Partying to foreign tourists annoys Spanish locals

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Madrid (AFP)

Images of drunken foreign tourists shouting in the streets and police raids on illegal parties in Madrid at a time when locals are not allowed to travel between Spanish regions have left many Spaniards angry.

Spanish TV broadcast video on Monday of officers smashing apartment windows over the weekend to dislodge occupants throwing a party that violated virus restrictions.

The fact that several of the revelers were apparently foreigners fueled resentment over the seemingly haphazard nature of travel restrictions in Europe during the pandemic, with many Spaniards taking to social media to express their anger.

While Spaniards are not allowed to leave their own regions until April 9 to avoid a resurgence of coronavirus infections during Holy Week, similar restrictions do not apply to international tourists, who can still travel to Spain on presentation of a negative Covid test.

And with its 11:00 p.m. curfew and open bars and restaurants, Madrid has drawn dozens of visitors from countries with tighter closures.

According to online travel company Kayak, searches for flights to Madrid from neighboring France were up 142% in March compared to the same period last year, at a time when searches for flights are generally in high gear. slump.

“These images worry me,” Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Monday when asked about the photos of revelers in Madrid.

“The image of our country is that of responsible people who play by the rules,” she said.

With Madrid in the midst of a crucial campaign ahead of the May 4 regional elections, the laissez-faire attitude of authorities, who have insisted for months on minimizing Covid restrictions, has drawn strong criticism.

– ‘Alcoholic tourism’ –

But Madrid’s conservative regional leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso said it was up to Spain’s left-wing central government to tighten entry rules.

“We cannot spread the idea that there is ‘alcohol tourism’ in Madrid,” she said in an interview with private television La Sexta.

Madrid has been the only major European capital to maintain a virtually unrestricted social life since the national lockdown was fully lifted in June 2020, with cinemas and theaters also open.

Although the policy has been applauded by the hotel industry, it is seen as one of the reasons Madrid has always had one of the highest coronavirus incidences in Spain.

Madrid City Police said they interrupted 353 illegal parties over the weekend, down slightly from 384 the week before.

In many cases, raids are triggered by noise complaints from neighbors of Airbnb rental apartments where the parties are held.

“We need citizen cooperation more than ever,” said the chief representative of the central government in the Madrid region, José Manuel Franco, on Monday.

He urged people to continue reporting illegal parties to the authorities.

Amid the fury over the lack of travel restrictions for foreign tourists, Spain announced on Saturday that anyone crossing the land border into the country would have to show a negative PCR test, as had previously been the case for those arriving by plane.

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