The cancellation of Andalucía’s fairs this summer reveals some glaring, caseta-sized inconsistencies in Covid-containment regulations, especially when it comes to public sanitation. Not one authority figure, you’ll notice, justified cancelling a feria by explaining exactly how risk increases in proportion to the magnitude of a crowd, and how varying sizes of crowds are numerically defined (if, indeed, these statistics even exist as yet). Note, also, that there has been no real evidence presented for the efficacy of face masks, which are now all about signalling obedience to authorities rather than sanitation.
In these heady post-lockdown days, I’m literally rubbing shoulders with strangers on buses and at markets. I’m sitting more or less the normal distance away from and bathing with people I don’t know on beaches. I spend a lot of weekends in Antequera, where they close the Alameda de Andalucía to traffic every Saturday and Sunday and pack it with tables from the surrounding bars. It has the appearance and ambience of a street party, with what must be a couple of hundred non-masked people mingling, drinking and eating together on a fairly small stretch of road. It’s absolutely wonderful.
Still, the official ferias are deemed too risky, even though informal street parties, spread over the crowded terraces of bars and restaurants, are happening several times a week in villages, towns and cities throughout Andalucía. Nightclubs have been open for months now (although admittedly they have been cited as cause for recent spikes in some parts of Spain), but similarly-sized gatherings in casetas rather than on dancefloors are still not permitted. Why?
Sadly, most of Andalucía’s summer bullfights have been cancelled too, even though seating in the arenas could be rearranged to accommodate social distancing, as was the case at a concert given by the flamenco guitarist Tomatito in Almuñécar earlier this month. There, interestingly, the seating plan had been carved up to allow the (apparently arbitrarily chosen) two-metre gap between strangers, yet face masks were also compulsory throughout the recital, making you wonder which of the two measures is regarded as insufficiently protective by itself.
But if, in fact, both should be applied in situations where strangers gather in medium-sized, large or huge numbers, then why aren’t masks compulsory on beaches and on street terraces, and why isn’t social distancing enforced on buses anymore?
To approach the issue from the other side: why not have smaller ferias, with compulsory social-distancing and mask-wearing? And if either or both are regarded, or would be regarded, as not protective enough in the context of a diluted feria, why are they non-essential in comparable situations? When you give these issues more than a minute’s thought, the paradoxes start rolling in and distinctions blur; precisely for this reason, we should question the wisdom of cancelling Andalucía’s summer ferias when other, similar, activities are thankfully permitted.