ANALYSIS: People in Spain are nervous about a second wave, but it’s not all bad news

ANALYSIS: People in Spain are nervous about a second wave, but it's not all bad news
A man wearing a face mask sits at the Sagrada Familia basilica in Barcelona on July 4, 2020. AFP
The number of coronavirus cases in Spain is rising again - particularly in Catalonia and Aragón - and lockdowns are returning. People are understandably nervous and cautious, but it's not all bad news, writes Graham Keeley.

The other day I took the boys to play football at a club in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat.

Nobody outside Barcelona had heard of this place until this week. Now it is national news.

A city of 260,000 inhabitants to the south of the Catalan capital, it is at the centre of a series of outbreaks of coronavirus. 

Authorities have advised residents of three areas of the city to stay indoors but the order is not compulsory. 

A mainly working class, industrial city, its residents are understandably worried. 

Down the road, in the more glamorous streets of Barcelona, the situation is no better. 

More than half of the 938 cases of coronavirus registered in Catalonia on Wednesday, came from the city.

Ada Colau, the left-wing mayor, has said the authority is considering measures to restrict daily life for its 1.5 million inhabitants and tourists in the Mediterranean city in order to try to contain the spread of the pathogen.

However, she stressed she has so far ruled out returning to a full lockdown as happened across Spain in March. 

As King Felipe VI led a moving tribute on Thursday to more than the 28,400 people who have lost their lives to COVID-19 in Spain, the steady trickle of outbreaks fueled fears Spain could be headed towards a second wave of infections. 

El Periodico, the Barcelona-based newspaper, put it perfectly in its online edition: “This number of cases makes us think of the numbers in March when the city was first hit hard by the virus.”

The newspaper went on to clarify what has changed since those grim days when the country closed down. 

Authorities are now carrying out way more PCR tests than at the start of the epidemic so more cases are showing up and they are being more accurately diagnosed. 

Spain´s King Felipe VI (2R) and Queen Letizia (2L) walk at Palma Beach in Palma de Mallorca on June 25, 2020. AFP

Professor Rafael Bengoa, a former director of the World Health Organisation and adviser to the US government on public health, said: “We should expect to be like this for about a year – being attacked and counter-attacking!,” he said. 

“Except for the community transmission we are seeing in Catalonia, the fact that we are controlling outbreaks should give us some confidence, not the contrary.”

He added: “In Europe, the rate of infection has come down 57% and mortality 82%, according to the World Health Organisation. That is a good trend.” 

Spain's health emergency chief Fernando Simón echoed his words, insisting that the outbreaks around the country were “under control”. However, he added that there has been a “certain community transmission” in Catalonia. 

Orders to wear masks in private and public and local lockdowns have been imposed by a growing number of authorities across Spain.

In some cases, these have proved confusing for some local residents and businesses. 

Of course, despite the reassurances from the public health professionals, the steady drip feed of reports of new outbreaks – brotes in Spanish – are no doubt having a psychological effect.

Despite the evidence to the contrary, there is the dread feeling of 'are we heading back to where we came from?' 

It has made people cautious, if not frightened. 

In my case, I have put off travelling even into Barcelona for the moment.

Journeys further afield – unless they are essential – are also to be avoided. Masks are part of daily life at last. One wonders why they were not before.


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