You all have fond memories of Lanzarote and might be missing or worried about your friends and family here. To keep you in touch with the island that stole your heart, we asked some of the residents how they’d been coping during lockdown and share our own thoughts from the home office up in Los Valles!
Here the lockdown was fairly rapid, starting for most with the global news of an outbreak inside a Tenerife hotel. Other cases had existed in the Canary Islands before this time but it was the first Canary-Corona news to make it all the way around the world.
Our tourist centres, such as the Timanfaya National Park shut their doors on March 13th, the first sign that a total lockdown was imminent. By 2pm, we were sharing news of various conditions being placed on movement across the islands and advising holidaymakers to cancel plans. Finally, on March 14th a Royal decree was published under Spain’s official State of Alarm, ordering lockdown across all territories including the Canary Islands.
At this point Lanzarote itself had only one or two cases and the feeling on the island was that we must act quickly to prevent, rather than cure. Islanders continued to move fairly freely but without access to any place of gathering on Saturday, reaching the point where the public understood that all movement apart from essential supplies was prohibited at the end of that first weekend. Thus began the complete stillness of the island and her people.
Since that alert, Lanzarote has acted dutifully. There has been a strong security presence on the roads and with no unnecessary outside activity allowed at all (no jogging for your health here), the vast majority hankered down for the long stay at home. Unlike the UK, we are not allowed to go outside for mental health exercise. We can walk our dog around our own homes but anything else requires permission or direct need such as food and medicine.
Supermarkets are of course essential, and they have been orderly from the start. Everyone wears gloves and waits in line for their turn to enter. There was very little panic buying here. We may only attend one at a time, with no passengers in our cars. In the first day of the alert the government released images of warehouses full of stock and confirmed that we had months of supply. We stick to shopping for what we need, perhaps weekly or less and usually to the nearest, singular store. We don’t have Amazon or eBay here so people are largely making do with what they have.
An even stricter part of the lockdown came in after the first wave. Literally all non-essential work was banned. That meant that houses stopped being built and the offices of everything that wasn’t needed to keep the basic services running, were locked and sealed. By this time, the vast majority of us knew we were out of work to be honest, irrespective. Cafes, bars and hotels closed their doors first. Our mainstay was gone, at least for a while. The unemployment rates across the Canary Islands are unfathomable and there has been some criticism of the lack of support for autonomos (the self-employed) but the situation regarding financial support evolves each day.
A Supportive Island
Perhaps unlike the UK or USA we seem less vocally critical of financial support. We see that those without homes are being sheltered and food reaches those in need. Banks have been slow to respond but many of us have offered what we don’t need to others. On an island where the whole industry collapses quickly, we know there is nothing to do but wait and that help will come or time will heal. There is no fighting for Ocado slots and we just sign what we can sign for the aid that our people can give. We watch Madrid and know we are safer and feel humble and changed.
The situation now echoes much of the rest of the world. Perhaps more fully locked down. Perhaps more fully complied. We all follow the news each day waiting for the test results and that initial 2 or 3 rose quickly to 60 as we hit the peak. Now, we are glad to report that it seems to have slowed to a trickle of new cases in Lanzarote at least. There’s only one newbie today, so far. However we know that the lockdown must continue for the good of the whole island and for the world. We’re in week 3 now. 3 weeks without outdoor activity. 3 weeks with no walks. 3 weeks without seeing the beach or the park unless your window faces that way. And we’re glad.
The islanders are extremely resilient. There is a massive sense of co-operation. Videos show the streets truly are empty. When one or two bend the rules to throw a party (heck, we are Spanish) they are quickly denounced in public and in the press. We practice ‘tough love’ but rarely complain. There is singing here too. Applause from the balconies. Thousands of Likes and Loves for the updates from our local town-halls. We’ve lost people too. Although we don’t know the exact location of losses, we’ve mourned for people in the emergency and health services who seem particularly hard hit and we’ll never forget the risks that they took to keep us alive.
Of course, there is misinformation. We’re an entrepreneurial little island and almost all of us use Facebook and WhatsApp to chat. It’s not unusual for businesses to use those rather than have a website or online store for example. Within that space there are dozens of online communities, each sharing updates on the rules and the options. Sometimes we get it wrong, but we’ve learned to cross-check facts with the government and not to panic or get too upset when someone claims to know otherwise. We speak many languages. We are a crucible of cultures. But we get along with each other. After all, we know we’ll see those faces in the street again soon. We’re just a village in the scale of things.
