‘Spanish health system is amazing but under pressure’

MAIREAD McGuinness from Killea has been living in Madrid for 19 years where she works as an English teacher. She is currently on a year out.

On Sunday, Spain reported 394 more deaths in 24 hours, raising the total to 1,720, the second highest in Europe after Italy.

Spain has issued lockdown orders for its 46 million residents, who are only permitted to leave their homes for essential work, food shopping, medical reasons or to walk the dog.


The last day of school for students was Tuesday, March 10 and there is talk about having to postpone the EVAU, the equivalent of the Leaving Certificate.

“We can’t travel freely. It’s one person to each car. My husband has a letter from his workplace confirming that he’s on the motorway to go to work. If the Police stop you far from your home and you can’t justify your reason for being in the car, you get fined.

“In the case of travelling with a child or a sick/disabled person, they have to sit in the back, diagonally from the driver to keep a safe distance,” she said.

“The Spanish health system is amazing but it is under pressure. Here in Madrid there are around 100 hospitals both public and private that are really stepping up to the challenge. Nurses and doctors are working 12 hour-long shifts, putting themselves at risk, trying to save lives,” she added.

Every evening at 8pm, Mairead steps out onto her balcony to join her neighbours in clapping, singing and banging saucepans lids in appreciation of the work being undertaken by the emergency services.

“It’s one minute in the day when you know that you’re not alone,” she sighed.

“The message is quite clear. We have to stay inside. If we don’t, we’ll all end up with Coronavirus. The authorities probably should have reacted a few days earlier but that’s easy for me to say. It’s easy to judge when you’re not in charge. The Royal Decree was very much improvised and last-minute but it’s in force and it’s working. There has been a lot of political bickering over the last few months but the main opposition parties are supportive,” she added.


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