Spain, Hard Hit By Coronavirus Pandemic, Shuts Down
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some countries in Europe are well ahead of the United States in the devastation from the pandemic, and they are well ahead of the U.S. in countermeasures. Spain, for example, is closing its land borders, and on Saturday, all of Spain was put on quarantine. People are ordered to stay at home for two weeks, although every day at 8 o'clock in the evening, people come out of their homes and applaud.
INSKEEP: That nightly ovation is a tribute to the country's health care workers. Reporter Lucia Benavides is on the line from Spain. Hey there.
LUCIA BENAVIDES, BYLINE: Hi. How are you?
INSKEEP: Are you somewhere that you hear that applause each evening? What's that like?
BENAVIDES: I'm not hearing it so much here because although I'm usually based in Barcelona, I'm actually right now in a small Catalan town called Moya. It's about an hour away from Barcelona. My boyfriend is from here, and his family lives here. And just like a lot of other people who live in big cities like Madrid or Barcelona, we came out to the countryside to be with our families, you know, in light of the possible quarantine that was to be put in place.
So here - I mean, even out here, everything is pretty empty. All restaurants, cafes, schools, libraries, stores are closed. Parks and museums all throughout Spain have also closed. And basically, what the quarantine means is that we can't leave our houses except for if there's an emergency or if we need to go to a health care clinic or buy food or go to the pharmacy. People are actually - it can be seen here in this town where I'm at - lining up outside grocery stores and pharmacies, standing 6 feet apart. And those of us who still have to head to work can also leave the house, and we're also allowed to walk the dog.
INSKEEP: Oh, OK.
BENAVIDES: Those are kind of the few exceptions.
INSKEEP: I'm sure the dog definitely appreciates that.
BENAVIDES: Yeah (laughter).
INSKEEP: I'm imagining those pharmacy or grocery lines being very, very long since people are 6 feet apart. Now, we've heard from Italy, where people have to actually have on hand a signed statement affirming that they are outdoors for a particular purpose, and the police may question them. Is it that severe in Spain?
BENAVIDES: Yeah, it's starting - we're starting to see that because it was just implemented over the weekend. And - but starting Monday, starting yesterday, we could face fines of more than $1,000 for not cooperating. And there are already - already seeing police all over the country patrolling streets, telling people to go home, to hurry up and, you know, when their dog does their business, to go back home immediately.
INSKEEP: Lucia, I want to ask about the economic effect of this. Here in the United States, the economy was fairly strong. Maybe not everybody was prospering equally, but the economy was quite strong overall up until this crisis. Spain, I know, had a devastating effect from the 2008 financial crisis and high unemployment for many years. What has the economy been like heading into this? And what are people dealing with now?
BENAVIDES: Yeah, so the economy was doing a lot better in the last few years, slowly, but getting better. And people are definitely worried about another economic crisis like 2008 or maybe even a worse one.
And political analysts are saying that there's tension within the Spanish government because there are those who want to prevent another economic crisis and push for measures that will protect businesses and banks, first and foremost, and then there are those who want to protect the public health and are pushing for people to stay home and not engage in large groups. But for now, the Spanish government has left it up to companies themselves to decide whether their employees can come in or not. And a lot of companies are still asking their employees to come to work, which a lot of health care professionals are criticizing.
INSKEEP: Lucia Benavides speaking to us from the town of Moya in Spain. Thanks so much.
BENAVIDES: Thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF LEW SOLOFF, STEVE RICHMAN & HARMONIE ENSEMBLE NEW YORK'S "WILL O' THE WISP")
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