There’s a feeling of hope and excitement in the air in Ibiza right now (not to mention across social media). In fact, I’m sure the feeling extends all over the country, as the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez (who I will admit I think is cute, in a clean-cut politician way) announced last weekend that foreign tourism will be allowed in Spain from July 1, 2020. At the same time, his government has been managing a carefully designed ‘De-escalation Plan’ to lift the lockdown in what they call ‘Phases’. Considering that adults were only given their first taste of ‘freedom’ so to speak by being allowed out for exercise just a little over three weeks ago (read my last blog for more on that), Ibiza moved quickly into Phase One, just a week later.
As you may also remember from my first Corona blog, I was a strong advocate for the strict lockdown conditions in Ibiza and Spain. It actually took me six entire days before I built up the courage to go walkies when that announcement was made – though to be fair, my strong dislike of exercise played a big part in that – so when Ibiza entered Phase One on May 11, 2020, I was equally as dubious about what was going to happen out there in the big wide world. Well, our little white island as the case may be. To be clear, I’m also all for opening up the island (bit by bit and safely of course), but just like I wasn’t the first person out running at 6am on the first exercise day, I also wasn’t the first person to be collecting takeout food, or visiting friends who live in other municipalities just because Pedro said we were allowed to.
So what was Phase One? Well, certain restaurants and bars were allowed to open at a limited capacity of 30%, on the terraces only, with strict hygiene rules and regulations. Think gloves and masks for staff, obligatory hand sanitiser for all customers on arrival, all tables two metres apart, all customers seated, table service and payment only, and I’m sure a bunch of other things behind the scenes I wasn’t aware of. Some places could only open to offer takeaway and home delivery. Hairdressers, beauty salons, barbers and tattoo studios re-opened via appointment only and with a ratio of one staff member to one customer, plus limited capacities. Smaller shops were allowed to re-open for business, again, limiting the amount of people allowed in, with obligatory hand sanitiser on entry. Trying on clothes was prohibited… anyway, these are the boring details. You probably know them already. The most exciting thing about Phase One was that you could now see your friends – TEN AT A TIME!
That to me felt a little bit too much – it totally fazed me, after seeing absolutely no one for 10 weeks, aside from my pharmacist and the cashier in my tiny local supermarket. The idea of seeing nine mates (because myself as plus one makes 10) in their homes freaked me out a little. The official rule was ‘while following proper social distancing protocols’ but let’s face it – this is Spain. There’s no avoiding the double kiss hello, and it’s a very touchy feely kind of culture. So I declined the first invitation to a barbecue on Day One of Phase One (sorry Mr BB!), just generally due to a few personal anxiety, and some ambiguity in the laws that made me unsure if I was allowed to drive or who I could have in my car. Just call me cautious: I’m not suggesting that my friends are germy, unhygienic or in any way unsafe to be around, but the idea of physical contact with nine other people also felt a little overwhelming to dive straight into. And the fines in Spain are HUGE – I’m certainly not in a position to be given a 3000€ ticket for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Of course, that’s just me. I’m naturally introverted, but there were hundreds, probably thousands of friends reuniting on that Monday. And I was very happy for them too. I just wanted to keep my social distance and watch how things unfolded. There were some weird conditions in Phase One – like, our hours of exercise remained the same as before (6am to 10am and 8pm to 11pm) but we were allowed to go get drunk in a bar that’s open in the hours in between, then walk home? Yep, this fazed me. Of course, I still believe strongly in supporting local business and I DID want to see my friends, so when my favourite bar Paradise Lost (the last place we all visited before lockdown, as I wrote about in my last pre-lockdown blog) re-opened on Day Two of Phase One (because they too, were cautiously watching how Day One had unfolded for other bars), I couldn’t NOT go for a drink. We pre-booked a socially distanced table, in keeping with the new laws, and since I knew everyone there, I didn’t for a moment feel overwhelmed.
I’m not going to lie – there were some awkward moments though. Do we hug? Do we kiss? Do we elbow bump or Namaste? Everyone has their own preferred method of greeting (regardless of the law), and of course, everyone believes they are virus-free (and I hope they are). I do think we need to always consider asking friends if it’s OK before steaming in for a big hug for the next few weeks at least. There was a great social media post doing the rounds that week, which summed it all up for me – annoyingly I can’t find it now because, well, you try searching ‘COVID-19’ on social media and see what you can come up with! The gist of it was, that we all just need to accept each other’s version of coming out of lockdown, without judgement. Some people still don’t feel safe – and that’s OK. Some people want to hug and kiss their friends and host big barbecues every day – and that’s OK. Some people want to wear rubber gloves and face masks in public – and that’s OK. Some people still want to stay home in isolation for a few more weeks – and that’s OK. Who are we to judge, right? Live and let live, as long as we’re not hurting (or infecting) one another.
