Spanish islands warn tourists to abide by virus restrictions

MADRID — Faced with a possible flood of visitors from Germany later this month, authorities in Spain’s Balearic Islands are warning hotel owners that tourists must adhere to coronavirus restrictions the same way residents do.

Like the rest of Spain, the archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea is strengthening measures to combat the virus before the Easter period beginning April 1. They include further limiting social interactions to people living under the same roof and closing bars and restaurants at 5 p.m.

But the restrictions haven’t stopped eager German tourists who have rushed to book flights and accommodation this week following their government’s removal of the Balearic Islands and other holiday destinations from a list of high-risk areas.

Travelers will no longer need to quarantine on their return to Germany, although they will need a negative coronavirus test before departing. The German government still discourages all nonessential travel.

Given that all nonessential domestic travel across most Spanish regions is banned, the existing measures mean that flying from most of Europe for a weekend in Madrid or a beach holiday on the island of Ibiza, for example, is often easier than for many Spaniards to visit relatives in other regions or spend time in their second homes.

Balearic regional government spokesman Iago Negueruela said Tuesday that both the existing measures and new ones kicking off on March 26 must be carried out “by everybody, no matter where they come from.”

Negueruela, who is also the islands’ tourism minister, said that authorities will be on high alert monitoring for possible rulebreakers, private news agency Europa Press reported.

Budget airline Eurowings is providing hundreds of extra flights to Mallorca, the biggest of the archipelago’s five main islands, before the Easter period, and travel operator TUI said it’s opening hotels on the island.

While the number of new weekly COVID-19 cases on the Balearic Islands has fallen below the “risk area” threshold of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants, much of Germany remains above that level and rising.

But the downward trend has recently shown signs of stalling, worrying Spanish health officials that a new spike in cases could be around the corner.

Tourism accounted for 12% of Spain’s gross domestic product before the pandemic and nearly a third of the Balearic Islands’ output. But amid a global freeze on travel, foreign arrivals fell 80% to 19 million last year, to levels not seen in more than a half-century.

Negueruela said that being serious about the rules now would be the only way to fully and safely reinvigorate the islands’ crucial industry during the high season beginning in June.

“Now is the moment to slowly de-escalate, with prudence, in order to be ready for the summer season,” he said.

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