‘Lockdown diaries’: Being a New Yorker in Madrid during Spain’s coronavirus epidemic

Daphne Binioris, a native New Yorker living in Madrid for over a decade, is the woman behind "Lockdown Diaries". Here she shares what life is like under lockdown and how collecting and sharing people's personal stories is keeping her grounded.

'Lockdown diaries': Being a New Yorker in Madrid during Spain's coronavirus epidemic
Perhaps this could work: Daphne Binioris looking out the window in Madrid: Photo by Raphael Hauser

What was your life like just before the lockdown vs. today?

I was busy getting ready for upcoming dance performances, rehearsing every day, and going to castings. I was really nervous about nailing the iconic Dirty Dancing lift, which I was going to perform for a 3,000-person audience at an event in April. I was also training with the theater group Mad Improv and had just landed an (amateur) acting gig.

Now, I’m home. All of my art-related jobs have been canceled and the dance studios I train at are of course closed. I’m trying to keep in shape at home and stretch outside on my little balcony when the sun’s out. I’m also extremely grateful to be able to work remotely, and I’ve been pouring my creative energy into VeraContent and Naked Madrid.

How are you coping? 

Sharing people’s stories has helped me stay grounded. When the lockdown first hit here (a full month ago!?), it was such a strange and unsettling time for all of us, and it was really difficult to describe how it felt to people outside Madrid. So I decided to launch a series called the “Lockdown Diaries” on Naked Madrid. I just asked a few of my contacts to fill out a simple Q&A. As soon as I published the first diary by Cat Powell on March 16th, new submissions came flooding in, and the series took off!

Shortly after “Lockdown Diaries” launched, writer Daniel Catalan came on board and started helping me capture compelling stories from people of all walks of life, from local artists to small business owners. Dan even reached out to a doctor treating COVID patients and interviewed a guy named Travis who was quarantined with his ex

With all the ups and downs we’ve experienced this past month (Dan has been stranded alone in the Basque Country this whole time), working on this ongoing series has helped keep us sane. It gives us a sense of purpose, keeps us connected to people, and reminds us that we’re not alone in this.

I’m also coping by binge-watching Netflix series (I highly recommend Sex Education, Pose, and the mini-series Unorthodox), making large pots of ginger tea, dancing every day, and sharing a bottle of wine or La Virgen beer with my partner every night.

How has the lockdown impacted your industry?

The dance world has completely shut down, and it’s devastating. Most artists are in a tragic situation right now… That being said, it’s pretty incredible how dancers around the world are coming together to help each other through this, by live-streaming classes and performances for free. I hope we take this sense of comradery with us after this is all over. 

On the other hand, the content and marketing industry – where my company comes into play – is doing just fine. Our team works remotely year round and collaborates with freelancers all over the world, so it was just a matter of sending a WhatsApp message to let everyone know to stop coming to the office.

Have you noticed any acts of kindness or uplifting things recently?

Of course, tons. What journalist Leah Pattem is doing on her website Madrid No Frills is extraordinary. She’s advocating for people like migrants and the homeless who are in dire situations and receiving almost no help. Please check out her channels and support her if you can.

And so many people are trying to find ways to support small businesses by buying gift certificates, ordering online, and giving them shout-outs on the internet. This hits close to home for me because my family owns a coffee shop in New York City which, of course, is currently closed. Small businesses have been severely impacted and those love letters on social media and kind gestures do help. 

Who are you in quarantine with? Any advice for people in your similar situation?

I’m in quarantine with my two cats and my partner. My advice is to give each other a lot of space. And my best tip: take your phones off the table (and out of sight) when you’re having dinner or sharing a bottle of wine. Also, cats are the best quarantine companions. Now I know what their life is like year round!

Have there been any comical moments in this unprecedented time?

Watching my cats do ninja tricks around the house is pretty hilarious. And getting my whole family on Zoom has been quite entertaining, from the screen freezing constantly to everybody talking at the same time…

What goals are you hoping to achieve as our time in lockdown continues?

Life is funny sometimes. Just a month ago I was getting ready to dance on stage but right now I want to focus on my company and continue compiling stories and insights from people I respect. I’m even launching a new series on another online publication I manage, The Content Mix, which will focus on the takeaways that businesses can carry with them after the crisis has passed. We’ve all had to overcome major obstacles lately, and I think we should make the most of the lessons learned moving forward.

What’s the first thing you’ll do once this lockdown is over?

I’ll go straight to my dance studio, Escuela Mayor de Danza. Then I’ll get a plane ticket and go visit my family in NYC and have a coffee at my family’s cafe, The Hungarian Pastry Shop.

