A Spanish immigrant moved to London a year ago as a first experience of living abroad. During this time she has always been working as a sales assistant, and due to the lockdown, she feared losing her job and being forced to move back to her home country.
Laura moved to London trying to pursue her dream of getting into the film industry, and since her arrival in the UK she has been applying to different producers “sometimes not even asking for a job but an internship only, I know it is difficult to get a reply from them.” In the meantime she keeps working on independent projects with a group of friends: “and who knows? maybe over time, what once started as a hobby, might become our big break”
The lockdown has been for her a way to keep herself safe and also protect her loved ones. Moreover, having so much free time, she has been able to start to do all the things that she usually postponed due to lack of time like studying a new language and entertaining long video calls with her friends and family.
Laura Martínez Barceló spoke to The Prisma about her experience of the current pandemic, sharing her worries and personal reflections.
How are you dealing with the Coronavirus outbreak as an immigrant in the UK?
I was quite concerned when this all started. The shop where I work was about to close due to the Coronavirus and a lot of questions started to appear in my mind: “Am I going to be able to pay the rent? What about the bills? and food? Am I going to lose my job?”. I considered all my options, I even accepted the possibility of coming back to Spain, although It would have been heartbreaking for me. Fortunately, as a measure of the Job Retention Scheme, the government started paying 80% of my wages. As a migrant, I cannot support Boris Johnson pro-Brexit politics, but I am still in this country thanks to this scheme.
What are your worries for now and the future?
At the moment, I think that one of my main worries is my family. I am afraid of receiving a call from any of my relatives with bad news, but so far, everyone is safe and healthy.
Regarding the future, I would say I want the Coronavirus to end, but I would not say “I want things to go back to normal” because there are a lot of things that we should think and change about our normality. Water crystal clear in the Venice Canals, Madrid with a perfect skyline, birds in Wuhan after years, the Trata mountains visible from Kraków… Obviously, there is something wrong about our behaviour towards nature. Maybe we should take a moment to meditate if as a society, we have been doing things the right way.
How has your life changed?
The Coronavirus has brought with it undesirable things for us; luckily, I have not lost anyone, but I cannot visit my family and friends back in Spain when I want to as I used to do.
Now, many of us cannot go to work, not even seeing our friends, and in these times keeping a distance from your beloved ones is an act of love.
How do you think the British government is dealing with this emergency?
I am not good in politics, I have never been, however, as journalists have pointed out, while the rest of the world was looking at Wuhan, Boris Johnson was distracted by Brexit and reshuffles. The British government took action long after than the rest of the European countries, convinced that this was just another kind of flu and that Britain could face it by getting immunity.
Even now, two months after the beginning of the lockdown, the British government is still not developing tests on a massive scale for the population, which was one of the first measures taken by some of the countries with the least number of infected and deaths. The British government could have learned from these countries, and acted in consequence. If any other country was not weighing up the idea of herd immunity why did the UK think that was the best option?
Were you prepared to deal with the pandemic?
Definitely, I was not. The whole world was not prepared for this; we have experienced how devastating this virus has been in some countries. We cannot be ready for every kind of circumstance in life or even face all of them in the same way, but it depends on the government to be resistant and resilient. If the government is prepared, then its citizens will be too.
Besides that, individually it is on us to try our best in these times. In a crisis, there are those who are weakened, and there are those who become stronger, and that depends on how we face the situation. As I said before, we are living a perfect moment to think, question ourselves, and who knows, luckily maybe even reinvent ourselves.