When the Balearic government meets, photos of its gatherings always reveal smiling ministers. Not last week, for it was a week unlike any other. The grim faces of ministers told their own story, as if we needed telling. These ministers were faced with a situation they could only have anticipated in their worst nightmares. It was serious; extremely serious.
The rapidly evolving nature of this crisis led, by the end of the week, to Spain being on a state of alert, only the second time in the democratic era that the Spanish government has declared such a measure. It wasn't therefore unprecedented, but the crisis itself was. Air traffic controllers' industrial action in 2010 was of a wholly different category, while the current state of alert is unlikely to endure for a mere fortnight.
What had perhaps seemed like someone else's crisis no longer was. Schools were closed. Towards the end of the week, panic buying was suddenly emptying supermarket shelves. The regional government announced its measures. Other authorities went further. They weren't waiting to consult the health service or to seek permission for events with fewer than one thousand people. Town halls were calling everything off - markets, fairs, events with relatively small gatherings. The Palma Boat Show, not due to be held until the end of April, was suspended; this was despite its start date being beyond the government's thirty-day period.
The government wanted a ban on cruise ships, and Madrid finally announced one. By Friday, the government was wanting Madrid to agree to restrictions on flights. Employers were initiating ERTE procedures: temporary reductions in working hours and in pay as well as temporary layoffs. For the airline Iberia, this will affect 90% of the entire workforce.
There were still some who insisted that there was overreaction, that measures were ridiculous, that reporting was scare-mongering. Increasingly, however, it seemed as if the measures should have been adopted earlier. In Majorca and the Balearics, the incidence of Covid-19 remains low compared with some regions of Spain. The argument was made that insularity can be advantageous in combating the spread of the virus, but only if appropriate measures are in place. And for Majorca, as we were becoming all too aware, this will have a profound impact.
Tourist tax and excesses
The islands' hoteliers were calling on the government to suspend the tourist tax. Given the gathering crisis, a suspension would make sense, but one wondered what difference it could possibly make - in the immediate short-term at any rate.
The tourism minister, Iago Negueruela, was meanwhile telling representatives of Magalluf's nightlife sector that the tourism of excesses decree was "not against tourism" but was in favour of the "quality of tourism". The decree, we learned, has already had an impact. A dozen establishments were facing proceedings for non-compliance. These proceedings were the consequence of online publicity making offers for the consumption of alcohol.
Also in Magalluf, and indeed elsewhere in Calvia, the town hall was confirming that the police will get increased powers to deal with breaches of noise regulations. Amendment to municipal bylaw will mean that the police can act on the spot in, for example, sealing off sound equipment. One of the most common breaches of the regulations is the manipulation of sound limiters.
Paul Preston and betrayal
Humphrey Carter's interview with Sir Paul Preston, which appeared in last Sunday's edition, was utterly fascinating. A specialist in Spanish history, in particular the Civil War, Preston was discussing his latest book - A People Betrayed - an examination of how the Spanish people were, from the latter half of the nineteenth century, betrayed by the political class, the military and the Church.
Among other things, he touched on the one-time and corrupt system of the cacique and on the role played by Juan Carlos in the transition. "What he and many others achieved was amazing."
In considering political corruption in Spain in more contemporary times, Preston noted that he had written the book against the backdrop of Brexit - "all the fake news and lies, the political corruption that was not counterattacked".
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There are always two sides to a story. Paul Preston’s side is generally the one that satisfies his readers opinion about history. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the correct one. It just makes it easier to sell his books.