After an afternoon of games in the Parc del Guinardó (Barcelona), little Íria invited Emma to sleep at her house last Sunday. At four years old, it was the first time that she had decided to take the plunge with a friend, and their parents laughed at the initiative. “We agreed to talk throughout the week, in case it could be this Saturday. In the end we had to leave it ”, explains Eva Cervera, a 40-year-old journalist and Emma’s mother.

The Generalitat of Catalonia recommended on Wednesday reducing social contacts as much as possible. This includes avoiding encounters with people who do not live under the same roof, the so-called coexistence groups. In Ourense, these meetings have been banned. You can go for a walk, go on a hike or go out to dinner, but always with the other people.

Outside of Spain, Ireland and the major cities of the United Kingdom –like london– have vetoed meetings in closed spaces of people from two or more different households. In Germany, when an area exceeds 50 positives per week per 100,000 inhabitants, encounters are limited to a maximum of 10 people from two coexistence groups. In Belgium, the new restrictions allow a maximum of four people to be invited to the home, provided they are the same in the following two weeks

Although at different speeds and with some differences between countries, Europe is moving towards a new form of coexistence based on bubble homes. It is the last resort to cope with the relentless advance of the coronavirus and avoid harsh confinement. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Union (EU) warned this week of the urgent need to “bend the curve” if you want to avoid a measure that, after the traumatic experience of the first wave, everyone wants to avoid.

“Without a vaccine yet, without effective treatments and with explosive rebounds, governments have discovered that their best weapon is the sociological one. And this happens by reducing to a minimum the interactions of people outside of essential activities, ”explains Daniel López Acuña, former director of Health Action in Crisis at the World Health Organization (WHO).

For this expert, if the virus has reached current levels of circulation, it has been largely because social events and mass gatherings have not been stopped before. But at this point, although the restrictions may be somewhat unfair to those who have been careful, there are not many alternatives. “In the current situation, either we are going towards the bubbles or we have to stop society again”, summarizes López Acuña.

“The trend is this, because the one we have more interaction with, there is more circulation of the virus,” says Joan Ramon Villalbí, from the Spanish Society of Public Health and Health Administration (SESPAS). This epidemiologist considers that there is something inevitable that if the incidence continues to grow across the continent – “Holland, Belgium and France are already with worse indicators than Spain” – this type of measure is extended.

“If you have few cases, you can control the situation with good diagnostic and tracking capabilities. But if the circulation of the virus is high, if restrictions are not applied, it is foreseeable that the incidence will continue to grow until it skyrockets. And then it is necessary to resort to the toughest measures ”, adds Villalbí.

The sociologist José Antonio Noguera, professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​points out that “in some countries in central and northern Europe, the sociological trend is towards increasingly smaller families and people living alone.” “In these more individualistic societies, measures of this type are easier to follow. But in others, like Spain, families tend to be large and the social interactions more intense. The impact on people with these restrictions is much greater ”, he adds.

Noguera considers that “this higher social and personal cost makes people tend to reverse the restrictions naturally as soon as they have the opportunity.” This has a silver lining, which is that it makes it easier to get back to normal when restrictions are lifted.

But also another more controversial in these times: “There is a risk that there is a gap between what we would have to do as a society and what we will really do,” he says. “Surely a good part of the people follow the instructions of the authorities and interactions are significantly reduced, but it is likely that they will not do so to the extent that the recommendations or norms require it”, concludes Noguera.

Technology support

Costs on a personal level are significant. “Everything that is gained in security against the virus, you lose in something that is as intrinsically human as social relationships. And this is something that new technologies and social networks do not supply, although they may be of help in the short term ”, explains psychiatrist Enrique García Bernardo.

The best strategy to cope with new situations is “to promote as much as possible the autonomy of people within a group of cohabitants”. “There are those who need to spend all day interacting with others, but also those who want just the opposite. The key is the maximum respect for differences and individual needs within the bubble, because not doing so leads its members to tension and conflict ”, adds García Bernardo.

The first wave showed that the restrictions can lead some people to “suffer more anxiety and depressive experiences, with feelings of sadness, emptiness…”. “But they are mild pictures, although they are very unpleasant for those who suffer them,” he concludes. In fact, he emphasizes that “individual conflicts tend to be buried during crises of this magnitude.” “As the psychiatrists saw in the Second World War, when guns sound, there is no neurosis,” he concludes.

Information about the coronavirus

Here you can follow the last hour on the evolution of the pandemic

This is how the coronavirus curve evolves in Spain and in each autonomy

Download the tracking application for Spain

Search engine: The new normal by municipalities

Guide to action against the disease

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