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Full-house assembly backs economic and social assistance, support for tourism sector

foto 2020.v ple telematicIn a first, members of the Consell de Formentera convened today for an urgent, one-off and online plenary session—a gathering rebroadcast on the Consell’s YouTube page and which allowed councilmembers to stick to coronavirus safety and distancing measures. The ordinary assembly will go forward under the same parameters on 29 May.

Attendees heard about the resolutions from the president’s office that have been adopted since public health emergency orders were activated in response to Covid-19, and reviewed announcements from the regional and national Socialist workers’ party (PSIB-PSOE) and Gent per Formentera (GxF) promising to donate, for the duration of the state of alarm, their respective groups’ compensation to the non-profit group Formenterers Solidaris. Spokespeople from each party underscored their hopes that the money be used “so the group can continue its work helping those most in need”.

Economic and social support
Assembly members ratified proposed economic and fiscal measures to mitigate the economic and social impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposal succeeded with “yes” votes from the GxF-PSOE cabinet and despite abstention from opposition consellers of Sa Unió.

Economy and tax office chief Bartomeu Escandell asserted, “This public health crisis is also a social and economic one, and spending approved in November will have to be revisited if the Consell is going to tackle it properly”. The conseller affirmed the plan was to “continue supporting economic assistance that will better prepare people, families and owners of local businesses to cope with the extraordinary circumstances surrounding Covid-19”.

“Our first priority in this administration has been families in need”, said Escandell, who pointed out that local government is currently assisting 400 family units and 900 individuals—a tack which he insisted wouldn’t be changing. The Consell is setting aside 20% of its deficit, or €200,000, to this first line of support, in addition to €325,000 which local associations agreed to divert from the 2020 participatory spending package to deal with the crisis that Covid-19 promises to unleash.

Escandell also reviewed the terms of an economic roadmap prepared in concert with the island’s business and productive sector to brace for economic fallout ahead. “Among a number of other measures adopted by the Consell which fall within our jurisdiction, collections ceased on 31 March in an effort to relieve fiscal pressure, and we asked the Tax Agency of the Balearic Islands [ATIB] to extend the payment period, which this year will come to term 1 December 2020”.

Discontinuing collection of public space occupancy tax
The conseller also pointed out the island’s government has for this year suspended collection of the public space occupancy tax paid by shopkeepers and market vendors. Temporary permits for music and entertainment will no longer be restricted to businesses open a minimum number of months of the year. The administration is also in touch with the coastal authority to reduce or eliminate the occupancy tax paid by beach bars and other public domain services.

Support for tourism sector
Cross-party backing was secured by measures to shore up the local tourism industry. Conseller Escandell described them as “agreed upon by our business community and designed with one goal in mind: to minimise the toll that the crisis stands to take on our well-being, our finances and our social fabric”. The changes include pushing back to year end 2020 the deadline on payments from new tourism businesses as well as on fees for recently declared holiday rentals, plus a 12-month extension of existing permits for holiday rentals and an extension till 2022 of the 2015-2019 plan for quality dwellings.

Escandell concluded by highlighting joint efforts under way between the Consell and Govern balear to create a targetted line of support for freelancers.

15 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Hotels and restaurants can ask to expand terrace space if path kept clear for pedestrians and emergency vehicles

An order issued by the office of the president and adopted by the Consell de Formentera lays the groundwork for terrace space to be expanded while emergency orders mandate less-than-100% table occupancy. Individual cases must first be vetted by the local government to ensure unencumbered passage for pedestrians and emergency vehicles, as the case may be.

Requests must be made online on the OVAC, https://ovac.conselldeformentera.cat, where a special section has been created to that effect. Expansions will be temporary and granted at no charge. The Consell reminds business owners that, in view of the extraordinary circumstances brought on by Covid-19, the terrace occupancy tax will be refunded in full.

Should a business wish to use the terrace allotment of adjacent shopfronts, the owner of the that space must give consent. Measures imposed by health authorities —2 metres of space between tables, clean areas and others— must be respected at all times.

