Instead of a broad lockdown like in March 2020 the leadership of the Valencian Community, and Valencia city in general, have appeared to dither on the measures to control the viral spread in the community. Am I an expert in virology? No, I´m not. But after being through two other waves that were bad enough, it seemed like the reaction to this latest wave has been much slower and more random than I would have ever expected.
The lifeblood of Valencia is a good party. The heart of the people is fun loving. What can you expect from people who use any excuse to light off fireworks? Christenings, weddings, the successful removal of an ingrown toenail? Under any normal circumstance that would be wonderful. Something to embrace. It´s why living here is so great. But in pandemic times it´s a barrier to stopping the spread.
The café society lifestyle leads to large gatherings and socializing between those who don´t live together. Finally, the government closed cafes. But at the same time they allowed the 3 kings to come into the city on January 6th which led to 10,000 people gathering in the city centre to watch them enter. It´s like we are living death by a thousand cuts with the ´This one little thing won´t matter´ philosophy. When it´s really a thousand little things; a thousand little hedges that no one should know about. I mean, its just one thing. We´ve seen it. As the temperatures climbed into the upper 70´s this weekend the beaches were packed with large non-familial groups totally unmasked. They showed it on the news. The police were there on ATV´s but few people were cited or told to split up into the socially distanced, masked small family groups.
The city government seems to be afraid of the political fallout for curbing people´s behaviour – or their personal freedoms. Up until today, masks were mandatory except during sports. Like no one breathes heavily during a run in the park or cycling. They closed cafes and casinos but not gyms, or massage parlours, or tattoo parlours. But the virus kept raging. Now it´s 5 times worse than March. So as of today the gyms, tattoo and massage parlours are closed. And if people want to do sport they have to wear masks between 10-7. Why the hours? Can the virus not spread outside of those hours? Who knows the thinking? Instead of just saying something is banned, it makes it more confusing to have to track the hours its allowed and not allowed.
We got an email from our insurance provider with some news. The government has a plan to vaccinate all citizens who have a SIP card. That´s National Health. But for those solely on private insurance (expats on non-lucrativo visas) they have no plan to include them in the vaccination rollout. In other words, private health systems will not currently receive doses of the vaccine. So they want to make sure we were all aware that if we were waiting to hear something, we were going to be waiting a very long time.
Luckily, in el Compartimento we qualify for Social Security. We have double coverage. We´d been told they were doing it based on having a national identity card but that´s not actually the case. So anyone with a non-lucrativo visa and only private health insurance should go to the local Health Centre assigned to their address and ask for a ´Tajeta de SIP´ in the morning when they issue these on the spot. See the link for what to bring with you. This doesn´t entitle the bearer to free health care. They would still have to pay. But what it does do is get them onto the radar of the National Health Service and into the system to be notified when it´s their turn to get vaccinated.
I know Valencia, and Spain in general, is no more chaotic in the midst of this crazy health crisis than the rest of the world. But I hope that when the 4th and 5th waves hit we will have learned something and not try to reinvent the wheel every time. We know what works and what doesn´t, no matter how unpleasant we find these measures. We can´t just ala carte menu this thing. It´s time for us to just to grow up and deal with it – politically and emotionally. Tattoos, massages, days at the beach, and drinks in a café can wait. We have no other choice.