Spain’s streets turn eerily quiet following coronavirus lockdown

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Transformation of usually bustling Madrid and Barcelona spooks the few residents and tourists to venture out

Spains usually teeming streets and bustling landmarks have come to a standstill after the Spanish government imposed a nationwide near-lockdown in hopes of tempering a coronavirus epidemic that has spiralled into one of the worst in Europe.

On Sunday, the number of cases of Covid-19 across Spain stood at 7,753 and 288 deaths. One week ago, Spain stood at 589 confirmed cases and 10 deaths.

Echoing measures taken by Italy Europes hardest hit country the Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, ordering the closure of all non-essential shops as well as bars, restaurants, cafes, football grounds and cinemas.

Residents have been ordered to stay at home, allowed out only to buy food and medicine or travel to work, health centres or banks. Travel is also allowed for those looking after the elderly or dependents.

Save for a handful of people walking their dogs or picking up groceries, most streets in Madrid were empty. Its shocking, said Bertrand Martinez Pealver as he looked out at a quiet boulevard. Spain is a place where there are always people out. Now theres nobody.

A woman leaves a fruit store in Madrid wearing a protective mask and gloves. Photograph: Pablo Blzquez Domnguez/Getty Images

Forced to wear a mask and winter gloves by his mother, the high-school student had been sent out to pick up bread. I cant be inside all day, he said with a sigh.

Food shops, pharmacies, petrol stations and pet supply shops are among the businesses that will be allowed to remain open during the next fortnight.

In Madrid, police cars slowly made their way down the empty streets, using megaphones to blast out a pre-recorded message warning residents to stay indoors for their security. A few joggers, out on their own to capitalise on the sunny day, were sent home promptly by police.

The Spanish government on Saturday said that Begoa Gmez, the wife of the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Snchez, had tested positive for Covid-19. Both are in good health, the government added. Two ministers in the Spanish government, Irene Montero and Carolina Darias, have also tested positive in recent days.

In Barcelona, the streets of the old city were abandoned by all but the homeless and the occasional dog walker. Usually at this time of year the city is teeming with tourists but by Friday afternoon the last Segways and rickshaws had been locked away and museums, galleries and other tourist attractions shuttered, forcing the few tourists to stay in their hotels and watch TV.

While most people across the country were resigned to complying with the lockdown, many worried that the measures had come too late, pointing to the huge rallies that had been allowed to go ahead across the country to mark International Womens Day as well as a 9,000-strong rally for far-right Vox party last week.

Last Sunday, this area where I live was total mayhem with thousands and thousands and thousands of people on the street, said Eric Steinhauser as he looked out on the vacant streets below his apartment in Madrids city centre. And I cant believe the government had no inkling, from what happened in Italy, that this was going to be an explosive situation.

Now he wondered how the lockdown would play out in a country where everyone is accustomed to spending most of their days outsid. I dont know how the divorce statistics will be two months from now, he said with a laugh.Because when everybody is locked into the same house theyre going to be fighting like cats and dogs.

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