In a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus, several regions in Spain have announced tougher restrictions over the Christmas holiday period, when more travel and socializing are expected. Under the Spanish Health Ministry’s Christmas plan, which was approved on December 2 by a committee of regional health chiefs, gatherings were limited to 10 people and a 1.30am curfew was set for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. The plan also allowed citizens to travel to a different region, but only to see family or allegados, a term meaning people with whom there is a close bond, and which has sparked widespread confusion.
But the epidemiological situation in Spain has worsened since December 2, with the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants rising to 214 on Friday. In several regions, the incidence rate now exceeds 250, which is considered by the Health Ministry to indicate a situation of “extreme risk.” This has prompted many regional authorities to introduce tougher rules for the Christmas holiday period.
Here is an overview of what has been announced so far in each region.
The regional government will allow travel between the provinces in the region until January 10. Between December 23 and January 6, travel in and out of the region will also be allowed for visits to see family or allegados. On December 24, 25, 31 and January 1 and 6, the number of people allowed at a gathering will be increased from six to 10. But the regional government recommends that no more than two different household groups attend a gathering.
Between December 18 and January 10, shops and other commercial establishments may remain open until 9pm, while bars and restaurants will be able to open from the morning until 6pm and from 8pm to 11.30pm (1am on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve). A curfew will remain in place from 11pm to 6am, with the exception of December 24 and 31, when it will be pushed back to 1.30am.
From December 22 to January 7, residents of senior homes may leave these facilities as long as they have had no symptoms over the previous two weeks and have undergone a diagnostic test up to 72 hours earlier.
On December 24, 25, 31 and January 1, a maximum of 10 people will be allowed in private gatherings. Travel in and out of the region, and between Aragón’s three provinces – Teruel, Huesca and Zaragoza – will be allowed from December 23 to 26 and from December 30 to January 2, but only for family gatherings, not to see allegados, as the term could lead to misunderstandings, according to the health department. In order to travel on those dates, it will be necessary to carry a declaración responsable statement certifying the purpose of the trip, said the regional executive.,Outside of these dates, the regional border will remain sealed, with each province under a perimetral lockdown.
The 11pm to 6am curfew will remain in place, but will be extended to 1.30am on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Between December 23 and January 6, residents of senior homes may temporarily leave the premises to stay with relatives who have not been diagnosed with coronavirus or are in self-isolation.
Non-essential stores will be able to open until 10pm, bar service will be allowed and restaurants will be able to open at 100% capacity in outdoor spaces and 30% indoors. The capacity of museums, cinemas and other cultural centers will be increased to 50%.
Between December 23 and January 6, travel in and out of the region will be allowed for visits to see family and allegados. In a bid to prevent outbreaks in family homes, visitors aged between 18 and 30 who arrive in the region on these dates and will be staying with seniors over the age of 65 or other at-risk groups, must take a PCR test. On December 24, 25, 31 and January 1 and 6, social gatherings will be limited to 10 people from a maximum of two household groups. Outside of these dates, the limit will be six.
From December 20, visitors who arrive in the Balearic Islands from a region where the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants is more than 150 must present a negative PCR test if coming for tourism, or take an antigen test upon arrival if arriving for a justified reason.
On the island of Mallorca, social gatherings will be limited to six people from two different household groups, although both family and allegados will be allowed to get together. The nighttime curfew between 10pm and 6am will remain in place, even on Christmas Eve, although this measure will be revised on December 28. Indoor areas of restaurants will remain closed. Only service in outdoor eating areas and for takeaway is currently allowed, and restaurants have to close at 6pm on Fridays, Saturdays and the days before public holidays.
In Menorca, the curfew is between 12pm and 6am, and social gatherings are limited to six people. In Ibiza, the limit on gatherings is six for indoor spaces and 10 for outdoor areas. In Formentera, the limit is 10 and 20, respectively. The two islands are under the same curfew as Menorca.
From December 23 to January 10, the Canary Islands will be under a curfew from 1am to 6am, which will be pushed back to 1.30am on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Social gatherings will be limited to six people for most of this period, except on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1 and 6, when up to 10 people from two households will be able to get together.
Tenerife, however, is subject to stricter rules due to the rise of coronavirus cases on the island. The island will remain under a perimetral lockdown until the beginning of 2021. Social gatherings will be limited to four people, except on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1 and 6, when the limit is six from two households. Restaurants are only allowed to open outdoor dining areas, and at 50% capacity.
All visitors to the Canary Islands, except for children under the age of six, must arrive with a negative coronavirus test taken 72 hours before their arrival. The order will remain in place until January 10.
