What do you think this holiday season will be like?

What do you think this holiday season will be like?

26-11-2021M.A. CAÑELLAS

Christmas is a month away. This time last year, the talk, the politician talk, was of “let’s think about a different Christmas”. In Mallorca, after much umming and ahing and discussions with Madrid that were to take more than a further couple of weeks - until the eleventh of December - the Balearic government finally announced that people travelling to the islands from the mainland would have to present negative PCR tests. These were to come into effect on December 20. The different Christmas, by the eleventh of December, already entailed Balearic residents having voluntary tests for their return from the mainland to the islands. These had been brought in ahead of the Constitution Day holiday.

How primitive this all sounds now, but then there was no vaccination a year ago. It was on its way, but no more. Even so, it promised much, as Prime Minister Sánchez was to say when he was in Palma on November 25, 2020. “We are reaching the beginning of the end of the pandemic.” The vaccination strategy “will allow us to neutralise the virus”.

It had yet to be fully determined how different Christmas would be. The prime minister stressed that decisions would be made by the Inter-Territorial Council for the National Health System, the body made up of regional health ministers and the national minister, who was then Salvador Illa. Politically, Illa was to be movable. Considered an electoral asset because he was health minister amidst the crisis, he was to stand as president of Catalonia on PSOE’s behalf, a reminder - if nothing else - that while Christmas might be different, other things were not.

Sánchez hoped that agreement could be reached and that, for example, the then limit of no more than six people for a social gathering would be maintained. Health experts were recommending this. This was maintained, as with no more than six people per table at a bar or restaurant, but not indoors, as these were off-limits. The bars and restaurants had to shut at 6pm on holidays and at weekends. Christmas was different. Also on November 25 last year, apart from the announcement of Diego Maradona’s death, the Balearic health ministry released its daily figures. There were 138 new positive cases.

There were 221 Covid patients on wards and 54 in intensive care. The hospitalisations were very high, but the number of cases wasn’t especially high. Grounds for optimism for a different Christmas? On Christmas Eve there were 463 new cases. There were 296 patients on wards and 57 in ICU. The 14-day cumulative incidence in Mallorca had climbed 43% in the space of seven days - to 554. The first vaccines were administered on December 27. Meanwhile, the health situation was deteriorating.

There is no doubting that the situation is now better in terms of hospital pressure, but we would seem to once again be on a wave of increased infection, while ward and ICU patient numbers have been edging up - respectively 71 and 27, as I write. The sixth wave, it is said. Most of us have lost count.

Might Christmas be different? Don’t rule it out, and if it is, the chances are that it will be a different Christmas of brandishing the Covid certificate in order to sit down for Christmas dinner inside a bar or restaurant.

What about other measures? At the end of October, port and airport health controls for passengers coming from the mainland were lifted. A good deal of publicity was given to this, as they had been in place since December last year. Might they return? In the Canaries, they are to. Dropped on October 1, they are to be reintroduced on December 1, the big difference to this time last year being the Covid certificate - the sophisticated advance in control provided by vaccination.

By now, I think we have become fully aware of the folly of Covid-related forecasts. For tourism, there are highly positive predictions for 2022, but they do come with a Covid caveat. I dearly hope that this rider will not be in play, not simply because I want to see tourism flourish but also because I am heartily sick of the endless cycle, underpinned by the daily numbers that are issued like the shipping forecast. Warning for here or there. Benign conditions elsewhere. Day in, day out, except at weekends when they can’t really be bothered, but will be if we do indeed catch the unfortunate sixth wave.

Uneasy though I am with coercive measures, maybe they are the only way. With rights come obligations, says the Austrian chancellor. In Mallorca, Iago Negueurela has spoken of duty, of there being no excuses. I’m as sick of the stubborn resistance as I am of the daily figures and the waves. I don’t want Christmases to be different. For might we still be locked in this cycle a year from now?

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