Spanish island closes party strip after rowdy tourists flout coronavirus laws

Jack Guy, CNNUpdated 16th July 2020
Boat parties are banned under coronavirus rules, but that didn't stop this group in Portals Nous.
(CNN) — The Spanish island of Mallorca has closed its main party strip after drunken tourists were seen cavorting without masks, jumping on cars and chanting aggressively on the streets of a resort town.
Authorities say such incidents, video of which was shared by a local journalist but hasn't been verified by CNN, are isolated, but they have raised concerns as Spain teeters on the edge of a fresh coronavirus surge.
All of the bars on Punta Ballena street were closed as of Wednesday evening because the "mainly British tourists there, and the bar operators themselves," were not complying with the rules, a spokesman for the Balearics regional government told CNN.
Authorities are "aware" of social media postings showing about 20 people dancing in the street, including on top of cars, added the spokesman.
Bars are also closed on Calle de la Cerveza in Palma de Mallorca, where mainly German tourists congregate.
Tourists sitting close together in Palma de Mallorca on July 12.
Tourists sitting close together in Palma de Mallorca on July 12.
Clara Margais/picture-alliance/dpa/AP
"For this type of tourism, don't bother coming" to the Balearics, the regional tourism chief said at a press conference.
Locals who endured heavy restrictions to limit the spread of the disease fear that ill-behaved visitors could undermine their earlier sacrifices.
Spain endured one of the longest and strictest coronavirus lockdowns in Europe, but the virus ripped through the country, with more than 257,400 cases and 28,413 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
Wearing masks in public places is now mandatory -- with a few exceptions, such as eating and drinking or swimming -- after a new law came into effect Monday. The rules apply even in situations where social distancing can be observed, and from July 20 those caught without a mask face fines of €100 (around $114).
Businesses face fines of up to €600,000 (around $680,000) if they do not abide by limits on the number of people allowed inside bars and restaurants, or repeatedly break the rules.
But videos and pictures shared on social media from resort towns on the island of Mallorca show groups of people singing and dancing in close proximity without masks.
One incident involved a gathering of a group on a boat party near the village of Portals Nous, between Palma de Mallorca and Magaluf, and a local campaign group published the photos on Facebook.
A spokeswoman for Salvem Portals Nous, Bendinat i Costa d'en Blanes-Punta Portals, a local organization that works to maintain the quality of life in the area, told CNN that these incidents have been isolated, and people are ready to welcome tourists back to the island after shutting down to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Mallorca wasn't as badly affected as some areas in mainland Spain, the spokeswoman said.
Mallorca is now welcoming tourists but with strict rules on mask-wearing and social distancing.
Mallorca is now welcoming tourists but with strict rules on mask-wearing and social distancing.
Clara Margais/picture-alliance/dpa/AP
"But that can all change," she said. "It only takes a handful of people with Covid to set off another spike."
Locals obeyed Spain's strict lockdown very well, the spokeswoman said, and some wonder why some visitors can't seem to stick to the new rules.
"There's a bit of resentment," she added.
Spain is now trying to kickstart tourism, which represents about 12% of the country's GDP and employs more than 13% of Spain's workers, according to the government's statistics.
In Mallorca, local authorities are doing their best to manage the tension between welcoming tourists and their money back to the island and keeping the population safe.
Calvia municipal council, which administers Portals Nous and Magaluf, acknowledged that there have been some isolated incidents of people breaking the rules.
Local police and the Guardia Civil are working to ensure that people stick to the new rules, the council told CNN in a statement, and authorities are also appealing to people's sense of personal responsibility.
And while business owners are keen to get visitors back, there is the downside of "the ones that don't know how to behave," the spokeswoman for the local organization said.
"So many people here depend on tourism for a living, something's got to give," she said. "You can't just close for the whole season and say no, that's it. It's very tricky."
On Tuesday, emergency services tweeted they had responded to three incidents in Mallorca in the previous 24 hours, one at a business that was too crowded and another two related to large gatherings.
They called on people to respect the rules on social distancing, as did local authorities.
Isabel Castro, minister for public administration in the regional government of the Balearic Islands, said law enforcement made 51 interventions over the weekend, handing out 24 sanctions to those breaking the coronavirus rules.
"We can't allow the scenes of this weekend to be repeated," Castro said in a statement Sunday.
"We can't allow the recklessness of a small minority to put the health of everybody else at risk."
Castro said the campaign to ensure businesses and individuals were sticking to the rules would continue for the rest of the summer.
Spain reopened its borders to most European countries on June 21, and on July 3 the UK government announced travelers returning from Spain would be exempt from a 14-day isolation period.