‘This too shall pass’, as Esther Tusquets used to say to her daughter, the writer Milena Busquets. It will pass, as all tragedies do, and in the meantime we will have to grit our teeth and head towards the way out, in spite of the fact that the map showing the way ahead is still hard to read. We don’t know exactly how we will get out of this situation or what state we’ll find ourselves in once we leave, whether individually or collectively.
In the midst of the tragedy, with thousands of people sick, thousands dead and a feeling of unease affecting every household, for health and financial reasons, certain individuals are a credit to the human race thanks to their hard work and exemplary attitude. A huge number of women are engaged in precarious work in the retail industry, the caring professions and as cleaners. A state of affairs shared by those who work in the haulage industry, as delivery drivers, and those who produce medicines and food. They are the workers and employers who supply all manner of staple commodities and whose hard work has averted a crisis which would further aggravate the problems we are currently facing. There are many we would all like to thank for their hard work, especially the employees in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. Anonymous individuals who help others, caring for them while putting themselves and their families at risk in order to fulfil their vocation, obligation and passion. Individuals who are working without the necessary equipment to prevent the spread of the virus and who have to put up with being heroes when they should only be good professionals working under pressure, but not the unbearable conditions which many healthcare centres are facing right now.
Everyone at ARA would like to thank them for their professionalism and dedication. We will not forget them when this is all over and the time comes to rethink our society, to establish new priorities and demand that our leaders put science, knowledge and people’s health, above all else. Demanding good government, worthy of a serious country, is an obligation.
We will come out of this with pain and a feeling of fraternity and empathy towards the suffering of others. Wherever they may be from. With the suffering in Igualada and also those who are suffering in Madrid, the victims of poor management and the disgraceful privatisation of the health service, which is resulting in the deaths of hundreds in deplorable conditions. The collapse of the health system which is taking place in Madrid could occur in Catalonia, if the speed of the infection is not slowed down. Certain hospitals are stretched to breaking point and the shortage of ventilators, test kits and masks results in lives being lost. The elderly who are in old people’s homes with substandard facilities who are not transferred to a hospital are in a particularly precarious situation. What sort of death awaits them, if they are not provided with medical care and oxygen?
The EU’s Keynesian economic measures are not enough to bail us out of the well into which we are falling. According to Christine Lagarde, Europe is currently in a recession of between 2% and 10%. Figures which appear to fall far short of reality. German experts have predicted a 25% drop, if the shutdown of its industries continues for three or four months. The EU knows that the expenditure it has agreed upon represents some 2% of its GDP and it is also well aware that much more, up to a third, is needed and that it needs to act fast.
So what do the European leaders expect? They expect Spain and Italy to understand that the EU won’t issue ‘corona bonds’, that they won’t spread the cost of unemployment benefits and debt because —as Angela Merkel said on Thursday— her parliament will never agree to it. The countries in southern Europe are in the midst of an acute health and economic crisis. Nevertheless, neither Germany nor the Netherlands are prepared to see it as being the result of an unexpected pandemic, or to value the efforts made during the 2008 crisis. Germany wishes to impose the rigour of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) and repeat the measures it took with regard to Greece in 2010. What is needed is a massive bailout by the ECB to ensure the states have the liquidity to provide families and businesses with some breathing space. There is also a need to draw realistic conclusions as to the limitations of the European club when political goals are not shared.
Egypt recently expelled The Guardian’s correspondent for questioning the official figures, and China has threatened to do the same to reporters from The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post. In Spain we journalists will continue to work in spite of the heightened lockdown. Most will do so by teleworking, but photographers and some reporters will remain on the streets. Make no mistake: we will continue to do our job. Firstly, we will offer help to all those who need it, but we mustn’t forget for one minute that our obligation is to report on everything that is going on, and that when the crisis subsides we must hold people responsible for their initial apathy.