IT’S six days into lockdown in the Spanish capital and as the number of cases of Covid-19 continues to soar, the streets are all but dead, though there are curious pockets of activity which make the clamp down seem at times like a matter of personal choice.
Major construction work continues unabated with workers wearing masks as they plough on with the vital business of putting up the new Vicente Calderon football stadium as well as apartment blocks around the city.
Those involved are not crazy about being at large, but they do point out that staying home won’t put food on the table.
Then there are a number of young people flitting from house to house to visit friends or meeting up in groups in parks to smoke joints and keep boredom at bay, something the mounted police chases and the police reports – more than 50 on Wednesday, according to Cadena Sur – will have accomplished if briefly.
But the most prolific demographic on the streets are the dog walkers. They have taken over the city, suggesting that while markets tank, there could be good money in pets.
“That’s what you see most,” says Luis Perez. “People with dogs and they cross the street when you get close.”
Meanwhile, older people and little ones appear to be shut firmly away in their homes. But it’s not all doom and gloom for the elderly. In an old people’s home called Los Llanos Vital in the town of Alpedrete in the Sierra outside Madrid, the residents have taken the matter of boosting morale into their own hands and set up a radio station called Radio Vital.
Teleyoga and laps of the living room are all very well but nothing beats a little personal interaction even if your dance partner happens to be on the other side of the street
There is information on their day-to-day lives in isolation and interviews with the aim of providing ‘a bridge between them and their families, besides valuing a section of the population such as that of the elderly who have so much to say.’
Even more vulnerable and voiceless are the homeless. Without anyone on the streets to give them change or any resources to help them self-isolate, their situation is more challenging than most.
Recognising the dilemma, City Hall is offering to house 150 in IFEMA, Madrid’s biggest venue for fair and congresses, providing beds and facilities for washing as well as alternative accommodation for those infected with the coronavirus.
The rest of us are like cuckoo clocks, emerging onto the balconies of our homes at specific times of the day to clap for the health workers, listen to the national anthem, bang pots and pans over the €100 million the former King Juan Carlos has stashed away in Switzerland, and party. Who knows what romances and friendships could arise from these unprecedented circumstances? Or, indeed, hostilities?
Referring to the nightly jamboree, British journalist Michael McGovern says, “At first it was quite short. There was the anthem and the clapping and then people felt awkward and went back into their flats. Now people try to keep the thing going. Yesterday seemed interminable. It went on for two hours with Melendi blaring and people dancing.”
Teleyoga and laps of the living room are all very well but nothing beats a little personal interaction even if your dance partner happens to be on the other side of the street.