We have had another couple of fairly normal days (yesterday, Thursday, was actually a Bank Holiday here in Marbella (although we still haven’t worked out what it related to), and, consequently, it was fairly quiet). I took a day off exercising as well (two days of tennis on hard clay courts didn’t have a good effect on my sore calf muscles – stupidly I did go out on court again today, and then my leg kind of gave up altogether, so I am a bit hobbly now… ugggh. It’s going to be back to the bike, 7 and dancing for the rest of our time here I guess, in readiness for our return to Prague!), so I was able to do a good catch up of all the news while Jan was out for his usual run.
One of the first things I saw was a clip of a journalist in the UK interviewing people coming out of one of the main train stations at commuter time and asking each of them what they thought about wearing a mask. All said, without exception, that they thought that the Government should have made the wearing of masks obligatory in the UK and that they didn’t understand why they hadn’t – and yet only one of them was actually wearing one! How strange, I thought, that even though they seemed convinced that it made sense to wear a mask, they weren’t going to do it until it was made a rule… (and just now, I see that that is going to happen next week, but only on public transport…)
All of this made me ponder for some time the differences in people’s attitudes to mask-wearing; in the Czech Republic, the Prime Minister made it obligatory to wear a mask pretty much all the time right from day one, and he and his Ministers have ‘led by example’ by holding all press conferences and other televised events fully masked-up (which was sometimes a bit bizarre, but I understand why they decided to do it) – he believes that the wearing of masks was the main reason that the numbers were so low (more so than the early lockdown), and even though the country is more or less back to normal, masks still have to be worn in shops and public transport. From what I have heard, no-one has ever really had a problem with this rule, and some people have even continued to wear them for exercise, although that is no longer necessary.
In Spain, masks were only made obligatory when we got to, I think, Phase 0 (about six weeks’ ago) and then only on public transport. Even now, they don’t have to be worn other than on public transport (although a few shops have made it obligatory – Iceland is one of those) unless one is in a situation where it isn’t possible to maintain the two metre social distancing rule, but on the whole, most people wear them for most of the time (or if not actually wearing them, have them slung around their neck so that they can push them up when necessary). Even before Phase 0, that was more or less the case, but actually, right from day one, more importance has been put on both washing hands and wearing gloves – from the first day of lockdown, no-one could go into a supermarket without gloves, but without masks was OK.
In the UK, in the early days, the powers that be were continually quoting the WHO and its early pronouncements (which were changed pretty soon after) that there was no evidence of masks being protection against catching the virus (but they might help to stop someone spreading it – which, if you think about it, means that if everyone does wear one, everyone benefits….) – and since then, there has been a lot of discussion about the pros and cons (for example, whether wearing a mask makes people too ‘relaxed’ about other rules, etc – I actually think that it is the opposite; in my own case, putting on a mask reminds me that there is a problem, since it is very easy to forget, now, that all is not completely normal) – as with so many things that are happening in the UK, there seems to have been a reluctance to take advice from any other country as to what does and doesn’t work, so it is only now, very late in the day, that masks are going to start being worn, but, as I say, only on public transport – I wonder if people will continue to wear them anyway, as they do here – personally, I would say that if you are in the UK, put one on now and don’t take it off until you have the numbers around 0!
Having said all of this, I am not completely surprised that the UK Government doesn’t want to force the wearing of masks on anyone. Years ago, when British people first started to go to work in the Middle East (or, in my case, live in Turkey for a while), we were all horrified that women were (as we perceived it) ‘forced’ to wear face (and body) covering, although in my case, once I had some Turkish girl friends I soon found out that they actually quite liked ‘covering up’ – it allowed them to move around incognito (something to be said for that on a ‘bad hair day’!) and, of course, it all came off once they got home. Turkish women, too, were experts in making-up their eyes to look very striking, and I was reminded of that when shopping the other day and talking to a very friendly sales assistant, who was very good at ‘smiling with her eyes’ – something that I also tried to do back. Perhaps this will be another way that we will communicate differently in the future… and, incidentally, has anyone looked at the numbers for the Middle East/Africa, where masks are generally worn at all times – is it a coincidence that they are all so low (although, of course, they have all had very hard lockdowns as well)?.
In addition to the ongoing chaos with the British government, which is a fairly constant feature on Twitter (and this means regarding the UK, rather than, necessarily, Spain or the CR), the other big story that has been taking over both news and social media in the UK is the ‘black lives matter’ campaign. As I have mentioned before, I think, I was brought up to treat everyone the same – black, white, Jewish, Arab, green, yellow whatever – it didn’t matter (possibly because, as also mentioned before, we are a family of Holocaust survivors, although that doesn’t necessarily follow in all cases!). So I am not, in any way, against the campaign (in some ways.. not in all). BUT I can’t help but feel that it is the wrong time to be diverting attention from the still very big issue of the virus, the economy, Brexit, and the general destruction of the UK as we know it by this government….. call me cynical, but I even wonder (naughty me) whether some of the demonstrations in the UK are somehow ‘organised’ precisely for that reason…. (so that should get a few comments going!).
It’s funny really; in the early days of our coming out of lockdown here, we were so happy to be able to go out to run and take a walk in the evening, that even though everything else remained so restricted, we kind of stopped being concerned about what was happening elsewhere in the world, watching the news addictively, and monitoring every little Tweet or post on Facebook (and, as far as the Spanish news and FB pages were concerned, they also quietened down and became a lot less hysterical (in the case of FB) or focused on the virus (the news)), and just enjoyed every day without thinking too far ahead. But then, once things opened up even more, and especially when we were able to meet up with our friends, and go to restaurants and shops, we started to see what the ‘new normal’ was going to look like, and that took us straight back to the beginning again – not so much worrying about the numbers in each respective country and/or whether we would get back to Prague, but about different things. Hence my starting, again, to watch the news intently and showing my face (a bit too much I feel) on social media!
Today, though, it hit us that we now only have one more week before we head off, so we are determined to try to enjoy it! Dinner with friends tonight, taking a trip out of Marbella tomorrow, and, generally, preparing here for us to leave and Prague for us to arrive. Can’t decide whether to be sad or happy! More on that soon.