On Sunday 15th March 2020, the residents of Spain awoke to find ourselves in Quarantine. There was much confusion at first as the public address on Saturday evening from Pedro Sánchez, President of the Spanish government, had advised that restrictions on the movement of people wouldn’t come into force until Monday morning. However, when the State of Emergency decree was published at midnight, all restrictions came into force immediately.
This was disappointing to say the least. I, like many others, had spent Saturday evening on the terrace of a bar-cafeteria, enjoying a “last supper” and alcoholic refreshments, making the most of those last few precious hours before the bar, along with all other hostelry and non-essential establishments had to shut up shop for the next two weeks. This while following news sites on my mobile for the latest developments and watching the President’s address on the bar television along with the proprietors. Like many others, I thought I would have Sunday to enjoy a last walk in the fresh air along the South Tenerife coastline.
I began my Sunday morning in good spirits with a high protein breakfast and an enthusiastic post to my friends on Facebook saying “Hey, who wants to come for a walk with me while we still can?”. That was when I realised the quarantine restrictions had already kicked in and my high spirits crashed to the ground with an audible shatter. Nothing for it but to hunker down then and embrace my confinement.
Clearly many people didn’t get the memo, or didn’t think it applied to them. Similarly frustrated friends and neighbours began distributing images on social media of runners, cyclists, couples and groups leisurely enjoying the open streets and socialising as though the rules didn’t apply to them. The more canny of the non-compliant strolled along wielding empty shopping bags so they could argue they were going to the supermarket if questioned.
Going to the supermarket is indeed a valid reason to go out under the quarantine rules, as is going to the pharmacy, the doctor, to walk a dog, to go to work and to put fuel in the car. However, these essential outings must all be kept to a minimum and individually, meaning only one person from each household! So even waving empty shopping bags doesn’t work as an excuse for couples to go out for a stroll together.
As the day progressed, social media informed that the police, now under direct control of the military, were patrolling the streets of towns and tourist areas, clearing the streets and beaches and sending home the people who had no justification to be out. By late afternoon reports started coming in that the police effort was working and there were visibly fewer people in the streets.
As for my Sunday afternoon, I had a different plan in mind. The reason for the quarantine is, of course, COVID-19, that new strain of Coronavirus that has been declared a global pandemic and is responsible for fights breaking out in supermarket aisles over toilet rolls all across our “civilised” nations. Statistically, CV-19 has claimed a fraction of the mortalities that normal influenza claims every year and most of those infected, particularly the fit and otherwise healthy, have experienced only mild symptoms and recovered quickly. In that context the levels of panic and government responses to the virus seem disproportionate and, as a result, conspiracy theories are spreading as fast as the infection. Was CV-19 a biological warfare experiment from Wuhan, China? Did China release the virus deliberately to bring down Western economies and position itself as the new world superpower? Did our own governments engineer the outbreak to control the population through fear and distract us from other dodgy goings on that “they” don’t want us to know about?
I straightened out the creases in my tinfoil hat and snuggled up on the sofa to rewatch “Utopia”. If you haven’t seen it I strongly recommend it. “Utopia” is a UK series that aired on Channel 4 in 2013 and 2014 about a mysteriously prophetic graphic novel that draws a group of geeky misfits into a world of high-level conspiracy, engineered flu outbreaks and nefarious vaccines. It’s a bit gruesome and disturbing in places but an excellent series. My geeky mind just had to watch it again under the circumstances and by the time I went to bed on Sunday night, I had finished the first season!