Published on March 31, 2020
It’s important for each and every one of us to cooperate with national safety restrictions, and stay at home as much as possible to avoid the spread of COVID-19 and protect communities.
“We couldn't really believe that it was actually happening and then it finally came here,” says Jose Abad, a medical reporter for El País newspaper in Madrid, Spain referring to his disbelief of coronavirus in Italy spreading to Spain, which quickly accelerated to become a global pandemic.
Jose and Maria de Bofarull, a Patient Power team member in Barcelona, join Andrew Schorr to shed light on what communities and families are doing as Spain tightens its nationwide lockdown. Watch as they describe life under coronavirus restrictions, with millions of people confined to their homes, and ways they’re keeping up their spirits.
Transcript | Life in Spain Under Coronavirus Lockdown
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Recorded March, 16, 2020
Hello, Andrew Schorr here for Patient Power in Southern California. But as you know, one of the countries that has been locked down, if you will, related to coronavirus right now is Spain. And so, joining us are two guests from Spain, one reporter with the very large newspaper in Madrid, El País, and that is Jose Abad and also Maria de Bofarull, who is a regular Patient Power team member, and she joins us from Barcelona. Welcome to both of you. So, first of all, Jose, how would you describe the situation now in Spain? I said locked down, that's really accurate, isn't it?
Jose Manuel Abad:
It is absolutely accurate, Andrew. We are facing a situation that we have never seen before. I say that most of the countries actually under a complete lockdown, meaning that most of stores are shuttered. And you just see empty streets. Just behind me, there is a big avenue that normally is crowded, there are several traffic jams at different times during the day, and now it's basically empty. And we are in this situation since last Friday because how our government dictated on what we call a state of alarm, meaning that there is certain freedom of movement that it's no longer in force. So we are not allowed to get out our workplaces except for going to job, to our workplace, our guests going to the grocery or a pharmacy or chemist, but that's all. We're not allowed to, I don't know, meeting friends, meeting our family members is no longer authorized here.
Jose, do you think that the typical Spaniard now understands how serious it is and these rules are so important?
Jose Manuel Abad:
I think that this is something that people have been getting more and more aware, but it hasn't been so simple. I would say that even myself, working as a reporter, so logically I have an access to do the news in the first place. Even to me, it was quite unbelievable the situation, because there's something completely unheard of here. So, the first day of the state of alarm, there are several people that didn't actually understand why they couldn't get out of their places, and they have been actually fined by the police. So I must say that now we are getting aware of what the situation is. And honestly, for the American audience that is now listening and seeing me, watching me, I would say that please take this seriously, because it's really, really important for every one of us to cooperate to avoid the dissemination and the spread of this disease.
Thank you for that message. So, Maria, you are now outside Barcelona, but your family is very big, like 22 people with brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, and you have aging parents. So how are you carrying on family life when there are these restrictions?
Maria de Bofarull:
Well, thankfully we all have Zoom or Skype or FaceTime, so we see each other a lot, and we have a WhatsApp group with my siblings, so we text constantly. But it's weird, something that you take for granted, like going outside to buy some bread or just going out, you cannot do it. And obviously having aging parents, there are some needs that we need to take care of. So if we need groceries or we need some meds, I'm the one that goes out, because supposedly my immune system will be stronger than theirs, so you work with it.
So, Maria, what about family relations in staying positive? How do you do that? Because there can be a lot of anxiety with this and for the children too.
Maria de Bofarull:
Well I don't have children myself, but I have tons of nephews and nieces, and they are actually going to school on video conferences during the same hours that they would be at school. They have classes with their teachers that they have to attend, so they're keeping busy. Obviously, it's not the same, because they are at home. So they're not allowed to go outside. They're not allowed to play a soccer, football for us, they're not allowed to do that. So it's stressful. But I think they are making it work. There are tons of people in the city where the—yideos that we can see from Italy. I've received videos from people in Madrid, from people in Barcelona that basically open their doors, the windows and just put music on so they can at least share the time. In here, in the country, it is true, we live in a house surrounded by some garden, so it's not as easy, but still we do have the ability to go outside and walk for a bit within our homes, so it's nice. You make it work.
Jose, let me ask you about that. So people still want to get some exercise or fresh air. So in Spain, and you're in the capital city Madrid, how can people do that but still be at distance?
Jose Manuel Abad:
Yeah, I think people are getting more and more aware that we should keep a distance between each other. For instance, when we have to get grocery, it's only one family member that are allowed to go there, yes, for instance. There is a funny thing among all this mayhem, that it's very funny, is that people aren't allowed to walk their dogs, so that's funny thing. Not children, but the dogs aren't allowed to out there. So there are plenty of jokes through the Internet, people renting their dogs. For instance, for me, I don't have a dog now, and actually now I miss it because if I had one, I should be allowed to walk him. It's very funny. But I think, yeah, people are getting more and more conscious, but it's a very, very gradual process.
