As Europe continues to enforce social distancing rules and impose new lockdowns to tackle another wave of COVID-19, Madrid is looking rather appealing.
Given the new relaxed rules, hundreds of tourists are flocking to the Spanish capital for a taste of what travel used to be before the pandemic struck.
They're coming to soak up some sun and take a break from the COVID-19 fatigue affecting the rest of the continent. Bars, restaurants, and cafes are busy. Life, for the moment at least, is showing some semblance of being normal.
It's perhaps a risky if calculated move.
While cities in other European countries, including Italy, return to strickter lockdown measures, Madrid has taken a rather unusual approach compared to its peers in opening up the tourism and hospitality industry, a sector that employs some 13 per cent of Spain's workforce.
With four million people jobless in the country at the moment, the capital is trying to strike a balance between public health priorities and stimulating the stagnating local economy.
While it may be a good thing for businesses and jobs, the arrival of hordes of foreign travellers is posing a headache for the authorities.
Madrid's police chief, José Luis Morcillo, says tourists are coming from across Europe. "[They are] not only French nationals but from other parts too," he said. "They come in groups, and in some cases, they party in their apartments. That creates some problems".
These parties are being held in a variety of locations, he added, many of which are a bit unorthodox.
"This weekend we intervened in a marble shop, jewelry shop, garages, warehouses, paint workshops. Basically anywhere that can serve as a venue to host people".
Madrid's GDP grew by 4.4 per cent in the last quarter of 2020, created one out of three jobs in Spain, and for the first time leads the national statistics of employees working in the tourism and hospitality sector.
However, it is also leading to an increased infection rate of new COVID-19 cases. If the trend continues, these days in the sun may be numbered long before the summer begins.
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