The Coronavirus From Denial To Lockdown In Spain

Imagine not being able to leave your home for several weeks.  What will you do all day?  How will you cope?  The Coronavirus COVID-19 has hit Spain, so what’s it been like for us?  What was it like to be in the USA?

From Denial To Lockdown In Spain - our experience with the impact of the coronavirus, travel to the USA and return to Spain.

The Numbers!

Here is a site with the currently reported numbers for all of Spain and the world. Please keep in mind this may not include those who were not able to have a test.  Read more.

Confirmed cases in Andalucia Spain (we are in the Granada province) – Read more.

Denial Phase

First, we must begin before the lockdown.  Earlier this year it was only a problem in China and it seems in no time it was Italy too.  That said it wasn’t in Spain, so it was business as usual.  From what we had been hearing, it was just like the flu and impacted the same demographic.  We don’t normally worry about the flu, so why would we worry about this?

My mother was in a car accident early in the year and I had planned to visit her in Utah early March.  Even though I have been keeping in touch via social media and video calls, I wanted to see her for myself.  I had booked the trip the month prior and didn’t feel the virus would have an impact on it.

A couple of days before my trip, it was reported there were some cases in Spain.  They were mainly in Madrid or northern Spain, far far away from our tiny little town on the coast.  In my mind the odds of it coming to our town were slim and none.  We are about an hour away from any big city and our town is surrounded by mountains and sea, so there isn’t a sense of urban sprawl.  It felt cozy, safe, and tucked away from the mayhem.

Almunecar Spain

I briefly considered changing my travel plans, but I really wanted to see for myself that Mom was okay.  In addition, my sister from California was going to be in Utah at that time and it was a great opportunity to see her too.  Alan and I chatted about it and thought it would be fine to continue with my travel plans.  After all, it wasn’t going to impact us.

This was supposed to impact those with a poor immune system or respiratory problems, the elderly and so on.  Our life was virtually the same as it was any other day. There wasn’t any impact on our daily lives, so it was difficult to imagine how this was going to impact us.

Travel Day

Early March, it was time to head to the USA.  I thought to myself, “Should I wear a mask on the flight to protect myself?”  I opted not to, as I thought it would cause more fear in the others around me.  I did, however, bring hand sanitizer and wipes to clean my little area on the plane.  That was it, that was all I thought about it.  

I kept to myself during my 12-hour layover in London.  It was then that I started thinking, I wonder where all of these people in the airport are coming from or going to?  How many of them have been exposed and my mind started to do the math.  It was a scary realization of how quickly germs can spread.  I wondered how well they really clean the planes in between flights and my mind started to race.  I continued with my travel and made it to Vegas and then the drive to Utah.

Family

I was so happy to be with family and see my parents, two of my sisters, nieces, and nephews.  Mom is doing great!  We had so much fun catching up, visiting and enjoying family.  It had been so long since we’ve all been together and I hadn’t seen my sister from California in 4-5 years.  It was a beautiful dose of family love and cheer for a couple of days.  Utah 2020 Family group photo

Life in Utah was business as usual, the problems once again all felt so far away.  I did a shopping run to fill-up my suitcase with goodies for the family when I returned home.  The first time in the store there was no problem, the future visits were quite different.

I was still keeping up with work online and noticed that our little town of 27k, had 5 confirmed cases of the Coronavirus!  What?  How can this be?  Our province was the last in Spain to get the virus and my little denial bubble was busted!  In our town, many of the medical staff also work in the bigger cities and the 5 confirmed cases were all medical staff.  Oh no, how long were they contagious?  Who did they expose?  Alan had just been to the clinic the week prior.  Oh no!

It was a bit of a scramble to find out more details and understand what was going on.  That same day the town hall decided to take swift action and close things down, to stop the potential spread.  Each day, it seemed there were new announcements and more changes.  Alan and I spoke on the phone and our initial thought was for me to stay put in Utah and “let this mayhem pass”. 

Then the US President addressed the nation and announced the travel restrictions!  Now this caused a bit of stress about the possibility of getting back to Spain.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to be “stuck” in the USA.  At least I was with family and had a place to stay, but it was still stressful and I was in fear of it taking months.

Where’s the paper?

On a side note, where was all of the toilet paper?  Usually when there is a crisis people run out and buy french toast ingredients (Milk, bread, eggs).  This time it was “let’s stock up on toilet paper” around the world.  So strange!  It became a joke and luckily my sister had plenty and received even more from friends for her birthday (a birthday to remember).

