«Not everybody wanted to believe in something that could not be seen with their own eyes».
Manuela Lago is a nurse that has been working for 7 years in the UK, and in the last 3 years she has been working in the ICU of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary. Even though she works in the UK she was born in Spain and more specifically in Galicia.
Jaime Peinado: What were your feelings and thoughts when you saw the situation we were getting into?
Manuela Lago: I was watching the situation in China with a little uncertainty, you know like everybody else you didn’t know what was going on, it was a little scary. Then when everything started go wrong in Italy and Spain I was quite alarm because the virus was coming near.
Leire Echeverría: How has the population in the UK reacted to the measures taken by the government?
Manuela Lago: I think that at the beginning everybody reacted really well, because it was something new and everybody tried to help each other and put everything together to follow the instructions of the government. Also the government did really help with basic services. So I think the beginning was taken in a good way and then when we got in the second wave people was a little bit tired about it and there was more negativity for restrictions and the problem of the virus in general.
María Onega: What is the most difficult thing about working in the ICU?
Manuela Lago: The most difficult thing for me, probably is the fact that patients were really unwell for weeks, and you could see some of them deteriorating very slowly and you knew that this person did nt have many chances to survive, but you had to try everything you could, and that is the worst part of the job. Also I think,talking with the family, informing them, and not being able to help them to see their families, that was the hardest part.
Jaime Peinado: How do you feel psychologically, being a witness of so many deaths?
Manuela Lago: I think you learned how to cope with that. But it makes me a little more depressed, sad and with low energy because, apart from working, you can’t do anything else because you must stay in your house. That was the hardest part for me, not being able to enjoy my time or see my family. I am worried for my dad because there is only one vaccine at the moment, so I don’t want my dad to get the virus. And yes, the hardest part for me is not to enjoy my time and have to go to work and see all the situations in the ICU. But I am a bit better now.
Leire Echeverría: What do you think about the behaviour taken by citizens after the withdrawal of the curfew?
Manuela Lago: To be honest, it didn’t surprise me that people would go a bit crazy and just partying, and do wrong things. When we had the first wave and the restrictions we had lots of fights… just people doing stupid things, so it didn’t surprise me this to happen again. At least I think that’s how humans react.
María Onega: Would you change any of the restrictions or measures taken by the government in the UK?
Manuela Lago: To be honest I think they were quite good, maybe a little late in taking measures because when they saw what was happening in Italy and Spain they didn’t really restrict flights, but you can’t control 17 million people. It is quite difficult so you have to expect the population to behave correctly and you can’t control everybody.
Jaime Peinado: There are still many people who think that Covid-19 is a farce, what do you think about it?
Manuela Lago: Right now in this society that has many controversials views about every subject it was expected that not everybody wanted to believe in something that could not be seen with their own eyes. It’s just difficult to believe sometimes. They can see photos of people in hospitals, but if you are healthy probably you are not going to think of the people in hospital because you feel good. But the drama is that a person in the family had covid and then all the family had it also, and some of them had to go to hospital, and that is how you see that this is real and that there are people that, until they don’t have family member with covid, don’t think it is real.
Leire Echeverría: What do you think the fear of getting the vaccines can be caused by?
Manuela Lago: I think it’s a bit of something that they tell you must do, and people don’t like the government telling them what to do, then a lot of people that didn’t believe in the existence of covid, didn’t believe in medicine either, because they have never been ill, they’ve never been in need of a treatment to make them feel better, so they feel they can just believe they don’t need that. Sometimes it can be fearful the idea of side effects from a new vaccine, and people don’t want to feel themselves at risk.
María Onega: Do you think it will be possible to return to normality as before? If so, when?
Manuela Lago: To be honest I hope so, maybe next year. When more people have immunity against covid and things get better in all the countries, because now some countries are suffering big waves, so yes, maybe in a year from now I believe that more people will have been vaccinated and other countries will have the situation under control.
Jaime Peinado: Do you think things could get worse after the summer?
Manuela Lago: Obviously people are going to travel and enjoy their time, but if we do it responsibly we can avoid the situation getting worse, but seeing how people acted last summer surely, they will not be responsible and that will cause the situation to get worse. Although the vaccine helps prevent infections, many people are going to get infected and, if that happens, we may return to the situation at the beginning of everything. But that does not benefit anyone since there would be many more deceased and we would have to confine ourselves again. Although it is better to think positively and that people are going to behave in a responsible way.
Leire Echeverría: What differences do you see between the United Kingdom and Spain with regard to this situation?
Manuela Lago:They are probably about the same, there are more people vaccinated in the UK right now than in Spain, but we also have the problem now with the indian variant that they don’t know what happens. So I think they are more or less the same to be honest. The only thing I don’t understand of Spain is wearing mask in the street, for example when there are not many people around you, cause here you don’t have to do that when you go in a car or if you go with a member of your family, if you live in the same house you don’t have to or if you are walking in the street you don’t have to wear a mask, only if you walk into a close space.
María Onega: Would you have faced this situation in any other way?
Manuela Lago: For example, I would have listened to scientists talking about air form of spread, air form transmission more, maybe I would have put more ventilation in all the buildings, including masks, because in the UK at the beginning they didn’t want to wear a mask, they said that masks weren’t needed. Apart from that I don’t think I would have done anything better to be honest, it has been a very difficult situation.