MADRID, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) — The city of Barcelona was the destination chosen four years ago by Corrado Tiralongo, a young man from Sicily in Italy.
He came to Spain to work and learn the language. After several odd jobs in different parts of the city, he could finally open his own restaurant called Barcino in the center of Barcelona.
However, on Oct. 15, the government of Catalonia in northeast Spain decided to close all bars and restaurants for 15 days, in an attempt to slow down the spread of coronavirus. And Barcelona, as the largest city of Catalonia, is no exception.
Now Tiralongo’s restaurant cannot serve customers inside or on the terrace. It can only provide takeaway and delivery service.
«We only do takeaway food, cafeteria and breakfast, and we make a lunch menu at a cheaper price than normal, that’s all we can do,» Tiralongo explained in an interview with Xinhua.
Although Barcino has contracts with online food delivery services, demand for food has markedly decreased in recent weeks.
The regional government also approved other measures to limit social contacts, such as banning non-professional sporting competitions, while universities will have to offer all but practical classes online and people are asked to work from home when possible.
All these mean fewer clients for Barcino.
Nonetheless, the restaurant and its staff are well prepared and take the government’s regulations seriously, hoping for a return to normality as soon as possible.
«We are trying to comply with all the rules in the best way possible: we keep a safe distance, disinfect our hands, wear a mask, etc. We do our very best. We hope this ends soon so that we can reopen and work as before because this situation is unsustainable,» Tiralongo said.
Although Barcino could stay open until 10 p.m. when curfew kicks in till 6 a.m. under the current regulations, it closes as early as 4 p.m. because its target customers are employees who work in nearby offices. Unfortunately, that crowd has also started dwindling noticeably since teleworking has become the rule rather than the exception.
For many people who don’t have the burden of running a business like Tiralongo’s restaurant whose survival largely counts on customers’ physical presence, working from home in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic could be a «blessing» in disguise.
Aleix Cugota, a computer systems technician, said he was able to adapt his work to the «new normal.» He can set his own schedule, perform all his tasks from home and does not have to go to the office.
«The truth is that I am doing well because I have an office where I can work and I’m quite comfortable. At first it did cost a little more because I had my son at home, but now that I am adapted, the truth is that it works well,» Cugota explained to Xinhua.
Working from home means that Cugota can avoid crowds and physical contact with other people.
«Teleworking is slowing the spread of the virus and all companies should make it as easy as possible for all employees,» Cugota said.
But for a people known for enjoying their social life, business closure and confinement could take a toll on mental health. Many health experts caution about possible stress as a result.
Psychologist Teresa Moratalla believed it was necessary to find a proper balance between personal and professional life when teleworking from home.
«The ideal way to manage yourself well is to set a work schedule: at this time I start and at this time I finish. And when I say I’m done, I’m done for real,» Moratalla told Xinhua.
During the second wave of coronavirus, she said it was highly recommended to draw lessons from the first confinement and maintain physical activity as much as possible.
«We have to remember all those things that we have found useful. Each person is different: what’s good for me is not necessarily good for others. Above all, it is very important to stay in touch with others, even if only virtually,» Moratalla noted.
The decision to close all bars and restaurants was taken by the Catalan government as the region recorded an incidence of 290 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest level since April. Catalonia has a population of over 7.5 million.
This is the first time one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities has decided to take such an action since the central government ended the nationwide State of Alarm in June.
Although organizations representing the hospitality sector have said they will take legal action against the closure, acting regional leader Pere Aragones insisted that «It is absolutely necessary to limit our social activity to guarantee the Christmas campaigns.»
The Spanish government declared a State of Alarm on Oct. 25, and made the regional governments the delegated authority to enforce the measures within their own autonomous regions.
Like Tiralongo, people in Catalonia hope that their sacrifice could all be worth the while and that by Christmas, the surge of the coronavirus could be reined in and they could once again enjoy the holidays with family and friends, at least in a modest way.