Monthly Archives: September 2020

Covid-19 Madrid – heading for another big lockdown?

I feel like I’m living in a bubble these days. If you watch the news, from the outside, it looks like everything is completely going downhill here in Spain and that we’re headed for another lockdown. Just the other day they announced new restrictions in Madrid, not allowing people to enter or leave 37 most-affected areas in the city. And we’re back to more than 10,000 cases a day…

If you don’t see the news and look at my daily activities, though, it almost feels like nothing is really happening: On one hand my kids started back in school a week ago with some restrictions like mandatory face masks for the older one and shortened schedules, but overall it doesn’t feel so strange. We can go play in the parks, play in the pool (until it closed a few days ago), etc. On another hand with work, my company has made it mandatory for everyone to be back in the office, as if nothing is going on… of course there are a lot of safety measures and we already have some people in quarantine from being Covid-positive or with others that are positive I understand wanting to get back to normal and transmit normalcy, but it just seems odd. A lot of companies like my husband’s for example already have all employees working from home until January 2021. I don’t think it should be so black and white at this stage. Things are changing by the day.

From a social perspective, although you can’t have meetings in groups of more than 10 people (now will be 6 as of Monday), restaurants are still packed every day, terraces are full, and groups bigger than 10 really just translates to more than one table. Maybe this will change with the new restrictions.

To be honest I don’t see how temporarily closing down certain parts of the city with the highest virus concentrations (mainly those that are most impoverished as well which will just be more of a problem for people who can’t work) is really the answer. I understand that the last thing the country wants or needs is a lockdown as this would destroy the economy, and I agree. So, what is the answer? Good question. Hopefully I’m wrong and we’ll see in a few weeks that things are more under control. As I’ve said in previous posts I think there’s such a strong, underlying social component here in Spain that it will be hard to curb social gatherings, especially amongst younger people. However, a government measure to have bars close now at 10pm instead of 1am (1am was a restriction from a while back), for example… Maybe the problem is more the bar itself than the 3 hour shortened window. Last night I went out for dinner at a restaurant that fully complied with the distancing and hygiene measures, etc. Then, taking a walk afterwards we passed by a number of smaller bars that were packed with people on top of each other. As I’ve said in other posts, time will tell.

Still waiting for the “nueva normalidad”. And what is going on with schools? … Post-summer, but not post-covid in Spain.

The last time I wrote here was a few months ago. To be honest I thought by the time September rolled around everything with Covid would already seem like a semi-nightmare of the past and we would be wading through the consequences. Unfortunately, however, we’re still pretty much in the same boat as June and still with high levels of uncertainty. The only “positive” side is that we seem to be somewhat better prepared (in the sense that we are aware of the potential risk and results and have more access to personal protection materials) and there do not seem to be as many casualties, as of now.

What’s amazing to me is how quickly Spain has landslided as a country, in comparison to other European countries. Now that vacation is over (yes, vacation definitely still happened here in August, including for the government) everyone is scrambling to figure out how to contain the growing virus, how to make school work for kids (rules are changing by the day) and how to get back to some level of normalcy without resulting in a 2nd lockdown.

Personally, we spent the summer at the beach in Cadiz. I can’t complain as this is a great vacation spot, and it wasn’t a bad Plan B since my trip to Boston with the kids had been cancelled. Here are a few thoughts after my month in Cadiz:

  • You can get used to wearing masks, even to the beach. Months ago I couldn’t even imagine wearing a mask at all, let alone in the heat or to the beach. Whether I wanted to or not, in August it just became part of the routine, not to say that it’s comfortable though – mask on to leave the house, mask on until you get to your spot on the beach, mask on if you’re going to walk anywhere on the beach, and mask on to go back home. At the beach there were “beach mask police” constantly patrolling the shores to make sure people were complying with covid rules. Apart from getting in trouble for not wearing masks, I also saw people who had to put away games or toys like paddle ball since was not complying with rules.
  • Spain’s culture and social scene won’t change over night. Asking people in Spain to stop going out and gathering together is like…well, it’s not even comparable to anything else; it won’t change overnight. I was surprised to see large gatherings of people in small spaces in some pueblos in the south of Spain, like in Chipiona and Sanlúcar de Barrameda. People were wearing masks (in general) as this is the law, but social distancing was sometimes negative. Don’t get me wrong – one of the things I’ve always loved about Spain is the friendly, open culture and intense social scene. But I was a bit surprised to see such large crowds of people with everything going on. Actually I just read an article now saying that one of the reasons people believe things have gone downhill so quickly is that people just “relaxed” after the lockdown, and quickly.

Now it’s September and we’re trying to get back to reality and trying to figure out what is going on with schools. My children go to a public school in Majadahonda. In the last few days the schools have been scrambling to try to establish protocols, arrange classes, teachers, etc. For parents it’s creating a lot of anxiety and uncertainty. And for the schools, from what I gather, it’s also creating a lot of stress. What amazes me is that this pandemic is nothing new, but now everything is last minute as the government has come back from vacation and now are setting guidelines for the schools a few days before opening… at this point it seems to me that schools generally have similar protocols, but there are still a lot of fine points to work out. For example, in our school they’ve just announced that we will have a “jornada intensiva” with classes straight from 9-14h (instead of the usual from 9.30-13:30 and then class after lunch in the afternoon until 16:30h), but in another semi-private school right down the street they won’t have this intense schedule and will have class until 17h as usual. The kids in our classes won’t have any furniture in the classrooms, just tables and chairs, and they won’t be able to even bring school books home at the end of the day.

Will these protocols work? I guess time will tell. What I wonder is really how all of these protocols will work when the same kids who are kept in “bubble classrooms” and separated so tightly at school come home and then mix and run around in the parks outside…

It seems this is the “new normality” for now!