BRITISH and Irish expats have been left feeling ‘frustrated’ and ‘heartbroken’ after being told they will not be entering Phase 1 of Spain’s coronavirus de-escalation plan.
In a cruel – but perhaps necessary – twist of fate, some 51% of the country will enjoy new freedoms from next week, while their neighbours will have to lump it in Phase 0.
It comes after the health ministry revealed in a special press conference last night the provinces across the country which have performed well enough to begin lifting further restrictions on movement and lifestyle, which have been in place since March 14.
In Malaga and Granada, (and some parts of Valencia) it was bad news.
Despite leaders hinting at the opposite throughout the week, the two Andalucian provinces were told they had just missed the mark.
It means they will not be able to meet up with friends and family and terraces in bars, restaurants and hotels will not be able to open at 50% capacity.
For Irish bar owner Cian O’Leary, it is frustrating to say the least, particularly as Torrox, the municipality he lives in, has a very low coronavirus caseload.
“Local towns like Torrox and Nerja should be shut at the entrances and exits and their populations left to return to work and life,” the 37-year-old, who runs O’Learys bar on Torrox Costa, told the Olive Press, “It is so frustrating.”
The businessman and father of one (with a baby on the way) joins many in smaller towns who feel they are being punished by figures relating to Malaga city, which has the lion’s share of COVID-19 incidence.
“There will be loads and loads of businesses and families going bankrupt needlessly over the way this is being handled,” he added, “Punishing smaller areas because the cities are sick is redundant at best.”
As of today, Malaga city, with 1,948 cases, accounts for 53% of all confirmed cases in the province, followed by Marbella on 295, which accounts for 8%.
They are also the municipalities with the most deaths, with the capital accounting for 140 out of the province’s 266. Marbella is a distant second, however, with 15 deaths.
Andalucia had asked Madrid to separate Malaga city and allow the rest of the province to enter Phase 1, but that was rejected (despite other provinces across the country being allowed to do the same). It means the province will have to wait even longer for businesses to reopen fully.
For Brit Jayne Redfern, 54, that could spell trouble for her and her husband Red’s glamping business Hidden Valley Andalucia.
“From a business point of view we will be lucky to survive,” she told the Olive Press, “we run a Glamping site in inland Malaga and come under phase 0…we can see no end.”
Jayne has begun a free online cookery class with her husband, who is a chef, but that does not pay the bills.
“Our business is also our home,” she added, “we could lose everything if things don’t take an upturn, four years of hard work and it’s slipping away.”
Even businesses which have already been allowed to open are not able to work enough to cover their expenses.
“There’s not much we can do really,” admits Australian-Irish Glenn Howard, 38, owner of popular Howards salon in San Pedro, Marbella, “it feels like we are being forced to keep things the way they are without explanation.
“In comparison to the deaths that ‘may’ occur, the economy and human suffering is going to be far worse after this event the longer we keep this lockdown going.
“I am open but I am operating at 30% and despite government aid it’s not enough to cover expenses.”
But it’s not just the economic impact of the lockdown which is taking its toll.
Georgina Dollimore, 56, has been waiting to meet her newborn granddaughter Elsa since she was born in lockdown on March 15.
“They gave us so much hope that we could meet up with family from Monday and have snatched it away from us at the last minute, it’s heartbreaking,” she told the Olive Press.
“I’m in Marbella and my daughter and granddaughter are just 20 minutes away in Mijas and I just want to go and see them.
“Of course I do respect the rules and want everyone to be safe, so we’ll just have to wait a week or two more.”
Expats in inland Malaga echoed that sentiment, while urging people to stick to the rules regarding personal hygiene.
“While it is a disappointment, we had seen that the figures in Malaga city and in Rincon de la Victoria were depressing,” said British retiree Tamara Essex, 61, to this paper, “the only question was whether just those areas would be held back or the whole province… I don’t mind, better safe than sorry.”
The former charity consultant, who lives in Colmenar, added: “But what is frustrating is seeing new infections. By now everybody knows what they need to do to keep themselves safe.
“New infections amongst healthcare workers and other key workers are a tragedy and should be preventable with better PPE.
“But new infections amongst the public should be right down near zero by now. In my village everyone is sticking to the rules, we need firmer enforcement in the areas that keep on having new infections amongst the general public. We’ll move on eventually. In the meantime our local shops are keeping us well provided for and we’re all grateful to them.”