The Spanish quarantine: a self-made crisis

Covid policy in both Britain and Spain is becoming dangerously illogical and incoherent.

Alex Cameron

Topics Politics UK World

The UK government’s decision, at the beginning of this week, to collapse the air-bridge between Britain and Spain has caused carnage for tens of thousands of Britons looking to escape the ‘new normal’ for an all-too-brief stay in the sun.

The imposition of the 14-day quarantine for anyone returning from Spain to the UK will throw many lives into turmoil when they get back. It will have dire financial consequences for many holidaymakers, particularly those who will be quarantined and cannot work from home. And it will now undoubtedly stop most people from getting on a plane in the first place.

The decision will hit Spain hard, too. A report in the Spanish national daily, El Pais, said the collapse of the air bridge ‘represents the final blow for the struggling Spanish tourism industry’. This is no mere fly in the ointment. In 2019, of the 83million tourists that visited Spain, around 18million were British residents – around a fifth of all foreign visitors to Spain. Almost a third of all British holiday pounds are spent in Spain.

Of course, the numbers this year would have been a fraction of 2019. Nevertheless, Spain’s efforts to welcome Britons back for what is left of the Spanish tourist season are an indication of just how important the British are to the Spanish tourism and hospitality sector, and the economy more broadly. Tourism as a whole accounts for around 16 per cent of Spanish GDP.

Spain’s president, Pedro Sánchez, said the UK’s decision was ‘unjust’. In an interview with the Telecinco TV network, he said his government was ‘talking with British authorities to try to get them to reconsider’. Further, Sánchez stated that ‘the UK had made an “error” by considering the infection rate for the whole country’ when the infection rate in many parts of Spain is lower than it is in the UK.

He has a point. The areas most affected by the rise in new daily infections are largely contained to the north-east of the country, such as Catalonia (182 new infections), Aragon (415 new infections) and Navarre (66 new infections, though this is down from the previous day). And even within these regions, the infections are localised.

The blanket ‘ban’ imposed on Spain through the UK’s 14-day quarantine restriction is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. According to the Guardian, the government took ‘swift’ and ‘blanket’ action because ‘government scientists were spooked by the infection figures from Spain’. Meanwhile, British PM Boris Johnson has offered his own apocalyptic analysis of the numbers, raising the spectre of the European ‘second wave’.

But as Sánchez is surely learning to his cost, you cannot have it both ways. New lockdown measures have been imposed in Pamplona in Navarre as well as in the Lleida province (where infections have stabilised) and in Barcelona in Catalonia. In the same week that Sánchez declared ‘Spain is safe’ in response to the UK quarantine, he announced the mandatory wearing of masks throughout the country – including in open spaces, even where social distancing is possible. From Thursday, not wearing a mask in an empty street, park or field will be an illegal act punishable by the full force of the law.

The same realisation must also be dawning on Johnson. Earlier this month, he tried to urge people back to work and promised an end to Covid-19 by Christmas. But he is now issuing dire predictions of a second European wave, while effectively closing travel to Spain and enforcing mandatory mask-wearing. Johnson and Sánchez seem more intent on fighting lost battles of the very recent past than leading the UK and Spain out of the crisis.

It seems we are well beyond the point of trying to make sense of either government’s response to the threat of Covid-19 from a health perspective. Both the UK and Spanish governments instituted incredibly authoritarian measures while presiding over a large death toll.

At a time when we need bold leadership to get us beyond the current economic, social and health disaster, we seem to be lurching from one self-imposed crisis to the next. Mounting evidence suggests that Covid policy is being driven by a culture of fear rather than a rational assessment of the risks. That means we can expect even more illogical, contradictory and blanket reactions to come. The dismantling of the UK-Spain air bridge and mandatory mask-wearing may just be the start of it.

Alex Cameron is a writer and designer based in Madrid. Visit his blog here.

Picture by: Getty.

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Gareth Edward KING

31st July 2020 at 3:46 pm

In yesterday’s ‘Libertad Digital’ it was made clear that Moncloa (Spanish governmental base) fears the worst. Calviño as Minister of Economics has recognised that Spanish GDP in the second semester (coinciding with the March-June lockdown) was down by 18%! That 22% lost over two semesters! 120 billion has already been lost due to the disasters over tourism! It is said that Sánchez has cancelled all police, Civil Guard and military leave as from September 15th. You can imagine why. The country seems to be spiralling out of control. And the government just bangs on and on about covid. You can see that they’re desperate. This much vaunted 140 billion in loans and ‘lost funds’ from the EU has not been given the go-ahead, as obviously the PSOE-UP government has various reforms to put through first (including not bringing down the 2012 PP labour reforms)and this ‘homework’ has to be presented to the Commision the first week of October.

Stewart Ware

31st July 2020 at 4:08 am

The coronavirus doesn’t care about what governments do to stop its spread. It has its own plans to reproduce as far and wide as possible. It has made fools of governments around the world as they lurch from one ill-conceived policy to the next.

Stewart Ware

31st July 2020 at 3:57 am

Pedro Sánchez is the prime minister of Spain, not president. There is no president; the king is Felipe VI.

Just clearing up some facts.

Gareth Edward KING

2nd August 2020 at 11:06 am

He’s the president for sure. Listening to interventions in the Congreso de Diputados it’s ‘Sr. Presidente’ o ‘Señora Vicepresidenta’, for sure, with that far from bright light in the harbour: Carmen Calvo, speaking. He’s actually less powers than Johnson as Sánchez, for all his terrible faults, still has to go to congress to seek votes in order to see in no less than six ‘lockdowns’ from March 14th to June 21st, for ex. Santiago Abascal (Vox) is presenting a ‘motion of censure’ to congress in September against this appalling government (it’s unlikely to get anywhere), but at least he can do that. In any case, president or not, Sánchez still can’t decree, he needs to present everything through congress-and thank God for that!

Gareth Edward KING

30th July 2020 at 8:43 pm

Re. ‘European history repeating itself all over again’. It’s interesting that you say that Tracey because in El Mundo yesterday there was more than the usual anti-Johnson stuff. There were a couple of comments of the order ‘Well, the English were never much of an ally in any case’ indirectly referring to the scism in the 1530s. The Tudors had enormous problems with the Spanish; what with spies being expelled from Elizabeth’s court, plots to kill her, to put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne and the rest of it. Felipe II died a bitter man in 1598 due to the two failed marine plots against her. So, fast forward to 2020; you’ve got Fernando Simón actually saying rather clumsily that ‘we could do without the English and their viruses anyway!’ What IS going on here? Sánchez is in the PSOE which is notoriously anti-British and pro-German thanks to the SPD ‘grooming’ Felipe González in the 1970s-now that was a long time ago…

Gareth Edward KING

30th July 2020 at 8:26 pm

The sane northern European countries (Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, for ex.) but not including either the UK nor Ireland must be laughing themselves silly at the Covid-fear-mongers! Why was the UK press so keen to lambast Anders Tegnell at the time of ‘our’ lockdown? Now look at Sweden: 6,000 deaths in total? The Swedes admit that they could’ve done it better, but they’ve come out of this Covid-non-issue tops! And good on them for at least having the modesty to recognise their mistakes. In contrast, the French, the Brits and especially the Spanish are each trying to out-do each other in whom can get to be the most authoritarian. It’s a most unedifying spectacle! Today in Madrid on top of everything else, and despite the searing heat, wait for it! Eight city parks have been closed due to ‘high winds’, what ‘high winds’? I wish! It’s not an exaggeration to say that they’re ‘up to something’; in the short-term they’re angling for ANOTHER lockdown! Last week Monday 20th Sánchez received a standing ovation at Moncloa from his ministers on his first day back from Brussels! Watching them all masked up it reminded me of a creepy cult! Well done Pedrito! ‘cus the Dutch are demanding a referendum on the onerous bail-out terms afforded to bread-basket cases as Spain is sure to be. If that 140 million Euros isn’t forthcoming from the ECB (it’s a long way from being certain), what is the regime going to do? And I use ‘regime’ for a reason; the last one ended in 1975. This is the worse government since the return of democracy in 1977 and that’s without even mentioning the ‘plight’ of ex-King Juan Carlos I who’s going to have to move out of Zarzuela to avoid ‘tainting’ his son: Felipe VI.

T Zazoo

30th July 2020 at 8:25 pm

Stockholm Syndrome. It’s when you see people not wearing masks and gradually come to sympathize with them.

James Black

30th July 2020 at 3:37 pm

Govt responses aren’t supposed to be logical. Everything is supposed to cause confusion, a cognitive dissonance from reality, doublethink. Qtime when Chris Witty said Covid is mild, won’t affect majority, not high risk. Then PM next to him saying we’re facing a grave threat. Remember? WHO & Govts saying masks not needed, ineffective, then u-turn and now it’s mandatory punishable with fine or jail around world. It’s about control, medical tyranny, eroding liberties. Worst of all, a foolish majority are welcoming it, pro-lockdowners, snitching on Neighbours, parroting MSM “everything will be ok when we get a vaccine”. Hope they wake up one by one.

James Gittings

30th July 2020 at 3:13 pm

Instead of a blanket quarantine request, why not just test arrivals and provide HCQ or vitamin C/D/zinc to those who test positive?
Johnson and Hancock are as thick as too short planks.

James Conner

31st July 2020 at 6:49 am

Because while a positive test proves that you have the virus, a negative test does not prove that you don’t have the virus. This is because the incubation period can be several days to a couple of weeks meaning that even someone showing a negative result, may in fact be harbouring the virus and go on to be infectious several days later. I’m not in favour of quarantine btw, just explaining the reasoning behind the test/not test question. As Janet Street Porter says in today’s Mail, why have we gone from ‘flattening the curve’ to trying to ensure that no-one ever catches covid again?

James Knight

30th July 2020 at 2:55 pm

With pooled testing it should be possible to ramp of the screening efficiency of testing and identify local hot spots. Unfortunately the government only thinks in back and white because that is easy on the brain. It is just harder on the social and economic costs.

Gareth Edward KING

30th July 2020 at 2:05 pm

Pedro Sánchez is a Stalinist monster along with his entire cabinet not to mention the notorious epidemiologist: Dr. Fernando Simón. Of course Johnson has imposed a two-week quarantine because Spain IS out of control. These so-called ‘infections’ are little more than positive results to these entirely unreliable PCRs; more than 90% of ‘positive’ results are not even symptomatic, so why the fuss? The answer is to be found because this shameless PSOE-UP government is getting off on having almost the entire Spanish population ‘muerto de miedo’, that is: ‘terrified to the core’! It doesn’t know which way to turn and isn’t in the position to break even with its own propaganda; this FEAR is politically expedient; it doesn’t have the balls to admit that it’s all been a terrible mistake. 120 billion Euros (in May it was expected to a mere 90 billion) is expected to be lost this year due to this minority’s government’s diasastrous policy towards tourism which represents 12.3% of Spanish GDP. They deserve all they get, and it’s not only the UK government which has advised its nationals not to go to Spain: Norway, Germany and Belgium too (although the latter refer more to Aragon and Navarre). The French are avoiding Catalonia. It’s an unmittigated disaster! The Spanish labour market out of a population of 46 million is technically made of of 20.8 million ‘actives’, presently it’s at 13.8 million! 8 million people are either on the dole or being furloughed, with the latter, not all expecting to return to work come September. These comments on the obligations referring to ‘death mask’ wearing are mis-placed. The police can denounce but there are more than a million fines since March which are in a legal limbo; I for one, keep it off. There’s no reason at all to wear it and these anti-social measures in shops, dole offices and just about everywhere do not not make for a happy holiday destination; it seems as if Yersinia pestis has hit! Well, it hasn’t. The Spanish need to get a grip otherwise this country is finished!

Stephen Kennedy

30th July 2020 at 7:57 pm

Exactly, as the article and you point out, how can you shriek ‘everyone get into a mask quick!!’ and then say ‘no problem touristas, come on over’.


30th July 2020 at 1:31 pm

“From Thursday, not wearing a mask in an empty street, park or field will be an illegal act punishable by the full force of the law.”

That would make for a great holiday, at least we are not the only ones have their liberties denied by illiberal headless chickens. Does that make us feel better? Probably not.


30th July 2020 at 1:32 pm

only ones [to] have

Tracy Jones

30th July 2020 at 3:26 pm

Suspect same rule will be applied to the UK sheeple soon, then its just a small step to actively causing harm to the non compliant with the sanction of the Government, European History repeating itself over and over again

James Gittings

30th July 2020 at 3:20 pm

I’d only go abroad to places where masks aren’t required.

Stephen Kennedy

30th July 2020 at 7:55 pm

How about Stockholm? Heard that no one is wearing a mask. Why? Tegnell says there is no evidence they are of any use. No second wave in Stockholm … they never shut down in the first place.

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