As Spain hunkers down after five weeks of confinement, the brave few keep the country going during a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 20,000 of their fellow citizens.
These workers — butchers, taxi drivers, pharmacists — in the northern city of Pamplona as well as in the rest of Spain’s cities and towns are unified by their courage and one piece of equipment: the face mask.
“I feel a great sadness and impotence when faced with the tragedy we are living through,” said taxi driver Isabel Zarranz, who has continued to work as part of the essential services authorized by the government. “Our way of life has changed forever.”
Matilde Mattos said while cleaning the window of a pharmacy: “This crisis is a way of showing us that we are destroying the planet. It is a sign from God.”
Most retail stores, including restaurants and bars, along with schools and other services have been closed for weeks to stem a COVID-19 outbreak that has infected over 190,000 people in Spain. While people infected with the coronavirus often experience mild or moderate symptoms, possible complications like pneumonia can put their lives at risk.
Factories and construction sites were reopened last week after a two-week freeze.
While hundreds of thousands in Spain have lost their jobs during the lockdown, these few workers are making sure the basic needs and services function at the risk of also falling ill.
Yet uncertainty reigns for their future as well, with the country heading for a likely recession along with large parts of Europe as business activity and trade plummets.
“I don’t know what will happen in the coming months. It is a huge unknown,” butcher Jose Mari Armendariz said.
For fish dealer Gladis Neire, used to attending to her regular clientele, the confinement has taken the life out of her stall.
“I feel so bad for so many people who have died, ” she said. “The market where I work, there are always people. Now it is empty.”