María Dolores Corujo took control of the Cabildo in June 2019, leading a coalition ruling group that removed the Coalición Canaria and its leader, Pedro San Ginés, from power after almost ten years. Nine months later, the coronavirus arrived, Lanzarote locked down and everybody’s political priorities changed. As the island’s most difficult year for decades comes to an end, we asked her for her impressions.
Interview: María Dolores Corujo
At the end of a year that nobody expected, how do you assess the situation in Lanzarote?
We must be prudent. Time has shown us that we cannot relax with this pandemic, so at the Cabildo of Lanzarote we are continually working to raise awareness and
increase prevention work to be able to flatten the curve of Covid-19. We’re able to say that, up to now, our contagion statistics have not been as bad, nor as alarming as those of other communities, but this is the result of the responsible behaviour of the population and of prevention measures such as the Early Warning System or the restrictions that have been passed by the Board of Island Mayors. Coordination has been, and continues to be, essential to stop the virus.
For you, what has been the worst point of the year that we have experienced in Lanzarote?
The low point, without a doubt, has been the lockdown – the toughest moments we have had to experience. When you’re in a situation that it’s impossible to prepare for, the only way you can react is by trying to protect – protect health and protect those who need protection most; and that’s why we do our best with all the means at our disposal.
After that, it was time to adapt to the “new normal” and, to a certain extent, suffer the disappointment of an early second wave that no one expected.
Are there things that we might lose forever due to Covid? For example, nightlife carnival, tapas, fairs etc?
Even now, with the ignorance that we still have of the virus, any attempt to make predictions is too risky. I am convinced that, in the medium term, we’ll be able to count on a whole arsenal to deal with the virus, in the form of vaccines and treatments.
However, I think the lesson to be learned is that we live in a vulnerable environment and that these episodes could happen again. We must reflect on how to increase our readiness for these types of risks that we had forgotten about.
Without Covid, what would have been the most urgent issues in Lanzarote during 2020?
Well, the priority would have been the same as it is now: the people. Our team is working so that everyone in Lanzarote can live safely and securely in a sustainable island, supporting those families who are most at need.
Has the pandemic (or the absence of tourism) brought any advantages or benefits?
You cannot talk of benefits or advantages considering the damage that this pandemic has done, when we have so many of our people unemployed or on furlough schemes.
Is it possible to diversify the economy of Lanzarote?
That’s the challenge. The Covid crisis has shown us that our dependence on one single sector is almost total, because the rest of the activities that apparently diversify the economy ultimately depend on tourism, as well. When there is zero tourism, the sectors of crafts, agriculture, and livestock don’t function normally
What has been the others big news in Lanzarote this year?
I think the best news we have received is the beginning of the construction of the radiotherapy bunker at the hospital and, in general, the determined commitment of the Canary Islands Government to recover the historical delay in investments that Lanzarote has suffered.
Christmas is known for family gatherings, parties, and religious events, which are all high-risk events. Are you going to introduce special measure during the holidays?
In the areas the Cabildo is responsible for, we will continue to be vigilant and try, by all means, to reduce the risks. The fundamental thing, however, is going to be individual responsibility. Family reunions have been shown to have played a huge role in the second wave. Out of responsibility, and out of love for our elders, this Christmas has to be different. It’s not about saving Christmas, it’s about saving lives and not taking steps backward.
Do you have a message for British, Irish and other foreign residents?
I’d like to assure them that they have not been wrong choosing to live on Lanzarote; that we continue to be a safe place and one that, at the moment, has a very low rate of infections.
For regular updates, articles and interviews about Lanzarote and its’ residents don’t forget to check out the new December Edition of the Gazette Life Magazine.