Foreign visitors will need to provide a PCR or TMA test, while an antigen test is valid for travelers coming from Spain. The regional government announced that it would allow foreign visitors enter the region with the faster and less expensive antigen test, but this measure was overruled last week by the Constitutional Court.
Travel to and from Cantabria will be permitted between December 23 and January 6 for visits to see family and allegados. Social gatherings will be limited to 10 people on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1, and to six during the rest of the holiday period. On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the curfew will be pushed back from 10pm to 1.30am but only to allow people to return home from family dinners, not for social gatherings.
Since December 12, residents in Cantabria have been able to travel to different municipalities within the region. The restrictions on the hostelry sector, however, have remained in place: service is only allowed in outdoor eating areas, and establishments must close at 10pm.
Citizens will be able to travel to and from Castilla-La Mancha to see family and allegados between December 23 and January 6. The curfew during this period will run from 12pm to 6am, except for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when it will be pushed back to 1.30am.
On December 24, 25, 31 and January 1, social gatherings will be limited to 10 people from different households – including children – although more than 10 are allowed if they all live together.
Castilla y León
Travel in and out of the region will be allowed between December 23 and 26, December 30 and January 2, and January 5 and 6, but only to visit family – not allegados. The region will remain under a 10pm-6am curfew, except for December 24 and 31, when it will start at 1.30am. The six-person limit on social gatherings will remain in place, except for Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, when the number will be increased to 10. Restaurants will have to close by 10pm and stop service at 9pm.
From December 21 to January 11, Catalonia will be subject to tighter coronavirus restrictions. Social gatherings will be limited to six people, except for December 24, 25, 26, 31 and January 1 and 6, when the limit will be increased to 10 – but only between members of two different households. The current curfew, which is between 10pm and 6am, will start at 1am on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day and at 11pm on January 5.
Groups of up to six people will be able to gather in restaurants and bars on December 24, 25, 26 and 31, as well as January 1, although capacity will depend on what phase of the deescalation plan the region is in at the time. The hostelry sector will also be able to open until 1am on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Catalonia will keep its border sealed, except for visits to see family or allegados. Within the region, each comarca – an administrative area in some parts of Spain – will remain under a perimetral lockdown until January 11. Travel to a different comarca is also allowed if it is to go to a second home with the same household group.
Bars and restaurants can open in two time slots: from 7.30am to 9.30am for breakfast, and from 1pm to 3.30pm for lunch. Takeaway food service will be available until 11pm. Capacity of indoor dining areas is limited to 30%. Gyms and restaurants that are located inside shopping centers will remain closed.
The regional government of Valencia announced last week that the border will remain sealed until January 15. Travel in or out of the region to see family or allegados is banned until this date. Allowances are made for residents returning home, for work reasons or other reasons of force majeure outlined in the current state of alarm.
Social gatherings will be limited to six people throughout the entire holiday period, even on Christmas Eve and Christmas. The curfew will begin at 11pm, except for December 24 and December 31, when it will be pushed back to midnight.
Under new rules announced recently, Extremadura will be under a 12.30am curfew on December 24 and 31, and midnight the rest of the time. On these dates, up to 10 people will be allowed to gather as long as they are from a maximum of two different households. The rest of the days, there is a six-person limit in homes and 10-person limit in bars and restaurants.The region will close its border between December 23 and January 6, but allow citizens to enter and leave if visiting family members (not allegados).
Galicia will seal its border between December 23 and January 6, but will allow visits to see family and allegados. Social gatherings will be limited to six people from different households not including children. There will be a curfew from 11pm to 6am during the holiday periods, which is not expected to change on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve.
The regional government has set out restrictions based on four levels of risk. Bars and restaurants in municipalities at most risk have to close at 5pm, while those in the municipalities with the best epidemiological situation can open until 11pm.
The border of La Rioja will remain closed, but between December 23 and 26, and December 30 to January 2, residents will be able to enter and leave to see family and allegados. On these dates, bars and restaurants will be able to open until 8pm.
The current curfew from 11pm to 5am will be extended on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve to 1.30am. Celebrations on these dates will be limited to 10 people, save for families that have more than 10 members.
Madrid will close its border from December 23 to January 6, but allow travel to see family and allegados. On Friday, the regional government reduced the limits on social gatherings from 10 to six people from a maximum of two households, for December 24, 25, 31 and January 1 and 6. Regional authorities also called on the public to wear a face mask at all times, except for when eating and drinking, both in homes and in restaurants. The curfew will be pushed back until 1.30am on December 24 and January 1.
