Name? Pedro Sanchez
Official position? Prime Minister
Number of cases? 200 000 (second most in the world)
What are the measures employed? On March 15th, Sanchez issued the lockdown and has only slightly loosened the measures for workers to return to their jobs. Spaniards are only allowed to leave their houses for grocery shopping or to walk their dogs. Children, on the other paw, have to stay inside the house and are not allowed to leave under any circumstances. As the WHO has issued its third call on Spain to end this lockdown on children, Sanchez announced they were allowed to play one hour per day from April 27th. (This fact changes by the hour as Sanchez seems to be indecisive, apologies for outdated facts)
Why do I care? This country is particularly close to my heart as I have been living in it for three years and counting (hopefully, I would like to return soon!). Seeing it suffer hurts deep inside and I wish for the Spanish way of living to return very soon (As it is by far the best one!).
Why should you care? When you look at our world and its crazy leaders all over the place (Kim, Trump, Bolsonaro, Kagame) you would think of Spain as a relatively reasonable democracy. With its own authoritarian past (Franco), you should think Spaniards are somewhat sensitive to lockdowns and the Spanish military patrolling on the streets.
But if a country like Spain accepts a nationwide lockdown for a month (and counting) one should worry. Or at least look at what Spain is doing there exactly. Given that most countries have yet to face the peak of the first Covid-19 wave. If a month-long (still counting) lockdown can happen in a perfectly stable democracy, then what could happen in less democratic countries? Maybe in countries you are currently in?
What do the people think about it? When I asked my dear friend Maria (Yes that’s really her name, I know it seems like I made that up) what the Spanish population thinks about the measures taken by Sanchez she said that the majority are paralysed by fear. Spain mostly agrees to the measures taken but one question has remained unanswered:
How far can discrimination go?Maria Ramos de la Flor
While 59% of Spaniards are in favour of the measures, the question about children and the elderly being locked inside remains. Why should children not be allowed to play outside? Why are people not allowed to go for walks, especially for a child’s health as it is essential that they are allowed outside in the fresh air!
I personally think that the current measures are doing more harm than they are preventing. Children need to play outside!Maria Ramos de la Flor
Maria also raised questions about the rising levels of domestic violence. If people are locked inside for so long, aggression levels rise and might end badly. Are these extreme measures really justified while other countries are flattening the curve with lighter measures?
When I asked her why then Spaniards are not in favour of loosening the measures and have people walk in the parks at a healthy distance, she replied that most people are not disciplined enough. I asked some more of my Spanish friends whether they believed Spaniards are not disciplined enough to physically distance and they all agreed. This is in no way a representative survey but it does shed light on a pattern. If people cannot be trusted, we need stronger measures, this mentality seems to explain why 60% of Spanish people are still in favour of a lockdown, although they have been under lockdown for five weeks now.
Any further comments? Covid-19 brings out those nasty archaic tendencies in us which we wish to leave behind us. But the fear of the unknown and the outsider who brings danger is as dominant in today’s world as it was during the stone age. Although Spain invented the clapping by the window at 20:00 for the healthcare workers (that wasn’t you Italy, stop telling the world), there is also an ugly archaic hidden side inside the people. Notes telling supermarket workers or nurses to move into other apartments while Covid-19 is out there have been appearing all over Spain.
These notes are disgusting but understandable. Not because Covid-19 is the most dangerous disease we have ever encountered. But because there is so much panic and a lack of information out there that people are scared. How else can you explain the high approval ratings (59%) for the current measures employed? If all you see on TV is people dying and hear ambulance sirens outside, then you will be scared to death. A debate from all sides cannot be heard in a panicked environment like this.
The Herman take on this: As a self-proclaimed specialist on Covid-19, I can only support what Maria says. While my impression of other countries has been that people are trying to go around measures and still meet other people. I can say that it is the complete opposite in Germany. (FYI: I am a big fan of stereotypes because I firmly believe that most of them exist for a reason.) As soon as Merkel stepped in front of the nation suggesting we all follow the contact limitation, Germans followed suit. Not meeting outsiders from their households, keeping distance in public and spreading the narrative instead of the virus. Germans have been created to follow rules and if they stand behind them, they embrace them totally.
Another major difference between Germany and countries that have been hit harder by Covid-19, Italy, France and, of course, Spain is the way we greet each other. While Germans prefer the firm handshake and eye contact, Spaniards go for the cheek kisses. That process alone leaves you a lot more vulnerable to a virus than a handshake.
And finally, a big thank you to María Ramos de la Flor for being such a big help and patiently answering all questions I asked her in the past few days.