Changing Travel Plans

First, it was just our town on lockdown and it soon became Spain. Every morning I would wake up to the news of the various stages of Spain shutting down and the US making restrictions.  How was I going to get home, what was I going to do?  I was enjoying my family in Utah but also wanted to be back with Alan and the kids to ride through this crisis together.  

I tried to reach the airline to change my flight.  I went to the website and they had notices stating they would be flexible with flight changes, but there wasn’t any way to make a change online. I kept calling the airline and would work my way through the recorded messages, only to receive a recording “due to high call volume, you will need to call back later”, and be disconnected.  This went on for 2-3 days, with multiple attempts each day.  

Finally, I received an automated email that a leg of my flight was canceled.  It was just canceled with no alternative route offered.  So my flight from Vegas to London was canceled, but not my flight from London to Malaga?  How was I going to swing that one?

Stay Calm

Of course, I decided to remain calm and kept speaking with Alan trying to decide what to do.  He was also trying to reach the airline and check things from his end for me as well.  I was loving spending time with family in Utah, but my biggest fear was being stuck in the US without health insurance. Go figure.  I knew I was healthy and fine and that in Spain, I would have free healthcare if something were to change.  I was covered for my planned travel dates with travel insurance, but not if we passed those dates.

I wasn’t planning on being sick or have an emergency, but it would really be costly if I did.  Each day I kept trying to contact the airline and see if I could change my flights online.  Finally, the website had been updated and I now had two buttons to choose from on my reservation.  I could reschedule the canceled flight or cancel completely for a refund. 

Of course, I just wanted to reschedule, as I found a really good deal on my round-trip flight and the one-way ticket home was going to be double the price of my round-trip.  Each time I selected the “reschedule” button, it would route me to the “cancel” page. It was so frustrating.  Once again it was back to the phone.

Flights Changed!

After several days and numerous attempts to contact the airline via the phone, I finally made it through.  I was only on hold for 90 minutes and there was no way I was going to hang up.  The agent helped me look for new flights, but couldn’t find anything through London.  He had to get the supervisor’s permission to change my entire route, and it was a success!

Now instead of 1 layover and 18 hours of travel, I was going to have 2 layovers and over 25 hours of travel time, but I was going to get to Spain!

Lockdown Phase

The next day, Spain decided to lockdown their land borders and further limit flights!  Once again, I received notification one of my flights was canceled.  It was “rinse and repeat” to get my flights changed again.  At this point, I wanted the soonest flight out and cut my trip short a couple of days, but the only flight I could get was my originally planned date of return, two days out.  This was a bit scary, as each day things worsened.

Lockdown in Spain

Alan and the kids had already been in lockdown a couple of days.  No one is allowed out of their home other than to go to the grocery store, go for medical care or to the pharmacy.  The police are out on the streets ensuring compliance. All non-essential businesses and restaurants closed and people were to be homebound for at least 2 weeks.

Each day the kids receive assignments from their teachers via email and social media.  This is usually hours of work for them each day.  Alan continued with his normal work routine and schedule, but also was a single parent and had to keep the house running, food in the fridge and so on.

What Was It Like In Utah?

In Utah, I was trying my best to enjoy every moment with my family. I don’t get to see them often and I miss them so much.  This crisis certainly did impact the trip and the mood and was pretty much the main topic of conversation, but it felt good to have time with them. 

I wish I had more time and under different circumstances, but we enjoyed so many fun times and laughs too.  From wrinkled carrots to game nights, and good Mexican food it was all good for the soul.  For some reason, it was meant for me to stay the time I did and I love them all so dearly.

In my last few days in Utah, things were beginning to tighten up in the USA.  To be honest, from what I could see they were in the original “denial” phase I started with.  It was almost life as usual, but with a few restrictions and school closures.  The day I was departing, more stores and shops were closing, but for many it was business as usual. There weren’t any cases in the town I was in and people were still planning vacations and travel.

My Journey Back To Spain

I had a long journey back to Spain, starting with my sister taking me to the airport shuttle pick-up point at 3 am.  It was a 2-hour drive to the Vegas airport.  My route was Vegas -> Miami -> Madrid -> Malaga, then an hour-ride home from Malaga.  I was so worried flights would cancel while en route.  My total planned journey was going to be 28 hours door to door and there were so many changes each day.  All went well on my journey and it seemed like normal travel at all of the airports in the USA. 

