemic and tries to avoid worrying too much about news on shortages of masks, gloves and ventilators.

What has most surprised him was the Women's Day march in Madrid on March 8, which was attended by over 100,000 people and led by people who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

He recalled that in the week prior to the march, when some Chinese-owned shops in Spain were beginning to close, many people did not seem aware of the seriousness of the pandemic, despite a rapid spread of COVID-19 in neighboring countries such as Italy.

"We acted late and badly in Spain. We wasted two weeks for controlling the epidemic," he said.

Juan Manuel has friends in Madrid who are suffering from the disease with fever and breathing problems, but they are still at home as the hospitals are only able to treat the most serious cases. What worried him most is that over 10 percent of all the cases are health workers.

"If we lose the doctors, we are all lost," he said.

Fortunately, he believes the government has now reacted well and is taking all possible measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and he hopes the health crisis will start to slow down in one or two months.

Spain should learn from China's successful experience in fighting the coronavirus, and cooperation between the two countries is vital to helping Spain contain the epidemic, he said.

"I am very happy that China is getting over the crisis. It is a country that can help us a lot and they are doing that, so I hope that China's help will be vital in combating the virus," he said.