Isolated on foreign soil as COVID-19 impacts Athlone native in Madrid

An Athlone native, presently in lockdown mode in Madrid, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain, detailed his personal experience on foreign soil as an elongated period of isolation shows no sign of reaching a conclusion.

Hailing from Cornamagh, Morgan Fagg, noted the initial impact phase of COVID-19 in Madrid as he, and his fellow city dwellers, adapted necessary measures to avoid contracting the virus.

“The first case of Coronavirus in Spain happened in an island off Africa called La Gomera, but as it appeared an isolated case, normality was maintained.

“However, as March elapsed, I knew that COVID-19 was beginning to impact upon Madrid but daily life proceeded. I saw no disinfection taking place on public transport despite 2.3 million people using the Metro each day.

“Packing half of the population of my home country onto commuter trains where CNN and other news outlets were advising against the use of masks sounded insane and I started to wear a disposable glove on my right hand and a scarf around my face. The glove allowed me to open doors and hold the handrail and I did not care if I looked foolish or not.

“Over the following days, more and more started to wear masks but I could still overhear people speaking and coughing on the Metro on which there were no signs erected encouraging commuters to wash their hands or take preventative measures.

“When it was time to act, there were no COVID-19 prevention information posters placed throughout the city and now empty buses roam the city, sometimes with single passenger occupancy or less,” Morgan remarked.

With his public health awareness now prevalent, Morgan advised colleagues and friends to walk to work as opposed to using public transport methods.

“One particular Spanish friend, Patricia asked me for advice on where to celebrate her Saint’s Day. I told her to stay away from crowded bars as being of an overcrowded nature, they were a breeding ground for the spread of COVID-19,” Morgan continued.

Working in an employee laden building, Morgan espoused the urgent need to enhance COVID-19 preventive measures amongst colleagues.

“One morning as I arrived to work in a big marketing firm where I teach English, I saw the receptionist wiping down ID cards with disinfectant and thought it was incredible that she was single handedly doing more to stop the spread of the virus than any elected representative of which I could think.

“The building in which I work had taken some precautionary measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, including cancelling events of more than 500 people but one morning I realised that it was not enough.

“I started an early morning class and offered to bump elbows with the marketing director I was meeting with for an English class. It is known as the ‘Ebola handshake’ where people avoid shaking hands and bump elbows instead. The executive kept his distance and just give me a stern look and stood against the wall. He explained that we should cancel the class and I wanted to cry when he told me why.

“The office on the third floor was empty that day except for about ten people even though the building usually holds 2,500 people. The company offered their staff the option of working from home the previous day and most people obliged.

“As my classes had not been cancelled, I went to my one-to-one tutorials and met with people face to face. The executive cancelled the class as he had been informed that there was a rumour that someone at an event, which had not been postponed, had tested positive for Covid-19. I was shocked by the news and wondered why he had waited to tell me face to face that he was cancelling our class.

“I returned home at lunchtime worried that I had come so close to contracting COVID-19 and have worked from home ever since. That was almost a month ago. On March 11 Madrid was placed in complete lockdown and it might be May before I return to classes, if I do at all,” Morgan stated.

Although the COVID-19 statistics appear to reveal grounds for minimal optimism in the Spanish capital, virus related figures ascertained to date make for grim reading.

“The first death was recorded on March 3 and over 12,000 people have died since then with over 125,000 cases now reported and thousands of new cases occurring daily despite the lockdown,” Morgan concluded.


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