11 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

“Phase 1 of opening up gives us the opportunity to see loved ones, but caution is key, for we’ve not seen the end of the public health crisis”

foto 2020 cartaThis week has been full of excitement and intense emotion. Formentera got its chance to begin Phase 1 of the process to ease out of confinement, a change that comes with the promise greater freedom, not least as it applies to visits—the first in 50 days—with family members and friends. The start of this phase means hard confinement—an imperative of the global pandemic—is through, but the time is not one for relaxing, because the public health crisis isn’t over: the disease still claims countless lives daily, and new transmissions are all but eradicated.

These days have been extremely trying. How we’ve yearned to get back—to our loved ones, to our customs, and even, to our daily routines. But if the new phase is cause for joy, it is certainly no reason to let down our guard. Otherwise, this step forward might be a future step backward in disguise.

Rollout of Phase 1 of confinement de-escalation brings with it an immensely significant vital change, and that is that social gatherings of up to 10 people are now permitted. Not only that, but small shops and restaurant terraces can receive customers again. The result is a return to life in society, and a small step towards economic reactivation. But the effort of confinement will have been meaningless if we get carried away by carelessness: now more than ever, at gatherings, your responsibility and sense of precaution in respecting the measures laid out by health authorities is crucial, for the risk of transmission hasn’t disappeared, and we can’t afford to put our healthcare system at risk. So our plea to you is this: keep protecting those most vulnerable. We’ve gone from a phase of control to one of responsibility, where appropriate handling of the liberties we regain is everyone’s business, both as individuals, and as members of society.

This week was exciting and intense for the Consell de Formentera, as well. Monday marked Formentera’s passage to Phase 1 of lockdown loosening amid the Covid-19 crisis, and we did it before the rest of Spain. In one fell swoop, we and three other islands in the Canaries became a proving ground that will help prepare the rest of the country as it implements the same changes in the weeks ahead. In Spain and abroad, the spotlights are on us, and our island is the mirror reflecting the future that awaits the other Spanish territories.

To ensure the correct progression through each step in the process, de-escalation must happen respecting the particularities of each place, and empowering regional and local authorities with greater decision-making abilities, since it will be up to each territory to implement and monitor the public health, hygiene and social measures key to attaining our objectives.

De-escalation has only just begun. There’s a long road ahead, and we’ll be walking it together as we move slowly from this initial and local lockdown lifting to, health situation permitting, the phases that follow.

We must keep in mind that Formentera may be among the first islands to ease into post-confinement, but this isn’t a competition. In order to move forward and reopen the island to visitors, first, from neighbouring islands, next, from the rest of Spain, and finally, we hope, from the world at large, the rest of the country must rise to its feet, and start down this same path.

Our efforts have been colossal, and I won’t ever tire of voicing my admiration in that respect. But the work must continue, and we must do it as one: conscientiously, responsibly, carefully and with common sense. And, with these as our foundations, I am confident the steps forward will only continue.

Alejandra Ferrer
President, Consell de Formentera

9 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Formentera urges extra precaution for first weekend of phase one, reminding islanders public health crisis hasn’t gone anywhere

Formentera’s premier, Alejandra Ferrer, pointed out that Formentera’s activation of lockdown loosening phase one on Monday was behind islanders’ newly increased freedoms of movement and in social relations. Accordingly, with the weekend approaching and the attendant uptick of individuals on the street, taking walks and practicing sport, Ferrer asked for “sensibility, collaboration and responsible action” on the part of Formentera residents.

Calling individual responsibility and collective effort “crucial”, President Ferrer described the opportunities that phase one had restored, like seeing families and friends again. “But that doesn’t mean the public health crisis has disappeared”, she insisted. “We can gather again but many precautions will need to be taken. If we want to avoid backtracking, established safety measures must be respected as we continue lifting restrictions”.

Ferrer pointed out that the start of phase one meant small shops and restaurant terraces would both see renewed activity, albeit with limitations on capacity and compulsory hygiene measures. The president applauded islanders and Formentera’s business community for their joint efforts—“thanks to you, these first few days of phase one played out with calm and without incident”, she said.

1am cut-off time for terraces
Ferrer also highlighted consensus between the Consell and Pimef, the island’s small- and medium-sized business association, on the new order from the president’s office setting the terrace closing time at 1am. According to the president, the aim of the measure was “to keep people safe and make sure business operations continue smoothly during phase one of de-escalation”.