So enough of my waffle. In my case, life has been relatively fine. I live remotely and due to existing health conditions, we’ve not left our location at all. Our food is delivered by kindly neighbours and commercial services to the end of a track half a mile from the house. It’s a total cut-off for us but we stay in touch with our friends and our family and we have always worked from a computer and a phone. Our personal business is gone but time will heal, and the credit card is still working, so far. Everything can wait.
Let’s turn instead to the residents elsewhere across the island… some responses edited for clarity…
“For me the most stressful part was at the beginning (prior to lockdown and with not one confirmed case on the island) when so many people were not taking it seriously. I had been following it since early January on the worldometer page, watching the exponential growth in China. I had friends telling me not to share statistics because it would scare people and those same friends taking part in all sorts of gatherings. The day before lockdown I rang the school as I was taking the children out. He begged me not to. Within 4 hours the official notice came that all schools would be closing and we were going into lockdown. Then I could relax…. Obviously on a financial level it is worrying as I am self employed and depend on being able to sell my work at markets. However for now, this is out of my hands so I am concentrating on building my online presence and creating new exciting items for my followers.”
Tammy, local artist and businesswoman Anza Originals, North Lanzarote.
“There is never a good time for things like this to happen. However the effect on all businesses worldwide is phenomenal. It affects both personal and business survival. I am fortunate to live in a rural area, Las Cabreras, I have a large plot so this helps all of us including the dogs not to feel too confined. I am also fortunate to be an Estate Agent on this wonderful Island where I am confident that the housing market will recover. I do feel that this situation has been created rather than it being a natural phenomenon. Only time will tell. I wish everyone love, luck and survival! Stay positive!”
Sue Cox, Estate Agent www.suecoxinmobiliaria.com
“I do worry about the economic damage and recovery although I’m taking comfort in knowing that we are all in the same boat, but here in Lanzarote I feel safer than anywhere else hats off to all those concerned with keeping us safe.”
Gaye Anne Morgan, business owner, Costa Teguise
“I too was following the situation since mid Jan. It was somewhat frustrating before the lockdown how many people refused to believe it would happen here. What concerns me now is the impact this will have to the economy and society in general. Will we be the same once all this is over? I hope that if we do all come out of this, we’re more ready to face the next pandemic.”
Nicholas David Powell, resident
“I am more thankful than ever to live on Lanzarote during this crisis. The lockdown took effect very quickly and came as a relief. Suddenly many day to day worries became irrelevant and alongside that came the realisation that things that seemed important really were not.
I am concerned about the island’s small businesses. The supermarkets are open but the small businesses are suffering as the markets are closed, customers cannot travel, we cannot deliver to them…….but this also feels like it should be considered relatively unimportant compared with the unimaginable suffering that is sweeping around the world.”
Wendie Bunting owner of Lady Marmalade
“Lockdown came pretty suddenly I think secretly I hoped it would not get here but my guests arrived in the Casita on Saturday 12th and lock down arrived with 2 hour’s notice at midnight. Originally it was supposed to be Monday but when it happened it took a lot of us by surprise and there was confusion on the Sunday if it was Sunday or Monday. My poor French guests had never been abroad before and were suddenly locked in the Casita in my garden. luckily for them they had the use of my pool and garden, they young boys walked my dogs one by one; they went to the supermarket and we all maintained social distancing. They finally got a flight home one day earlier than their previous flight that was cancelled but to Paris, the hire car they were expecting in Paris was not there and they had a 1800 euro taxi ride home to Strasbourg. Despite this the review they gave me, and my Casita was glowing and so full of praise it brought tears to my eyes. They say as soon as this is over, they are coming back to take advantage of my offer of a free week as compensation plus an extra week they will pay for. The Casita is now closed to guests and all bookings cancelled up to June/July. The cattery had several guests the week of lockdown, but all cats were collected by Monday and that is now empty too.”
Sally Ann Etheridge, villa owner and cattery, Tahíche.
Wishing you all love, from Lanzarote.
Photo by Juan Carlos Otero on Unsplash