2020 ended as it was: strange, with the world at half gas and everyone more aware of the threat of a third wave of covid-19 than of celebrating the New Year. The social restrictions imposed by the regional governments to contain the expansion of a rising epidemic curve set the pace for the last night of the year: contained social gatherings – of 10 participants or less, depending on the territory – and a curfew shortly after The early morning greatly limited the celebration of a strange pandemic New Year’s Eve.
Dinner for heroes: “Not being able to go out is the hardest thing”
“Let’s see if the pandemic is eliminated or stopped, I am already signed up to get vaccinated.” This is what Andrés Garzón, 97, asked of 2021 when he ate the grapes: “I ate them all, but not to the rhythm of the chimes. It went slowly and I removed the bones because I have surgery on my stomach ”. Andrés has been at the Sebastián Estepa Llaurens residence in Jaén since 2018 and this year, like the rest of his 48 colleagues – who are between 60 and 99 years old – he has had to adapt to the successive routine changes imposed by the covid. “Not being able to go out is what has cost me the most, the sun … I used to throw the pools and buy anything at the supermarket, I went up to the Plaza de las Palmeras or the Plaza de Abastos, I would find people there .. That’s what I miss the most, “he says.
At the Sebastián Estepa Llaurens residence they have had to accommodate the traditional New Year’s Eve dinner to the demands imposed by the pandemic. “We all ate together with the decorated u-shaped tables. This year, the dining room has been set up by tables where people have eaten individually or in couples who share a room, to maintain bubble groups ”, explains its director, María José Cárdenas.
Only four of the 49 residents have gone out to party. Some, like Andrés, have told their children that they preferred not to go out because of the risk involved. “I have my bed there and my things on, but here I have everything simpler, and that’s why I stayed. We will get vaccinated on January 8 [el próximo viernes], and they want to avoid contagion ”, says Garzón.
Despite the difficulties, the elderly who are cared for by the 35 professionals at the center enjoyed a special night, which ended with the early visit of the Three Kings. They had a special menu with starters of prawns, olives, hors d’oeuvres, potato chips and canapes; First course salad, followed by braised cheeks in chocolate sauce.
Luisa Albacete, during the visit of the Three Wise Men to the Sebastián Estepa Llaurens residence, in Jaén, after New Year’s Eve dinner, in an image of the center.
Luisa Albacete, 87, barely ate a bite, but she really enjoyed it. “With the assistants I had a great time. I didn’t eat the grapes, but I stayed while the others did. They struck with a frying pan or something like that, that was fun, “he explains. In disguise, scraping the bottle, the workers tore carols from the residents that culminated in the grapes with the blow of a saucepan. “About 10 o’clock because many don’t last until midnight,” adds the director.
This New Year’s Eve was different for the elderly, but also for the workers in the center. “A lot of sadness invaded me during dinner and I especially remembered the people who have not been able to enjoy this moment, but at dinner we tried to make our grandparents happy and cheerful, all for them and not to notice this despair that it invades us ”, admits Fina Cárdenas, 46, and assistant to the center. The sacrifices that the elders have had to make this year were recognized that night. “After everything they have gone through in their lives, they have shown us all that they are the true heroes of the pandemic,” concludes Cárdenas.
Emergencies moved: “In the covid area patients did not stop coming”
Not even on New Year’s Eve the pandemic has given a truce. With the nightclubs closed and the curfew that prevented staying up late on the last night of the year, the restrooms at the Hospital del Mar Hospital in Barcelona predicted a more or less quiet day to end the year. But 2020 surprised until the end. “It was a more active guard than we imagined. During the morning, the covid area did not stop and then, in the afternoon, the non-covid medical emergencies were also encouraged, ”explains Lluís Castillero, emergency deputy.
At the foot of the beach and a stone’s throw from the nightclubs and bars on the seafront, the Urgencies of the Sea were used to a New Year’s Eve with dozens of intoxications from alcohol or other substances, multiple injuries from falls and assaults on the street. The pandemic, however, has almost completely removed that patient profile from the game board. “There were some in the afternoon, but much less than the typical New Year’s Eve,” says Marta Crespo, head of the hospital guard on the night of the 31st.
There were no intoxications, but no room for rest. On New Year’s Eve 2019, 295 emergencies were attended to by nine in the morning the next day, 68 during the early morning. This year, 243 patients were visited on the same day, 48 since the bells rang. “In the covid area, throughout the morning more serious patients did not stop coming, who arrived short of oxygen. We also had, among minor emergencies, more than 15 suspected or confirmed covid patients who were unwell, “says Castillero. The epidemic curve is on the rise and the hospital consultations linked to this disease, too. “The covid does not understand vacations or holidays and income increases every day,” insists Crespo.
Among non-covid patients, consultation symptoms were highly variable: “Chest pain in which a heart attack had to be ruled out, neurological symptoms in which it was necessary to see if there was a stroke, older patients with heart failure or decompensated lung involvement… We expected It was a busy morning and in the afternoon it was much less, but people kept coming for minor reasons at ten at night. They came for reasons as varied as a general malaise ”, points out Castillero. The pandemic, the doctor believes, has altered the perception of the state of health: “It has made people more afraid and come to the emergency room earlier.”
Despite the traffic, many health workers from the Urgencias del Mar were able to eat the grapes. Not like before, when 40 doctors made the break to toast together, but they were able to celebrate, in small groups, the entrance to the new year. Although not all. Some had to hurry the bells or leave them for later, such as those who cared for the first baby of the year in the hospital: a child, the fifth child of a woman of Indian origin and resident for a decade in the Raval neighborhood, who was born at 00.20.
The silence of the Sun: Essential workers and hardly any movement
Madrid offered, a few hours before New Year’s Eve, a trip to the past, to March and April. Deserted streets and a silence only broken by the noise that came from some windows and the passage of some cars, mostly taxis that circulated freely.
Minutes before 10 pm, Puerta del Sol was no longer accessible. The police finished the eviction while the singer Nacho Cano and his team began rehearsals for their concert, which took place shortly before 00:00. The “sailors, soldiers, singles, married …” sounded until exhaustion in the middle of the silence that ruled the place. It was drizzling and it was extremely cold next to the picture of a Puerta del Sol in which the crowd that every year takes the grapes live and direct was missing.
The concert only encompassed One more yearBut when it was over, the performers ran to hug each other as if they had given a two-hour recital in front of a bursting auditorium.
Five minutes before the countdown, the few present, all workers, began to gather. The policemen posed in front of the flag projected against the Consistory building, a Civil Protection doctor made a video call home, and the subway guards flocked to the surface to take a picture all together while they prepared the grapes that each one brought from home, wrapped in aluminum foil. As if Sol had been reserved for the essential workers of the year.
After the bells and fireworks, the few neighbors who had approached the limits of the security perimeter began to return home. The center of Madrid became a procession of erratic groups amid the roar of the fireworks that could be heard throughout the city, only accompanied by a police siren.
There was no festive atmosphere and, a few streets beyond Sol, a silence reigned that was only broken when from some open windows came the noises of parties that had just begun and that practically ended a few moments later.
With information from Jessica Mouzo, Eva saiz and Nacho Gallego.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.