Vast, empty beaches; even more so because of the weather. | Efe

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In the Mallorcan spring deep midwinter

The weather in Germany can be pretty nippy at this time of the year. Spring may be springing, but thermals can still be the underwear order of the day; as they would have been for arriving in Mallorca. The met agency's warning had been clear and accurate enough. A midwinter more in keeping with the Black Forest than the Paradise Island coincided with Mallorca's spring and greeted the returning German tourists, glad not to have discarded the thermals and clutching their negative PCR test results for "double verification" scrutiny by zealous personnel from Spain's exterior health service (allegedly).

Germanic winter weather would not have been hoped for. Pleasant and warm spring weather would have been. Off with the thermals, on with the swimming costumes and a few hours lounging on the vast and mostly empty acres of the beach in Playa de Palma; this was why the tourists were arriving. At least with the beach there would be something to do.

Madness in Mallorca

For many mere mortal Mallorcans (and not only Mallorcans), the arrival of visitors from the north seemed like madness. Not because of the weather, but because of the data as well as the slowness of vaccination programmes. There was also the fact that Spaniards from the mainland couldn't use holidaymaking as a justified reason for travelling to the island.

It hadn't been an invitation to travel, the German government continued to insist, but the invitation had been taken anyway, not least by German airlines and tour operators. For the Balearic government, tourism minister Iago Negueruela kept to the script of Easter not being important and of a slow de-escalation being essential in order to guarantee the main season.

Inspecting cohabitation

For the minister, the comparative unimportance of Easter this year will be reflected in the slim pickings from the tourist tax. A quarter of the summer rate in any event, income for the next couple of weeks probably won't be enough to cover the monthly cost of his ministerial salary. But if he wanted to be absolutely sure, inspectors from the ministry could give him a full and detailed breakdown of tourist numbers by checking hotel guests' "cohabitation statements".

Soaring sales not what they seem

The inspectors' task will be made that much easier because of the limited number of establishments that are open. The hoteliers federation said there were 57, a number due to increase by 36. The federation's lot was clearly not a happy one. Bookings were, to quote the vice-president Maria José Aguiló literally, "timid". And what bookings there were, it was pointed out, were mainly for the Easter period.

Some caution should be applied to such statements, as they may be aimed at the government, the slowness of the vaccination programme and the ever-present call for more financial aid. Statements by tour operators, the federation noted, do also need to be taken in context. "Soaring" sales perhaps, but the percentages are based on what was "practically zero".

Institutional propaganda

The vaccination programme was the target for the Vaccines, Health and Economy pressure group. Its chief spokesperson, Miquel Munar, had something to say about government statements: "Institutional propaganda". He despaired of the slowness of the programme, the impossibility of vaccinating 70% of the population by June, and the politics of vaccines. He had both AstraZeneca and Sputnik in mind; the lack of validation by the European Medicines Agency in the case of the latter. Some common sense did return, however, when the AstraZeneca suspension was lifted.

Mobility and safety

As the numbers of cases rose in Germany, so they also started to in Mallorca. Madness, it did seem, but there was always the Balearic health minister, Patricia Gómez, to inform us that "internal mobility is less safe than tourism". This was because tourists have less social interaction, she explained. In Germany, meanwhile, the Robert Koch Institute was appealing for people not to travel inside or outside the country. "Mobility and contacts are the drivers of the pandemic." Quite.