Then I arrived in Madrid!  It was a completely different vibe.

madrid airport coronavirus getting home

The airport was empty; pretty much just my flight of people were the only ones walking around.  In addition to many police or military and passport control.  There were people cleaning everything from bathrooms to the railings on the escalators, buttons on the elevators and so on.  Everyone was wearing masks and gloves.  It was a bit eerie for sure. 

I thought I would be tested, screened, questioned and asked why I was there, but nothing!  Smooth sailing and it was likely one of the easiest travel days ever.  I was in Spain and knew I could make it home no matter what now. 

I Made It Home!

Once I landed in Malaga, we were informed to keep a 1-meter distance from others the entire time.  As I walked through the terminal to baggage claim, there were groups of people from the other countries huddled together having drinks and laughs, as if nothing was different.  They were completely ignoring the precautions and were in that denial stage. 

I made it to the baggage claim and I picked up my luggage.  It was all very quick, as there were only about 20 people on my flight and the customs area was closed.  I walked outside and Alan was right there to pick me up!  There weren’t many people out and about, so it was a quick drive home.

It was good to be home and part of my heart is with my family in the USA.  I am hoping they all remain safe and aren’t impacted by this virus.  In the meantime, I have been receiving questions from friends all over the world wanting to know what’s going on.  I thought it may be easiest to answer below and send people the link.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do you do all day?

It really feels like business as usual with a dash of “can’t leave the house”.  We work from home every day, so it isn’t until we want that break and realize we can’t go out. In a normal week, we are usually meeting up with a client or friends for a coffee, so we are also missing that.

Alan and I continue to work.  We have 2 websites to keep up and running.  We are doing our best to keep the followers of our Almunecar Info site up to date and informed.  We are not a news site, but we like to provide information to help others get through this crisis. 

Normally, we post things to do, places to eat and so on, but the messages have temporarily shifted.  That said, people are still contacting us for information on future visits, so it is keeping us busy. 

We are keeping our followers informed and the only impact on the business is being able to get out and about to offer publicity to the local businesses.  This is the portion of the business that allows us to earn an income, so for the time being, this is what has stopped.  No income at the moment, but we will continue to inform our readers.

In addition, we also have our consulting business.  There are clients due to arrive in Spain this week, to start their new life in Spain.  We also have more clients in various phases of the visa request process and making the move to Spain.  We’ve been doing our best to keep in close communication with them and offer to advise them based on their situation.

What do the kids do all day?

As I mentioned earlier, the kids have been very busy with school work.  I love how Anya’s PE teacher has been very creative.  He has assigned workouts to the students via YouTube and other sources.  They then need to record themselves doing the workout and upload it to their share drive.  

We have also been enjoying many games and fun times in our home as well.  It reminds me of our time traveling in Southeast Asia, a nice mix of work and family time.  They are having plenty of time to chat with their friends, work on their own projects and dream a little about “getting out of the house”.  

They have really been easy and great.  They are both used to keeping in touch with friends and family all around the world via social media, so it doesn’t seem to be a huge impact.  Of course, they would prefer to be out around town, but they are old enough to understand. 

What is Almuñécar doing?

I have been nothing but impressed with our town and how they are reacting.  The spirit of Spain and the community is amazing, even in a crisis.

Each day there are workers out cleaning and disinfecting the streets and walkways to the main grocery stores and the health clinic.  The police are out enforcing the quarantine, but there are moments when they break into entertainment too. 
(see this video on Facebook of the police providing entertainment in the streets).almunecar_police_providing_entertainment_coronavirus

Each night in La Herradura, everyone is out on their balcony with applause and music to thank all of those working through this crisis to help others (grocery workers, health clinic, police, garbage collection, street cleaning and so on). It is quite overwhelming to hear and see.  (see this video on Facebook)

Here is what we have posted about the lockdown in our town as well as Spain.  Read more about the Coronavirus in Almunecar.

We also can receive a large fine if we are out and about without essential business. 

What is it like grocery shopping?

We are only allowed out for groceries, pharmacy, and medical care.  Normally I am at the grocery store about every other day, as we just shop fresh for a day or two.  Now I am trying to go just once or twice a week to limit exposure with others. 

All markets, festivals, and Semana Santa are canceled.

