The decision to send at least four million “non-essential” workers back to their jobs on April 13 strikes me as an extreme mistake. A dangerous one. This was a Spanish government move and was opposed publicly by Catalan president Quim Torra. He (and little ol’ insignificant me) will have been proved to a significant degree, right or wrong by the time you are reading this article a few weeks later.
If I’ve been shown to be mistaken then I humbly apologise to Mr Sanchez and that means you can stop reading my words from here on in. But in my opinion, which is also the opinion of countless medical and scientific professionals, the risk of so many people returning to workplaces, public transport, cafes, restaurants, street pavements, parks and everywhere else in between, is too many million risks to take.
This is because Mr Sanchez’ decision is highly likely to lead to another jump in coronavirus cases, including the numbers of people needing specialised medical treatment. That, as we have already seen this spring, puts unbearable stress on those masked heroes we have been applauding (and grossly underpaying) in the public hospital system. Again, they too are facing possibly being infected and even dying themselves.
Going back to work ‘en masse’ simply means that new cases of Covid-19 infection here are added to the existing ones, multiplying and magnifying the pandemic’s devastation. This is easily avoidable by continuing the quarantine period. That’s my argument.
Tragically, countries across southern Europe, and most especially ours, have failed to learn from the much more successful strategies used in places such as Korea, India, and New Zealand. There, they tested huge numbers of the population and applied more restrictive quarantine measures a whole lot faster, sooner (now longer) and comprehensively.
In essence, they took the threat of this invisible killer extremely seriously and their cautious-minded leaders were not afraid to act in the entire public’s interest. They put people’s health ahead of any concerns about costs to business or the national budget.
Meanwhile, as the virus ebbs and flows across the globe, one thing that will not be saved is the living conditions of so many in Catalonia and wider Europe. Unless of course the historical idea of spreading wealth more fairly and collectively takes off again and our representatives see the merit in it. There are plenty in the shrinking middle class and suffering working classes who are desperately hoping for genuine economic change as a result of these troubled times.
Unfortunately, we can seemingly forget that the European Union will really help out. As progressive pan-European DiEM25’s Yanis Varoufakis recently commented, the Eurogroup’s underlying message to a large majority of Italians, Spaniards, and Greeks ,etc (given that 97% of the €500bn “stimulus” package is new national debt) is that it must all be repaid through further austerity via new cuts to each nation’s budgets and services. This burden of course falls most harshly on the very citizens who can afford it the least.
Out here though, in Penedès, where I live, the farmers in the vineyards continue to go about their business of being in the “business of pleasure,” as I heard a French wine producer call it. After all, the grapes don’t know how to self-isolate. They don’t understand the gravity of the spring they have just sprung up in. And it seems to me that this year their leaves seem bigger and greener, earlier than I’ve ever seen them.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Theresa-Eunice “Terry” Parris (1926-2020).