La Ramblas, busiest street in downtown Barcelona deserted due to Coronavirus lockdown
Dateline: Plaza Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain
By Chiogor Constance Ikokwu
In December 2019, when Covid-19 aka Coronavirus broke out in Wuhan Province, China, the world seemed indifferent. It was largely seen as a Chinese problem. Reporting by Western media was biased.
In France, Germany and Denmark, it was regarded as the “Yellow Peril” and “Made in China” disease. In the UK, the Daily Mail published the story of a Chinese woman eating a mammal in response to reports that Coronavirus emanated from bats. American right-wingers tried to politicize it in a way to hurt China.
Today, Coronavirus has arrived at everyone’s doorsteps. It has no color or race. Many cases have been identified in Europe and the Americas. It is believed that the casualties may be more mainly because testing kits are not widely available. The West is in a meltdown!!!
I did not realize this until I stepped out of the house last Friday. I went make-up shopping with a friend. She had agreed to give me a make over, meaning that she would advise on all shades of make up that needed to be restocked. We went to a high street shop in downtown Barcelona. As was the norm, we wanted to test the colors before purchase. A shop assistant appeared from nowhere and warned us against testing.
She explained that the rules had changed owing to the outbreak of Coronavirus. OK. LET’S KEEP IT MOVING.
We strolled to another beauty outfit where no one bothered us. After experimenting with colors, we paid for the products. It was Friday night, so we decided to chill out at a bar. On getting there, it was empty. This was very unusual in Barcelona.
The barman told us that the ban on all social gatherings would take effect from the following morning, Saturday. The government had requested that all bars, restaurants, shops, offices, schools, social gatherings except supermarkets and essential services, be shut down for 15 days. This barman predicted that foodstuff would probably be sold out. I was alarmed. I had no food in the house because I usually did my grocery shopping Saturday morning. I decided to head to the supermarket urgently.
On my way there, I noticed people dragging big grocery bags behind them. Panic buying was effectively in place. It felt as if the country was preparing for war. On getting to the supermarket, I was dismayed. Everything had flown off the shelves. This was the first time I could see through the shelves from the entrance to the back. Tomatoes, spinach, oranges, pineapple, broccoli, sweet pepper, cucumber, cauliflower, onions, banana, yoghurt, avocado, toilet paper, were gone. I was in a state of disbelief. What in the world is going on?
I clutched a basket and scampered to pick up whatever was left. I threw some miserly looking unripe tomatoes in my basket. There were about four remaining cabbages. I grabbed one. I bolted to the back to get olive oil, tuna fish, sardine and cereal. It felt surreal. The following morning, I stepped outside to investigate the situation. The supermarket was open; there were fresh vegetable supplies but many items were yet to be replaced. All the shops and restaurants were under lock and key. Streets were empty. Buses were unoccupied. It was a ghost town.
Across the world, fear of Coronavirus is reaching a crescendo. The United States government has cancelled flights originating in Europe to America. There are more than 500 reported cases of Coronavirus in the USA.
France has shut down all football games (it has more than 700 cases), so has the UK. Countries in Europe are shutting down schools including Poland, Hungry, Denmark, Italy, etc. Australia has closed universities. Saudi Arabia has banned travel to and from the European Union (EU). Hungry banned arrivals from Italy, South Korea, China and Iran. An Italian colleague tells me that with an Italian passport, you’re more likely to be stigmatized at any airport in the world. There are more than 20,000 cases in Italy resulting in a lockdown of some parts of the country.
Canada is cancelling large gatherings too. Reports that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife Sophie, UK Health Minister Nadine Dorries, and other high-level personalities have contracted the disease have heightened fears.
The question is, would we have taken this more seriously if it were not initially cast as a race or nationality problem? While China was busy locking down its cities, and building a 1,000-bed hospital in 10 days, the rest of the world made jokes about them.
What we’re seeing now is a blame game between China and the West. After initially accepting the virus emanated from Wuhan Province, the Chinese government says the origin is unclear. Insinuations are that it was imported into the country. The West on the other hand blames China for what it alleges was a systematic attempt to cover up its failures. It claims the disease was left unchecked for weeks. According to them, by the time the lock down started, carriers had already traveled within and outside China.
Discrimination of Asians is taking place around the world. On social media, posts such as #Iamnotavirus are in circulation. As an African, I can relate with the frustration being expressed by Asians. Sorry, but welcome to the world of the oppressed and maligned.
Africans are familiar with this. We live it everyday. This time, we’re not the face of a global disease. But the Western media use Africa as their punching bag, thereby creating lasting negative perceptions about the continent. It permits Western governments to act with impunity towards the continent, without repercussions. When you successfully construct whole communities as having no value, it is easy to justify your actions.
The lesson here is that journalists can and should do better. The power of the pen must not be abused as the public relies on the media for information. Sensationalizing stories is poor journalism. Finally, this politics of “us” and “them” is counterproductive. We’re one humanity. Let’s work together.
What are you thoughts? Have a good week and stay safe!
Empty streets in Barcelona. Lockdown in force, to contain Coronavirus