Six basic healthcare areas, which are smaller than a district and may include several primary healthcare centers, will be under a perimetral lockdown until December 28 – Andrés Mellado (in Chamberí district) and Sanchinarro (Hortaleza) in the city of Madrid, and Felipe II and Bartolomé González (Móstoles), Getafe Norte (Getafe) and La Moraleja (Alcobendas) in the rest of the region.
The regional government of Murcia is expected to relax restrictions on December 24, 25 and 31, and January 1, with up to 10 people allowed at social gatherings on these dates. The curfew on these days will also be pushed back to 1.30am. Currently, there is a six-person limit on social gatherings, while the curfew begins at 11pm. The region will keep its border closed between December 23 and January 6, with exceptions for visits to see family and allegados.
Navarre will seal its border until January 14, but allow people to enter and leave the region to see family and allegados between December 23 and 26, and between December 30 and January 2. The current curfew between 11pm and 6am will remain in place, except on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, when it will start at 1.30am.
On these dates, a maximum of 10 people, including children, will be able to gather, as long as they don’t come from more than two different households. During the rest of the holiday period, there will be a six-person limit on social gatherings between two different households. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to open at 30% capacity in indoor areas and remain open until 11pm. There will be no limits on capacity in outdoor areas, but no more than four people – or six if there is more than 1.5 meters of distance between tables – are allowed at a table. Takeaway food service will be available until 11.30pm.
The Basque government has ruled out for now toughening its coronavirus rules for the Christmas holidays. There will continue to be a curfew between 10pm and 6am, except on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve, when it will be pushed to 1.30am. The perimetral lockdown of the region will be lifted between December 23 and 26, and between December 31 and January 2, to allow trips to see family and allegados. From December 23, residents will be able to travel to a different province within the region.
Social gatherings will be limited to six people over the holiday period, except on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, when the limit will be 10.
In areas where the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is above 500, bars and restaurants will remain closed, unless serving takeaway food, which will be available until 9pm. In all other areas, the hostelry sector will open, but bar service will be prohibited.
Ceuta and Melilla
In Ceuta, a Spanish exclave city in North Africa, the regional government has not yet published the Health Ministry’s agreement on Christmas restrictions. Sources from the executive say that travel to and from the exclave will likely be allowed for family gatherings between December 23 and January 6. The current four-person limit on social gatherings may be increased but it is not yet clear to how many. The current curfew between 11pm and 6am is likely to be pushed back to 1.30am on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. These measures will be adapted based on the evolution of the pandemic.
In Melilla, travel in and out of the exclave city will be allowed between December 23 and January 6 for visits to see family and allegados. The current four-person limit on social gatherings will remain in place over this period, except for December 24, 25, 31 and on January 1 and 6, when it will be increased to 10. There will be a curfew between 11pm and 6am, which will be extended to 1am on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
Spanish minister and leftist leader receive letters with death threats and bullets
Two political leaders and the head of a law-enforcement agency in Spain have received letters containing death threats and bullets, according to reports to which EL PAÍS has had access and to information provided by the Interior Ministry.
The targets are María Gámez, head of the Civil Guard; Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Pablo Iglesias, head of the leftist party Unidas Podemos and a candidate in the upcoming Madrid regional election, a race that he joined after stepping down as a deputy prime minister from the PSOE-Unidas Podemos coalition government.
“You have 10 days to resign. The days of laughing at us are over. National Police. Civil Guard. Time is not on your side for the taponazos [very loud gunfire or explosion],” reads an anonymous letter postmarked April 19 and addressed to Grande-Marlaska. Inside the envelope were two 7.62x51mm bullets, according to the police report filed by the minister. An investigation is underway to identify the sender.
Civil Guard chief Gámez received a similar, handwritten message a day earlier, although it was also postmarked April 19. In this case, there was no mention of police forces although it used the term taponazo once more. There was one 7.62mm bullet inside the envelope.
Sources at Unidas Podemos on Thursday confirmed that Pablo Iglesias had received a letter containing “a serious death threat” but had not yet filed a formal complaint. The same sources added that this is not the first time that Iglesias has been sent messages of this nature.
“The Interior Ministry has received a letter addressed to me containing death threats against me and my family,” the political leader revealed later on Twitter. He included an image of the missive, which carried the following message written in capital letters and without punctuation marks: “Pablo Iglesias Turrión, you have let our parents and grandparents die. Your wife, your parents and you are sentenced to the death penalty. Your time is running out.” The party originally said that it contained two rounds of the type used with Spanish CETME rifles, but Iglesias himself said there were four.
