The Big Online Covid Debate

When social media was first conceived even those ultra geeks in Silicon Valley could never have envisioned where it would all lead to.

Facebook was an online profile where you could tell everyone how happy you felt and what you were doing yet in 2020 it has become the biggest divisive tool known to mankind. It’s been used to spread hate, swing elections and now it’s the vehicle for the Big Online Covid Debate.

The virus and its consequences have taken over our lives so it’s only natural that everybody has an opinion but many are passing on 2nd hand polarising information as verbatim and courting opposing views so online arguments are commonplace. It’s been an interesting window into the human psyche – armchair scientists against doom mongers against positive thinkers against conspiracy theorists against anti-vaxers versus the world.

The political and scientific landscape is changing all the time and reactionary governments are running scared and with no clear contingency plans in place they appear to have little or no clue as to what will happen next. The fear of not knowing resonates downwards to a population unwilling or too lazy to ask pertinent questions driving divisions via social media.

It feels to me like we are back in the 80’s when world governments told us that we were all going to die of ‘AIDS’ if we didn’t fundamentally change the way we lived. ‘Don’t die of ignorance’ was the tagline. Oh the irony. This virus is very different to what is now known as HIV but there is a precedent for getting it totally wrong when there’s no clear understanding of what you are dealing with.

Like many, Ibiza’s own journey with Covid has been a rollercoaster. Numbers were relatively very low until a few weeks ago when widespread PCR testing started revealing that many were carrying the virus showing little or no symptoms. The island now has over 500 ‘active cases’ but hospital admissions in relation are very low. Over 95% of all new cases have been classed as ‘low’ or asymptomatic so only home isolation is neccessary.

The virus is being passed locally by groups of friends and families living and working together. It’s now mainly in younger people (25-50) who are more resistant so cases are going up while deaths go down as the vulnerable continue to shield themselves. Ibiza hasn’t had a death in over 4 months and only 12 since the start of the pandemic- all but 1 were elderly with pre existing medical conditions. This isn’t an outright killer, it’s a horrible virus with consequences but it certainly isn’t Ebola or the bubonic plaque.

What’s interesting for a tourist island is that tourists have been the least of Ibiza’s worries. Less than 15% of all cases have been found to come from this sector but other foreign governments imposing quarantine on Spain because of cases in regions many hundreds of miles away has ended the Ibiza summer early. With harsh new local laws now being introduced many bars and restaurants have closed, some for good. The island will be in full winter mode by mid September. All this for 1 ‘unexplained’ death from Covid?

Social media will carry on driving divisions between us due to strong opinions on an episode that is affecting our lives and livelihoods. Local businesses that have taken years of hard work to build have crumbled under the pressure of something that none of us has any control over and that’s a bitter pill to take.

Until a clear plan is put in place the fear will intensify and it will get worse before it gets better but get better it will. History shows us that this isn’t the first time this has happened but it is the first time that social media has played such an important part, everyone can have their say and however lucid, ludicrous and divisive their comments are there’s always an audience ready and willing to take the opposing view. The online debate rumbles on and on.

Ibiza Covid Numbers Not Telling the Real Story

Last week was a very strange week in Ibiza. Months of low Covid numbers were superseded by a big spike that has got many scratching their heads. Now today we have a further 88 new cases, as many as the whole of last week put together.

The numbers in the Balearics are now so high that Germany, Holland & Belgium have added the Islands to the blacklist where those returning have to take a test or serve a 14 day quarantine/isolation period.

This time though it’s a very different sensation from before. Back in April and May the majority of Covid cases were admitted to Can Misses Hospital and their intensive care unit was busy (but thankfully not too busy). This time round nearly all new cases are being reported as asymptomatic or with very mild symptoms. Visible queues can be seen at local testing stations so it’s clear that more people are being tested. It may also mean that the virus is weakening.

So as the the growing numbers continue to published daily it’s clear that the testing landscape and parameters have completely changed yet without any further background information the numbers are rendered almost meaningless.

Out of the 80 or so new active cases reported last week only 2 were deemed serious enough to be admitted to hospital. The rest were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms and are ‘isolating at home’. 80 new cases may appear to be a high number but to give it some context, 300 people tested positive last week from 1 factory in Northampton in the UK (the same country who deemed the Balearics unsafe to travel to).

