How are you coping with COVID?

The situation here in Spain (I've been living in Barcelona for the last three years) has been pretty dire with the highest per-capita infection rate in the world. We've been under lockdown for the last few weeks. Luckily we have a dog. That gives us a legitimate reason to go for a walk. Even that wasn't allowed for most people.

On Sunday, the first restrictions were lifted and parents were allowed to take their kids out for a few hours. It will probably be a gradual process of returning to normalcy.

Spain, and Barcelona in particular, has a very tourism-dependent economy, so for many people, especially those on zero-hours contracts in hospitality, it's very tough.

On the upside, there are almost no cars in the streets and pollution has fallen dramatically. The city government is converting some streets into pedestrian areas and hoping to make these changes permanent.

How is the situation where you live?



  • I live in Belgium, which is a banana republic in and of itself. We've been under lockdown light (yes yes, that's what they are calling it!) since beginning of March. But as the weather has been nice, and the vast majority of the populace (its 50% human stupidity and 50% our politicians being utter and total jackasses) is completely ignoring the rules, they've decided to start lifting what passes for a lockdown.

    It's going to end BADLY, and I could write quite a lenghty piece about governmental incompetence and general stupidity of this county in the matter, but I will spare you all of that.

    I work from home and am quite the recluse as is, so for me personally not a lot has changed. I just hope that this won't be used to turn Belgium in some kind of authoritarian regime where privacy has completely vanished. It's definitely something a lot of our politicians are very vocally dreaming about. Someone needs to tell them 1984 and V fo Vendetta and assorted movies are NOT a manual.

  • Here in Israel, it's a freak show. Right now, the mortality count has hit the 200 mark (201 to be exact). Every third victim comes from retirement homes that our Ministry of Health refused to test for quite a long time. That alone can give you an idea of the Ministry's skills - and this moronic institution has ruled the country for a month and a half, their Director General acting as a General Dictator. No more!

    We have absurd rules and restrictions: people can't go for more than 100m away from home, but they can if they are in outdoor sports. And if they are out for grocery, they can go wherever they want - provided they have masks on. Etc., etc.

    Personally, I have to work at home, and I hate it with all my guts. Haven't seen my family since March, 13.

    Things are slowly getting back to normal. Hope everyone is safe and as cheerful as it gets. We'll get stronger out of this mess (probably).

  • edited April 2020

    I'm fine (I think); Academia is a pretty secluded life so there has been only some change to my usual routine really. Two years in the Fens writing helped train me for this and my mental condition is optimal for isolation and productivity- I have a lot of research work and editing to do.

    We are in a condition of 'lockdown' following a large minority of people's failure to follow government advice, necessitating more draconian measures. I share Hilde's concerns that the government could use this (at the insistence and encouragement of another rather vocal minority, aided and abetted by the police) to expand the powers of the state even further into normal life.

  • I'm not so sure. I talked with @Hilde about this earlier - I'm skeptical that Belgium, which is not the most efficiently-run country in the world, could manage to roll out an effective mass surveillance program. Same here in Spain. You should see the software they have us use to do our taxes. I get Windows 3.1 vibes from it.

    The Dutch government put out a tender for a corona-tracking app, which apparently they have in South Korea, but none of the proposals met the conditions. Now the Health Ministry is talking about developing its own app. The Dutch government doesn't have an awful track record when it comes to IT, it's just very slow. By the time its app is done, the crisis will likely have passed and there's no reason or excuse anymore to force it on people.

    Of course, a lot depends on who's in power. I'm more worried about how the likes of Netanyahu, Orban and Trump are using this crisis. Netanyahu, as I understand it (@lord_k, correct me if I'm wrong) has essentially shielded himself from prosecution while he remains prime minister. Orban has dissolved parliament in Hungary. Trump goes from claiming "total" power one day to zero responsibility the next.

  • Well I didn't say they'd be efficient :p

  • Regarding the political aspect. Here it was rather dystopian/Piecraftian in the first weeks of the crisis, less so now, electronic surveillance banned by Supreme Court, Ministry of Health's dictatorship terminated, and Netanyahu trial due to start as soon as on May, 17.

  • That idiot mass surveillance plan has been a long time in the making, and they only got away with it thanks to mass corruption on an EU level.