“This is just another consequence of normalizing and whitewashing the hate speech of the far right. And it is also a consequence of impunity,” said Iglesias on Twitter, lamenting that there has been “not a single arrest” over the attack on his party’s headquarters in Cartagena (Murcia) with a Molotov cocktail in early April.
Iglesias also noted that a former member of La Legión, an elite military unit, “got off scot-free” after firing live ammunition at photographs of government members in front of a camera and laughing about it. He also mentioned the lack of legal consequences for the retired members of the military who talked about executing 26 million “red” Spaniards on a social media chat group. “How can they not feel absolute impunity to send us death threats with assault weapon bullets?”
Iglesias went on to say that the attacks are not just against him and his family but about “you, your right to vote for whomever you like and to exercise your freedom. They are threatening democracy.”
The PSOE candidate in the Madrid election, Ángel Gabilondo, turned to Twitter to show support for all three targets of the death threats. “Hate speech and divisiveness have very serious consequences for our democracy. Let’s avoid an escalation of cruelty.”
Mónica García, the contender for the small leftist party Más Madrid, wrote that “there is no room for hate and violence” in society.
Catalan regional election to be held on February 14, court confirms
Convicted leaders of the 2017 secession attempt in Catalonia who are serving time in regional prisons walked out on Friday after the Catalan government granted them a more open regime. Approval of the tercer grado, which allows prisoners to spend only nights in prison, coincided with the start of an election campaign in Spain’s northeastern region.
Also on Friday, the High Court of Catalonia (TSJC) confirmed that an upcoming regional election will take place on February 14, not on May 30, ending weeks of uncertainty over the date of the polls.
The Catalan government had sought to postpone the original date on the grounds that the coronavirus crisis would make it difficult for many people to vote while staying safe. Critics said the date change was politically motivated and unlawful.
The TSJC court had provisionally upheld an appeal against the change, and on Friday it confirmed this decision, which could still be challenged before the Supreme Court but would not alter the election date.
The separatist leaders on a more flexible regime will now be able to take part in their own parties’ campaign events if they wish to.
Dolors Bassa, who was a Cabinet member at the time of the unilateral independence declaration of October 2017, was the first of the group to walk out of prison on Friday. After leaving the women’s facility of Puig de les Basses in Figueres (Girona) at around 8.45am, she urged sympathizers to go vote on February 14 “to win again.”
At 10.30am, Lledoners prison in Barcelona released Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart, leaders of two civil society groups convicted of participating in the breakaway attempt, and the former Cabinet members Oriol Junqueras, Raül Romeva, Jordi Turull, Joaquim Forn and Josep Rull. The group emerged carrying a sign calling for “amnesty.” The only member of the group to remain in prison is former Catalan parliament speaker Carme Forcadell, who is still awaiting a decision.
All nine were convicted of sedition and misuse of public funds by Spain’s Supreme Court and are serving sentences ranging from nine to 13 years. The Catalan government granted them tercer grado status once before last year, but the move was struck down by the Supreme Court in December and the group returned to prison. However, eligibility for this regime undergoes review every six months, and the regional executive, which is headed by a separatist coalition, has again granted them this status.
Prosecutors are planning to appeal the decision, but the timing of legal procedures means that the separatist leaders will be on daytime prison leave for much of the election campaign, if not all of it. While none of them are running as candidates, their presence could help energize pro-independence voters. Inversely, if they were sent back to prison it would provide fuel to the movement’s claims of political repression.
Secessionists are also framing the legal tussle over the election date as further proof of alleged meddling in Catalonia’s political and institutional life.
In a rare agreement between separatist and conservative parties, the postponement to May had been backed by all political groups in the regional parliament except for the Catalan Socialists (PSC) – the Catalan branch of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – who had insisted on preserving the February date.
Salvador Illa, the Spanish health minister until this week, has stepped down to run for the regional premiership with the PSC, and a recent poll by the state-funded Center for Sociological Studies (CIS) research center suggested the possibility of a technical tie between the PSC and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), one of the two partners in the Catalan government coalition.
Both ERC and its partner Together for Catalonia believe that the PSOE is behind the legal challenge to the May postponement, and that the real reason is a desire to make the most of the impact on public opinion from the news that the high-profile Illa will be the Socialist nominee to lead the region.
But a more recent poll by the Catalan government’s Center for Opinion Studies (CEO) shows ERC winning on February 14 with 34 to 35 seats in the regional parliament, followed by Together for Catalonia with 32 to 34. This would ensure the separatist bloc’s absolute majority in the 135-strong house with 51.2% of the vote.
