ANALYSIS: Going on holiday in Spain this summer? Then expect the unexpected

ANALYSIS: Going on holiday in Spain this summer? Then expect the unexpected
Local police officers watch people at the Nova Icaria beach following its closure due to reaching the allowed capacity, in Barcelona on July 19, 2020. AFP
If you are booked to go on holiday to Barcelona or the beaches of Catalonia or indeed anywhere else in Spain, don't expect everything to be normal, Graham Keeley writes.

Fancy coming on holiday to Barcelona? 

First of all, remember to bring a mask or you will be fined €100 if the police catch you without one. 

No bother, it's got great bars and clubs hasn't it? 

Ah, well, er, you might actually have to drink in your hotel room. You see the authorities are thinking of banning groups meeting for a beer at night. Spreads the virus too much, you see. 

Never mind, what about the clubs? Yes, but you see, you are not actually allowed to dance. Bit of a problem. 

Whatever, there is always the sea. It is nearly 30C! 

Hmm. Maybe not. You see, if they get too full, the police will close them down. 

Oh well, we could always slink off to a museum. The place has got loads of great art hasn't it? 

Yes, they might be open but look out for the crowds. Can't get too full. What about a film or going to the theatre? Closed. Sorry. 

Two women wearing face masks chat near a beach in Lloret de Mar on June 22, 2020. AFP

I know! What about renting a car and heading for the Costa Brava or Costa Daurada? Hit the beaches, escape the crowds, great!

Shssh! Don't tell anyone! You see, we are not supposed to be going out.

What? Wow, Barcelona sounds like a cracking place. 

Once one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, the city of Antoní Gaudí and Barça has suddenly become the place you might want to avoid. 

The city whose residents were once so keen to get rid of the millions of tourists, now find they can do nothing to bring them back. 

The reason is, of course, a recent surge in cases of coronavirus. 

Yet what is happening in Catalonia could happen anywhere in Spain this summer, despite the reassurances of health authorities that the growing number of outbreaks (currently standing at 224) are under control.

So the only thing authorities really can tell anyone hell bent on lapping up a bit of Spanish sun is: expect the unexpected. 

After a surge in Covid-19 cases, which forced the Catalan government to impose a series of localised lockdowns, authorities asked four million people in Barcelona and outlying towns to stay indoors last Friday.

“If the evolution of the pandemic carries on, we will have to take more drastic decisions,” warned Meritxell Budó, a spokesman for the Catalan government. 

Tourists wear face masks as they visit the Andalusian town of Ronda on July 15, 2020. AFP

This was code for a mandatory lockdown as happened in March across Spain when the country declared a state of emergency. 

Hearing the news about the Barcelona lockdown, a friend who arrived the same day in the city for a ten day holiday, turned on her heel and headed back to Madrid the same day. 

Few took any notice of the warnings from the politicians. 

The bars and restaurants were crowded as normal, the roads outside Barcelona were full of traffic and beaches had to be closed because they were too full. 

Some people applauded the Catalan government for taking firm action. 

A friend said they should increase fines for anyone not wearing a mask from €100 to €600. 

However, others recognised what most of us knew already: until they make a lockdown mandatory, no-one will take any notice. 

Thankfully, the number of confirmed and suspicious cases have fallen from 1,293 on July 15 to just over 500 on Wednesday. 

Health officials and politicians across Spain should be watching what has happened in Catalonia carefully. 

Quim Torra, the Catalan regional president, admitted that he had acted too late to contain an outbreak which started in the rural area of Segria and was linked to migrant fruit pickers. 

Mr Torra said the Catalan government should have done more to find housing for seasonal fruit pickers, many of whom were living rough in unhygienic conditions where coronavirus was passed on quickly. Tracing these cases was impossible for authorities.

Now the problem is young people who want to go out for a drink or a dance after months being cooped up.

A study by the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid has found two out of ten cases of coronavirus are among those aged 15 to 29 – just the people who want to go out with friends. 

The botellón, that very Spanish mass drinking session, has been blamed for spreading the virus. 

Yet it could also happen among tourists. 

The videos which emerged from Magaluf last week of young British and German men standing on top of cars without wearing masks led to authorities closing down the 'strip'. 

Most tourists who come to Spain do not head for the heady delights of Punta Ballena in Magaluf but they want to go out, share a drink with friends and relax.

The same study from the Carlos III Health Institute found nearly half of those in the study of 26,000 people analysed, did not know where they had caught the virus. 

It is the way the pathogen is passed on between strangers which is the most concerning. 

This is why tourists not only worry Spaniards but also the other way round. 

Happy holidays!


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  1. Bring a mask? Just one?! Masks need to be changed very frequently! I think you ought to correct that warning.

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