This is a make-or-break moment for Spain.
Spain is battling with the dilemma of being desperate to revive the ailing economy with much needed foreign visitors’ money while trying to control hundreds of outbreaks of the virus. The same countries that impose strict measures on us if we want to visit also recommend their nationals do not travel to Spain as it’s “unsafe.”
The sad truth is that, at present, Spain has reached the highest infection rate in Western Europe at about 377,000 as of mid-August. The concentration is not only in beach resorts (like in Andalusia) but in the big cities, foremost in Madrid and Barcelona as well.
Nearly all countries of the Schengen Zone are now on red alert as far as people coming from Spain are concerned. They either don’t allow us in or require a 10-day or even 14-day quarantine, as British holiday makers found out. Some were in Spain when the UK’s quarantine rule came out of nowhere on 25 July, already on their much-anticipated holiday and faced not only with inconvenience but also financial loss.
This, of course, is not what a summer holiday is about, and we are now facing conditions that closely resembles our strict lockdown.
With the absence of foreign visitors who are either not booking at all or cancelling their reservations in huge numbers, the hospitality sector is in deep trouble. I see more and more bars and cafes with “For Sale” signs coming up. Restaurants seem to be doing okay, but even the oldest restaurant in the world, Restaurante Botín in Madrid, is struggling to remain open with only about 10 percent of its pre-pandemic business. Nightclubs and discos are a no-go and nobody knows how they will survive.
As of mid-August, it’s hot, hot, hot nearly everywhere in the country. Temperatures reach 40 degrees Centigrade in some places, and all one wants to do is keep cool. No easy feat in times of Covid-19 unless you opt to stay in your air conditioned home and only venture out as soon as the supermarkets open at 9 a.m. to do your shopping.
We can only hope that with the arrival of autumn and winter it will get better, but until then, it’s still several months of fear and misery.
Not a happy summer
It is obligatory to wear face masks everywhere outdoors and in enclosed spaces such as shops and restaurants. In this heat they are extremely uncomfortable outdoors, and I see many people who don’t wear them properly, either dangling from one ear, below the chin or not covering the nose.
If you live in a seaside resort as I do in Torrevieja, you want to go to the beach and splash around in the water as much as possible. Masks need not be worn on the beach itself, but despite being divided into the famous “blue squares,” the beaches are crowded. Social distancing is a joke. The army of guards does its best to keep order, but they are overwhelmed as masses of local and foreign visitors battle for the place on the sun.
Long lines form already at 7 a.m. at the access points, then people plant their umbrellas to reserve “their” square and leave to return whenever they want. Like towels on loungers at the pool in the old times! Occasionally, tempers are flying high and fights and arguments among the people standing in line or with the guards who deny access because the beach is full, aren’t uncommon.
All of which does not make for a happy summer.
All in all, a rather gloomy picture on several fronts this summer in Spain, not to mention a few other scandals which have nothing to do with Covid-19.
(Here is an up-to-date list of which countries have taken measures with regard to Spain.)
The latest developments:
• Spain is facing the worst coronavirus infection rate in Western Europe, according to the BBC, with 675 “active outbreaks” in the country. Spain recently replaced the United Kingdom as the European country with the most cases at 376,864 as of 12 August. But the UK has the most deaths in Europe at about 41,300 compared to 28,579 in Spain.
• The UK and other countries require travelers returning from Spain, or at least specific red zones in the country, to quarantine for at least 10 days. Denmark expressly forbids entry from Spain.
• Only five countries in Europe don’t have warning or restrictions against traveling to Spain – Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Sweden.
About the author:
Inka Piegsa-Quischotte is an international attorney-turned-travel and lifestyle writer based in Spain. She has contributed to BBC/Travel, several in-flight magazines, TripSavvy (Spain) and TravelAwaits among many other publications. After several years in Turkey, she now lives on Spain’s Costa Blanca.
Read more about Spain in our Dispatches archive here.