Madrid in ‘El Estado de Alarma’

Waking up in my flat in Ronda de Atocha to a flashing phone screen and 10 missed calls from my parents certainly wasn’t how I expected my morning to begin last Friday. The words ‘Estado de Alarma’ were not something I had seen before but it didn’t take me long to figure out their meaning. […]

Waking up in my flat in Ronda de Atocha to a flashing phone screen and 10 missed calls from my parents certainly wasn’t how I expected my morning to begin last Friday. The words ‘Estado de Alarma’ were not something I had seen before but it didn’t take me long to figure out their meaning. Having said that, in the 14 days since, my life hasn’t changed much. As a student living in Madrid, a new lockdown was the last thing I wanted to see announced, yet my day-to-day Schedule remains the same. To be clear, this is by no means a lockdown; on Sunday I enjoyed the ‘Fiesta Nacional de España’ together with what seemed like most of the country. In place of the usual parades, Madrileños instead chose to drape the iconic Spanish flag over their cars or to hang out of their apartment windows waving the red and yellow stripes to the deafening soundtrack of a thousand car horns beeping in unison. COVID-19 is unfortunately still a very real global phenomenon and it is no different in Madrid; a range of new restrictions have been announced but they are nothing compared to the curfews we are seeing in France or other European countries. I still get the bus to school, and occasionally the metro, depending on how many times I hit snooze on my alarm.

What are the restrictions?

It is now the law to wear a mask in public, but you can still exercise without one; I was one of many running through Retiro Park this Sunday. Furthermore, bars and restaurants must close at 10 pm with no more than 50% capacity inside and 60% capacity outside. The rule of six has been applied, social distancing remains a priority and you may not leave the area in which you live.

estado de alarma

What do they mean really?

I know, it sounds strict; but in reality it’s really not. For an English student shutting bars at midnight is pretty normal back home; the Spanish may be accustomed to 10 minutes of sleep a night but we Brits certainly are not. The limits on restaurant capacity are almost unnoticeable as there are so many places to eat and drink here that I barely even realised. If anything, food arrives quicker now that restaurants can only let in 50% capacity, and you’ll never have to wait long to catch a waiter’s eye. The rule of six is also not a big deal; I can’t remember the last time I went for a meal with more than 5 friends anyway.

Not being able to leave your residential area is significant, but I’ve found it to be a non-issue. Madrid is very big. Living in Atocha makes me a resident of ‘Centro’ and I cannot leave this ‘Municipio’; but why would I want to? Centro is massive, covering all the main landmarks in Madrid as well as the student areas of Malasaña and Lavapiés. Even if I wanted to leave Centro, it would take me up to an hour on the Metro and longer on the bus. In terms of social distancing, Madrid is no different to any other major European city. Social distancing has become common sense and I barely notice it anymore.

The same goes for AIL. I’m still greeted by the same faces when I arrive in the morning. I still see the same people in class. There are fewer desks per classroom and staggered start times to help with social distancing. Hydroalcoholic gel is everywhere and they open the Windows to ventilate the room after each class. My Spanish classes are in the morning so when I finish I have the afternoon to myself; I usually get a bite to eat and a drink as the school is surrounded by cafés and restaurants.

An Overview

As I touched on earlier, aside from the masks, the omnipresent smell of anti-viral handwash and the news, you wouldn’t notice the ‘Estado de Alarma’. All the positives of the city are still positive; the food, the weather, the people and the culture.

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