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Germans Flock to Mallorca on Easter, A Fourth Coronavirus Wave is Looming, Congress Approves €11 Billion Package Including Direct Aid to Ailing Businesses

Dear Expat,

Easter is around the corner and we all are eager to enjoy a few days of respite. Taking advantage of the fact that Germany removed Mallorca from its list of coronavirus risk regions last week, Germans are arriving on the island by the thousands. Spaniards, however, are not allowed to travel outside the autonomous community they live in. This dual approach has caused a stir among locals, but not so much among hotel and restaurant owners, who are hopeful this timid surge in tourism will ramp up revenue. The €11 billion package approved by the Congress of Deputies on Thursday includes direct aid to struggling business, especially in the hospitality sector. The bad news this week is that a fourth coronavirus wave is imminent.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published on Fridays to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the week.

Germans Flock to Majorcan Beaches

2021 marks the second year in a row that Spaniards don’t celebrate Semana Santa. The second year that the streets of big cities and small towns, mostly in Andalusia and in the northern region of Castile and Leon, will not bear witness to fraternities performing penance processions. A tradition that, in modern history, has only been cancelled twice before: in 1808, the year the French invaded the peninsula, and in 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War broke out.

Twelve months into a pandemic that is proving to be more disruptive of Spain’s dearest traditions than invasions and wars, we still can’t move around Spain freely. All 19 regions and autonomous cities are under a perimetral lockdown to avoid a spike in coronavirus infections, not least because almost half of the population over 80 years of age is still waiting to be inoculated. In fact, according to the latest data, there is a fourth wave looming. But this apparently won’t dissuade some fellow Europeans eager to enjoy a few sunny days on Mediterranean beaches.

On 12 March, Germany removed several Spanish regions, including the Balearic Islands, from its list of coronavirus risk areas, meaning that visitors will not need to go into quarantine upon their return. In a matter of hours, sun-seeking Germans rolled up their sleeves and took to their smartphones and computers to book their holidays in Majorca, a part of what they jokingly call Germany’s “17th state.” Anything to flee the country’s stringent restrictions, which have kept bars and restaurants closed for over four months now.

“The desire to spend the Easter holidays on the Mediterranean is significantly bigger than expected,” said German tourism giant TUI in a statement last week, a company that expects to offer more than 300 return flights to the Balearic Islands over the coming weeks. Ryan Air also announced that it was offering 200 fights between Germany and Spain, and Lufthansa’s low-cost carrier, Eurowings, has added another 300 flights.

Thousands of Germans are expected to flock to the Balearic Islands. Who wouldn’t want a deserved break from work and, more importantly, from this protracted health crisis we are all weary of?

The question for mainland Spaniards is a very different one: Why may I not travel to Majorca?

While air and sea-bound travellers may visit the country as long as they take a PCR test 72 hours before —land borders won’t exercise such controls—, Spaniards are not allowed to travel to other regions unless for a justified reason.

There was a pointless debate over whether tourists would be able to avoid local restrictions. Regional health councillor Marga Frontera cut it short in a tweet warning that all visitors to the islands are obliged to respect the same rules as residents. Among the restrictions in place are a 10 pm curfew and the closing of bars and restaurants at 5 pm, where only four people are allowed to gather together. During the Easter period, family gatherings will be limited to six people from the same family nucleus. In hotels, guests from the same household can share a room. And tourists may not cross regional borders.

 

Who wouldn’t want a deserved break from work and, more importantly, from this protracted health crisis we are all wary of? The question for mainland Spaniards is a very different one: Why may I not travel to Majorca?

 

This contradictory measure caused an uproar among Spaniards and prompted the European Commission, the legislative branch of the EU, to call for “coherence” between measures. However, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez insisted during a session in Congress on Wednesday that Spain is being coherent, and that is following the recommendations of the European Commission — to keep borders open for intra-community trips, avoiding non-essential ones.

Under the second state of alarm, regions are in charge of deciding whether to close their borders, but the ability to close international borders to travellers arriving by air or by sea is up to the central government. A ban on non-essential travel is placed on non-EU countries, but also on the United Kingdom, in a bid to contain the spread of the more-contagious strain, known as B.1.1.7, first detected in that country and which now accounts for half of the coronavirus cases. The good news for Britons is that Spain will be lifting travel restrictions on 30 March; the bad news is that the British government will find people travelling for reasons other than heath, work and other non-essential reasons with around €6,000 starting on Monday.