OK so as usual, I have digressed. Back to how I was feeling at Paradise Lost – happy! So happy to see my friends, so happy to talk about anything BUT ‘the virus’ and so happy to be drinking my favourite cocktail, the Rosita Mala, again. Of course, this led to me feeling quite drunk, which led to craving pizza. Fortunately, La Bufalina in Vara de Rey had also just re-opened and had a table for us. I swear, it was also the best tasting pizza I have ever eaten in my life. Talk about appreciating the simple things. I just abhor frozen supermarket pizzas; I tried making my own homemade versions in lockdown and also hated them. Just like Coca Cola, in my opinion, there’s nothing better than the real thing. So after a few drinks and some tasty slices, I was home in bed by 11pm (so civilised) and felt like I’d ticked the Phase One box. I stayed home for the rest of the week, until the weekend when I visited friends (in my barrio) at their home for a barbecue. Yet another simple pleasure that was so amazing to experience again.
Fast forward to May 26, 2020 (and include two more visits to Paradise Lost plus tapas and 1€ beers at Popa Ibiza, the first place to re-open in my beloved Dalt Vila restaurant square, plus a little yoga practice on a friend’s terrace) and it was announced that Ibiza could enter Phase Two. Hallelujah, screeched the beach-loving residents on the island, who had been up in arms about not being able to swim during Phase One. This behaviour also fazed me – I’m a goody two-shoes, if Pedro says no swimming, then no swimming. Then again, I also don’t enjoy swimming. Or the beach. Anyway, now happy residents can return to the beaches of the island and live life in the great outdoors. We can also now ‘congregate’ with up to 15 of our friends. Hotels could open (although there is no point in Ibiza, while the borders are closed), bars and restaurants could extend their terraces, and allow limited numbers inside. You can try clothes on in shops (though they must be steamed afterwards!). We can drive anywhere, with friends in the car. Places of worship can re-open. Libraries, museums, monuments, even cinemas (at limited capacity of course). But here’s the biggest difference (well, it’s just my opinion) between Phase One and Two – now, it’s mandatory for all citizens to wear face masks in public places where it’s not possible to social distance.
Now personally, I’m NOT fazed by this. It does seem a bit like too little, too late, but hey, if Pedro says wear a mask, I’ll wear it. It seems like a small inconvenience to make those around you feel safe (if not yourself). But wow, was the population of Ibiza fazed. There are petitions to stop it, there are people ‘fact-finding’ so many reasons why it’s unhealthy, counter fact-founded by doctors who say it’s not going to poison us (when worn for short periods of time), there are people complaining left, right and centre. As I went about my business today (feeling quite suffocated in my mask but abiding by the law), which took me from Ibiza town to Santa Gertrudis and San Lorenzo, I felt quite proud to see almost all of the population wearing masks in public. We may not like it, but it shows our solidarity as a community. We want the lockdown to finally be lifted, to welcome tourists once more, and of course, to prevent any further contagion of the virus.
Which leads me to today. The local government has just requested that Ibiza move to Phase Three next Monday, a week earlier than its due date (Phases are initially supposed to be two weeks, but are based around healthcare facts and figures in individual provinces). And this too fazes me a bit. Why do we need to rush it? I feel like we’re JUST getting used to this ‘new normality’ as it’s constantly referred to (although according to the government, the ‘new normal’ doesn’t start until Phase Four – you can see why it’s easy for one to get fazed by all these details). Can’t we just take a couple of weeks to adapt to each new phase? Obviously no one wants to live in a state of alarm forever, including myself, but I find that easing back into life helps ease the anxiety associated with it. Anyway, Pedro will say yes or no this weekend, and I am sure I will report back at a later date on how we’re doing.
For now however, the sounds of happy children playing in the streets has overtaken the sweet sounds of the birds chirping at sunset. A number residents have been able to go back to work, after months of stressing about unemployment or lack of government assistance (hey, Pedro can’t be good at everything), which is great news. The sun is still setting in the west, and now we can go to places like Hostal La Torre and watch it go down with a Balearic beat soundtrack, like old times (let me warn you – the first time WILL make you cry, unless you are a heartless beast). People are talking about this summer being another ‘summer of love’ or ‘just like the 70s’, which in theory sounds amazing, but let us not forget how much the island has expanded since the 60s, 70s and 80s. We need our tourism sector to thrive, for many people on the island to survive (ooh now there’s a slogan!).
Whether the clubs can open or not, well, that remains to be seen. But hey, La Liga (Spanish football) will be back on June 8, because that’s deemed important. National tourism will commence from June 22 (I can’t wait to see you Formentera!) while international tourism has been confirmed from July 1, with no quarantine, but the exact conditions are yet to be announced. And so, we wait. We go through the Phases. We wear our masks. We support local businesses as best we can. We watch the daily updates on hospital patients, ICU cases, and outpatients under observation (which remain very low in our Ibiza bubble). We look at the way other countries handle (or bungle) the crisis, and since it’s all being managed so differently all over the world, we really have no solid indication of what’s coming our way (or not, depending on restrictions). I feel positive and have hope that it’s all going to be OK. Even if the changes faze me a little in the first place, I eventually come round. So come on Phase Three – show me, and the rest of Ibiza, what you’ve got!