It’s day 30 of national lockdown in Spain and I have only left my house once: to go to the pharmacy. I am social distancing and staying away from my loved ones who are sick, and I am asking you to do the same.
I have an uncle who has been receiving oxygen at the hospital for the past two weeks and two aunts self-isolating at home with COVID-19 symptoms. I am confident that all of them will recover but I will not dare visit them. My cousin is also a few weeks short of her labor date and will need to go to the hospital to give birth. An event that was meant to be filled with joy and family will happen in silence, and it is for the best. It is not allowed, and it will do more harm than good.
I want to hug my aunts and tell them my uncle will get well. But, even if I feel fine, the risk is too high.
For all of them, for your loved ones, and for the people that you don´t know that also have loved ones, I am asking you to stay at home and social distance.
I have the relief of knowing that my family members are not in a critical stage and hopefully all of them will recover soon. But not everyone has that. Right now, the person that I feel for the most right now is my best friend. Her grandmother passed away last week. Yes, it was because of COVID-19.
My friend’s grandmother started having a fever a few days after her chemotherapy session. She went straight to the hospital and was diagnosed with an infection and tested for COVID-19. The test came back positive. She stayed alone at the hospital for several days. She was soon sedated so my friend and her whole family stopped being able to talk to her over the phone. A few days later she passed away, and the family was notified of the death in a phone call by an employee of a funerary home. Only four members of the family were allowed to attend the incineration, all while maintaining the security distance between them.
Given the case, I can grieve alone, but I will not be the cause of another person’s grief.
My friend’s grandmother was an incredible person. She grew up with supportive parents that encouraged her and her six sisters to have the same ambitions as their brothers. She finished a university degree and became the youngest female university professor at a time when most Spanish women were housewives. She loved playing bridge and golf, two games that she learned to play passed the age of 50, and she was very competitive in both. She had cancer but was starting to recover. She lived a full life, that has been sadly been cut short by the virus.
My best friend said goodbye without hugs or the kiss on the cheek that is traditional of Spanish greetings. She is grieving at home, and online, where she received hundreds of virtual messages. Her family, longing for a way to connect, organized a video conference to comfort each other, tell stories and grieve together.
I am asking you to social distance, even if your government has not. I am asking you to listen to the authorities and do as they say, even if it means not going for your daily run or being stuck in a tiny apartment. I too miss the streets, and fresh air, and seeing my friends and family that I have not visited since I went back to the UK after the Christmas break. I want to check on my sick family members and make sure that they are okay. I want to hug my aunts and tell them my uncle will get well. I want to meet my cousin’s baby. But, even if I feel fine, the risk is too high.
My best friend is grieving at home, and online.
I know that social distancing can be hard and that people’s homes can sometimes be very difficult environments. I feel lucky to be in a position where I can social distance and keep studying without worrying about the next paycheck. Many people live in small houses or do not have a good relationship with the family they are quarantined with. My boyfriend spent a week inside his room to protect his father, who is considered high-risk. We are quarantined on different continents, and I don´t know when I will be able to see him again. Quarantine is hard, but it saves lives, and I am willing to do what it takes for a cause like that.
Because every day the death tolls are lower. Last week we were counting almost 1,000 deceased in a day, and today we ONLY had 510. That is around 500 people that have been able to keep their lives, 500 healthy people, 500 families not having to grieve.
For the first time in a long time, our individual actions matter. We may not be able to cure cancer or end discrimination, and most of us work in industries that are not life or death. But today we can make a difference. A real one.
Quarantine is hard, but it saves lives, and I am willing to do what it takes for a cause like that.
We need to remember that COVID-19 is treatable. However, it only is if you can access the necessary medical care should you need it. By limiting the spread of the virus we give space for hospitals to breathe and treat the current patients. The biggest challenge of COVID-19 is the length of time that it takes for a person to show symptoms and that many people never show them. Therefore, although you might feel fine, you might be the cause of someone else’s illness. So please stay at home. I know the sacrifice is great, but the alternative is appalling.
Instead of longing to go out, I have learned to find comfort in the small things that remind me of human compassion and solidarity. Every evening, at 8 pm, the whole of Spain comes out to their balconies and gives an applause to the healthcare workers and other people that are out in the trenches for us. The sound of the country coming together gives me enough strength to face the next day and hope that my loved ones are also hearing that applause. At the moment that is all that can give them. Because, given the case, I can grieve alone, but I will not be the cause of another person’s grief.