Actress MARCIA DO VALES opens up about Madrid's coronavirus lockdown

Actress MARCIA DO VALES opens up about Madrid's coronavirus lockdown

May 2, 2020

Children couldn’t play outside, exercise was banned and people were only let out to visit the supermarket: Actress MARCIA DO VALES reveals what life was like during Madrid’s coronavirus lockdown

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The warm sun on my face. Fresh air in my lungs.

We used to take it for granted, but after seven weeks of strict lockdown in Spain – forbidden from leaving our homes except for vital food and medicine supplies – it felt uniquely wonderful.

The pavements of Madrid which had been deserted for so long were alive again with people early this morning walking their dogs, chatting to neighbours and running, cycling. 

We used to take it for granted, but after seven weeks of strict lockdown in Spain – forbidden from leaving our homes except for vital food and medicine supplies – the feeling of warm son on my face felt uniquely wonderful, writes actress and film producer MARIA DO VALES

All of them were smiling and laughing, pouring out onto the streets from as early as 6.00am.

And no wonder. 

On Saturday, Spaniards were allowed out to exercise – the first precious glimpse of our normal lives we’d had since the authorities imposed the world’s toughest Covid-19 containment measures on March 14.

It was like waking up from a nightmare. 

As a London-based producer and actress who has worked on several horror films, my job included imagining a zombie apocalypse or the terrors of the paranormal.

But the last few weeks have been a living hell which turned us all into zombies.

If I’d known exactly what was going to happen in Spain I’d never have stayed. I’d come to Madrid in early March to visit my son Enrico, 20, who’s starting out as a professional footballer in the city.

And as the coronavirus crisis deepened and lockdown loomed, I was faced with a choice: stay with Enrico in a third floor flat in central Madrid, or leave him alone to return to the UK. 

Yesterday, Spaniards were allowed out to exercise – the first precious glimpse of our normal lives we’d had since the authorities imposed the world’s toughest Covid-19 containment measures on March 14

There was no right decision, but the result has been both gruelling and mentally destructive.

With police and soldiers on every street, we have been almost literally imprisoned under a regime that makes the British lockdown seem, quite literally, a walk in the park by comparison. 

There have been no parks open here and walking has been banned.

The truth is that Spain was slow to respond to the virus. 

When the schools were closed, families were allowed to drift out of Madrid, spreading the virus across the country with devastating effects.

It led to a complete lockdown. No-one was allowed to leave their homes except to go to the supermarket, briefly walk dogs or pick up medicine. 

Children couldn’t play outside. Almost incredibly, exercise was banned.

The pavements of Madrid which had been deserted for so long were alive again with people early this morning walking their dogs, chatting to neighbours and running, cycling

The last few weeks have been a living hell which turned us all into zombies

Even this was not enough to prevent the death toll rising to nearly 24,000 – a grim tally second only to that in the US.

Spain’s Interior Ministry imposed road blocks and drafted in 130,000 military personnel to support the police in enforcing the Citizen’s Security Law – or ‘Gag Law’ as it has been called.

In the first month, half a million were fined up to 10,400 Euros for breaches, and there were more than 5,000 arrests.

Spain’s Interior Ministry imposed road blocks and drafted in 130,000 military personnel to support the police in enforcing the Citizen’s Security Law – or ‘Gag Law’ as it has been called. Pictured: People in Barcelona enjoyed being allowed out of their homes on Saturday

It was so easy for Spain to roll back its history to the days of fascism. Pictured: People are seen running and cycling through Puerta de Alcala on the first day Spain eased its Covid-19 lockdown measures

Just being caught outside the home, without a good reason, can lead to a 601 Euro-penalty; display any attitude and it can be increased to 2,000 Euros in an instant.

It nearly happened to me. Not long after it all began, my son and I left the house to get rid of several bags of recycling waste.

A police car stopped us and officers forcefully told us we weren’t allowed to be out together. One of us would have to make several trips with the bags, they said.

Completely pathetic!

I had to apologise several times and promise it wouldn’t happen again. But it was a pivotal moment: the realisation that our rights had truly been stripped away.

It was so easy for Spain to roll back its history to the days of fascism. 

That old regime has meant people have, largely, obeyed the rules. 

The desire to protect older people, and to protect the health workers as the numbers increased, kept people inside.

In the first month of the lockdown, half a million people were fined up to 10,400 Euros for breaches, and there were more than 5,000 arrests. Pictured: Several people do exercise or go for a walk along Paseo Maritimo promenade early morning in Barcelona, Spain, this morning

It could take 40 minutes queuing to get inside the supermarket – and when on one occasion I dared to filmed the huge queue to show a friend, the shop security guard ordered me to delete the footage and stood over me while I did so. 

She had no real authority, of course.

My son and I spent most of our time in our bedrooms, meeting in the kitchen at mealtimes. Often we couldn’t sleep, so day merged into night and it got confusing.

It was mentally very challenging. As a producer, I’m used to being efficient and making quick decisions. 

But as I continued to work, confined to the flat, I found myself struggling to make simple decisions.

Even small tasks started to take longer – paying one invoice took me half an hour.

It was like there was a big cloud in my brain, no clarity at all.

I began to feel jealous of my friends back in the UK who could still leave the house for their daily exercise.

I began to feel jealous of my friends back in the UK who could still leave the house for their daily exercise. Pictured: Joggers enjoy their first exercise outing since Spain’s lockdown was imposed

They’d complain about their own lockdown but it made me angry – they couldn’t possibly understand what it was like to be inside all the time. 

I stopped wanting to talk to them as we weren’t sharing the same experience at all. It’s no exaggeration to say I was going quite mad.

The last week in particular was hard. My son and I felt ill – whether from the lack of sunlight or from something else we couldn’t tell.

But today, going out for that one hour, it felt like we had our lives back. I didn’t run particularly hard, or far. 

The point was to be outside in the fresh air and with other human beings. I felt like a child in a playground.

But if I have a new appreciation for life, we are yet to see the true scale of damage this terrible lockdown will have caused.

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