At this moment, the world just seems to have come to a standstill due to the highly contagious COVID-19 (aka Coronavirus) pandemic that has literally stopped Madrid in its tracks. It’s hard to believe that it was just a few weeks ago that when we spoke of the virus, the statistics and news updates were primarily relating to China - a country that was seemingly so far away.
Three months following China’s explosive outbreak, the novel Coronavirus epidemic has officially been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization as it continues to spread rapidly across the world. What we once thought was so far away is now, quite literally, at our doorstep.
My name’s Stephanie, and I’m living in a total, government-enforced lockdown in Spain at the moment, a country that currently ranks fourth globally for having the highest number of COVID-19 cases, a number that continues to multiply every single day.
Until a week ago, Stephanie was able to walk the streets of Madrid carefree
I never imagined that we would have to go through something as drastic as to what China experienced but when Coronavirus hit Italy, the far-away pandemic suddenly became very, very real.
Last week already seems like a distant memory, a time when everything appeared to be relatively under control. But overnight, Spain started to see a drastic rise in the number of infected cases and quite suddenly, over a thousand new cases were being reported on a daily basis. That was the moment when it occurred to me that things were, in fact, getting out of control. A virus from the far edge of Asia had reached Western Europe and was beginning to take over.
The changes started with major Spanish cities such as Madrid and Barcelona closing down schools and universities; recommending people to stay at home. But these measures were not enough as the numbers kept on growing; people were on the streets, kids were playing in the parks, and the general population was primarily quite brazen in their approach to the contagion. We did see people stocking up on essentials – and of course, toilet paper – but for the most part, the general sentiment remained relaxed.
Emptied supermarkets last Tuesday after the news of schools and universities closing down
It’s hard to imagine that this carefree image and complete, mandatory national lockdown were simply three days apart from one another. In no time at all, we went from going out without a thought about the consequences to being in a state of red alert and into the complete lockdown in which we are right now.
It’s been eight days since the quarantine started, and my family and I have already been locked in for longer than that.
At the start I was aware of what was happening but didn’t want to admit it. But from the moment the pandemic started to grow exponentially, I mentally started to prepare myself by enjoying the few days I could outside. On Thursday I voluntarily decided to self-quarantine, and on Sunday, the social isolation became mandatory, with the government issuing fines to people found on the streets.
The lockdown, implemented by the Spanish President rang a nationwide state of alarm; bringing into effect strict regulations with regards to the quarantine. People were only allowed to leave their home to go to a supermarket, hospital or pharmacy. At any given time, no more than one person from each household is allowed to go outside unless they are accompanying an elderly person or an infant. To get into the supermarkets, there is a queue outside to limit the number of people within each store. People in queues have to stand at least one metre apart from one another and you cannot visit any store more than twice a week.
It seemed unreal. One day you’re free to go out, and the next, you’re fined if you set foot outside your door. I’ve never lived through anything like this, and I’m certain that most people haven’t either. It was like a scene out of an apocalyptic movie and I was scared.
Filled with an extreme sense of anxiety and uncertainty, my first day of quarantine was quite possibly the hardest. All I could hear, speak and think about was the deadly virus, and the TV didn’t help; so trying to find the light in the direst of circumstances didn’t come naturally but I knew I had to try.
I decided to utlilise the time to get back into things I loved most. To fill the days, I started painting, baking, reflecting on my future and spending quality time with my family; things which, given the hectic pace of our lives, I had forsaken for quite some time.
I have always been one to champion positivity and truly believe that, even on the darkest days you can find a silver lining if you look hard enough, and my current scenario has been no different.
It’s incredible how the human race unites in situations such as the one we’re living through right know. Every single evening, at exactly 8pm, the entire city steps out on to their balconies to applaud the nurses, doctors, pharmacists and supermarket staff as they walk home after a long day of work. The sound of cheers and applause fills the streets as people celebrate the courage of these hard-working individuals who are risking their lives for the greater good. In this moment, fear is replaced with love, camaraderie and support and I have never experienced anything quite like it.
I’ve seen and experienced how even though we don’t seem to be united at times, its heartwarming to see that the worst of times really brings out the best in people and brings everyone together.
It’s only been a week and what was initially a two-week quarantine period has just been declared as a full month so this is only the start for us. But what I’ve learned is that, for once, life has slowed down whether we like it or not and it’s up to us how we make use of this time. I have a newfound sense of gratitude for the things in life I previously took for granted. I wish I could take a walk, or go out to a restaurant or a movie; simple things that I never would have felt grateful for before are now things I know I will forever cherish.
We always complain about how busy we are and of how little time we have, but now we have all the time in the world at our feet. This imposed slow-down is giving me the time I always wanted to have so I am embracing it to pick up on old hobbies and reconnect with my family and friends. I have a feeling that the worst still may be yet to come but I know that Spain will come of this crisis stronger and more united than ever before; and it is my belief that the world will too.
Stay at home, stay positive and keep safe, this too shall pass. #Quedateencasa #Stayathome