The message started to circulate on Friday evening, and was being sent from WhatsApp group to WhatsApp group. While the Spanish authorities and citizens were pointing out that the most responsible thing to do during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak was to stay at home, cellphones and message groups were replacing face-to-face contact. One of those chain messages was encouraging people to do something other than just stay put: it called on everyone to come to their windows and applaud the health staff in Spain who are working tirelessly in a bid to combat the outbreak. As Saturday progressed, the message was altered to include personnel working in overwhelmed supermarkets, the transport system, social services and other staff who are working despite the restrictions on movement.
The call to action had its effect in many areas of Spain. Minutes before 10pm, the time the original messages had set, people could be heard applauding from their homes, in scenes that were reminiscent of those that have been seen over the last week from Italy, which is also on lockdown due to the coronavirus.
The applause was accompanied in some areas by caceroladas, which is when people bang pots and pans, and also cheers of support for the survival of Spain’s public health system, given the plans by certain political parties to partly or fully privatize the system.
The collective applause was a symbolic act, but it join other initiatives and proposals that are being suggested by the Spanish public during the lockdown period. From people offering to take supplies to neighbors, to professionals who will provide psychological support over the phone.
Social media is playing an important part during this exceptional period, with the hashtags #YoMeQuedoEnCasa (I’m staying home) and #QuédateEnTuCasa (Stay in your home) trending on sites such as Twitter. They are also being used by local residents to organize initiatives.
English version by Simon Hunter.