The island of Mallorca, one of Germany's most beloved holiday destinations, has been declared a coronavirus "risk zone" by the German government, leaving tens of thousands of holidaymakers potentially facing quarantine orders on their return.
Some 30,000 German tourists are currently on the Spanish Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza, according to the German association of travel agents (DRV) — 90% of whom are likely to be on Mallorca, the association told the dpa news agency.
On Friday night, the German government responded to a rise in Spain's coronavirus infection rate by expanding its risk-zone assessment to cover almost all of the country, including the much-loved Mediterranean islands. The new categorization does not entail an outright ban on travel, but does mean there is now an official warning against traveling to Spain.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn defended the government's decision on Saturday, saying that it represented "a clear announcement: If you come back from a holiday in Spain, you must go into quarantine for as long as you don't have a negative test result," he told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.
"And anyone who goes to Spain despite the warning should protect themselves and others while on holiday," he added. "A party vacation would be irresponsible during the pandemic."
According to the DRV, the move means German travel agents will cancel package holidays planned for the coming days and offer refunds to tourists who no longer want to travel.
Read more: UK-France: Holidaymakers rush home to avoid quarantine
Devastating for the islands
The decision is likely to be another blow to Mallorca's tourism industry, which contributes 35% of the region's economy.
Maria Frontera, president of the Hotel Business Federation of Mallorca (FEHM), told the Majorca Daily Bulletin that the German government's move "will have immediate economic consequences in the Balearic Islands."
"Hoteliers and agents in the tourist chain have made a huge effort to reactivate activity in the Balearic Islands and this is very bad news for our community," she said. "The island's tourism companies have worked intensively to adopt measures and protocols and give workers the necessary training in order to guarantee the safety and security of both employees and visitors."
Frontera claimed there had hardly been coronavirus infections among tourists, though she admitted that there had been outbreaks among locals.
Germany currently offers free coronavirus testing to travelers at airports coming into the country.
Antwerp also a risk zone
The Belgian province of Antwerp was also been declared a coronavirus risk zone by the German government, after its new infection rate rose to 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over a seven-day period.
People traveling from Antwerp must stay in quarantine for two weeks and get a coronavirus test.
bk/aw (dpa, AFP)