I don’t expect anyone is surprised that due to the surge in new COVID-19 cases in Spain, holidaying Brits arriving home after midnight tonight will have to spend 14 days in quarantine. As I write early in the evening of 25 July, there are four flights leaving Bristol for Spain tonight. As the passengers, who are probably huddled in the departure lounge or even at the gate, received the news, we can only guess at the feelings they are going through, Similarly, those who are already in Spain. What a bombshell this must be, unless of course they have been following the worrying stories emerging from parts of Spain in recent weeks.
There are genuine fears in Spain that these might not just be a few spikes here and there but a fully blown second wave, a situation that could plunge the country back into lockdown. Worryingly, we could be next.
Spain eased back on its own far more strict lockdown than we ever had some weeks ago. Normality was returning to Spanish life as the economy opened up. People were, like we have been, encouraged to start going out again. Unlike Boris Johnson in the UK, no Spanish leader announced that things would be back to normal by Christmas. The way things are going Spain could be back under a full lockdown very soon.
It is not a coincidence that some countries have run into trouble when attempting to open up. The USA, infamously and recklessly, opened up far too soon and now the virus is tearing the country apart. Numbers are again rising in France and of course they are rising in Spain. What is there to suggest we might not be in the same boat before long?
Italy is an interesting outlier where things have reopened but cases there have not spiked. Some experts believe that because the Italians are adhering closely to social distancing instructions, they are holding the virus at bay. Perhaps, we might too be outliers but I am afraid there is growing evidence that suggests we won’t be for long.
I genuinely think us Brits think it’s all over. From Rishi Sunak’s ‘meal deal’, to Johnson’s wish for ‘bustling high streets’, the message is clear. Get out there and spend your money, we’ve controlled the virus and now it’s party time. Judging from the Gloucester Road in Bristol on Thursday night, people had taken Johnson at his word. The bars were bustling all right without any sign, in some places, of social distancing. Not everyone on the bus bothers with a mask. And today – and I find this incredible – the sweating, wheezing, coughing, shouting and breathing all over everyone else world of gymnasiums reopened. All of these places have the potential to become human petri dishes. When COVID-19 was advancing through Europe, we were several weeks behind everyone else, in every sense. Who is to say we won’t get the same spikes as Spain did? How long before Dominic Cummings instructs Boris Johnson to announce, once again, that ‘you must stay at home’?
Johnson exists to bring good news. It’s his shtick. It’s what he does. We’ve controlled the virus. Now it’s time to go out on the piss again. Until the next Leicester comes along.
All right, there are special circumstances that are causing problems in Leicester, and indeed in other cities and towns where there are large southern Asian populations, but a virus like COVID-19 does not go away just because you wish it would. It’s waiting for us to let it back in again and we do that by, sadly, opening things up again.
It’s a proper damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. Open stuff up, the virus spreads. Close it down and firms go bust, people lose their jobs. Poor old Spain and, in all likelihood, poor us soon. This virus has got a long way to run yet.