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Finger pointed at UK tourists after Benidorm Covid cases spike

·4 min read
Benidorm  (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Benidorm (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Health chiefs have admitted they are “worried” about a spike in Covid cases in Benidorm and have pointed the finger at British holidaymakers.

Ana Barcelo, health minister for the regional Valencian government, voiced fears after the resort town was officially classified in Spain’s ‘extreme risk’ Covid category.

The town’s 14-day cumulative incidence rate per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 286.

And British tourists, who this week continued to pack out bars in the resort, have been identified by officials as the culprits.

Barcelo said, at a press conference, coronavirus restrictions could be adopted again if things worsened: “We are observing the situation in Benidorm and the increase in the number of Covid cases there with concern.

“There are 286 cases per 100,000 inhabitants and 53 per cent of these cases have been seen in the group of non-Spanish nationals.

“We will watch how things evolve and adopt measures to control the situation if it becomes necessary.”

Pointing the finger specifically at British holidaymakers, she added: “We began to detect the rise in the number of cases after October 5 when more tourists began to arrive from the UK.”

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Benidorm’s Covid figures are six times the average in the province of Alicante which the town forms part of.

Regional hotel association Hosbec says the figures are skewed because they take no account of the floating population of tourists and holiday home owners who triple the town’s officially registered population of full-time residents.

It wants officials to modify the way they calculate the coronavirus stats, but health chiefs claim it is impossible.

Hosbec president Toni Mayor insisted on Wednesday the real figure would be around 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants if the floating population was taken into account.

The hotel association also pointed out that at the start of the week just eight patients with Covid were being treated on wards at the Marina Baixa Hospital in Villajoyosa near Benidorm which serves 300,000 inhabitants.

Although the mood appeared to be relaxed among British holidaymakers soaking up the sun, local reports this week were pointing towards a slowing in the number of holiday bookings by UK tourists.

Spanish media were last week quick to link the spike in the number of Covid cases to the reactivation of British tourism, with respected daily El Mundo saying: “Benidorm’s Covid rate shoots up as British holidaymakers return.”

The grim figures were published after it emerged 22 per cent of the resort’s visitors are now from the UK and Britain was restored to its traditional number one spot ahead of second-placed Belgium.

They also coincide with a worsening Covid situation in Britain.

Britons have been flocking to Benidorm since the easing of travel restrictions at the start of the month with the overhaul of the UK traffic light system and the scrapping of fit-to-fly and day eight tests for double-jabbed tourists.

Watch: What UK government COVID-19 support is available?

The resort’s Little England began buzzing again earlier in the year when double-jabbed Brits were told they no longer had to quarantine on their return from Spain, and some “hotels reopened for the first time in more than 12 months.

Toni Mayor said earlier this month: “The situation has improved dramatically.

“There’s a British atmosphere in Benidorm which reminds me of the atmosphere of old before the pandemic struck.

“Around 20 per cent of the holidaymakers in town at the moment are now British and with the other 20 per cent who’ll hopefully return now the restrictions have been eased, we’ll be back to the way things were three years ago.

“We’re hopeful that’s going to happen. All the bars and cafes in the Little England area are open and doing good business because they’re packed.

“We think the number of Brits holidaying here will rise rapidly and there could be a massive surge.

“It looks like it’s going to be a good autumn and a good winter, possibly the best winter we’ve had for the last few years.

“We know the Brits want to come to Benidorm and with the lifting of restrictions, that’s obviously going to encourage them to get on planes.”

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