At the grocery store, there is a security guard at the entrance, ensuring you use the hand sanitizer and pick up a pair of plastic gloves upon entry.  They have placed lines on the floor at check out 1 meter apart, to ensure everyone keeps their distance from one another. 

Normally a line or queue in Spain is just a jumbled mess and you never know where the line ends and begins.  I have been amazed at how well everyone is doing with following the guidelines and rules, wearing masks, gloves, keeping their distance and so on.  I see nothing but positive vibes on social media from those in our area and it is great to see that we are all just doing what we need to do and we’re going to get through this.
mercadona_coronavirus_almunecar

Their stock is surprisingly good, as they maintain people should just shop as normal and they will be able to keep up. If people begin to stockpile, it will become a problem.  They are limiting their stock to about 500 essential items, so, for the most part, it hasn’t impacted our shop too much.  We may not find the exact bread we normally buy, but there are other options available.

What is it like around town?

It is very much like a ghost town.  I’ve only been out twice to go to the grocery store, but the energy and life are missing.  We live on the edge of town, so it is even quieter for us.  We don’t really need to go to the town center for our essentials, so we are living in a little bubble.  We have a grocery store and a pharmacy on our side of town and that is really all we need.

There is a video on Facebook here, showing the empty town.  I look forward to the day when it all returns back to normal, with the sidewalk cafe’s full, a buzz of people on the paseo and the charm of the town, the people are all out and about.

I haven’t been out to take photos, as it is non essential.  I did manage to take the one below, on my way back from the store. It was taken along our beach (San Cristobal)., where it is normally full of parked cars on the street and people on the paseo.  Now the only cars and people to be seen are those visiting the pharmacy. coronavirus empty streets of almunecar

Lockdown Extensions

As of March 14th, our town had a 2-week lockdown and then a couple of days later the country announced a 2-week lockdown.  This pretty much meant the full month of March.  Recently another 2 weeks has been added and it is likely to go on a bit longer than that.  We will keep positive vibes and keep doing what we are doing.  Hoping everyone stays safe and healthy.  At the moment April 12 is our next milestone and we will see if it extends beyond that date.

A Bit Of Advice

Don’t live in the denial bubble.  Even if it seems your town is untouched, it won’t likely be that way for long.  There is a pattern to this virus and it sneaks in undetected.  People continue on with their daily lives showing no symptoms, yet spreading the virus to others.  Then bam!  The first case appears, followed by many more.

Imagine someone who has the virus and just coughed in their hand. They then touch the ATM, touch the cash, spend the cash at the store.  The clerk takes the cash and places in the drawer and hands it to the next customer as change.  The virus lives on surfaces and isn’t just on the cash, it also made it onto the shopping cart you used, which the store worker put away and now someone else is using it. 

Perhaps all of these people are carriers too.  The worker stocks the shelves, you go on to the birthday party, another person has lunch at a restaurant and it all continues to spiral undetected.  This is why it is best to self-quarantine and only go out for essentials.

The self-quarantine is to help prevent you from getting/spreading the virus, but really it is to slow it down (or Flatten The Curve as they say).  The medical systems can’t handle everyone getting sick at the same time.  Spain is at a point with hundreds of people dying each day because the medical staff is having to choose who to help.

Yes, this is the greatest impact to the vulnerable.  Yes, it may be light if you get it, but what about the others you have been around. What about the spread of it to those in your close circle who are vulnerable.  Think about them.  I’ve read you can carry the virus up to 10 days without symptoms.  How many people have you been in close contact with in 10 days or even just 1 day?  Think about them.

COVID-19

Wash your hands!  Yes, keep washing them and we’ve heard you should use dish soap to do the washing, as it can break down grease.  Apparently there is a little layer of fat/grease and this type of soap helps to break it down.  It’s worth a shot!

It is a myth the virus attacks older people!  The virus doesn’t know your age, it is worse for those with a weak immune system, respiratory problems, or health issues, regardless of age. 

Yes, those who are older may fall into that category, but not all.  In Spain, there was a 37-year-old policeman with no health issues who contracted the virus and died.  In the UK there was a 21-year-old, with no pre existing conditons, who died from the coronavirus.  I am not telling you this to instill fear, it is to get you out of that denial phase and know it can impact anyone, but especially everyone you are in contact with. 

With the proper resources perhaps survival is very high, but if the medical staff are also sick, overworked and can’t get to you, then what happens?  Just stay calm, stay home and don’t be selfish.  Don’t think about that vacation you have coming up, just reschedule it.  Simply be cautious, rearrange your schedule and ride it through in your home.  

