Though the famed dance clubs in the Spanish island resort of Ibiza are officially shuttered as a pandemic precaution, that has not stopped the music. Revelers have been crowding into illegal dance parties in private residences and villas away from the island’s main thoroughfare.
But with coronavirus cases rising on the island, worried Spanish officials say they have a plan: using foreign undercover detectives to pose as partygoers out for a good time.
“We are looking for all possible ways to fight against this serious problem that has been accentuated by legal nightlife closing and a pandemic situation,” Mariano Juan, an Ibiza Council official, told reporters last week.
He said it wasn’t feasible to use the island’s own health inspectors or the police to infiltrate the parties, because they lacked the training, or were overwhelmed by other tasks. So officials turned to an external agency to recruit a team of foreigners aged between 30 and 40, who would hang out in bars in the hours before the island’s 1 a.m. curfew to try score invitations to the illegal late-night parties, gather evidence of breaches of pandemic regulations, and turn it over to the police, Mr. Juan said to La Cadena SER, a Spanish radio network.
Critics of the plan have called for more serious proposals to combat the problem.
The underground parties would not be hard for the undercover agents to find. On a recent July evening, tourists and residents in one of Ibiza’s busiest streets swapped gossip in bars and at taxi stands about the gatherings, some of which were said to charge admission fees of up to 50 euros (about $59).
Clubs on the tourism-dependent Mediterranean island, which is known for its vibrant nightlife, have largely remained closed, and bars and restaurants have been limited to table service. The authorities say the illegal dance parties that have taken the clubs’ place are to blame for spreading Covid-19 cases among tourists, residents and seasonal workers, and have reimposed a curfew that bans gatherings of people from more than one household between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. Organizers of illegal parties can face hefty fines.
Many of the illegal gatherings are held in secluded residences in rural areas, away from the main roads, Mr. Juan said. Of the 33 illegal parties that have recently been discovered by the authorities, he said, only three were hosted at the homes of tourists.
In Spain, the police generally do not have the authority to search private residences without a warrant, but have broken up illegal parties under the pandemic health regulations, a practice that has drawn criticism. Mr. Juan said that the goal now is to use the undercover agents to find out about the gatherings early enough to head them off.
“The idea is not to blow up the party from within but to notify the police, so that they can set up a control outside and prevent more people from going,” he said.
Mr. Juan told Periodico de Ibiza on Sunday that the undercover agents were a “necessity to safeguard the health situation in Ibiza.”
Over the past week, the Balearic Islands, which include Ibiza, reported an average of 843 new coronavirus cases a day, or 71 for every 100,000 residents, the most of any region in Spain, according to a New York Times database.