COVID-19, But Make It Catalan

Abbie Turner

Abbie takes us through how the coronavirus restrictions in Spain are affecting her. 

I know it’s hard for me to sit here in sunny Spain and complain about my situation. I mean, it’s currently 7pm in mid-November and I’m sat outside in shorts and a t-shirt writing this article, but just give me a chance to explain. If you thought the restrictions in the UK were annoying, the Spanish have taken it to a whole new extreme.

For those that don’t know, I’m a third-year languages student and currently on my Year Abroad in Barcelona, something that seemed highly unlikely to happen when we got sent home from Nottingham in March. After my first placement was cancelled, I scrambled to find somewhere that was hiring during the pandemic and was very lucky to secure the job I’m in now. Working at an international school as a teaching assistant wasn’t what I had in mind, but I wasn’t going to turn down the one place that actually responded to my many emails! I accepted the job and a week later I was on a very empty flight to Barcelona!

The first big rule difference is the emphasis on masks. You have to wear a mask absolutely everywhere, which makes the UK’s rule of only wearing them in shops seem completely pointless in comparison. Staff and students wear them in school and you must wear them in the streets (even if you’re walking alone) the only times you can take them off are when you’re at home/ in your car or to exercise. It’s so annoying having to wear them all time, but if anything it reminds you that there actually is a pandemic going on.

When I first arrived on the 19th of September, the rule of six was already in place however no one really followed it. Large social gatherings were still happening and you could find many a bar filled with no sign of distancing taking place, which we may or may not have contributed to…

If you’re found breaking that curfew you risk a fine ranging from €300 – €6,000 

However, our few weeks of fun came to a very abrupt end on the 14th of October when the Catalan Government announced a lovely new set of restrictions, all of which are still in place by the way. Bars and restaurants were to close immediately only allowing for takeaways, which put an end to our weekend parties which got me through the working week. They also introduced a curfew from 10pm until 6am everyday and if you’re found breaking that curfew you risk a fine ranging from €300 – €6,000, unless you can provide evidence that you were out picking up a takeaway!

Travel bans are the next inconvenience! Catalonia has closed its boarders to other Spanish regions, which came into place the day before we were meant to visit our friend in Valencia – typical! However, the worst travel restriction is the weekend lockdown; from Friday 6am to Monday 6am you’re not allowed to leave the town in which you live. Again, putting an end to our weekend fiestas as the five of us here from Nottingham all live in different towns around Barcelona! Police patrol the town borders over the weekend and anyone looking to cross must provide a signed and dated document stating your reason for travel with only health emergencies and commuting for school/ work being accepted.

I consider myself very lucky to have been able to go on my year abroad. However, it hasn’t been quite the experience I was expecting!

Like the UK, gyms are closed, meaning I’m back to the Joe Wicks workouts we all did in lockdown #1 and going for runs down by the beach (which I won’t lie is definitely better than running around Lenton  – sorry not sorry!). The only shops that are left open are supermarkets and the odd Mc Donalds which is great for the McPollo’s, but less great since I last got my nails done a month ago…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still having an absolutely amazing time despite the circumstances and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to go on my year abroad. However, it hasn’t quite been the experience I was expecting! Let’s hope next term is better!

Abbie Turner

Featured image courtesy of Charlotte Smith. In-article images courtesy of Abbie Turner. No changes were made to the images.

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