Accelerating vaccination to save the tourist season
The rapid spread of the delta variant among young people in Catalonia, at a much higher rate than the Spanish average, has meant that Catalonia's data is now among the worst in Europe. It is difficult to clarify what the reasons are for this exponential increase beyond pointing out that the virus is now affecting unvaccinated population, who also happens to take the most risks. Right now cumulative incidence over the past 14 days in the age range of 20 to 29 in Catalonia exceeds 2,000, and between 12 and 19 is 1,473. These are completely terrifying figures. Fortunately, this increase has not yet caused an increase in mortality, but health centres are overwhelmed (they no longer test asymptomatic close contacts) and hospitals are beginning to notice the first effects of the increase in infections.
Faced with this situation, the Catalan government has again closed nightlife, whilst the governments in Valencia has just asked authorisation to enforce a curfew in around forty towns and cities. It's not out of the question, therefore, that in the short term mobility will be limited again in some specific places. In the city of Barcelona, for example, infections have increased fourfold in recent days. And the City Council has asked for help from the Mossos to avoid crowds on the beach or in places like Barceloneta.
Given this news, the French government yesterday recommended its citizens not to travel to Portugal and Spain, and especially to Catalonia, because of the high incidence of the disease. As it is logical, the tourist sector is very worried, since they are beginning to have cancellations in a season that was meant to be the beginning of the recovery. The goal of receiving at least half as many tourists as in 2019 seems, at this point, quite distant. The fifth wave, caused by a more contagious variant than the previous ones, is now threatening to dampen the most optimistic forecasts for this summer.
These figures contrast with another undeniable fact, which is that Spain, including Catalonia, is among the European countries with the highest vaccination rate. The health system has demonstrated its strength and ability to act in crisis situations, but, despite everything, it seems that vaccination will have arrived late for younger age groups, which are now the most problematic. The only solution, therefore, is, on the one hand, to apply restrictive measures of a surgical nature to avoid crowds of young people, and, on the other hand, to speed up vaccination among this sector of the population. Only decisive action now can at least save business in August.
Too many jobs and the welfare of too many families are at stake for this situation not to be taken seriously. Now that the elderly are protected and mortality has been reduced exponentially, it is time to think about those who depend on tourism for their survival. And this means being responsible in the case of the young, and not being overconfident in the case of those who are already vaccinated.