THE UK has a lot to learn from the Covid-19 pandemic, says a Flintshire woman who is residing in Spain.
Jan Thomas, founder of the FDF Centre for Independent Living, often works remotely from her house in Spain – where she is currently at.
Despite this, Jan still works remotely to help disabled people across North Wales.
The Leader previously reported that Jan shared her experience of ‘total quarantine’ in Spain compared to the UK.
However, almost one year on since the first national lockdown, she says the UK is still lagging behind.
She told the Leader: “Twelve 12 months ago we were in Spain looking forward to the weather warming up and being able to spend time walking at the beach, picnics in the sunshine looking forward to a trip to the USA to see our son graduate at Tampa Bay University. Which because of the pandemic never happened.
“Like everybody else we were full of anticipation for the year to come and then on March 12th the Spanish Government issued a decree to put Spain into lockdown. Followed two weeks later with a ‘’lockdown ‘’ of sorts in the UK. With just 12 hours-notice the world as we knew it had changed.
“Everybody was instructed to stay at home, one person could travel in a car to do essential shopping at the nearest supermarket to their home. One person per household could walk a dog or take the rubbish to the community bin.
“That one person could only walk 50 metres from the house. Everybody had to wear gloves in shops, not so much masks. Police roadblocks appeared on all main roads, we had to show evidence of address and where we had been, supermarket receipts were scrutinised.
“All public spaces closed, parks, beaches, sports venues and schools, remember we had just 12 hours’ notice all bars, restaurants and takeaways closed.
“Severe penalties were put in place, large fines were issued. People were genuinely fearful of being caught in breach of the rules.
“For nine-weeks we spent 23 hours a day in our Spanish house, but it was made bearable when the warm sunshine enabled us to enjoy the fresh air in the garden.”
Jan told the Leader herself and her husband were ‘desperate’ to get back to the UK and her family but little did they know that 10 months on, they still wouldn’t be able to see them.
With all flights and ferries being cancelled, Jan said she risked driving home from Spain with all the relevant paperwork, but very little checks.
She added: “We were amazed when we arrived, at how empty the supermarket shelves were, something that we hadn’t experienced in Spain, although there was no isolation or quarantine for us we only went supermarket shopping once and then stayed at home.
“We had a busy summer moving house in the UK but it was helped by our regular picnics in favourite beauty spots including the banks of the Dee and Severn. We were determined to stay healthy and avoided anywhere that was crowded or not controlled.
“Unfortunately in October our daughter who is a care worker in a dementia nursing home was tested positive so we all had to isolate again.”
The couple returned to Spain in December in order to gain Spanish residencia before Brexit, however Jan said they thought ‘long and hard’ due to the ever changing and tight rules in Spain.
At that point, curfews of 10pm to 8am were in force.
Upon their arrival, the rules changed once again to needing to be a resident in Spain and negative testing upon arrival as well as strict paperwork rules.
Jan said restrictions were also in place in Spainon travel and shops which were temporarily lifted for Christmas.
She added: “The first thing we noticed when we arrived in December was the necessity to wear masks at all times outside of the family home including the beach and parks and even walking from our car to our front gate a distance of 20 metres. Travelling in the car can only be from the same household if there is anybody else they have to wear a mask inside the car, children wear masks. Temperatures are taken in public buildings and shops before entry.
“There are lots more police about. We also noticed how quiet it was everywhere with very few Brits anywhere.
“Then two weeks ago there was a new decree that there was to be a new ‘’state of emergency ‘’ in place and a full lockdown has been imposed once again including strict curfews and border closures. The Valencia border closes completely at 3pm on Friday and re-opens on Monday at 6am.
“Apparently there was alarm about the new ‘’spike’. Looking at the figures for the last week in the UK there were about 20k new cases per day during the equivalent week there were 11,300 new cases in Spain.
“Deaths in a 24-hour period was 915 in the UK and just 85 in Spain. I don’t advocate the presence of gun toting police officers on the streets but if their roadblocks and strict clear messages save lives, the UK has a lot to learn. Spain counts its death rates in tens not hundreds.
“Our village currently has eight cases from over 1,000 people I.E two households.”
Jan told the Leader there is currently talks about restrictions being relaxed for the Easter period to save the Spanish economy, but Brexit brings on its own challenges.
She said: “There is talk about entry restrictions being relaxed about Easter time to save the Spanish economy which was down by 85% in 2020 but new Brexit rules and restrictions added to the global pandemic will, I firmly believe, make it more difficult for UK holiday makers to visit this year.
“We’ve noticed price increases on air and ferry fares and the cost of health insurance has increased significantly which is a shame for those wanting a sunshine break.
“Combined with the need for negative testing which costs anywhere between £50 and £120 each way, for all family members other than small children, it will make a reasonable break very expensive for many families.”
— to www.leaderlive.co.uk