It's very interesting. I think, I don't know, in two, three years’ time when we look back to this situation, we'll be really surprised in how difficult it is to convince people that this measure, this state of home rules are important and relevant. So I understand that other countries, people in other countries, haven't assumed that they have also to respect the kind of rule. Because we in Spain, we make jokes about what was happening in Italy—not making jokes in a bad way, but just saying, I mean, we couldn't really believe that it was actually happened, and then it finally came here.
Right, right. And it's coming to the U.S. probably as well. So Maria referred to something about seeing videos from Italy and other places where people are playing music out their terrace and opening the windows and all that. Is anything happening in Spain for people to make the best of it?
Jose Manuel Abad:
Yes, there's a very nice thing. If you live in Spain, you know very well that Spain is known to have a very good public healthcare system. And actually, the healthcare professionals, the practitioner and nurses and the ambulance drivers, all of them are doing such a great job. That every day about 8 in evening, we just open our windows and clap our hands. It's amazing, because for instance, I live in a—as I told you—by a huge avenue, it's a very huge avenue. I can personally listen to people in their balconies, clapping hands and just saying hooray for practitioners. So it's a way of keeping our spirits up in a way. And also, I don't know, as Maria has mentioned before, we try to keep in touch with our siblings and family members thanks to the Internet, to WhatsApp which is very popular here in Spain. And we try to pass the day, to spend our time the best as we can.
Jose, one other question for you because I know you as not just a journalist, but as a medical reporter. So you've been around science for years. Are you hopeful that the scientists can help us defeat this virus?
Jose Manuel Abad:
I don't know if I'm hopeful, but I know I have to be hopeful, because whatever happens, the solution will come from scientists, that's all we know. We don't know if it's going to be in a month of term or in two months or within a year. We don't know, we're completely ignorant about that. But what we know is that actually there are two ways to fight in this situation, the first one is the same collaboration as we're doing here in Spain and other places in the world.
And the other most important is related to support, scientific research to go with this situation. It's very interesting because since this, our situation has spread out in Spain. I've been reading about this kind of situation in the past, and I have been reading about the Spanish flu which took place nearly a century ago, or rather a century ago. And interestingly, the situation was quite similar in certain aspects. People couldn't really believe that it was happening at all. And it was actually the researchers who little by little help it to overcome that terrible situation, and I'm sure it's going to be the same this time.
Okay, the importance of science. Maria, the last comment from you, so you are there with your aging parents and you have your virtual connections with your brothers, sisters and nieces and nephews. Do you feel like you can keep a positive spirit and get through this?
Maria de Bofarull:
Yes, because like Jose mentioned, something that has been very clear from a couple of days ago, fortunately, is that together we can get through it. So you just keep positive. And if you have a moment where you break down, someone else will send you a joke online. Or without even knowing that you needed it, someone will send something to you, it's automatic. So it's easy to try and keep spirits. But like Jose said, it's very important that people understand that you have to stay home. It's not a choice. It's an obligation. Not for you, but for your neighbors, for your aging parents, for the aging parents of your best friends. You need to stay home. It's not easy.
It's obviously not what we choose, because it's not the same as when you decide I'm not going out this weekend, I'm just going to be lazy at home. It's not the same, this time you cannot go out. It's not a choice, but you got to do it ,because it's your responsibility. And in a couple of weeks, in a couple of months, hopefully in a couple of years, we'll think about this, we'll remember it, and we'll laugh about it. And we'll tell our kids, our grandkids and we'll say, "You remember a few years ago, we stayed home. So you can stay home for a couple of days, because you've got a fever. We stayed home for at least 15 days. You can do this." So I think we'll be fine. We've gone through worse, this is nothing. We'll get through it.
Well, I want to thank you for really giving us the perspective from Spain, Jose Abad, thank you. And thanks for the reporting you do that I'm sure informs people throughout your country. And thank you for informing us today and all the best to you. Maria, joining us from near Barcelona, Jose in Madrid.
Maria with your family and your being—we should make it clear, she's a key member of the Patient Power team and yet has this big family there and juggles her work with her family, and now the issues that Spain is going through that we have to learn from in America and in other countries. Thank you both for being with us, Jose and Maria, and we wish you all the best for you and your loved ones and your country. I'm Andrew Schorr. Remember, knowledge can be the best medicine of all
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