You know those test events that have been organised in the UK, such as at a Liverpool club. Well, there had been one in Spain at the end of March. Masks were obligatory, unlike in Liverpool, but it was a bold initiative nevertheless: 5,000 young people packed into Barcelona’s Palau Sant Jordi arena for a non-socially-distanced rock concert.
A month later came the report of the results of the Barcelona test. Six positives. Four of the cases, it was established, were in fact because of transmission elsewhere; not in the arena. The origin of the other two cases was unknown. As test events go, it was a success, and yet I well recall howls of disapproval and of all-knowing understanding of the consequences. All-knowing and all-wrong.
Yes, there is the potential for these events to go awry, but they are clearly being staged very carefully and with diligent protocols regarding testing. The beleaguered nightlife sector in Mallorca and elsewhere in Spain will be looking on - is looking on - with great interest. The sector argues that it can control with a formula that guarantees “99.9%” security - negative tests, QR codes and disinfection devices for enclosed spaces.
Notwithstanding the 0.1% security that isn’t guaranteed, the nightlife sector - just as has been the case with bars and restaurants - has a point about its ability to control. There has to be an acceptance that security measures will remain place for the foreseeable future, but the way is being shown to reactivation - Barcelona and Liverpool are examples.
A strong argument that the nightlife sector has in its favour is that regarding illegal parties, for which there are no controls whatsoever; it is warning of an imminent increase of illegal parties and large street drinking gatherings as a consequence of the ending of the state of alarm and of the curfew specifically in most regions of Spain.
It is an argument, but the sector will know as well anyone else that gatherings such as the “botellón” occur irrespective of whether clubs are open. For nightlife to reactivate, there quite obviously cannot be a curfew, but - and this is at the heart of current Balearic government thinking - if there is no curfew, there will be these gatherings.
Maintaining the curfew and limits to numbers who can gather socially have illegal parties in mind. The nightlife sector argument, sound though it is, is undermined because these parties will happen anyway.
Look at what occurred over the weekend in cities in regions where the curfew had been lifted. Agreed, it was an outpouring of relief after so many months, and understandably so, but it was evidence of what can and will happen without controls. And unfortunately, as is being shown in the Balearics at present, the highest levels of incidence are among the young.
On Tuesday last week, the health ministry stated that the 14-day incidence per 100,000 among the 16 to 20 age group stood at 90. For the 21 to 29 age group it was 75.4. The general incidence rate for the Balearics at that time was 63.33. While incidence among these groups was higher than the average, it wasn’t especially worrying.
But it was nevertheless an incidence with a curfew in operation. What happens when there isn’t?
This most certainly isn’t a case of having a go at the young who, and this cannot be denied, have been deprived of so much of what it means to be young. At whatever age, we can empathise (and should empathise) with how Covid has affected the young. But if the types of control that have existed for several months are swept away, which they already have been in much of Spain and are likely to be here in Mallorca in early June, what will be the ramifications?
In essence, the Balearic government is looking to drop the protem curfew and social gatherings limitations once everyone over the age of 50 is vaccinated (or as high a percentage as possible). This is the sort of ballpark it has in mind, and it should coincide with the first week of June. But this will still leave an awful lot of people who aren’t vaccinated, and the same will apply elsewhere in Spain.
The government, which makes much of the current low incidence and the viral sequencing capabilities developed in Mallorca in pressing the case for an opening-up of tourism and of the green list in particular, must even so be fearful of a rise in the incidence, not just here but across Spain. How is that going to look to foreign governments?
I find the very notion of a curfew wholly abhorrent. It has to go, but at the same time I’m prepared to accept that it does serve a purpose. Without it, controls like those of test events will - for a time at any rate - serve their purpose. But not everything can be controlled. Then what.