ISOLATION BLUES

Covid-19 in Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Melilla, Spain


The government of Spain instituted a Coronavirus lockdown — "confinamiento" in Spanish — starting March 15, 2020. It stayed in effect until June 21. During these three months the central government mandated that people stay in their homes, with many unable to buy groceries from shops more than 400 meters from their legal residence. 

However, the story of lockdown in Spain extends beyond the initial 3 month confinamiento to the restrictions on social gatherings that have remained in place for almost 2 full years, contributing to a long-term sense of isolation for many. From Catalonia to Melilla to the Balearic Islands, after the first confinamiento ended, authority over Covid norms was decentralized and left up to each of Spain's 17 comunidades autónomas to determine. This has created a situation where different regions of the same country are subject to vastly different levels of restrictions.

In Melilla, a once porous border between the North African enclave and the Rif region of Morocco closed for over two years, stifling trade and freedom of movement between the two countries. In the Balearic Islands, European tourists can come and go, but those without identity papers or those visually dubbed "outsiders" due to their skin color are subject to greater scrutiny. In Catalonia, life is carrying on almost as if the pandemic has come and gone, leaving those who are immunocompromised or elderly to take health precautions into their own hands and navigate the cognitive dissonance of those around them living life-as-normal while they continue to maintain (rightful) fear of catching the virus.  

Melilla. February 18, 2021.

A vending machine full of masks in the port of Melilla. 

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Sitges, Catalonia. August 5, 2020.

Two old friends meet for a socially distant chat by the sea. In the first 6 months of the pandemic there were almost 400,000 coronavirus cases in Spain. While health officials across the country urged people to social distance and wear masks in public, enforcement has varied widely from region to region.

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April 4, 2021

There is a law in Spain that requires you to carry identity papers at all times. Failure to produce ID when requested can result in detention or a fine. This law has disproportionately affected migrants in Spain, as non-white people are more frequently asked to produce identification. Increased surveillance and law enforcement presence in the streets as a result of Covid restrictions has exacerbated the danger people without legal status face while in public. 

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Balearic Islands. May 23, 2020.

A patient at Quirónsalud Palmaplanas Hospital in Mallorca. In an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, all admitted patients at Palmaplanas are tested for Covid-19 and put in isolation while waiting for the results. Family members can only visit patients who test negative for coronavirus.

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