Have German tourists in Mallorca created a second Ischgl-like ‘hotspot’?

German tourists have returned to Mallorca in July, with some of them partying and ignoring basic safety rules. "As if there was no Corona", wrote the Mallorca Zeitung. [EPA-EFE/CATI CLADERA]

Beer and sangria flowed in abundance in Mallorca as German tourists celebrated at the ‘Ballermann’ party strip, ignoring coronavirus hygiene rules. Now the island is drawing the consequences, and threatening with penalties. EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

“We are back,” chanted the German tourists who gathered at the Ballermann party strip, known as the ‘Partymeile’, on Mallorca’s Playa de Palma at the weekend.

“We want to celebrate!” shouted others as they carelessly danced the night away for hours – hand in hand and close to each other – between the tables of the bar terraces and in the streets.

“Almost nobody wore a mask, drinks were handed around and often shared”, reported the island’s German-language newspaper Mallorca Magazin, adding that social-distancing was not being respected either. Instead, beer and sangria, which is drunk together, with a straw, from big jugs or buckets in the party zone, flowed in streams.

The pictures of the exuberant partying, where all hygiene rules were ignored, caused indignation not only on Mallorca. “As if there were no Corona”, wrote the Mallorca Zeitung in horror, noting that “it seemed as if nobody here had ever heard of the pandemic.”

“We did not endure the shutdown here for weeks in order to recklessly jeopardise what we had achieved,” the newspaper noted bitterly.

The few visitors who wore masks at the party were laughed at by the masses.

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Passenger planes land every minute

While the island has so far been able to control the COVID-19 pandemic much better than other Spanish regions, it is still in a very difficult situation as new cases have recently emerged.

Mallorca was able to revive tourism already in mid-June, earlier than other European holiday destinations. Passenger jets keep landing at Palma Airport again every minute.

Catalogue of penalties with high fines

And with the holiday season starting again, ‘booze tourism’ is also returning to the island.

On Friday (10 July) alone, after the first illegal yet considerably smaller parties in bars and parks, the regional government had decided on a catalogue of penalties for violations during celebrations, with fines ranging up to €600,000 for those who organise or participate in illegal corona-parties, and announced increased controls.

For the time being, however, the police have hardly been seen at the ‘Ballermann’, the Mallorca Zeitung noted.

In the meantime, the “Balneario 6” on the sea promenade of the Playa de Palma has also reopened. This is a bar terrace whose name means “spa” in German but was renamed “Ballermann” by the drinking community. The biggest dance halls of the party district mainly frequented by Germans still remain closed for security reasons.

But several smaller party locations along the “Bierstraße”, which covers part of the so-called ‘Partymeile’, are now open again and packed.

However, this could change after the events.

The landlords have reacted with tightened security checks, the Mallorca Zeitung reported, adding that the outside areas have been cordoned off from the street and music was being played more quietly.

Nevertheless, many people celebrated again on Saturday evening (11 July).

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Warning against binge drinking

“Please don’t turn the otherwise so cultivated and well-mannered beer street into an antisocial and ruthless binge-fest”, the cult pub Et Dömsche appealed on Facebook, adding that “unfortunately, many guests still believe that they do not have to follow instructions of staff.”

In the future, anyone who does not follow the rules will be expelled from the premises, the pub added.

But worrying scenes were seen not only at the Ballermann but also in other parts of the island.

For example, in Magaluf, west of the island capital, which is particularly popular with the British, unrestrained party-goers danced on parked cars, causing extensive damage to property, according to the media. According to Última Hora, several arrests were made there.

Such large gatherings of people celebrating and drinking had not been seen on the Balearic Islands since the opening of the borders to foreign tourists in mid-June, and the pictures shocked the island.

According to the Mallorca Zeitung, the scenes showed “how great the danger of a second coronavirus wave on Mallorca could be”.

The rules of protection against the coronavirus include a safety distance of 1.5 metres between guests who do not belong to the same group. As of Monday (13 July), masks are also compulsory inside the establishments as long as people do not eat or drink. There will also be a ban on dancing to avoid too much physical contact.

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Livelihoods of caterers threatened

The caterers know that they endanger their own livelihoods if they do not enforce hygiene rules, as a new COVID-19 outbreak would mean the end of the holiday season.

“That would be dramatic”, said Iago Negueruela, the tourism minister of Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands. Shutting down the island for three months in spring has already caused millions in losses.

“We will not risk all that we have achieved with personal and economic sacrifices,” warned Francina Armengol, head of government of the Balearic Islands.

Harsh penalties are now looming. For starters, those who do not comply with the new compulsory obligation to wear facemasks will be fined €100. From this week on, the mask must always be worn when leaving the hotel or holiday apartment – except on the beach.

At the weekend it remained unclear when the mask obligation would actually be implemented in public places and outdoors. It was supposed to come in force on Monday (13 July) and the decree for it was supposed to come the previous Friday. However, according to the German Press Agency (DPA), it was delayed.

That is because, according to the media, the decree had caused hoteliers to protest quickly and vehemently. Countless bookings in Germany and the UK had already been cancelled on Friday, a day after the announcement.

The government must “reconsider” its measure, demanded María Frontera, president of the hotelier association FEHM. According to a Sunday report in the Última Hora, Mallorca’s capital Palma is already doing so, but it remains unclear how and when the decision will be taken.

Meanwhile, the 40,000 or so inhabitants of S’Arenal, east of Palma, where the ‘Ballermann’ is located, are wavering between fear and outrage. “Of course I’m scared. The Germans simply live in a different world,” a local who lives near the playa told the DPA by phone.

Criticism from Germany

In Germany, CSU leader Markus Söder immediately reacted to the booze and party excesses in Mallorca, which, in Germany, is often referred to as the “17th state”.

“We must remain cautious. Reason and zest for life also go together. Prudence on holiday is therefore needed. Once before there has been a wave of infection from a holiday resort …,” Bavaria’s minister-president tweeted, referring to Ischgl, a ski resort in western Austria.

Ischgl is considered to be one of the main ‘hotspots’ in Europe since many people became infected with the virus after attending large parties there at the start of the year.

When the first flights to Mallorca took off, German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) launched a prophetic warning: “Now the ‘Ballermann’ must not become the next Ischgl, so to speak. Partying – I would say – is less popular this year. The virus is still there,” he said.

However, while some German tourists seem to enjoy ignoring such warnings, others are worrying about their own stay on the Mediterranean island, in view of their more frivolous compatriots.

“Imagine you are on holiday on Mallorca as a normal person, you go hiking and eat delicious food, keep your distance… and then on the flight back you have to sit in the plane with these ballerina party types,” a German tweeted.

This is the “the stuff nightmares are made of,” he added.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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