I write this to share my personal experience with what is, and has been, happening as a sort of catharsis and an attempt to keep up with what I would be doing (leading awesome tours), were we not practicing social responsibility and staying home. As many have seen, I am not giving tours until further notice, and with the border controls placed, there won’t be tourists here for the time being either. In the meantime, if anyone needs information on how to treat symptoms or any serious information about COVID-19, click here.
Information started to surface at more a the beginning of the year, but to be honest not many people were paying as much attention as they are now, or knew how big this was going to be. We heard rumors about people eating bats and something spreading in China, but it wasn’t here. The first real visual I started to notice here in Barcelona were the Chinese tourists that were wearing masks. It was during Chinese New Year when I met a family from China who were heading back soon and worried about buying masks for the plane. The pharmacies at that point had already sold out.
February hadn’t brought too much to worry about and as I was preparing for exams in Madrid at the beginning of March, I didn’t really notice a change in tourist patterns from any other regular February (usually a pretty low month). Elsewhere the concerns fro coronavirus were heightening. Italy was a hot bed and tourists coming from there, especially the northern part, were met with a bit of caution. I feel like at that time there was a risk, but not a large one. I believe I did two tours the final week of February and with larger groups I wasn’t exactly sure where everyone was from or especially where they had been, but I do remember one girl told me she was from Verona and would not be able to go home because of the quarantine there.
Then, on February 29th, I got sick. I had a basketball game at 7:15 that evening and had actually been feeling great all day, but I remember feeling a bit feverish at the halfway point. When the game was finished and I got home I had the chills and took my temperature, nothing too much, but a fever for sure. After waiting an hour the fever had shot up and I went to the hospital. Upon telling them my symptoms, I received a series of questions:
Doctor: “Have you been traveling lately?”
D: “Have you been in contact with anyone who has been traveling lately?”
M: I’m a tour guide…
D: “Where were they from, anyone from the infected areas?”
M: I can’t be sure of everyone, but there was a girl from Italy
Coronavirus Protocol Activated
We don’t really hear too much about the people being tested for the virus (at least I haven’t) in the news and many times the information seems to come from a third-hand account, “I know someone who knows someone who…”. While the number of cases rises each day, and the biggest concern is the overworked hospital workers and lack of space for patients with needs, many people without serious symptoms are not being tested. A friend’s girlfriend wasn’t tested the other day because she had not been in contact with anyone who had the virus.
Because of the dates of my symptoms and the nature of my work, I was given the test, here is what happened:
Isolated in a a room by myself, I was given a mask and asked to take my own temperature before the doctor came in (remember this was at the very beginning of the outbreak still and I got the impression that procedures were still being worked out). Two q-tips were used to take samples from my nose and from my mouth, put into tubes to be sent to the lab and be tested. I was sent home, along with my girlfriend (who was also given a mask and told not to spend time in the house or at least the same room as me) and told I would be under quarantine for at least 24 hours until we got the results.
I remember it well because I had tickets to the Espanyol-Athletico Madrid game (the real El Clásico) at 4pm that next day, which I unfortunately couldn’t go to. I would say I was practicing my social distancing already, but with a fever of 100+ degrees, I really didn’t feel being in a stadium full (Barça fans can insert their joke here) of people. I also wasn’t able to watch the second El Clásico of the day later on, as Real Madrid hosted FC Barcelona. It was during that game that I got the call form the doctors that my test result came back negative and I could resume a normal life.
It turns out that one of my teammates had been sick with a bad case of the flu the week before and managed to pass it on to 6 other teammates! Of a roster of 12 we had 7 players down during that first week of March. Had I known that other teammates were to have gotten sick, I don’t know if I would have gone in to be tested. The nice part about it was the peace of mind, in knowing that I had not caught the coronavirus and was not a danger to anyone else’s health.
Three days later I had to go to Madrid for exams and despite not being 100%, it was not something I could, or wanted, to miss. As we were leaving the morning of the 4th and catching the train, I read about an outbreak of the corona virus in a school just on the outside of Madrid. We got in and out of Madrid in just two days and were really lucky to do so because as we were there the outbreak really started to grow and Madrid decided to close all schools and educative centers due to the virus.
That following week I worked a few tours, with small amounts of people while talk of the virus in Barcelona started to grow. I had actually had 4 tours canceled for fears of the virus. Two day trips to Montserrat, and two city tours during that week, which left me with the tours Monday and Wednesday. Wednesday the 11th, I did my last tour.
March 14th the State of Alarm for Spain went into affect and while it is officially day number 4, we have really started practicing social distancing on the 12th. The official address called for 15 days of stoppage, but there have already been whispers of more time being necessary. We are all waiting to see what it going will be decided.
The President of Catalonia, Quim Torra (who has since tested positive for the coronavirus) called for a closing of the Catalan borders, a similar measure was taken in the Basque Country, but the decision from the government was to keep them open, with the fact that the virus does not designate between borders as the reasoning.
Borders of Spain were closed to all non-citizens or residents, hotels are now following the bars and restaurants and closing.
At the moment, there have been 11,718 confirmed cases in Spain as a whole, 1,394 in Catalonia.