Once again, here is a site with the currently reported numbers for all of Spain and the world.  The USA is climbing fast and don’t think because you aren’t on the coasts it won’t make it to you!  Read more.

It Strips You Down

This lockdown strips you down to the bare essentials.  Your immediate family, food and medicine.  It takes away all of the frill, the fluff and the fillers in life.  You experience all you really need to get by and you can add in your dose of socialization virtually!  

Thinking Differently

I know this may seem strange to some of you, but we have been living a basic no frills life since we’ve been in Spain.  When we traveled around Southeast Asia, we also just had each other and our luggage.  We learned over the years how to get along with each other for long periods of time, how to live without the fluff, how to communicate with others virtually and how to work remotely.  We’ve experienced similar situations over long periods of time, so it seems to be a bit easier for us to adjust.

I have high hopes the rest of the world will learn from this experience and new doors and paths will be presented.  I am hopeful this will allow people to think differently about remote work, keeping in touch and living life without too much excess.  If you haven’t tried it already, have a virtual group chat with Skype, Zoom, Hangouts or any of the other platforms available. 

We are already seeing people being creative with moving their business online.  Traditional Spanish language schools have created online classes, music teachers, fitness instructors, all thinking outside of the box trying to continue to make a living. Prior to this, it likely didn’t even occur to them.

Teachers are getting creative with assignments, parents are experiencing a touch of homeschool or even school at home. 

The world is our oyster and I can’t wait to see what the future will present to us all. 

Let us know what questions you have and we will do our best to answer them. 

If this experience has allowed you to think differently about school, work, life, how to communcate, let us know about it!  I’ve heard of virtual cocktail parties, birthday parties and so on.  We’ve even seen some creative games and activities created with things from around the house (bowling with empty water bottles and an orange).

This entry was posted in Experiences, Spain and tagged , by Heidi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heidi

Heidi has a passion for travel and has been exploring the world with her husband and 2 kids, since August 2012. She's visited more than 50 countries and loves to write about their family adventures, mishaps and costs. She has been an inspiration to others wanting to live their dreams. Her travel tips, planning posts, cost breakdowns, accommodation, and product reviews are also very popular. Her current home base is in Spain. Any post on this site may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase, there is no extra cost for you and we may receive a commission.

8 thoughts on “The Coronavirus From Denial To Lockdown In Spain

  1. Wow what a privilege, to get to see your family in the last days travel has been allowed. And you got to see the situation in different places around the world. I was going to travel to Barcelona right on the very day lockdown came into effect in Spain. Of course I couldn’t go, that’s a trip that’s still pending, because I wouldn’t want to be stuck in Barcelona away from my kids if a new lockdown begins suddenly. Take care and stay healthy!

    • Aw, yes it was great to see them for sure! What a shame all of this happened, I just hope everyone does their best to stay safe and healthy too. Take care and so good to hear from you!

  2. Heidi, we briefly met you and Alan last year. I was wondering how things are in Spain. What a story about your visit to Utah. Great you were able to see your family. I planned to visit my parents in Switzerland this spring. They are in their late 80’s. I did not book anything, worried about the travel issues and not wanting to take the risk to potentially carry the virus to my loved ones. And now Spain has a 2 week quarantine for visitors? So we will stay put in Florida where we are doing quite well so far. Just missing the view of the beach and mountains. Regards and best wishes!

    • Hi there! Yes, we remember you. I am just writing a post right now about our restrictions for going out at the moment. Hopefully I will have it ready to publish soon. Yes, it is a bit tricky trying to figure out any travel in 2020. We’ve all just got to take it day by day and hope for the best. We’ll try to keep people posted on our Facebook page or a blog post, with regards to travel to Spain. 🙂 take care.

  3. Very informative article Heidi. Thank you, wishing you and your family all the best in these difficult times 😘😷
    Ps my wife is a nurse and is working flat out, I’m so proud of her and her colleagues.

  4. Excellent article, Heidi. I always enjoy your writing. Thank you for being so descriptive about what’s happening in Spain…without being overly frightening. I hope everybody here in the US continues to stay at home as long as needed. Looking forward to brighter days ahead. Love you!

    • Aw thanks Judy! Yes, we are looking forward to brighter days as well. It’s been cooler and rainy the past few days for us, so very easy to want to remain inside. 🙂 love you too!

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