As Ibiza residents and business owners we need a general overview of who and what these new cases are. Data protection is in place so we don’t need names (this isn’t a witch-hunt) but are they locals? Are they international tourists? Are they large families or friends who live and work together? Are they national tourists? And most importantly how did they get the virus? There MUST be a pattern forming and only by fully understanding the situation can we evaluate accordingly and potentially avoid risky situations. Yet all we get are numbers and more numbers and very little else.

Meanwhile back in the real world Ibiza carries on regardless, beaches are packed and restaurants have waiting lists but, because of these numbers on a spreadsheet, bars are forced to close and other countries have to take action. Something is not adding up here and until we have full disclosure the mistrust of the authorities will continue and the conspiracy theorists will carry on unabated.

For an island that relies on visiting tourism it’s a baffling situation that we are only being told a small fraction of the story and left to fill in the blanks with speculation and hearsay. In fact it’s gross negligence as these numbers are causing widespread fear and preying on the minds of many whilst businesses are forced to put up a closed sign because of an invisible enemy that most of us have never seen first hand or been affected by.

The numbers aren’t telling us the whole story and after all we’ve been through it’s the very least we deserve and it’s unforgivable that many islanders are now living in fear without knowing the full facts.

Be Careful What You Wish For

1st week of August and San Antonio is quiet, very quiet. Walking around town there are very few groups of youngsters, nobody is reminiscing about the night before in a loud manner, the atmosphere is almost eerie, this isn’t how it should be in peak season.

There are tourists, the Spanish are here as they always are in August but they stick to the cafes and local restaurants and will be gone in 10 days. A few other nationalities mill around but the most important cog in this previously well oiled tourist machine is missing.

This is the reality since the British government reintroduced a 14 day quarantine for those returning from Spain effectively killing off British tourism overnight. Instead of separating the islands from the mainland (like Germany managed to do with ease) they implemented the regulation across the board for all of Spain including the Balearics and the Canaries. The masses can’t afford to take 2 weeks off work after a holiday. Game over until they change their stance.

Ironically, as the UK hides behind ‘the science’ justifying their actions as trying to protect their population, Ibiza has only 3 cases of Covid in hospital. 2 of those are now negative but are being kept in under observation meaning that the island has just ONE positive case of Covid19 on its hospital wards yet the British Government deem it an unsafe destination. Quite staggering really when you consider what is happening in England.

Whether the UK’s decision has anything to do with Brexit, Gibraltar, keeping the pounds in their own economy or a simple case of mismanagement with a touch of laziness, it doesn’t matter for those on the White Isle who now face an uncertain future and 18 months without employment with minimal help from the Spanish government. It’s a very precarious situation.

If I was a betting man I would wager that the UK will lift the quarantine regulations just as the holiday season is drawing to a close opening up the corridors once again as people are going back to work, a small shred of hope in a murky sea of darkness.

If there’s one positive to come from this sorry affair it’s the stark realisation that Ibiza and especially San Antonio needs British tourism. The much maligned Brits have taken blow after blow over the years (some justified, some not) as a local uprising blamed them for everything that is bad conveniently forgetting that they only ever come over looking to enjoy themselves and spend their hard earned money. Lest they forget now.

Hopefully the penny has dropped, especially in San Antonio, and British tourism will finally get the respect it deserves from the local population. Mass tourism will always bring challenges and San Antonio will be forever fighting a stigma that was born in the 80s and consolidated in the 90s but all you have to do is look around to see that the town is moving in the right direction with new boutique hotels, a more sophisticated offering and an average spend per person that other Mediterranean resorts can only dream of.

The West End area will continue to be a political hot potato and there will always be unscrupulous people on the streets but the San Antonio of 2020 (and 2021) is a million miles away from where it was 10 years ago. The only thing missing right now is the British people who, if it wasn’t obvious before, almost single-handedly, fuel our local economy.

It will always be a love/hate relationship between the local population and tourism but let’s hope that now we have all seen the other side of the coin even the staunchest critics understand the basics of the relationship and are more tolerant of young, excitable British enjoying an island they love and return to year after year.

As we now see with our own eyes, San Antonio and Ibiza isn’t the same without the Brits and all they bring – the good and the not so good, the sneers have turned to tears. As the old saying goes – be careful what you wish for… may get it.