3 June 2020 – Wednesday – #80

The leading indicators for travel to Spain are flashing green.

The US State Department emailed that if I was interested in travel to Spain, to check travel status with the Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. I’m already in Spain, but I alerted Brad, who contacted the Spanish Consulate in San Francisco. He found a pulse there. The Consulate replied with something other than its boilerplate “contact for emergencies only” email. I don’t want to jinx anything, but it looks like Brad will get his visa no lucrativa this month. When he can board a plane to Spain, that’s another matter.

Coincidentally, I invited my friend who works at the US Consulate in Barcelona to a BBQ on the terrace. Turns out he’s stuck in Madrid through the weekend getting US Embassy operations re-started there. I’m guessing that a reason the US Embassy is re-opening could be that the State Department expects more American tourists in Spain soon.

The lights are flashing green. When Spain throws open its gates, will the tourists come? Travel industry expectations are for less than a quarter of last year’s tourism.

Hotels have recorded a slight rise in reservations for July and August, but this increase means little given that not a single tourist visited Spain in April. Sources from the hospitality sector expect that just over half of all hotels in Spain will open in summer and at a very low occupancy rate.

El País, “After dismal spring, Spain’s tourism industry prepares for record-low summer season,” 3 June 2020.

Wow. Not a single tourist in the month of April!

A couple months ago, I posted a flight tracker image that showed three commercial flights over all of Spain. I looked just now and there are about twenty.

Commercial flights over Spain and Portugal, 03 June 2020, 11:20 CET.

Still nowhere near normal commercial air traffic levels, but significantly more than at the beginning of the lockdown. When I can see from the terrace again jets on final approach to BCN every couple of minutes, I’ll know things are back to normal. Whatever that is.

For comparison to Europe, here’s a view of US air travel. The chart below compares TSA passenger security screening throughput per day this year versus last year (same day of week).

TSA passenger throughput per day, 2019 versus 2020.

US air travel is increasing, but very slowly. There are about three times as many US air passengers per day as there were at the beginning of April, but still only about 15% of normal. I assume that most US air traffic is either business related or due to family emergencies. I can’t imagine there are many tourist passengers given how low the current passenger air traffic is compared to last year.

In other local news, Catalonia has proposed to the Spanish government that Barcelona move to Phase 2 next week. I think that means I can travel to see friends in El Masnou and possibly Canet de Mar, but I’m not sure whether I can go as far as Girona. I was heartened by Covid-19 testing news.

According to the health department, PCR lab tests are being carried out on “the immense majority” of suspected cases, and there are plans in place for workers who have recently arrived for the fruit-picking season

El País, “Madrid and Barcelona will request to move to Phase 2 of coronavirus deescalation plan,” 2 June 2020.

In theory, if Catalonia passes Phases 2 and 3 without problems, we achieve the New Normal, as the government calls it, in the beginning of July. I prefer to call it the New Abnormal.

Things are starting to look pretty New Abnormal outside in Barcelona. Here’s a snap from my shopping excursion in Gracia yesterday.

Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia, Barcelona, 2 June 2020.

It’s comfortable without the tourists. Restaurants are seating outside with well-spaced tables. The plaza is full of kids kicking fútbols and playing. It doesn’t feel normal or even New Abnormal just yet.

Eyes are on other countries that are re-opening and the problems they’re facing. South Korea, for instance, had to shut down their schools shortly after re-opening them. 79 new Covid-19 cases were reported the day after South Korea schools re-opened.

Eyes are also on the US, of course. It’s hard not to have eyes on the US as the George Floyd protests go worldwide.

Worldwide map of protests related to the police murder of George Floyd.

I’m not going to dwell on US protests today (see yesterday and the day before), but I want to point out that the more and more authoritarian Trump regime is using Covid-19 as an excuse to torture immigrant detainees.

GEO Group, a private prison company that works for ICE, is accused of using HDQ cleaner to manage Covid-19 outbreaks at the largest immigrant detainee center, Adelanto.

“The guards have started spraying this chemical everywhere, all over everything, all the time. It causes a terrible reaction on our skin. When I blow my nose, blood comes out. They are treating us like animals. One person fainted and was taken out, I don’t know what happened to them. There is no fresh air.”

Immigrant detainee at Adelanto Detention Center.

ICE claims that HDQ cleaner is applied according to the manufacture’s instructions, but instruction for HDQ say the chemical cleaner should be used outside or in a well ventilated area. Adelanto is not a well ventilated facility, otherwise there would be a much lower incidence of Covid-19 in the first place. As with prison communities, there is no reason not to release non-violent, low-risk immigrant detainees. It’s a better way to manage Covid-19 outbreaks.

As Spain opens up, it’s hard to watch Trump keep on screwing up the US response to Covid-19. It is clear from here that there is no need to torture people and no need for so many unnecessary deaths. All it takes is leadership.

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