For her part, the deputy premier and trade consellera Ana Juan thanked management staff of shops and restaurants for “all the hygiene and safety measures you’ve adapted to during this first week of phase one”, adding, “It’s essential now that we keep up the good work”.

Stepping up patrols
This weekend will be marked by a continuation of increased patrols by security forces, not to mention added oomph for the Consell’s information campaigns, the idea being to tick all the boxes so the island can enter the next phase of de-confinement, and move forward with economic recovery.

8 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

Alejandra Ferrer addresses islanders about first phase of lockdown easing

Sandra compareixenca 2Consell de Formentera president Alejandra Ferrer gave a press conference and open address to the people of the island to announce activation of the first phase in Formentera’s gradual easing of confinement measures. The broadcast was retransmitted on the Consell’s YouTube channel here and listeners were able to tune in to Ràdio Illa to hear Ferrer’s discourse live.

The president dedicated her message to the victims of the grave public health crisis as well as their families, and reserved special words for the family of the island’s only coronavirus-related death.

Ferrer applauded islanders’ sense of individual and collective responsibility, which she said was behind the State’s decision to begin phase one of Formentera’s de-escalation this Monday, 4 May. “It’s been a very difficult few weeks”, the president said. “We’re reopening gradually; children came first, and this weekend saw athletes, adults, seniors and at-risk groups get their chance at a limited return to certain movement. It’s time now for a step forward”, she said, “but we’ve got to do it responsibly if we want to avoid having to take steps backward later”.

“Formentera’s rollout of phase one is good news, but it needs to happen with caution and responsibility”, Ferrer offered. “From today we’ll ease out of confinement at the local level, but we’ve got a long way to go before we’re ready for tourism”, she said, assuring residents that “first it’s going to be inter-island, then national, and, at the end, international”. Holding up tourists as “our economy’s driving engine”, Ferrer said that tourism’s return to the island wouldn’t just depend on how the health crisis unfolds here, “but on the way the pandemic plays out globally”, she said. “We’re already working on a new promotion strategy that—when we’re ready for visitors—will start with markets close in proximity to Formentera”.

Phase one

The president gave an overview of the main pillars already set out by Madrid with regards to phase one, including provisions for vulnerable individuals receiving clinical care. Two-metre physical distancing will remain in place, and riders of public transport will have to wear masks, as will individuals unable to respect distancing measures. “Handwashing remains crucial as well”, she said.

Per a preliminary reading of the country’s official gazette, Ferrer said people on the island would no longer face mobility restrictions. Highlighting ministerial orders announced mere hours before phase one was due to take effect on Formentera this evening, she asked that in future phases local government be given advance details and a contact person “to help us interpret the new guidelines with sufficient time”.

Starting tomorrow, Formentera residents in groups of no more than ten can return to social contact in public spaces, bar terraces and homes providing safety measures are respected.

Terraces, restaurants and shops

In the new phase, businesses that occupy less than 400 square metres can reopen as long has specific hygiene measures and protocol are followed. Shops must remain below 30% capacity and make sure customers keep a safe distance. Terraces of bars and restaurants can seat half of their normal maximum if a safe distance is kept between tables.

The trade department is teeing up educational materials on protocols and will offer them to reopening businesses in the days ahead.

Consell information service

From tomorrow, informadors will be posted in Formentera’s main towns to provide information about unfolding de-escalation measures. Local police, the Civil Guard and Civil Protection, for their part, will continue controls and educational efforts in rural parts of the island.

Public transport

Riders must wear masks aboard public transport, and vehicles will ride at half capacity. Taxis, meanwhile, can carry no more than two passengers at a time, who must ride separately and in the back seat. Established hygiene measures will remain in place everywhere.

The president spoke frankly: “This is a very serious disease. We’re entering a phase of return to normalcy, but this isn’t ‘full speed ahead’ and throw caution to the wind. It may seem contradictory, but right now keeping our distance is crucial if we want to come together again later”.

3 May 2020
Department of Communications
Consell de Formentera

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