The social impact of lockdown, and the light at the end of the tunnel

Sunday 13th April - Christine Vasquez

If you’d told me a month ago (while we were still squabbling over the abortion debate) that our Government would impose a lock down, keeping us all at home and that you would see people wearing masks on the streets, I would have thought you were stark raving mad.

And the weirdness of the situation is perhaps what people struggle with the most-you’re discombobulated, finding it hard to sleep and having strange dreams when you do. It’s hard to settle with a book, although you’ve always wanted to have more time to read. You’re almost in a state of suspension-living an intermediate existence.

But nobody questions the measures. It’s all too serious and too necessary. And so, we accept and even embrace this new reality-reaching out to friends and families on zoom and facetime, ironically with a new-found genuine appreciation.

In his Easter message the Chief Minister said he was committed to ensuring the measures should not last a minute longer than necessary, the imposition of the controls, he said, were an indelible scar on his heart.

He has a lot to weigh up: the priority is to keep numbers manageable so they don’t collapse the system - but then how long can people be kept indoors, before the structure of society is threatened? The rallying call is necessary and uplifting but the balancing act still has to anticipate when people will snap. A premature return could mean all we’ve done so far has been for nothing. There’s also the question of avoiding a discrepancy with Spain. They have tight restrictions, and politically, it would not do for us not to match the measures as much as possible. And then, there’s the small matter of the economy, with Fabian Picardo warning of the worst economic downturn in living history.

But still there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Not just yet, nothing concrete, but the Cabinet, he said, is seeking to work on an appropriate exit strategy to lift the restrictions. A mention of an exit. When could this be? If we went the way of Wuhan (76 days), Gibraltar and the UK would be looking at the 7th/8th of June. Spain at the 29th of May. In fact, today Spain, against advice from the experts, is easing restrictions, with factory and construction workers returning to work.

In his message, the Chief Minister said the stoicism of our previous generations runs in our veins. Our history has taught us not to take things for granted, to pool together in times of challenge and defend our people with our heart and soul. And, we have so seen the backbone of community in the past weeks that maybe we should not fear the adverse effects of a lock down.

As a girl during the closed frontier years-I only look back on happy days and remember this community spirit. Pivotal, challenging moments in Gibraltar’s development did not traumatise us. Instead I remember them fondly, with the innocence of childhood. The general strike was one of those moments. I come from a trade union background-my mother was one of those picketing at the time and yet what I took from it were her inedible attempts at bread baking and how such a simple thing only served to unite us. This year supermarkets have run out of flour and acelga as families found the time to cook again-to eat together. It’s up to us to ensure that we can look back at these months fondly too; when we got to spend that quality time with family, when we reached out to friends across the globe, even when we queued outside the supermarket, when we stopped to reflect on how fragile life can be, the importance of solidarity and how we only move forward by being there for each other.