An abnormal return to school
Normality prevailed for the return to school; more or less. The regional education ministry, like the national education ministry, makes its annual pronouncements of the normality (or otherwise) of the return. In one sense - school buses running on time in the Balearics - there were apparently fewer "incidents" than last year. The normality was thus greater. In other senses, the normality was far from normal.
In the days preceding the return, teaching unions joined the doctors in calling for a delay to the start of the school year; the regional education minister, Martí March, asked for "collaboration" from parents and the educational community in ensuring normality; and President Armengol, March and the health minister, Patricia Gómez, were all politically on-message in repeating how many new teachers had been recruited in order to guarantee safe distancing in the classroom. They tended to avoid mentioning that this recruitment had only been made possible because of Madrid's regional aid package for education.
The busiest of ministers
The health minister was as busy as the education minister. In normal times, we don't hear much from either of them, but in these abnormal times, they have been thrust firmly into the spotlight. For the ministers in charge of what are, by some distance, the heaviest spending ministries, they were justifying their ministerial salaries, such was their ubiquitousness.
The health minister's measures
For Gómez, it was all about the "measures". Rather like Salvador Illa, the national health minister, had pretty much taken over the running of the Spanish government for a time during lockdown, now Gómez appears to be in charge in the Balearics. The second wave has to be confronted, and so obviously enough she decided that children's playgrounds should close for a fortnight. This was "to protect the start of the school year", she explained.
Closing the playgrounds
There was a great deal of scratching of heads, it must be said. What happens with the rest of the school year? Will it be protected by opening playgrounds again? There had to have been some logic to her measure, but if there was, it was lost on most people. Or perhaps there was some method to the measure, as no one seemed to be paying too much attention to the extension to the smoking restriction, such was the degree of perplexity.
Isolation in Palma
Earlier in the week, the Gómez measure that attracted most discussion was the isolation of four areas of Palma. One says four, as together they make up one combined area that is characterised by having a particularly high population density.
A report that there was to be a curfew wasn't strictly accurate; government spokesperson Pilar Costa was at pains to stress this anyway. The measures limited movement in and out of these four areas and there wasn't really a lockdown in that people could go out, even if the recommendation was for them to stay at home. The bar terraces were still open (until ten at night); it was the requirement for businesses to shut by ten which effectively made the situation a curfew. There was isolation in the sense of being cut off. Even then, if movement was necessary for various reasons, e.g. school, work or caring for people, the isolation didn't apply.
The gota fría
Another storm provided some welcome diversion from the unremitting Covid onslaught. The "gota fría" on Monday brought particularly heavy rain to the southwest of the island. There were almost seventy incidents in Majorca that required the attention of the emergency services, but this - by the standards of some storms - wasn't a remarkable weather event. The storm at the end of August, which flattened trees in the Tramuntana, was far more damaging, and work will be starting this week in forest areas - reducing fire risk, removing unstable trees, and so on.
Palma all year
A report about Palma in National Geographic Traveller was positive news. This report highlighted the city's potential as an all-year destination. The work of the Palma 365 Tourism Foundation in promoting Palma in this way has paid off, but the problem right now, of course, is whether there can be much low-season tourism. To this end, the Balearic government was pleased that the UK government will be adopting a travel policy that treats the islands separately. As tourism minister Iago Negueruela observed, however, something has to be done about the infection rate first.
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