Yolanda Díaz, Spain's employment minister.

29-03-2020Javier Lizón - EFE

Things we'd never heard of
The crisis has provoked the use of certain words at unprecedented levels, like unprecedented, and it has introduced us to concepts that few of us had ever heard of, such as furlough. Last weekend there was another - recoverable paid leave. The Spanish government announced that non-essential work activities had to cease up to and including Holy Thursday. Workers, such as those on building sites who were now deemed not to be essential, would receive this recoverable paid leave. In other words, they were having to take time off. The employment minister, Yolanda Díaz, stated that all parties must give. "It is a period of eight working days, and nobody loses their rights."

There were some signs of hope. In the Balearics, we were suddenly clinging to something else we had never previously heard of - basic reproduction number, or R0 as epidemiologists know it. The number in the Balearics was below one, and when the number is below one, the epidemiologists can be thinking about advising governments that confinement might just be relaxed a tad.


Economic figures red and redder
The economic numbers, however, offered very little hope. March unemployment, to no one's surprise, went up. This was by 8,000 compared with March 2019. The regional employment minister, Iago Negueruela, made a statement of the obvious when saying that the March numbers only gave a partial idea as to the impact of the pandemic on employment. April's will show the full magnitude.

Predictions as to the economic effects continued to be offered. Negative growth will be worse than it was at the height of the financial crisis. It could be almost minus ten per cent, albeit this was something of a global figure that Goldman Sachs had come up with. The Exceltur alliance for tourism excellence reckoned that Balearics tourism GDP will crash by 41%, the equivalent of just over 6,000 million euros, and this was based on an assumption that things might start getting going again in July. Perhaps they will.


The government's reboot
President Armengol offered us the notion of "de-confinement", announcing that the government was working on scenarios for such a happy state of affairs. An implication of one of these scenarios was that tourism might just have to wait. Would progressive internal de-confinement (internal to the islands, that is) be preferable to opening the ports and airports again?

Possibly so, and from a health point of view, probably very wise. However, as the president observed, the Balearics do not have the type of industry for which a button can just be pressed to spark everything back into economic life. The government's promise of a "reboot plan" will depend enormously on tourism, but the economy in the Balearics is that much more complicated than other regions because of this dependence.


Closing the drugs supermarket
There was a touch of somewhat dark humour, and it came from a surprising source - Son Banya. The residents had decided to barricade the road into the shanty town. They didn't want the virus affecting them. The 'drugs supermarket' was closed for business, and one of the residents said that - as a consequence - they were expecting Prime Minister Sánchez to give them an ERTE. "Out of responsibility, we can't work."

The barricade wasn't observed by everyone. Users were dodging it and entering in order to buy drugs. Stones were thrown at their cars. The police, more used to going into Son Banya to carry out raids or assist at demolitions, needed to intervene between desperate addicts and their normal suppliers. The barricade, as it was to turn out, didn't seem to have the desired effect. The police, all twenty of them, had to return in order to remove a woman with coronavirus symptoms who was refusing to be taken to hospital.


Always take the weather
March, Aemet informed us, was the third warmest on record, having followed what was the remarkably warm February. But then came April, and the first day made fools of us, especially the farmers in Muro and Sa Pobla. Torrential rain and hail affected the potato fields. Up to 2,500 tonnes of potatoes for export could have been lost.

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