Do you have any tips for how you can help those in need?

If you can help others in any way, that’s wonderful. But my sister told me something recently that I totally agree with: “Just take care of yourself right now and be a voice of reason.” Staying safe and sound during this time is enough. You don’t have to be a hero. You can help later on if you’re not in a position to at the moment.

What’s going on in your hometown and would you like to send them a message?

Stay home, New York.

Daphne Binioris is a native New Yorker who has been living in Madrid for over a decade. She’s the co-founder of multilingual content agency VeraContent and editor of online publications Naked Madrid and The Content Mix. She’s also a professional dancer.

Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram. Find Naked Madrid on FacebookIG and LinkedIn and check out all Madrid lockdown diaries





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EXPLAINED: Spain’s new rules for unvaccinated non-EU tourists

Unvaccinated third-country nationals such as Americans and Britons are now allowed to go on holiday to Spain. Here are the requirements, documentation needed and other important information they should know before booking their flights to Spain. 

EXPLAINED: Spain's new rules for unvaccinated non-EU tourists

What’s the latest?

Spain has opened up to unvaccinated non-EU/Schengen tourists for the first time in more than two years.

Previously it was not possible for third-country nationals to visit Spain for non-essential reasons such as a holiday, seeing family or spending time in a second home in Spain unless they were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (plus booster after 9 months) or recovered from the illness in the past six months. 

From May 21st 2022, unvaccinated tourists and other visitors from outside of the EU can travel to Spain if they show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, the Spanish government confirmed on Saturday. These are the same rules that apply to EU nationals and residents.

Spain’s testing requirements for non-EU/Schengen tourists apply to those aged 12 and older, children under that age are exempt from having to prove testing, vaccination or recovery.

What kind of Covid test do I need to get done to travel to Spain?

In scientific terms, Spain wants a diagnostic test that’s either a NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test, such as an RT-PCR, RT-LAMP, TMA) or a RAT (rapid antigen test).

In layman’s terms, that’s either a PCR test, which must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain, or an antigen test, 24 hours prior to departure.

Covid tests accepted are those authorised by the European Commission and must have been performed by healthcare professionals, therefore self-tests are not valid. 

What do I need to show to travel to Spain if I’m unvaccinated?

You need to show an official certificate or supporting document which shows the negative result of your Covid test. Your country may have a system in place that allows you to upload your negative result to an app. 

The document must be the original, in Spanish, English, French or German, and may be shown in paper or electronic format. If you can’t get it in these languages, it must be accompanied by a translation into Spanish by an official body.

The document that accredits the diagnostic test has to include the date the sample was taken, identification and contact details of the centre performing the analysis, technique used and negative result.

Spanish authorities recognise the UK’s NHS Covid Pass and others that fulfil the above criteria. 

Do I need to fill out a health control form?

This depends. Currently, 40 non-EU countries (and territories) have joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate system, based on EU equivalence decisions. 

That means that people from these nations who have a vaccination, testing or recovery certificate issued by the competent authorities of their country do not need to fill in Spain’s Travel Health form.

The countries with EU Digital Covid Certificate equivalence are Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Benin, Cabo Verde, Colombia, El Salvador, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Indonesia, Israel, Iceland, Jordan, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Tunisia, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man), Uruguay, The Vatican and Vietnam.You can also double-check here in case more countries are added.

If your non-EU country isn’t on the list then you have to fill in the SPTH form and upload your test certificate, which gives you a QR Code you’ll be asked for at the airport. 

READ MORE: A step-by-step guide on how to fill out Spain’s Health Control Form

Do I have to wear a mask on the plane?

Yes, you will most likely be required to wear a mask on the planes to and from Spain, although you don’t have to wear one inside Spanish airports anymore.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s mask rules for travel?

Is there any other travel rule I need to know about?

If you’re not an EU citizen or resident, then you should check if you require a Schengen visa to travel to Spain, as this will depend on your nationality.

Keep in mind that you will also have to abide by other Schengen rules, such as not being able to spend more than 90 out of 180 days in Spain and other Schengen countries.

Does Spain still have domestic Covid-19 rules?

Spain has lifted the vast majority of its Covid-19 rules, so there are no longer curfews, forced closures, limits on the number of people per shop or restaurant or Covid pass requirements to gain entry to buildings. 

Masks are no longer required outdoors and there is no face covering mandate for the majority of indoor public settings, except for on public transport, in hospitals, pharmacies, other health clinics and care homes.

READ MORE: What happens when tourists get Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain?