Spain fears tourism blow amid ‘second wave’ measures
By ELENA SÁNCHEZ NICOLÁS BRUSSELS, TODAY, 08:30
Several European countries are now warning citizens not to visit Spain, after the country experienced a spike in Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks.
France and Belgium are recommending citizens to cancel summer plans in the region of Catalonia, one of the new hotspots for coronavirus cases in the country.
The UK and Norway, meanwhile, have reimposed quarantine measures for all travellers arriving from Spain. Late on Monday, the British foreign office also extended its recommendation against non-essential travel to Spain.
The head of the regional government in Catalonia, Quim Torra, said on Monday (27 July) that Catalonia “is a safe destination” for tourists, while calling for a “great collective effort” to avoid further restrictions.
“We are facing the 10 most important days of this summer, to find out whether, with the solidarity of all, we can slow down this critical situation. Because if we don’t achieve this, we will have to go back [to stricter measures],” said Torra.
According to the head of the World Health Organization emergency programme, Michael Ryan, “the situation [in Spain] has nothing to do with the previous one”.
“Spain has developed a very accurate surveillance system, the government is open and transparent. [But] it is difficult to talk about the future, but we hope that the measures will lead to the control of outbreaks,” Ryan said on Monday.
In fact, Luxembourg, Romania, Bulgaria, Sweden and Portugal currently have the highest rates of new Covid-19 infections in the EU – followed by Spain, Croatia and Belgium.
The incident rate now for Spain is at 35.1 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous two weeks, according to the latest data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The northern regions of Aragón, Navarre, Catalonia, Basque Country, Extremadura and La Rioja are the most-affected – but outbreaks with a lower incidence have also been recorded in the southern regions, such as Murcia, Andalusia, Valencia and the Canary Islands.
As of Monday, Spain registered 855 new coronavirus infections – bringing the total to 278.782 confirmed coronavirus cases and 28,432 deaths. National authorities are monitoring around 280 active outbreaks across the country.
But Spanish foreign minister Arancha González Laya said on Sunday that Spain was still “a safe country,” stressing that Madrid is making “great efforts to control these outbreaks”.
‘Second wave’ fear across Europe
However, Spain is not the only member state struggling to open its economy while controlling new outbreaks amid what seems the beginning of the second coronavirus wave across the bloc.
After a “worrying” surge in coronavirus infections, Belgium introduced on Monday further coronavirus restrictions – namely the reduction of social bubbles and number of people permitted at public events.
This follows the decision of the Belgian government to make face masks mandatory in crowded indoor places, and introduce stricter tracing measures at restaurants and bars from Saturday.
Likewise, France and Germany have also reported a spike in the number of new coronavirus infections recently.
The French government on Monday called on businesses across the country to “build a preventive stock of protective masks for ten weeks to be able to deal with a potential resurgence of the pandemic” – especially after the country reported, for the first time, over 1,000 cases last Friday.
Meanwhile, Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn announced on Monday plans to make tests mandatory for people returning from high-risk areas.
“We must prevent returning travelers from infecting others unnoticed and thus triggering new chains of infection,” Spahn said in a tweet.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 340 new coronavirus cases on Monday – reaching a total of 205,609 cases.
Additionally, the Greek government announced that travellers arriving by plane from Romania and Bulgaria from Tuesday (28 July) will be asked for a negative coronavirus test result – performed up to 72 hours before entering Greece.
Both countries have also seen a surge in the number of cases during the last weeks.