In Germany, the 7-day-cumulative infection rate has increased by 10 points to 109.9. German health authorities are tirelessly discouraging non-essential travel and asked airlines not to allow people to board the plane without a negative PCR test from 30 March to 3 April, which means travellers will have to provide a second PCR on arriving in Germany after their stay in Spain. German authorities warned they will be consequences if they don’t comply. These new requirements have resulted in a flurry of cancellations.

This sudden turn of events has come as a nasty surprise for the island’s ailing tourism industry. It is estimated that at least 30% of holidaymakers have cancelled their vacation, forcing some hotels and restaurants to shut down for the holidays.

In general, Spain lost 80% of visitors in 2020, the lowest level since 1969. In 2020 the contribution of tourism to gross domestic product fell by about 7%, from 12% to 5%. Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto is optimistic that in 2021 Spain will receive 40 million visitors, a 50% decrease compared with 2019. “This year is going to be a year of transition,” Maroto said during the inauguration in Madrid of the Europa Press Tourism Forum. “We are going to start to reactivate tourism in summer, which will allow us to pick up speed to turn 2021 into the year of a recovery for the tourism sector”.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go.
Sign up to Dearexpat,

A Fourth Coronavirus Wave Looming?

Just as we are leaving the third wave behind, we are bound to be hit by a fourth one. Last night, the Spanish Health Ministry released a new report on the epidemiological situation. The 14-day cumulative number per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 134.08, going up from 128.8.

Health Minister Carolina Darías told Congress that Spain is facing a “possible change in trend” and that several regions are reporting spikes: the seven-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 is more than 50% of the 14-day rate. Darías said the data show that transmission is accelerating and timidly paving the way for a fourth wave.

Darias warned that hospitals continue to be under pressure in many Spanish regions, with Covid-19 patients occupying 18.6% of all intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the country. In Catalonia, Madrid and La Rioja, however, this figure is more than 30%.

Fortunately, vaccination with the AstraZeneca jab restarted on Wednesday. Health authorities have raised the age limit from 55 to 65, which will help pick up more speed to a vaccination drive that got off to a sluggish start. The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine has slowed down the roll-out. Spain has administered 80.4% of total doses received, and 5% of the population have received a second jab.

In the second quarter of the year, Spain will receive 30 million doses of the vaccine, plus 5.5 million doses of the single-dose Janssen jab.

Financial Help to Ailing Businesses

The health crisis has bitten a good chunk off the Spanish gross domestic product, making Spain one of the countries worst hit by COVID-19. The most recent data, released today, reveal a 10.5% slump. Tourism, hospitality, non-food retailers, and culture are among the sectors bearing the brunt of the crisis.

To help businesses and workers, the Spanish government approved a national furlough scheme and a package of 140 billion euros in state-backed loans through the ICO national credit agency at the beginning of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, a new 11 billion euros package was passed in Congress amid fierce criticism towards Spain Economy Minister Nadia Calviño. The opposition and even the leftist Podemos, the junior party in Spain’s coalition government agreed that the much-awaited direct aid package late and insufficient.

The package also seeks to heed the warnings from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Spain about the risk of a wave of corporate insolvencies once programs, including the job retention scheme known as ERTE, are phased out.

The package of non-refundable payouts includes €3 billion to restructure state-guaranteed loans; €1 billion to recapitalize medium-sized companies; and €7 billion in non-refundable direct aid to self-employed workers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the coronavirus crisis, 2€ of which will go to the tourism-dependent Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.

To be eligible, a company must prove a minimum 30% fall in revenues in 2020 from 2019 and must be open until at least June 2022, a requirement that seeks to keep at bay the so-called “zombie companies” taking payouts and then shutting down. The cash aid must be used for fixed expenses or debt reduction. Recipients will have to be up to date with their tax filings and not operate in tax havens.

The self-employed will receive up to €3,000 or €4,000 depending on whether they file taxes under the módulos system or not.

“It’s a significant amount of resources to continue supporting sectors that were growing and competitive before the pandemic, but which now are logically facing a very difficult situation,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said. And then added: «We don’t just want to save businesses and jobs. We want to create new businesses and jobs.”