    Verhofstadt is a member of the Open VLD, and they're the driving force behind this 1984 dystopian bullshit. Of course, the NVA has a bunch of crazy fascists that would like nothing more than to be able to spy on everyone 24/7 so it wasn't hard to get them on board. And the CD&V will get on board with anything that means cash in personal pocket. And there you have it, that's how a banana republic like Belgium can roll out a mass surveillance scheme...

    Corruption on a large international scale, that's what it boils down to.

  • Some good may come out of this, though. It's terrible for everyone who works, or worked, in aviation or tourism, but it's not a bad thing for our planet if we all fly less and it's not a bad thing for cities like Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice if tourism doesn't quite recover. Here in Barcelona, there is more short-term housing for tourists in the old city than there is housing for residents.

    As somebody who worked from home even before the crisis, I'm also a big fan of teleworking. I know others miss the social interactions they had with colleagues at work, and we don't all need to work from home five days a week, but it might not be so bad for most people to work from home two or three days per week. People tend to be more productive working from home: they get more done in fewer hours. And they're able to spend more time with their loved ones.

    A dramatic reduction in commutes would also be good for the environment.

  • You know I also work from home, so I will agree with you on that.

    Or at least give people the option to either work from home or at the office. I'm pretty sure that most will choose to work from home, if only to avoid the comute.

    A lot of places seem to suffer from that housing issue. My best friend lives in a popular coastal tourist destination in the UK, which has resulted in housing becoming both scarse AND ridiculously expensive because a lot of property has been bought up to be used as a tourist housing. It's terrible because it's forcing people out of areas they love. Or a lot of people just keep living in their family home indefinitely because it's either that, or moving away from family to another part of the country out of the area.

  • Measures are being slowly relaxed here in Spain. Non-essential small businesses are allowed to reopen and we're allowed to go for non-essential walks!

    Only between certain hours, though. For adults, between 6-10 AM and 8-11 PM. For seniors, from 10 AM to noon and from 7-8 PM. For parents with children, between noon and 7 PM.

    It's nice at night. Summer is coming. In the evening, it's neither too warm nor too cold. There is still no traffic, but there are people out walking. Pedestrians have taken over the city.

  • Quite a lot of traffic here, jams reported here and there, most businesses open (restaurants and cafes closed till the end of May, big shopping malls due to open on May 7), railway still inactive.

  • I remember the traffic in Israel! (Visited twice.) You need more public transit ?

  • We need a human Minister of Transport first of all, not a talking flower pot

  • Oh, he sounds friendly...

    Smotrich is also the co-founder of the NGO Regavim, an organization that monitors and pursues legal action in the Israeli court system against any construction lacking Israeli permits undertaken by Palestinians or Bedouins in Israel and in the West Bank.

  • Here they just allowed haberdashery and fabric stores to reopen because as you may know, in Belgium people are expected to make their own masks. Not that people are wearing masks though, maybe 1 in 25 (no joke, its ridiculous). I am convinced they just make them for the instagram bragging rights and the selfies (in most cases, I'm sure there's also people making them to use them).

    I actually did brave my local Veritas (which carries a lot of haberdashery so is allowed to be open) and NEVER AGAIN 'till this madness ends. All measures were non-measures, and 90% of the people in there were throwing every social distancing rule out of the window. Not that the store was making it easy though, it's not big as is, and they decided it was a good idea to close off most ailes, meaning people had to cross each other to get to the register. In an aile half a meter wide. So swell... If hadn't actually needed elastic to finish masks, I would have avoided it like the plague (but whilst I was there I also got the stuff I needed to finish the spats I'm working on, so there's that). And then the guy at the register found it absolutely neccesary to constantly go on to people about EVERYTHING. How is that even limiting social interaction? He wasn't wearing a mask or gloves either, frankly that shop should be shut down 'till they follow the rules. /end

    I will just spare you all my rant about the post office, our post office is the worst (admitedly it's just a few people working there that just INSIST on making life hard on customers, but I am even less tolerant of that BS than I usually am).

