Oscar and nine friends rang in 2021 in a rural Airbnb north of Madrid with house music, drugs, and booze, flouting a number of local ordinances aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19. A week later, nearly all of them, Oscar included, came down with the virus. “We infected our roommates, our coworkers—it got so bad that we were keeping a Google Doc of who was spreading it and who was getting it,” he told me over the phone. “We were panicked.”
Madrid has been pummeled by the pandemic. At the time of writing, the greater region had registered a total of nearly 13,000 COVID-related deaths, a figure that reflects a series of spikes that haven’t abated since summer. According to a Feb. 5 government briefing, half of new cases in Madrid are of the highly contagious variant currently sweeping the United Kingdom. It’s obvious: This is no time for parties.
But according to dozens of local news articles, municipal police reports, and plain old word of mouth (ahem: my Instagram feed), the parties in vacation rentals continue, despite warnings from every echelon of the government. It all begs the question: Why on Earth are Madrileños like Oscar, a well-educated thirtysomething, partying in Airbnbs, nearly one year into the pandemic? And, more importantly, how are they not getting caught?