A couple of days ago, my friend Irena in London sent me an article from the Daily Mail (which, I hear, is the second-most read newspaper (I use that term loosely) in the UK right now), which talked about the possibility of Spain going onto the ‘unsafe list’ of countries from which anyone entering the Uk would have to go into quarantine. This, it said, was due to the fast increasing number of cases that Spain has been seeing. It’s all rubbish, I said – first, don’t believe a word the Daily Mail says, second, ‘fast-increasing number of cases’ is, actually, a few hundred, and the Spanish authorities know exactly where they are and are monitoring them (and are a million miles away from Andalusia, where we are and where there have been hardly any new cases for weeks now) and thirdly, every country knew that if they opened their borders up to tourists, the numbers would go up – but it was a decision based on walking the middle ground – accept that numbers might go up a bit, but, at the same time, appreciate the fact that the economy is being boosted by the influx of people spending money. (And fourth, the numbers in Spain still fade into insignificance when compared to those in the UK… so Spain has a lot more to fear from Brits arriving here than the other way around!!).
Today we spent the day on the beach in Marbella – it has been one of the hottest for a long time, and the only place that is bearable is down by the water. As usual, the mask feds have been walking up and down monitoring whether people are staying in their ‘family groups’ and are at least 2 metres apart (as I have said before, the beach where we go is so expansive and with so few people, we are usually about 20 metres apart at the very least) and that everyone wears a mask until they get settled on their sunbed or whatever. Whilst we sat watching the world go by and stressing whether we (well I, really) could still get burned after all of this time, a few different groups of British tourists pitched up. All, without fail, without masks, all, without exception, pretty ‘leary’ and one big group of friends clearly not a ‘family group’.. however, the mask feds seemed to be turning a blind eye and were much keener on stopping the locals and ensuring that they set an example since, of course, Andalusia, of which Marbella is a part, is desperate for tourists (usually 30-40 per cent of its GDP is from tourism).
Imagine our shock, then, when we got home this evening and the news started to filter through that the British Government (again, I use that term loosely) has decided to impose fourteen days’ quarantine on everyone arriving from Spain as of midnight tonight. This seems to us to be wrong on so many levels, not least that poor old Jan, having not seen his children for about five months, had planned to fly from here to London next week, on his way back to Prague, so for about the millionth time will be changing his flights and plans again. Added to that, what will happen to all the thousands of Brits that are now here? They must be completely horrified. I imagine that this will mean that no-one in the UK will ever try to book a holiday to Spain again? At least for a good long while… after all, no-one wants to set off for a holiday with the thought that they might, if their government so decides, end up having to go into quarantine on their arrival home. They may not want to book any sort of foreign holiday again (after all, if it can happen to people visiting Spain, it can happen to those visiting Greece, Portugal, etc as well)…. and will Spain decide to reciprocate? Presumably so, since I don’t think anyone here really wanted the Brits pitching up with numbers in the UK as they are right now… And what will other countries do? It seems to me that, in the end, this decision by the UK might just have the potential to destroy tourism throughout Europe for, at the very least, the coming months… just like that….!
Perhaps that is the UK’s idea. After all, all countries would prefer that people stayed put and spent their holiday money at home rather than travelling abroad…. this would be a great strategy if that was the original intention. As far as we are concerned though, I suppose that we will sit tight and see what happens over the next few days (I am due to fly back to Prague on Thursday), but it looks as if things are far from settled now… despite the fact that Coronavirus in this part of Spain is pretty well non-existent.. What IS clear, now, and, really, it always has been, is that none of the restrictions, lockdowns and so on had too much to do with saving lives, but were, really, political posturing. We are raging.