Spain after lockdown: looking forward to the “new normal”
May 5, 2020 (day 53 of lockdown)
It’s becoming clearer and clearer to anyone in Europe that life after lockdown is going to be anything but “normal”. I’ve mentioned previously that Spain will be coming out of lockdown on Saturday (May 9). Over the last few weeks things have eased somewhat: last week children were allowed to go out for walks with parents, this week (since Saturday the 2nd) adults were allowed out 1 hour/day. After 6 weeks of being housebound, Lissette and I have finally been allowed to go out for walks (I’ll address that further below). Next week some businesses will be able to open and people will be able to be out (no more 1 hour/day limit).
The government came out with a plan on April 28 detailing 4 different stages of re-opening. Details here. Summing it up simply: everything will be very limited, and will ease slowly, until the end of June when we arrive at the “new normal”. Only then, at the end of June, will travel be allowed between Spain’s different provinces. Travel outside of Spanish borders? Well, nobody seems to know but people are saying September or October for foreigners wanting to come to Spain and Spaniards wanting to go anywhere outside of Spain.
I think the government here in Spain is being very responsible and very careful. I’ve mentioned it before – the Spanish lockdown laws have been the strictest in Europe and even now, after 7 weeks, the government is trying to extend the State of Alarm (the emergency power that give them the right to impose policies that it would not normally have the right to impose). But I have to admit it’s all getting very depressing. And I think it’s starting to sink in for a lot of people. And calling the future the “new normal” is also not the most inspiring use of words (eclipsed only in Portugal, where our friend Anita says they’ve moved on from their “state of Emergency” to a “state of Calamity”. WTF??).
In actually fact, the way Spain has dealt with the coronavirus is the polar opposite to the way the US has dealt with it. Here the focus has been on reducing infections and deaths and there’s no doubt it’s working: deaths have averaged below 200/day for the last week. The flip side is the economy. The economy here will take a huge hit having been shut down such a long time. On the other hand, in the US both the economy and infection/death rates are spiralling out of control. I guess the only good thing that will come out of this 1st wave of infections is that governments around the world will learn the blueprint for dealing with 2nd waves of the coronavirus (or other pandemics) in the future. Right now it seems clear that countries that shut down early and decisively will be coming out of this better…but sometimes I worry that once lockdown ends that infection rates/deaths will shoot up again. Then we’ll all wonder if the last 2 months of severe lockdown was worth it at all. Time will tell.
The last week has seen a slew of horrible economic data and of businesses trimming staff. In the US, an amazing 30 million people have filed for unemployment in the last 6 weeks. Depending on how unemployment rate is calculated, that means 16 -20% of the American population is unemployed (with the unofficial numbers being significantly higher). That’s incredible. It’s not much better anywhere in the world.
And it’s only getting started.
Probably the strangest thing most people will have noticed is that while the “real” economy is going to crap the stock markets had one of their best ever months in April (after a very bad March). Overall, markets are only down about 20% from February highs which, considering everything, is not so bad. The reason for that is the huge and unprecedented amount of buying of bonds and stock by central banks around the world. This Time article is very interesting.
You have to wonder though how long governments can save the markets and if/when the markets will reflect the real economy.
Meanwhile, here in Leon…
My “Chopped” challenge
Lissette had her birthday over the last few days. Her challenge to me: make a dessert using some “must-use” ingredients (inspired by the show “Chopped” where contestants are given ingredients and asked to come up with a dish).
My non-conventional ingredients: canned pineapple, raisins, rice cakes, hot sauce, and custard pudding. Not in the photo are some ingredients from the pantry: caramel candies and chocolate balls.
Note: we don’t have an oven, so no baking…
So what to do? I broke up the rice cakes into the custard to give it a bit of crunch, warmed up the mix with the raisins. In a pan, I melted down the chocolate and caramel and added hot sauce to give it a bit of a kick. I added small pieces of pineapple to the custard/raisin/rice cake mix.
The resulting dish: “Custard crunch with melted chocolate and caramel fondu a la Tabasco”
It didn’t get very good reviews from Lissette. And I don’t want to tell you what she said about the presentation…
Finally exploring Leon…and social distancing
Readers may recall that we came to Leon in mid-March and within a day here ended up in lockdown. So for 7 weeks we’ve been in lockdown in a city we haven’t seen. That’s why getting out and discovering parts of Leon this week has been great. We’re still limited: we’re allowed out for exercise for 1 hour a day between 6am – 10am or 8pm -11pm. We find going out and getting some sun really helps our mood.
But it’s also cast doubts on what’s going to happen once things go back to normal. You see blatant breaking of the social distancing rules, whether done out of ignorance or out of people just not caring. Groups of people standing in the middle of the sidewalk talking, people without masks not respecting space, people on either side of the sidewalk talking loudly towards each other (without masks) as you’re forced to walk between them. And that’s after 1 or 2 days. How lax will people get after a week or two? That’s why I have a few doubts about the “theory of social distancing”. Sounds great in theory but doesn’t really work if people don’t respect it…
Convent of San Marcos
Our plans ?????
There’s a lot of question marks there because honestly nobody knows.
We have a Spanish lawyer and had letters drawn up formally requesting an extension to our Schengen Visa (which expired about 10 days ago). The request is for 15 days after the State of Alarm expires, that’s the legal extension that the government is officially allowing. So that means that if the State of Alarm ends Saturday May 9th (as is it scheduled to), we may have to leave by latest May 24th. Of course the government is trying to extend the State of Alarm and it looks like it will be pushed through (we will know tomorrow).
The above is different than what we were led to believe (and what most people think) – which is that our 90 day Schengen Visa was frozen when Spain went into a State of Alarm. Based on that, we would have 44 days remaining on our Schengen Visa once the State of Alarm is lifted.
Again, nobody knows what rule will be applied including our lawyer. So basically we have to be ready for all eventualities including being told that the State of Alarm will be lifted this Saturday and that we have to get out of the country by May 24th.
Our options once the State of Alarm ends? We’ll have to go back to Canada and be in mandatory 14 day self-isolation.
Going back to Canada was the plan because we wanted to apply for our Spanish non-lucrative residence Visa. But with all that’s going on the Spanish Consulate in Montreal is not taking appointments for visas. When will they? We don’t know. Nobody knows.
We thought of maybe going somewhere else. The whole idea of going back to Canada was to apply for the non-lucrativo. But looking around, there don’t seem to be options because countries are not allowing foreigners in at the moment.
So it looks like, when the time comes, we’ll have to leave Spain and go back to Montreal. It doesn’t look like we have other options.
The other question is if/when we can come back to Spain? As I mentioned above, it sounds like that may be September or October. But again, who knows.
The last 6 years of full-time travel has been great. We’ve travelled the world with incredible flexibility, going almost anywhere at almost a moment’s notice. And we’ve saved money with our lifestyle. Now we’re seeing the other side of the double-edged sword: having to come “home” where we no longer have a home and being stuck there (Just to give you an idea: I’ve been back twice, for short stays, over the last 5 years. Lissette hasn’t been back to Montreal at all).
So if I sound drippy with this update you know why. We can take bad news. You can plan around bad news. But I think the worst thing is always not knowing and not having options.
Ps. Great. Today did a laundry and my brand new phone was in my pants pocket. It’s not working. Shit. I’m sticking it in rice for 24 hours, that’s what they tell you to do on the internet.
I’ll end with something that really made us smile this week. In fact we’ve watched a lot of dog videos on youtube over the last week, it always makes us feel better when down.
past lockdown diaries: