Should Germans be heading to the Med this Easter?

A quiet beach at Palma de Mallorca, in May 2020

A quiet beach at Palma de Mallorca, in May 2020 - Credit: Europa Press via Getty Images

Infection rates are on the rise in Germany - but the big debate in the country right now is about Easter holidays.

I have a confession: I'm writing this column on a plane from Palma de Mallorca back to Germany, ready to join the country’s heated debate about… Mallorca.

The island’s tourist industry is ready to welcome around 30,000 of my fellow citizens for the Easter holidays, as long as they stick to the rules (masks in public, curfew at 10pm etc…).

But Germany is split on the idea. Half the country believes it is utterly irresponsible, immoral even, to travel there. The other half wants tickets, which sold out in no-time.
As things stand, there is no legal way to ban journeys to Mallorca: the island has been taken off the Covid-risk-list and no quarantine is required on return. Not even a test!

My reasons to go there (in the freezing cold I might add in case you’re are getting too envious) were a family visit and business.

But I fully understand people who simply want to enjoy the sun (and relative safety) of Mallorca. I’d even call them patriots. Not because Mallorca is so popular with us that we call it Germany’s unofficial 17th state, but because these holidaymakers take part in the only national Covid strategy that actually works: they pay for a PCR test in exchange for a boarding pass.

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This is not a German test strategy, mind you. It is Spain, enforcing its rules at German airports, to protect Mallorca.

Meanwhile, in Germany, hotel owners wonder why their countrymen can travel to Mallorca but not to the Baltic Sea or Bavaria.

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Politicians plead with the public not to risk the summer holidays by travelling over Easter. And this same public has a nagging feeling there won't be a summer holiday anyway. So people increasingly follow their individual Covid strategies – if any.

With infection-rates thus on the rise, it all came down to the Ministerpräsidentenkonferenz (MPK). Yet again. In case you haven't heard of it: The MPK is an illustrious gathering that for the last nine months has turned into a somewhat pandemo-political version of “Germany’s Got Talent”. Minus the talent.

The heads of Germany’s 16 states (who hold most of the executive pandemic power) are joined by the chancellor (who doesn't) and her (low-performing) corona-cabinet in a video meeting.

This week’s episode aired on Monday and lasted until Tuesday. Executive summary: lengthy, emotional debate (coastal states want holidaymakers on their own beaches, not in Magaluf or El Arenal), at least one Ministerpräsident finds solace in playing Candy Crush, others eat candy, every minor and major turn of events is spinned to the press, followed by anger about the mole(s), all of which is again leaked to the press and… you get the idea.

Chancellor Merkel endorses tougher regulations, as usual. The 16 Ministerpräsidenten endorse whatever could make them more popular, as usual, it’s an election year. Dramatic climax: the chancellor enforces a 15 minute break. Five hours later the meeting resumes.

Then – a breakthrough, announced shortly after 3 am: an “extended Easter repose period”, which, in an eggshell, would’ve meant that companies and shops shut down for one day more, Maundy Thursday (on top of the other holidays). No need for concern, obviously, because customers can always fly to Mallorca on Thursday and do their groceries there. Supermercados won’t be overcrowded, too, because Spanish citizens from Madrid, Bilbao or Alicante can’t join in.

Spaniards aren’t allowed to leave their Comunidades Autónomas, even for family visits.

I haven’t found the logic in any of this yet – and apparently, after a night’s repose, Angela Merkel hasn’t either. Could be she received a few calls from business owners, too, asking who would pay for that extra holiday…

So in a move unseen before during 16 years of her reign she apologised unreservedly for the jumble caused, took full responsibility and revoked what had been agreed on by the MPK. All these hours of sweets wasted. We now have an apology, what we still lack is a Covid strategy. At least German flight operators have pledged to get Germans tested before returning from Mallorca. And even the government is considering making tests compulsory for everyone flying into Germany from abroad. It only took them a year.

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