The Mallorca Problem

by Markus Pauly

A farmer went to the market and purchased a wolf, a goat, and a cabbage. On his way home, he came to the bank of a river where he rented a boat. To cross the river, the farmer could only carry himself and a single one of his purchases. The classic ‘wolf, goat, and cabbage problem’ can be solved, and all will get home. But what about the Mallorca problem?

After a long complicated year of corona, cravings are at an all-time high for a sunny beach getaway. Spain is one of the most visited countries globally; in 2019, it reportedly had 89million international visitors (Statistica, 2021); 2020, however, was a different story.

Since the start of the pandemic, countries have been categorised based on their infection rate, death rate, and ability to control spreads. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) has been dividing the world into high-risk and low-risk areas within Germany. Some European governments have linked their travel restrictions to the RKI’s classification.

This is where we meet the first part of the Mallorca problem. Anyone traveling back from a high-risk area to Germany must now “segregate in accordance with the respective quarantine regulations of the responsible federal states.” Each federal state regulates for itself which measures and exceptions are applicable. One could argue that it would be more logical if regulations were uniformly in Europe; there is no reason to treat travelers returning from Spain in Bavaria differently than in Amsterdam or Paris.

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