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German health minister warns against 'party holidays'


BERLIN/PALMA DE MALLORCA (Reuters) - Germany's health minister on Saturday criticised "party holidays" and defended a decision to declare nearly all of Spain, including the tourist island of Mallorca, a coronavirus risk region following a spike in cases there.

"I know how much the Germans love Spain ... But unfortunately the infection rates there are rising sharply, too sharply," Jens Spahn told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

"Whoever goes to Spain despite the warning should protect themselves and others while on holiday. Party holidays are irresponsible in this pandemic."

People returning to Germany from designated risk regions face a coronavirus test or two weeks' compulsory quarantine.

Bar owners in Mallorca, a popular destination for German holidaymakers, feared the news would be the death knell for their already-struggling businesses.

"We live in fear here. We don't know what tomorrow will bring," said Gelinde, from Munich who owns Casa Baviera bar. "We are not afraid of the virus, but we are afraid of what our livelihood will be like."

Spahn's comments came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany rose by 1,415 to 222,828, the biggest increase since late April, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Infections in Spain have also spiked in recent days after it ended a tough lockdown seven weeks ago. The German move deals a new blow to hopes for a swift revival of mass tourism after months of lockdown all but wiped out this year's high season.

There are currently around 30,000 Germans on holiday with tour operators in Spain's Balearic islands, the vast majority in Mallorca, plus more independent travellers, the German travel association said.

TUI , the world's largest tourism company, said it was cancelling all German package holidays to Spain with immediate effect until Aug. 24, appealing to customers already there to return within seven days.

"If I close I will be unable to reopen again...I have no help. How are we supposed to move on from this?" said Antonia Gost, owner of La Tapita bar in Palma, in response to TUI's decision to cancel all holidays to the island.

Germany on Friday declared all of Spain apart from the Canary Islands a virus risk region.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson, Jessica Jones, Enrique Calvo, Editing by Ros Russell and Christina Fincher)

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