Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Spain: Travel warnings have political motives

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The development of case numbers in Spain is worrying. There have been 27,020 new infections in the past 14 days. This corresponds to 57 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants. But the situation is very different regionally.

In the Balearic Islands, infections have risen to 21 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants on Friday since the British quarantine decision. In the Canary Islands, however, they remain stable at seven. In Great Britain the value is 13. So why should British people quarantine at home after spending their holidays in the Canary Islands?

The majority of holidaymakers in Spain come from Great Britain, 18 million were there last year, a good fifth of all visitors. That is why Spanish tourism is particularly suffering from the decision from London. However, Madrid’s wish to exempt the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands from the quarantine requirement has so far been deaf in London.

British airlines also suffer from the quarantine

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure. He had been idle for a long time at the beginning of the pandemic. Although the disease spread much later than in Spain and Italy, Britain has the highest death toll in Europe. Now Johnson wants to show that he takes the danger of a second contagion wave seriously.

The government’s position is said to be consistent, which is why it makes no exceptions for the Balearic and Canary Islands. Madrid football fans’ entry to the Champions League match in Liverpool in March is consistently mentioned as one of his biggest mistakes. Another allegation is that the government allowed all immigrants to enter the country without controls.

The criticism of the general quarantine does not only come from Spain. 47 British airlines, tour operators and airports are calling on the government to limit quarantine to particularly affected regions. “We are in the exceptional situation that the government is calling for local tourism, but is warning of travel to areas in Spain that have lower infection rates than parts of the kingdom,” an open letter said.

The British tourism industry could be “permanently subscribed”. In the UK, airlines like Easyjet and British Airways to the main victims. The holidaymakers also show incomprehension that they are now partly left with high cancellation costs.

France’s tourism could benefit

France’s approach also raises questions. While Germany, for example, imposed a quarantine requirement for travelers from the three particularly affected Spanish regions of Catalonia, Aragon and Navarra on Friday and warned against travel there, France alone has picked out Catalonia – the popular holiday region that lies directly behind the French border.

This warning does not stand up to an objective examination, because the picture is also differentiated within Catalonia. In many resorts there the number of cases is below the Spanish average.

Last week, French Prime Minister Jean Castex was unusually abrupt to warn the French “not to go to Catalonia until the health situation improves there”. At the time, the Catalan district of Tarragonés on the Costa Dorada had 17 infected people per 100,000 inhabitants, in Baix Empordà on the Costa Brava there were eleven. In some of France’s major tourist regions, there are significantly more – 76 in Mayenne in western France and 20 in the Vosges.

At the national level, France is also worse off with some indicators: the country had five times more new serious Covid 19 cases than its southern neighbor in the past week. The R-factor, which shows how many people are infected, is slightly higher in France than in Spain.

France itself has a strong travel industry. The charge is obvious that the government also wants to strengthen its own economy by creating incentives for the French to spend their holidays in their own country this year.

“Tourist Protectionism”

Spanish MEP Jordi Cañas is angry at the British quarantine obligation and the French Prime Minister’s warning: “This is a form of tourist protectionism,” he told the Politico newspaper. Prime Minister Castex had said that he wanted to limit cross-border traffic with Catalonia. The limit to a restriction of freedom of movement, says Cañas. It has not yet been implemented.

The Spanish tourism association Exceltur is already warning that the season “which has already started slowly, will end prematurely”. Many hotels would not even open, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk and thousands of companies at risk of bankruptcy. Tourism accounts for twelve percent of the Spanish gross domestic product.

More: Spain’s tourism threatens to collapse

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