Dear Expat,

Easter is around the corner and we all are eager to enjoy a few days of respite. Taking advantage of the fact that Germany removed Mallorca from its list of coronavirus risk regions last week, Germans are arriving on the island by the thousands. Spaniards, however, are not allowed to travel outside the autonomous community they live in. This dual approach has caused a stir among locals, but not so much among hotel and restaurant owners, who are hopeful this timid surge in tourism will ramp up revenue. The €11 billion package approved by the Congress of Deputies on Thursday includes direct aid to struggling business, especially in the hospitality sector. The bad news this week is that a fourth coronavirus wave is imminent.

Germans Flock to Majorcan Beaches

2021 marks the second year in a row that Spaniards don’t celebrate Semana Santa. The second year that the streets of big cities and small towns, mostly in Andalusia and in the northern region of Castile and Leon, will not bear witness to fraternities performing penance processions. A tradition that, in modern history, has only been cancelled twice before: in 1808, the year the French invaded the peninsula, and in 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War broke out.

Twelve months into a pandemic that is proving to be more disruptive of Spain’s dearest traditions than invasions and wars, we still can’t move around Spain freely. All 19 regions and autonomous cities are under a perimetral lockdown to avoid a spike in coronavirus infections, not least because almost half of the population over 80 years of age is still waiting to be inoculated. In fact, according to the latest data, there is a fourth wave looming. But this apparently won’t dissuade some fellow Europeans eager to enjoy a few sunny days on Mediterranean beaches.

On 12 March, Germany removed several Spanish regions, including the Balearic Islands, from its list of coronavirus risk areas, meaning that visitors will not need to go into quarantine upon their return. In a matter of hours, sun-seeking Germans rolled up their sleeves and took to their smartphones and computers to book their holidays in Majorca, a part of what they jokingly call Germany’s “17th state.” Anything to flee the country’s stringent restrictions, which have kept bars and restaurants closed for over four months now.

“The desire to spend the Easter holidays on the Mediterranean is significantly bigger than expected,” said German tourism giant TUI in a statement last week, a company that expects to offer more than 300 return flights to the Balearic Islands over the coming weeks. Ryan Air also announced that it was offering 200 fights between Germany and Spain, and Lufthansa’s low-cost carrier, Eurowings, has added another 300 flights.

Thousands of Germans are expected to flock to the Balearic Islands. Who wouldn’t want a deserved break from work and, more importantly, from this protracted health crisis we are all weary of?

The question for mainland Spaniards is a very different one: Why may I not travel to Majorca?

While air and sea-bound travellers may visit the country as long as they take a PCR test 72 hours before —land borders won’t exercise such controls—, Spaniards are not allowed to travel to other regions unless for a justified reason.

There was a pointless debate over whether tourists would be able to avoid local restrictions. Regional health councillor Marga Frontera cut it short in a tweet warning that all visitors to the islands are obliged to respect the same rules as residents. Among the restrictions in place are a 10 pm curfew and the closing of bars and restaurants at 5 pm, where only four people are allowed to gather together. During the Easter period, family gatherings will be limited to six people from the same family nucleus. In hotels, guests from the same household can share a room. And tourists may not cross regional borders.

Who wouldn’t want a deserved break from work and, more importantly, from this protracted health crisis we are all wary of? The question for mainland Spaniards is a very different one: Why may I not travel to Majorca?

This contradictory measure caused an uproar among Spaniards and prompted the European Commission, the legislative branch of the EU, to call for “coherence” between measures. However, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez insisted during a session in Congress on Wednesday that Spain is being coherent, and that is following the recommendations of the European Commission — to keep borders open for intra-community trips, avoiding non-essential ones.

Under the second state of alarm, regions are in charge of deciding whether to close their borders, but the ability to close international borders to travellers arriving by air or by sea is up to the central government. A ban on non-essential travel is placed on non-EU countries, but also on the United Kingdom, in a bid to contain the spread of the more-contagious strain, known as B.1.1.7, first detected in that country and which now accounts for half of the coronavirus cases. The good news for Britons is that Spain will be lifting travel restrictions on 30 March; the bad news is that the British government will find people travelling for reasons other than heath, work and other non-essential reasons with around €6,000 starting on Monday.

In Germany, the 7-day-cumulative infection rate has increased by 10 points to 109.9. German health authorities are tirelessly discouraging non-essential travel and asked airlines not to allow people to board the plane without a negative PCR test from 30 March to 3 April, which means travellers will have to provide a second PCR on arriving in Germany after their stay in Spain. German authorities warned they will be consequences if they don’t comply. These new requirements have resulted in a flurry of cancellations.

