People sunbathe and swim on El Arenal beach

People sunbathe and swim on El Arenal beach, amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Majorca.

18-08-2020ENRIQUE CALVO

It’s a seasonal exercise, one for radio, for newspapers, for clubs and for others: the best summer songs, those which evoke beach and fun in the sun. Some are upbeat, some are laidback, but whatever the tempo the messages are tributes to glorious summer. Except when, occasionally, they are not. “What once was pleasure now’s pain for us all; In my heart only shadows fall; I once stood proud now I feel so small; I don’t know whether to laugh or cry; The long hot summer’s just passed me by.”

Paul Weller’s Style Council lament could play from speakers on emptying terraces or through the airport public address. A song for summer 2020, it is worth reminding ourselves - as Jesús Sánchez has - that there was a time when it looked as if summer would be cancelled completely. The president of the nightlife businesses association wasn’t the only one who had considered this eventuality; many of us had. But there was to be a rescue. Of sorts. The drowning summer was hauled from the sea, resuscitation was applied. Summer walked off with a cheerier smile, looking back at its rescuers and failing to notice that it was about to tumble into a pitfall.

Where do you begin in feeling sorry for individuals, for businesses, for communities? One doubts that many would single out the Balearics tourism minister; certainly not over the many others. But there is scope for feeling sorry for him. He did his best; he really did. He ensured the lines of communication were open with Germany from the very start of the pandemic. He now appears bereft in the different meanings of this word - deprived of something and sad because of a death or a departure.

His response is to fall back on to safe corridors, a response made because very little other response can be offered, except giving up. Unfortunately, however, the safe corridors proved to be less safe than had been hoped. Was that his fault? No. The corridors came with their caveats applied. From the word go, Germany established its threshold - the number of cases that could trigger a change to its travel advice. That figure of 50 in 100,000 inhabitants for a seven-day period was set in stone back in June. Germany should at least be given some credit - there was a clear criterion. Everyone knew what it was. The German decision wasn’t a caprice.

The UK’s decision had appeared to have been just that; or a decision that was motivated for reasons other than purely health ones. There wasn’t the set criterion, but it is now possible to concede that there may have been an assessment of trend and that the UK adopted a proactive approach - a sudden one and unusually “decisive”, to use the political keyword which described the quarantine announcement.

There is and there will be blame all round. The Balearics’ two key overseas markets have pulled the plug, and they aren’t alone. At the time of the UK decision, Gabriel Escarrer of Meliá was confident in there being European “solidarity”. Firmly of the view that there were political reasons, Escarrer’s confidence was in continental fraternity. But now, Germany, the greatest of friends, has disabused him of that belief; the Netherlands also. Solidarity dissipates in the face of health data.

Too fast, too early; political mismanagement; non-compliance with health measures and lack of enforcement of measures; absence of controls of national tourists; public irresponsibility. You can pick which ones you prefer, as each one will have a basis for doing so. But to take one, the national tourists, there were the data (the inevitable data) which indicated that, for example, only eleven out of 837 positive cases between mid-May and the first week of this month originated in Catalonia. There was one in Aragon, and just 39 for all of Spain’s regions. There could of course have been community transmission stemming from these (this hasn’t been stated), but on the face of it, the importing of cases is low.
For all this, and as the government in Galicia has highlighted, regional governments aren’t armed with the range of powers that could help in virus containment. Galicia wants Madrid to facilitate regional “sanitary cordons”; in effect being able to address movement from other regions.

This is a health control response, but just as urgent is the response to the failure of the semi-promise of summer. Politicians, business leaders, unions and others need to return from their holidays. Parliament in the Balearics should reconvene. There have to be some answers. Real leadership is required. Not sad faces and mere safe corridor default. The long hot summer’s passing us all by. Winter will be here soon enough.

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