Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, speaking last week.

17-03-2020Efe

The unthinkable happened
People in Majorca, as in the rest of Spain, had to become accustomed to what had seemed the unthinkable. The government met last Saturday in order to confirm the state of emergency and the measures that this would entail. The Sunday morning coffee was cancelled. The streets were silent. It was a state of emergency for two weeks. Few could have expected that it would be over by the 29th of March.

In the Balearics, the number of cases increased daily. Compared with the whole of Spain these were very low, as were the fatalities. A hope for the islands was that insularity would spare us the worst. Travel had to be curbed, and it was. The principal movement would be that of ships bringing supplies; these would be guaranteed.


Tourists departing; huge layoffs
Tourists departed, but not all. Hotels, which hadn't been obliged to close under the government's measures, were mostly doing so anyway, but there were those hotels which still had tourists. The government then altered its position. Hotels in Spain must close by Thursday this week; the last "repatriation" flights will be taking these tourists home. Businesses initiated ERTE temporary layoff procedures. Employment minister Iago Negueruela issued an assurance that force majeure ERTEs would mean workers being paid benefits as soon as possible.

Few sectors of the economy were unaffected. Inditex, which includes Zara, decided to close all its stores not just in the Balearics and Spain but worldwide. There were daily reports of the impact on the likes of taxi drivers, fishermen, the film industry, live music.


Unity and division
The Spanish government's motto was #Este Virus: Lo paramos unidos" - This virus, united we will stop it. On Wednesday night, King Felipe's message to the nation referred to this unity. "We must unite around the same objective: to overcome this serious situation. We must do this together."

However, unity wasn't total. In Catalonia, for example, the region's president, Quim Torra - who succumbed to the virus lsat week - rejected the government's plans. They were an "undercover Article 155" to take over Catalonia's powers. The Mossos police force in Catalonia was placed under the direct command of the interior ministry in Madrid.

The King, meanwhile, was caught up in the scandal affecting his father, Juan Carlos, something which once more highlighted the lack of unity with regard to the monarchy.


When normality returns
Planning for the return of normality, whenever this may be, included tourism promotion. The Council of Majorca, which had been anticipating being in Berlin at the start of next month in order to stage special promotions, was now indicating that its strategic plan for tourism promotion will be adapted. This plan is due to be presented shortly. It is the first strategic plan of its type that Majorca has known. A document for the long term, there was now a pressing short-term priority.


Tourism employment
With employees being laid off in huge numbers, the release of figures for employment in the tourism sector in February seemed distinctly incongruous. Nationwide, slightly over 100,000 more people had been taken on in the tourism sector. Andalusia had led the way with some 17,000. In the Balearics, the number had been more modest - 944. But that was February; this was now March.

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