THIS is a difficult article to write. We are in our fourth week of quarantine, and for many it is starting to bite. I don’t mean in terms of having our basic necessities, but in terms of isolation for many people.
I spent many years in the UK as a national government policy adviser and worked directly with three local authorities in central Scotland, an area stretching from the Atlantic coast to the North Sea.
I remember now, with a degree of nostalgia, the days that were set aside for dealing with Emergency Action Plan drills. Why? Because it has become very clear to me that Spain was not ready, in any way, for what we are facing.
I am not criticising the action that has been taken, only that it came a week too late. International Women’s Day on March 8 should never have been allowed to go ahead, as doubtless it contributed thousands to the coronavirus infection count.
But what concerns me more is that my own local Council had no plan for a State of Emergency. What they have been doing for the last month is fire fighting, not proactive management.
As a foreigner on the Council, I could have contributed my 20 years of experience in Britain’s Social Services to help manage and prepare for this situation. So why haven’t I? Quite simply, because I am not in government.
And Spanish politics has not yet reached the point of acknowledging the skills within the Council, only those within their own party. So, while they run around trying to deal with the Spanish residents, I feel like I am single-handedly trying to inform, respond to and bolster the international community in Mijas on a daily basis – about a third of the local population.
I have been in close contact with an association which works with the elderly in Mijas. I have been shocked by how they have been passed from department to department simply to seek Council approval for 10 drivers to make a weekly groceries delivery to the 170 elderly people they work with. I would add that I have also been passed from person to person trying to help them.
Having an Emergency Action Plan already in place would have resolved this in an instant. But we didn’t have one. I am not just criticising the Mijas government, as I think this experience will have been mirrored in many councils across Spain. If I am criticising anything it is the unwillingness and inability to really work together, draw on experience and come up with good and creative solutions.
There will be many lessons from this quarantine experience, and I hope with all my heart that they will be learned well. But that takes men and women with small egos and big hearts, and that is what concerns me most…
In the meantime, I remain at the service of the International residents of Mijas.