A May Saturday. Warm, like a summer day. It’s dusk now. I stay a long time at my window, feeling the early evening fresh breeze and watching the sun set over the sea. I never tire of this view; every day the colours are different. There are days with silver-blue and orange, others with deep-blue and pink, and then there are those days when you can see silver in the sky and the sea, only in different shades.
Today it was pink and deep-blue, and I stayed at the window for a long time, enjoying the silence – only interrupted by the singing of the birds in the trees below and the occasional car passing by – and the stillness of it all. Dusk has always been my favourite time of the day – I’ve read somewhere it’s the one preferred by romantic people, so I suppose deep down this is still what I am.
From today, the State of Emergency in Portugal is over. It’s not that the pandemic is over, far from that. The fact is the economy is dying. Many European countries are beginning a gradual comeback. From Monday small businesses will be open to the public, such as hairdressers and all sorts of beauty salons (like manicures) for the great relief of many Portuguese women who suddenly found themselves with white roots in their hair, un-manicured hands and feet, etc. Precautions will have to be taken such as previous bookings, social distance and disinfection measures. Face masks will only be mandatory, by law, in certain situations, such as public transport, but shops may establish it as a rule for their customers too. I have received several text messages on my phone saying that, from tomorrow, unmasked clients will not be allowed into this and that shop. Bookshops will also be open from this week on – great news! By mid-May restaurants will also be able to open to the public, with restrictions as well, and football competitions by the end of the month.
It is a fact that many people are already wearing masks. Even here, to go to the supermarket or pharmacy, I wear them, as do most people. In Lisbon, where I have been to the office once a week, most people on the streets are wearing masks too. If everyone wears a mask then contagion will be much reduced or even avoided, and that’s one of the conditions for a safe comeback; others are social distancing and disinfection. But most of all I believe things will only go well if common sense prevails. So far, the Portuguese have been spoken of as an example of success in the measures taken, as well as of civility. But sending the population home, scared as we all were of the pandemic, was easier than having people come out slowly, fed up and tired of more than a month and a half of confinement. Especially with the month of May beckoning with warm temperatures and irresistible blue sky.
It’s not over
We have to be extra cautious so that the numbers keep their trend. As of this moment, we have had 25.351 cases of which 1.007 have died. The number of new cases has stabilized – and according to my cousin the doctor, there are much less cases in hospitals, so the pressure of the first weeks has been reduced – but we are not seeing a decrease yet, so we must be very, very careful not to spoil everything we have achieved, not to render these almost two months of confinement useless. I believe in our country’s civility, even if I can understand the need for some fresh air.
After all, I have been privileged during this time. I have been able to go for walks by the sea and get fresh air almost every day. I have enjoyed a wonderful view from my window and found some peace and tranquillity during this period. But many have been confined in their homes in the city, families with children who, all parents know, are difficult to keep within four walls. Especially when the sun is shining outside. Not to speak of the anguish of families who are in lay off or have lost their jobs and face a bleak future.
When this all began, and we thought a few weeks of confinement would do the trick, we prayed for this to be over. For some time, now, we have known this is far from over, or will be, for a long time. So, let’s take this comeback for what it is – a timid attempt to regain some normality, to start giving the economy some boost. Otherwise the medicine will be worse than the disease itself. Above all, let’s understand how fragile it is, how easily things can turn bad if we don’t know how to behave ourselves – if we make the huge mistake of thinking the pandemic is over.
Because it’s not. As a doctor recently told me – this is only over when there is a vaccine. Only then, he added, will this become history. Until then we must be prepared to live our lives differently, with more caution and new habits and maybe, if we do that right, maybe it will all go well and we’ll slowly regain, step by step, little bits of our old way of life.
So, please – put on your mask, get your disinfectant, respect social distance and do not do any crazy things. There’s still a lot of Covid-19 out there!