MADRID / LONDON / BERLIN (Reuters) – Spain reacted angrily on Tuesday to recommendations by Britain and Germany that their citizens avoid their islands and beaches due to an increase in coronavirus cases during what should be the heyday of the tourist season.
FILE PHOTO: People sunbathe on Magaluf beach, in the midst of the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, July 11, 2020. REUTERS / Enrique Calvo / File Photo
With cumulative warnings about a Britain’s quarantine order for returning travelers, Spain, relying on summer visits from sun-seeking Northern Europeans, faces a major blow to any hope of reviving its economy. .
Tourism represents just over 12% of Spain’s GDP and almost 13% of jobs. The country lost a million jobs between April and June, its biggest quarterly decline, and fears more pronounced losses as the summer season closes.
“It is very unfair because it is not based on any sanitary criteria,” Francina Armengol, director of the key tourist region of the Balearic Islands, told Cadena Ser radio about the travel warnings.
Britain’s decision had no logical explanation, Armengol said, adding that the archipelago’s contagion rate was lower than that of the United Kingdom. The northern region of Spanish Aragon said the warnings not to travel were “discriminatory”.
His comments coincided with those of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who on Monday said it was a mistake for Britain to have considered Spain’s overall coronavirus rate rather than have a granular regional focus.
In the streets of Madrid, the reaction was outrage.
“It bothers me because it’s not that they were especially better than us,” said Isabel García, a Madrid resident, who works in marketing. “Everyone is wrong, and the fact that they face Spain … seems wrong.”
But Britain stood firm, saying it would stick to the sudden quarantine announced on Saturday and its Monday night move to extend a travel advisory against travel in mainland Spain to the Canary and Balearic Islands.
‘OUR JOB TO ACT QUICKLY’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday that Britain would take steps to impose quarantines on other countries should COVID-19 infections increase.
“I am afraid that if we see signs of a second wave in other countries, it is really our job, our duty, to act quickly and decisively to prevent travelers from returning from those places that are spreading the disease here in the UK.” he told reporters.
The only glimmer of hope for Spain came from Britain’s junior transport minister Charlotte Vere, who said that while London would continue to make decisions at the national level, it was seeking to establish quarantine rules for different regions “in the future”. She gave no time.
Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya said Madrid was working to convince London to soften its stance.
“We are still talking to the British authorities, explaining that the outbreaks in Spain are under control … and making sure that the measures taken by Great Britain meet epidemiological criteria and not other criteria that have nothing to do with COVID”, Laya told reporters. in Athens.
The British make up the largest group of foreign tourists in Spain, with some 18 million traveling there last year, just over a fifth of the total number of visitors. Some 11.2 million Germans visited Spain, making them the second largest group.
The British quarantine alone could cost Spanish tourism 10 billion euros ($ 11.73 billion) in lost revenue, La Sexta Jorge Marichal, head of the tourism association CEHAT, told television.
Spain has recorded 278,782 coronavirus cases and 28,434 deaths, but infection rates, which have increased since the end of the national closure in June, vary widely from region to region. Catalonia and Aragon have seen the largest increases in recent weeks.
Great Britain, however, has been the most affected country in Europe. Some 300,111 people have tested positive for coronavirus and there have been 45,759 deaths.
“They are pointing the finger at others when they have the same situation,” said Spanish Mercedes Blanco as she sat down to lunch with her daughter during a visit to Madrid.
Reports by Nathan Allen, Inti Landauro, Elena Rodríguez, Belén Carreño, Emma Pinedo, Joan Faus, Clara-Laeila Laudette, in Madrid, Sarah Young, Paul Sandle and Guy Faulconbridge in London, Maria Sheahan in Berlin; Written by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Nick Macfie