OPINION: Th excitement and nerves of emerging from lockdown in Spain

Sue Wilson shares her excitement and surprising nerves at emerging from Spain's lockdown to take her first walk.

OPINION: Th excitement and nerves of emerging from lockdown in Spain
A woman looks at the sunset on the first day walks were allowed in Spain. Photo: AFP

As I stepped outside my front door on Saturday, after weeks of lockdown, it was with mixed emotions. Like millions of people across Spain, I was eagerly anticipating my first walk, having been no further than the rubbish bins for seven weeks. Sharing the experience with my husband was a bonus.

On a beautiful spring morning, in our beautiful village, the feeling of freedom was one I had expected. The feeling of nervousness was one I had not.

Lockdown has caused many of us to consider what we’ve most been looking forward to once restrictions are lifted. The simple pleasures in life – such as taking a stroll with my other half – rank high on my list. It never occurred to me that going for a walk might make me concerned for our safety.

The ways in which we’ve come to terms with lockdown – both the implementation and de-escalation – vary a lot according to our age, personal circumstance and even personality.

Those living in flats will have experienced a very different lockdown to those with gardens. The experience of city dwellers will not reflect that of those living in the countryside. Families will have reacted differently to those isolated and alone.

Reactions of the elderly and vulnerable will not match those of the young and healthy. Our personal lockdown experiences are as varied as our lifestyles and characters.

Some people will have thrown themselves into new hobbies, others will have ticked off a long list of rainy-day chores. Some, myself included, have managed to do neither. I soon came to realise that the chores were being put off for lack of will, not lack of time. My garden remains un-weeded; my curtains remain un-laundered.

Social media has fuelled the theory that we’re failing if we don’t take full advantage of the lockdown. We should all emerge having learned five new languages, how to paint like Picasso, or having written a play worthy of Shakespeare. I exaggerate slightly.

My favourite Twitter response is that the true objective of lockdown is to survive lockdown. Or, as another commentator remarked, there are only two ways to come out of lockdown – dead or alive.

Not only have I survived lockdown, but I’ve almost enjoyed it and have found it easier than expected. What’s not to enjoy about peace and quiet, quality time with family, the reduction in pollution and the blossoming of nature? Perhaps, most important of all, at home I’ve felt safe.

My once-weekly visit to the supermarket has quickly become the new normal for me. Our local store has limited customer numbers and provides hand sanitiser and gloves.

However, regardless of how careful the staff have been, the customers haven’t always followed suit. With each new week of lockdown, my desire to go out has waned and the experience has become increasingly nerve-wracking as the scale of the crisis has grown.

I’m not a nervous person by nature. I’m up for a challenge and open to change, so feeling tense at the prospect of going for a walk – something I was eagerly awaiting – rather surprised me.

We shouldn’t underestimate how scary the de-escalation plans are for many people, especially the most vulnerable. This deadly virus has made us all rethink our priorities, our feelings and our behaviour.

It will take a while before my feelings of freedom completely override my nervousness, when I step outside.

It will take even longer before the excitement of having others close – when permitted – overrides the fear of having them too close. As the prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, says, we’re all going to have to adjust to a “new normality”, perhaps for many months to come.

As we come to terms with Covid, and adjust to further restrictions being lifted, we can expect to feel more conflicting emotions. Caution is sensible – we all need to feel and be safe – but we mustn’t let fear prevent us from living.

I don’t know whether I’ll venture out daily, as permitted, but knowing I have the freedom to do so is welcome and valued. The lifting of restrictions gives me cause for optimism about the crisis and the measures put in place by the Spanish government to keep us safe. Stay alert to the dangers, by all means, but stay alert to the pleasures and opportunities too.

I might be nervous, but I’m fit and healthy, and I’m still here. Those not so fortunate would want us to live the lives they cannot. I don’t intend to let them down!

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain



Member comments

  1. Very well written Sue and I’m sure that many of us are feeling the same way. It’s Monday and my husband and I still haven’t even been outside the house to go for a walk! Keep well.

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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.