    What I don't get is, how on earth are they hoping to organise this? They're limiting the amount of people in a store, sure, fine, I get that. But that ends up in people queueing in the street. Mostly smack in the middle of the sidewalk. Meaning it is impossible to pass by them within 1.5 meter distance. Now just two stores on our local "high street" are open as well as the pharmacies and the supermarket. The sidewalks are going to be absolutely FULL of people once everything opens again next week. But at the same time the little playground, where there is a ridiculous amount of space between the wobbly horses kids can go on AND the benches near them, has been closed off with tape.

    How they are going to sort this with the malls is absolutely beyond me to be honest.

    Masks will be mandatory on public transport, and if you enter a train station. Let's see how long that will last, considering how few people wear them as is, even in situations where they should be wearing them.

    I swear you guys, I live in a goddamn ridiculous banana republic with absolute lack of common sense. Our politicians are corrupt and get away with all their crap because without joke 85% of the people that live here are just too stupid to realise what's going on around them. It's literally the kind of person that doesn't get why they should change their lives "because they're not sick" and that are falling over themselves to be first in line to get a haircut when the salons open up again.

    I can just see the new cases spike in 2-3 weeks time after most places open up next Monday...

    I plan on becoming an eccentric recluse that only goes for walks in the nature preserve at this rate...

    Or move to Barcelona, Barcelona sounds cool :)

  • My! You'd think people would be more responsible.

    The stereotype is that Spanish people are careless, but we were just taking the dog on our state-sanctioned evening stroll and pretty much everyone kept a reasonable distance from each other.

    Same in the supermarket, where they put pieces of tape on the floor in front of the counters to keep everyone 1.5 meters apart and the security person is counting the number of shoppers at the door. If it's too full, you have to wait outside - again, 1.5 meters apart.

  • "What I don't get is, how on earth are they hoping to organise this? They're limiting the amount of people in a store, sure, fine, I get that. But that ends up in people queueing in the street."

    Now, @Hilde , a big Hello from the Promised Land. In my town, people are nice. They keep distance. They stand on green marks. They don't (at least try not to) bump into each other once they enter the store. But in giant supermarkets, it's totally different. Chaos rules.

  • The art galleries and boutiques on our street have opened again. In other parts of Spain, bars and restaurants are allowed to open their terraces (not indoors yet) at 50 percent capacity - but sadly not yet in Barcelona and Madrid.

  • Australia hasn't fared too badly with covid, the federal and state governments having acted sensibly for the most part. We've had 97 deaths, 27 of them cruise ship passengers and crew. My state of Queensland has done even better where we've had 6 deaths. Restrictions are starting to ease and coffee shops and restaurants can open with a maximum of ten customers at a time.

    For me personally it hasn't changed my life much but I'll take advantage of the easing restrictions to meet friends for coffee. The writing groups I'm in have been meeting via Zoom and we've been supporting each other through that and social media.

  • @Ottens you'd think so wouldn't you! I am not leaving the house unless I have to. I have to tomorrow to go order my new bike (I'm getting an electric folding bike because especially now it can be a right pain to park the cargo bike), which I HAVE to do in store because I want to get it local. Getting it local means I get a few free check up and repairs and warranty at a place I can get to myself easily (the advantage of having a cargo bike is that a folding bike fits in it), rather than having to deal with a place halfway across country. My plan is to be there right when it opens and hope that most locals can't be bothered to be at the shop at 9am Wish me luck, for I have THE FEAR (I also have a mask and 99% alcohol, so there's that).

  • It turns out that in my town, a lot of people are using Covid as an excuse to discriminate against people with a disability (as they often need help getting around). As someone with an invisible disability, who from time to time also needs help, I am not ok with this, and I've already contacted the state office that deals with the issue of discrimination. I mean for pete's sake, this isn't the olden times where the disabled were hidden away from polite society!

  • Well, we're "back to normal" (almost). Used a bus today, for the first time in two moths. Would be happy to take a train to my office, but there are no trains until May, 31, and my line will open only in mid-June, maybe later, thanks to Ministry of Health's open sabotage of government resolutions.

  • Oh that sounds like such a pain @lord_k! Here busses and trains are running. You have to wear a face mask to use the trains and when entering a train station (and whilst in the train station too of course) but I'm not sure what other measurements are in place. I have not taken a train since before Covid-19 happened so I have no idea. I only hear about the face masks on the news, and our news is known to be very unreliable.