This sudden turn of events has come as a nasty surprise for the island’s ailing tourism industry. It is estimated that at least 30% of holidaymakers have cancelled their vacation, forcing some hotels and restaurants to shut down for the holidays.

In general, Spain lost 80% of visitors in 2020, the lowest level since 1969. In 2020 the contribution of tourism to gross domestic product fell by about 7%, from 12% to 5%. Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto is optimistic that in 2021 Spain will receive 40 million visitors, a 50% decrease compared with 2019. “This year is going to be a year of transition,” Maroto said during the inauguration in Madrid of the Europa Press Tourism Forum. “We are going to start to reactivate tourism in summer, which will allow us to pick up speed to turn 2021 into the year of a recovery for the tourism sector”.

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

Dearexpat, is aimed at English-speaking readers who have been living in Spain for long enough to be interested in the country’s current affairs, with a focus on politics, the economy, society, and culture. In fact, anyone, anywhere with a keen interest in Spain might find it helpful. Since we are usually overwhelmed by an endless outpouring of news, this newsletter will be published every Friday to provide readers with an overview of the most noteworthy events taking place during the previous week.

Get up to date with what is going on in Spain in just one go. Sign up to Dearexpat,

A Fourth Coronavirus Wave Looming?

Just as we are leaving the third wave behind, we are bound to be hit by a fourth one. Last night, the Spanish Health Ministry released a new report on the epidemiological situation. The 14-day cumulative number per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 134.08, going up from 128.8.

Health Minister Carolina Darías told Congress that Spain is facing a “possible change in trend” and that several regions are reporting spikes: the seven-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 is more than 50% of the 14-day rate. Darías said the data show that transmission is accelerating and timidly paving the way for a fourth wave.

Darias warned that hospitals continue to be under pressure in many Spanish regions, with Covid-19 patients occupying 18.6% of all intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the country. In Catalonia, Madrid and La Rioja, however, this figure is more than 30%.

Fortunately, vaccination with the AstraZeneca jab restarted on Wednesday. Health authorities have raised the age limit from 55 to 65, which will help pick up more speed to a vaccination drive that got off to a sluggish start. The suspension of the AstraZeneca vaccine has slowed down the roll-out. Spain has administered 80.4% of total doses received, and 5% of the population have received a second jab.

In the second quarter of the year, Spain will receive 30 million doses of the vaccine, plus 5.5 million doses of the single-dose Janssen jab.

Financial Help to Ailing Businesses

The health crisis has bitten a good chunk off the Spanish gross domestic product, making Spain one of the countries worst hit by COVID-19. The most recent data, released today, reveal a 10.5% slump. Tourism, hospitality, non-food retailers, and culture are among the sectors bearing the brunt of the crisis.

To help businesses and workers, the Spanish government approved a national furlough scheme and a package of 140 billion euros in state-backed loans through the ICO national credit agency at the beginning of the pandemic.

On Wednesday, a new 11 billion euros package was passed in Congress amid fierce criticism towards Spain Economy Minister Nadia Calviño. The opposition and even the leftist Podemos, the junior party in Spain’s coalition government agreed that the much-awaited direct aid package late and insufficient.

The package also seeks to heed the warnings from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Spain about the risk of a wave of corporate insolvencies once programs, including the job retention scheme known as ERTE, are phased out.

The package of non-refundable payouts includes €3 billion to restructure state-guaranteed loans; €1 billion to recapitalize medium-sized companies; and €7 billion in non-refundable direct aid to self-employed workers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) affected by the coronavirus crisis, 2€ of which will go to the tourism-dependent Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.

To be eligible, a company must prove a minimum 30% fall in revenues in 2020 from 2019 and must be open until at least June 2022, a requirement that seeks to keep at bay the so-called “zombie companies” taking payouts and then shutting down. The cash aid must be used for fixed expenses or debt reduction. Recipients will have to be up to date with their tax filings and not operate in tax havens.

The self-employed will receive up to €3,000 or €4,000 depending on whether they file taxes under the módulos system or not.

“It’s a significant amount of resources to continue supporting sectors that were growing and competitive before the pandemic, but which now are logically facing a very difficult situation,” Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said. And then added: «We don’t just want to save businesses and jobs. We want to create new businesses and jobs.”