British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps flew on holiday to Spain with the family on Saturday morning, but the relaxation was brief. Hours later, he was called to a cabinet video conference that decided that British returnees to Spain had to be quarantined due to the sharp increase in the number of cases in his vacation country – so did the minister trying to take it with a stiff upper lip. So did his colleague, Tory MP Paul Scully. The news in Lanzarote surprised him. He posted a photo of a mug of beer in front of a sea backdrop on Instagram and remarked that he could work well from quarantine when he returned. Most British tourists to Spain, however, were horrified.
The Spaniards were even more horrified. The British measure is a terrible blow to tourism, wrote the Madrid newspaper The country, The vanguard from Barcelona noted the “death blow for the holiday season”. The association of airport operators complained that the recovery that had just started had ended. Social media rumored that Spain would be pilloried while other countries swept their numbers of cases under the carpet. Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya almost defiantly stated that Spain was still a “safe country”. It now wants to negotiate with British, Irish, Norwegians and other Europeans who require quarantine for returnees from Spain, whether a flight corridor cannot be set up at least for tourist areas with few infections.
Almost 900 new infections within 24 hours were announced by the state health authority for the whole of Spain at the end of last week. That is more than back in March before the almost total lockdown was announced. At the beginning of July, the ministry reported an infection rate of 5.3 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days. On Friday it was 23.37. Spain ranks fifth behind Luxembourg, Romania, Bulgaria and Sweden, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
However, the cases in Spain are blatantly distributed regionally: Catalonia and Aragon are most affected. France therefore strongly advises against traveling to these regions across the border, a blow to the Costa Brava. The Canary Islands, on the other hand, counted only 5.8 illnesses per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, which is why they feel they have been treated unfairly. Jorge Marichal, head of the Hoteliers Association in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, says: “It is safer to stay in the Canary Islands at the moment than in the UK.”
At the comparatively good location of the holiday islands, occasional excesses like Ballermann in Mallorca have not changed anything for the time being. In the Balearic Islands, reference is made to the obligation to wear a mask almost everywhere outdoors and the distance requirement, which is now being strictly enforced.
Some countries such as Poland and Belgium have differentiated and only advise against traveling to particularly affected regions such as the Catalan province of Lleida, which hardly any tourists come to anyway. He wouldn’t be allowed in either, because Lleida has recently been living in complete lockdown again. There were many new infections among harvest workers on the vegetable and fruit plantations, they live in precarious conditions in makeshift collective accommodation, where the virus spreads almost uncontrollably. But not just there.
Nightlife in the major cities has been identified as another epidemic, which is why the Catalan government has closed bars, clubs and discos until further notice. In Barcelona, residents are even required to leave houses only for urgent matters. It is only a small step back to the total lockdown that applied in March and April. The government in Barcelona is now being held up to haphazard action by conservative media in Madrid: just seven weeks lockdown, then a tumbling, uncontrolled return to a “new normal” that never worked. Nightlife was opened far too quickly. The tracking of the infection routes hardly works.
It is also a fact that for many Spaniards, being locked up for so long has awakened such a need for closeness that they immediately sank into their arms after opening. Since then, family celebrations have been considered herds of disease. The Italian virologist Roberto Burioni has identified the traditional Mediterranean lifestyle as a source of danger, which is why one has to be particularly vigilant in countries such as Italy and Spain.
However, political disputes have also played an unhelpful role in disease control in Spain. Catalonia’s Prime Minister Quim Torra rushed to Lockdowns in March, the Spanish central government under Pedro Sánchez followed suit. Sánchez feared that the separatist Torra would strive for a kind of health-political secession and preferred to shut down the whole country right away – also a way of emphasizing the unity of Spain.
From the beginning, the central government and regions provided different data, and that was delayed, which caused considerable chaos in the corona count. The newspaper The country recently counted the number of corona deaths reported by the regions – and came to 46,000, a good 16,000 more than the Ministry of Health in Madrid. The different counting methods used by different ministries and research institutes were a problem right from the start, and implausible data were reported again and again. The Catalan government, in protest against the centralized control of epidemics during the alarm state, was practically obstructing at times. In many parts of Europe, all of this has not exactly strengthened confidence in Spanish politics.