  • Just as our news. We have to wear masks in public transit, max. number of passengers limited to 20, no minibuses, no shuttle services (uneconomical to run with every second seat empty).

  • It's fascinating reading all your accounts from different countries - and seeing a very common thread - our goverments are incompetent, people are not paying attention to health advice, etc. It's much the same here in the US, with our own quirks.

    I'm in Rhode Island - about 2.5hrs north of the epicenter in NYC. We're calling it a "lockdown" here too - but we seem to have few limits. There is no limit to how far we can travel from our homes. Parks are closed, schools are closed, most daycares are closed, and non-essential businesses are closed - but the criteria for "essential" is so broad, that Game-Stop (video game store) tried to stay open!

    The main difference for me in my daily life is school being closed. I have two kids - and Rhode Island is trying to do a full school day's material virtually - and have parents assist. My oldest has special needs (he's autistic) and my youngest is in first grade, and still at that age where everything requires a lot of explaining. Teaching them feels like trying to split myself in two most days.

    What seems to be happening in the US that's just plain WEIRD, is wearing a mask, and taking the virus seriously has become a political statement. Liberals wear them almost universally, but to many conservatives, not wearing a mask is a show of bravery or American strength (This virus can't get us... We're MURICANS!) I've been apolitical most of my adult life. But much of my family back down south are Trump supporters, and I sense a very weird attitude from them when I mention making masks and selling them (at cost) to help during the crisis. Kind of an "Oh dear, how much money are you going to lose doing that?"

    The scary thing here is - the virus pretty much ravaged New York City - and that was WITH people doing a great job social distancing, paying attention to health officials, etc. Other states contain both people and governors who are doing the opposite, and then they are reopening while cases are still going up. These places tend to be more rural - much sparser population - will that save them from getting a spike, or not?

    America is so big, and our response is so disjointed, that we simply have no idea what's in the future - but I don't believe we're at the peak yet.

    It's rather stressful. My husband and I cope by watching a lot of what we call "Apocalypse TV" - various Late Night TV host's comedy rants on what's happening. Sarcastic laughter is the best medicine (to prevent banging ones head on the wall, or crying!)

  • It's a similar story in California, where most of my colleagues live. (I worked remote even before this crisis. Now we all do.) The state has done everything right, they've been in lockdown for two months. And still the number of cases isn't going down.

    The politicization of this is outrageous. I know some far-right politicians here in Europe tried. First they accused their respective government of underestimating the disease when it emerged. Now they are accusing governments of blowing it out of proportion and arguing lockdowns must be lifted faster. It's like they'll oppose whatever the government does, no matter what it does. ?

  • I'm sorry to hear your life is also been made difficult by Covid-19 @auralynne (welcome btw :)).

    I will agree with the right that the government underestimated (or in the case of Belgium purposely downplayed, with disastrous and deadly concequences) but I will also agree with @Ottens that this point they are just opposing whatever the government does. Which I find incredibly counter productive.

  • Life appears to be returning to normal here. It's getting busier in the streets. Small stores are allowed to reopen, provided they don't let in more than X number of customers.

    More cars too, which is unfortunate.

  • I am very sorry to hear about some of you, my dear friends, suffering. Marian and I love you all. We are lucky because we are retired (fixed income without work) and reclusive by nature. Here in the US, the situation is... well... full orange! However, we live in rather sparsely populated Lawton, Oklahoma, where the infection rate has been low. My wife Marian, a native German, has strong opinions concerning how governments make decisions. She says that there are three fundamental problems: greed, corruption and religion. I agree!

  • We're allowed to go for a walk on the beach, but not sunbathe. It's still unclear to me if one is technically allowed to go for a swim - which would be nice, it's getting hot here!

    The city government is preparing a plan to reopen the beaches completely while respecting social distancing. It may be that there will be a maximum capacity per beach. They're separated by piers.

    The national government has said tourism can probably resume in July.

    We'll see. It's a huge industry here. Missing an entire summer season would be a huge blow to restaurants, hotels, and not just everybody who works in hospitality but a lot of shops that normally get part of their income from tourists.

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