While the world remains virtually paralyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the transportation and consumption of food and other products goes on locally, and globally.
The global supply chain may not be the first thing that comes to mind as we adjust our daily lives to the pandemic, but its role is every bit as crucial as government leadership and the dedication of healthcare workers. We all have to eat and use basic products, and these necessities come from a variety of places around the world.
Spain is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, comprised of 17 Autonomous Communities. While Spain’s President Pedro Sanchez works tirelessly to appease all Spaniards as to what is best for the country as a whole, everyone agrees that the flow of essential sustenance products must be maintained.
As people in the U.S. rushed to stores and started panic buying everything from toilet paper to eggs, people in Spain never once worried that a lack of products would be a problem.
Although some contribute this to Europeans being more “chill” and having a laissez faire attitude, this couldn’t be further from the truth. People in Spain are concerned, and they are also quite obedient with the “shelter in place” order that has been set forth by President Sanchez.
Every day, the government provides reports on National TV as to how many arrests and citations have been given out since the order went into effect over a month ago. The government has been on top of the pandemic from the get-go. Citizens adhere to the order with few complaints and present themselves as a united front in true utilitarian fashion in order to protect the greater good for all.
Supermarkets are fully stocked with food and customers are respecting the one to two meter social separation, and there is no hoarding. The inventory of wine and beer is also well stocked, which all things considered is making life in Spain pretty good.
On the other hand, pharmacies were completely out of stock of masks, disposable gloves, antibacterial gel and thermometers. However, as of April 14, 2020 the pharmacies I visited have restocked gel, gloves and some have protective masks (but no N95’s).
Overall, Spain has shown to be a very resilient country in these uncertain times. President Sanchez has begun offering stimulus packages to small businesses to help prevent workers from being laid off. There are rent payment deferments, and of course, the protections offered by universal healthcare.
Meanwhile, the #stayhome policy is making a substantial dent in the spread of COVID-19. The curve has been flattening for the past five days, so the country is hopeful. Construction workers have been allowed back to work, so long as the rules for non-transmission of the virus are obeyed.
The government is very aware that citizens—especially children—have been cooped up at home for a month, and it’s looking into lifting parts of the State of Alarm in order to allow children to go outside. This may happen in the coming weeks. Government officials are also very concerned about the elder population, particularly those who are alone, and in some cases, dying alone at home. On a bright note, very good programs have been implemented to address domestic violence.
On the transportation front, Spain, like most countries, saw an initial demand spike when the State of Alarm was first issued by President Sanchez. Within a few days, however, the spike subsided and life has gone on as usual. The volume of incoming cargo still shows a slight uptick, but nothing extraordinary.
The Port of Barcelona has remained open for business for non-perishable items and there has been little to no interruption at the port, as employees are considered essential workers.
In an April update, the port stated that operations are continuing uninterrupted, including loading and discharging of vessels. Extra precautions are in place if a vessel calls any Spanish port with an ill crewmember on board, especially one who is exhibiting signs of COVID-19. In that case, Port Authorities will follow a Technical Instruction where the vessel will be requested to immediately inform, through the Maritime Declaration of Health, to the Port Authority, the Harbour Master or the Maritime Port Traffic Control Centre, according to a report on www.nepia.com.
Depending on the circumstances, and after a Health Inspection on board the vessel has been undertaken, the Port Authorities will decide if the vessel remains at anchorage or if it is allowed to berth at a designated berth.
There is more of an issue within the country itself with regards to truck drivers who are demanding better working conditions.
Because so little is known about the Coronavirus, gas stations and other food services along Spain’s highways are not allowing anyone in to use the facilities, and the restaurants and cafes at the gas stations are no longer providing service.
This leaves truck drivers in a compromised position, as they don’t want to be driving surviving solely on chips and chocolate bars that they’ve purchased through a window outside of the gas station, and they are also finding it difficult to find a public restroom.
As a result, they are demanding higher pay due to the present circumstances. In addition, the truck drivers are now driving longer distances more often because of the demand for products throughout the country. They feel they have more exposure to the virus due to working without protection, while their immunity is potentially lowered due to lack of sleep and proper nutrition.
About Marisa Barrio Rodriguez