A bar on the Playa de Palma. | plozano


Improvisation. It’s a word favoured by critics of the Balearic government, and so favoured has it been, that it has been dragged out on innumerable occasions in the recent past - a recent Covid past.

Where should we start? How about in October and with a government senior official, the director-general of public health, Maria Antònia Font. She appeared before parliament’s health committee, vigorously denying that there had been any improvisation in respect of developing a contingency plan for coronavirus. It seems like eons ago - and in Covid terms, last October was - but the director-general was at pains to point out that there had been a contingency plan (case detection and tracking; isolation of positive cases and contacts; containment of outbreaks).

A first contingency plan had in fact been launched on January 30, more than a week before the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the Balearics.

So, all was good when it came to contingency, where the director-general was concerned at any rate. Opposition parties weren’t convinced. Tania Marí of the PP observed that the reason for the DG having been called before the committee was in order to explain the contingency plans. “She has once more demonstrated no self-criticism in her management.” Oh, and self-criticism is another popular word, be it used in defence of politician (senior official) actions or in attacking these actions (or the absence thereof).

Shortly before Maria Antònia Font’s grilling by the committee, at which Juan Manuel Gómez of Ciudadanos had insisted that she should resign because of “inadmissible statements”, her boss - the health minister Patricia Gómez - was taken to task over improvisation ahead of “a most probable third wave” of the pandemic. The minister refuted the charge. Each day, the government has “more information systems that provide more data with which to make better decisions”.

This was, in a way, a telling statement, as it implied that there had at one point not been the data with which to make better (good) decisions. If this were the case, then would the contingency plan (or plans) have been less than rigorous?

Let’s move forward to December, and when some “measures” were announced in the run-up to Christmas, such as shutting bar and restaurant interiors. It was now the turn of a political big-hitter to get in on the improvisation charge act. Biel Company accused the government of a lack of transparency and of improvisation. “The continuous changes are causing great confusion among the citizens and the business sector.” Ever since the regional governments had been left in command by the Sánchez government, it had been a case of “from improvisation to improvisation”

A month later, and it was Company again. “The only roadmap the government has is one of improvisation and the closure of companies.” This was at a time when the third wave had struck big time, and there was an incidence of more than 500 per 100,000.

I could go on and cite all manner of occasions when the improvisation charge has been made. But is it a fair one? Improvising implies doing something that hadn’t been planned. So had, as an example, the government planned to close bar and restaurant interiors shortly before Christmas? One would very much doubt that it had, but was this order a case of improvisation or was it a considered response to health circumstances as they were? There is a big difference.

While there has been any amount of criticism of the government for not explaining fully the criteria for closing the interiors, have considered responses been on the basis of what Patricia Gómez said in October - “more information systems that provide more data with which to make better decisions”. There will be no convincing the government’s critics, but should we not perhaps trust that better decisions have been made and are being made?

One would certainly like to, but - and as Company noted in December regarding confusion - there can be the impression of what one might dub “winging it”. Was there, for instance, ever a good explanation as to why what had been a maximum of six at a table (with no business about two households) became a maximum of four with two households? Limiting contacts, yes, but was there a further rationale that was never communicated?

And now we have the notion of a shift system for bars and restaurants. On the face of it, this seems barmy, not least because of the issue of a three-hour hiatus for staff who return to do a couple more hours. What is the reasoning? It’s all down, apparently, to the potential for the “tardeo” drinking sessions. This may be a perfectly legitimate argument, but splitting the opening hours does seem a bit odd -making things up as they’re going along.

Or should we accept the legitimacy, put trust in the data for better decisions and understand that this is all about ensuring there’s a season? Improvisation perhaps, but if it works ... ?