Day 9 – Tuesday 24th March
This morning I wake up to the news that the UK is now also officially in quarantine conditions for the next 3 weeks at least. Welcome to the club folks. If anything this will make my life easier. For a start it eases the worry about family and friends over there as hopefully this will reduce their chances of catching the disease, though many of my family work in critical industries so are still fairly front line. Also it makes conversations easier when we’re all going through the same experience. Mind you I notice that the Brits are allowed to go out and exercise once a day. Lucky sods!
Hopefully now the quarantine is official and the police have the power to act, this will help calm down some of the panic buying that is happening over there. I have a friend from Madrid who lives in the UK and works in a supermarket. She’s just been through one of the most stressful work weeks of her life. She is incredulous at the aggressiveness of some (not all thankfully, most sensible Brits have stayed away to avoid the idiotic hoarders and deplore their actions) British people and their complete lack of respect for her and her work colleagues. I cannot help compare her work week description to my own perfectly friendly and calm trips to the supermarket here. I’m quite proud of my Spanish compatriots.
Having said that whilst most Madrileños are respecting the quarantine conditions, there are always some idiots. As I write this blog I’m watching a young couple walking back together with their one bag of shopping. Shopping in pairs is not allowed. The other day the police found an elderly man of 77 years wandering around the streets hunting Pokemon on his phone. He had to be told three times to go home and then got aggressive. More distressing are the elderly couples or friends who are used to going to the shop everyday to get their fresh bread. It’s a bit of a tradition here and for some of them it is incredibly difficult to change their habits.
In fact much of Spain’s culture has played against them with this virus. Spain has a very active and integrated older population. They meet in groups in the many park areas and day centres here in Madrid and everyone, of all ages, says hello and chats to the elderly at the shops, post offices and doctors. Every outing is an opportunity for social interaction in Spanish society, and hugs and kisses are the norm. This is a wonderful way to live. So open and inviting with less of the problems of loneliness experienced by many in the Western world. Unfortunately it is also the perfect breeding ground for this virus, which is probably why we have seen it spread further in Spain than in other countries and why so many elderly communities are affected.
I like the Spanish way of life and I sincerely hope that we do not see it change dramatically and become more closed due to this crisis. Mind you it wouldn’t hurt them to learn to wash their hands more frequently which many of the older generations never do after they’ve been to the toilet. Yuk!
The second bit of news that I wake up to is the problem evolving around the sheer number of dead bodies in Madrid. The army was sent to deep clean all the residential homes for the elderly in Spain and dispense the Coronavirus tests that have been ordered for this group by the government. They were distressed to find in some homes the seemingly abandoned bodies of deceased elderly. Turns out that part of the problem is the morgues are already full to brimming and can no longer collect any more bodies. Normally a deceased person would be collected within 24hours. Now there’s a waiting list.
This effects not only residential centres but also people who have died at home. The council has now appropriated the Madrid ice rink to use as a temporary morgue until the crematory can catch up with disposing of all the cadavers. I happen to live just down the road from the ice rink. It’s in a big shopping and entertainment complex that I frequently use. The ice rink is on the third floor. On the first floor are shops including a supermarket. Thankfully not my local supermarket, but I do wonder whether it remains open. Are people shopping for their food two floors down from a pile of dead bodies. Not a pleasant thought.
This topic prompted a conversation with my sister on what to do if someone dies. We’re a pretty pragmatic family about these sorts of things and unlike many people have no problems discussing death. In the UK one of the valid reasons for leaving the home during quarantine is a funeral. It is not allowed here in Spain. We both agree that if any of us dies, not to bother going to a funeral. Just cremate the body prompto! There is no point putting the rest of the family in danger. A wake can be arranged at a later date to mourn the deceased and their dead body does not need to be present at this.
The final bit of news that hits me this morning is that China will be lifting quarantine conditions in Wuhan on April 8th after a period of zero new cases or deaths. Wuhan was the first to go into quarantine and will have remained in lockdown for a total of 12 weeks. So if Spain follows the same trajectory that means we have until June 7th. I receive this news with mixed thoughts. On the plus side there is an end in sight, but 12 weeks seems an awfully long time. I guess we’ll just keep plodding on.