The election will seek to bring stability to a government that’s been under an acting leader, Pere Aragonés, ever since September, when the Spanish Supreme Court upheld an 18-month ban from public office against Quim Torra in connection with violations of institutional neutrality during an earlier election campaign.
After Catalans go to the polls, Spaniards are expecting a two-year period of rest in a country that has been through four national elections, a European vote, regional and municipal polls, and two no-confidence motions in parliament since 2015.
Madrid, Basque Country, Valencia announce new coronavirus restrictions
The relentless advance of the coronavirus in Spain is leading some regional governments to introduce even more severe restrictions on mobility. Madrid, the Basque Country and the Valencia region on Friday announced new measures that will go into effect soon.
In Madrid, the deputy public health chief Antonio Zapatero announced more perimetral lockdowns, now affecting 56 basic health zones and 25 municipalities that are home to 24% of the region’s residents but account for 30% of all coronavirus cases.
The director general of the Public Health agency, Elena Andradas, said that nine basic health zones – administrative areas that do not necessarily coincide with neighborhoods or districts – and six municipalities have a 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants above 1,000 and will be subject “to special restrictions on mobility.” The decision expands on the list of health zones and municipalities that came under mobility restrictions last week.
The new affected municipalities are Cercedilla, Navacerrada, Collado Villalba, Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Los Molinos, Quijorna, Serranillos del Valle and Colmenar de Oreja. The new affected health zones are Las Ciudades, in Getafe; as well as La Rivota, Ramón y Cajal, Doctor Trueta and Pedro Laín Entralgo, in Alcorcón.
Additionally, the overnight curfew will begin at 10pm and businesses must close by 9pm, including food and drink establishments. Authorities are also banning meetings inside homes with members of other households, while the upper limit on the number of people from different households who may gather outside the home in food or drink establishments is now four, down from six.
These measures will be adopted starting on Monday, January 25 and last at least two weeks.
On a day when the number of new reported cases nationwide set a record high for the second day in a row, authorities in the Basque Country said they will seal off all of the region’s 252 municipalities beginning on Monday. Social gatherings will be reduced to four people.
The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the region was above 500 cases on Friday, twice the figure considered an extreme risk scenario (which also takes into account other variables such as pressure on hospitals). Right now over 70% of Spain’s territory is in the extreme risk category.
The Basque city of Bilbao and 50 other locations came under a perimetral lockdown in the early hours of Friday because of their high incidence rate. After the weekend, every other city, town and village in this region of 2.2 million people will be sealed off as well. Only essential trips that can be justified will be allowed across municipal lines. This is on top of the provincial and regional lockdowns that are already in effect.
The Basque health chief, Gotzone Sagardui, said the decision was a response to the worsening epidemiological figures. “This is not the time to relax, but to act with utmost anticipation on preventive action,” she said.
The curfew starting time has not been altered, despite the Basque government’s wishes to bring it forward to 8pm from the current 10pm. The move was debated on Wednesday at a meeting of central and regional health officials but did not gain support from the central government.
Food and drink establishments must close at 8pm except in locations with an incidence rate of over 500, where they must close altogether. This is currently the case in Bilbao.
The measures will be in effect for 20 days, subject to review.
The Valencian government is preparing an “imminent” decree to forbid members of different households from meeting inside homes. Exceptions will be made for people who need to provide care, couples who don’t live under the same roof and elderly people who live by themselves and may stay with family members.
Deputy premier Mónica Oltra made the announcement on Friday following a meeting of regional government officials. Earlier this week, Valencian authorities ordered all food and drink establishments to shut down for 14 days and told retail stores to close at 6pm as the virus continues to expand in the region at “an extraordinary rate,” in the words of regional premier Ximo Puig.
The Valencia health department has started to contact neighborhood associations to get the word out that people should self-confine due to the severity of the situation, the regional daily Diario Información reported.
Rafael Ruiz, president of Alicante’s Provincial Federation of Neighborhood Associations, told this newspaper that he received a call from the district’s healthcare center: “They are asking for people to stay at home. They are scared because the situation is getting out of hand.”
All three provinces in the region – Castellón, Valencia and Alicante – are in the extreme risk scenario. The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants has been climbing almost vertically since the end of the Christmas period, and on Friday stood above 1,000. Some Covid-19 patients are already being transferred to field hospitals as healthcare facilities struggle to deal with a tremendous surge in infections.
A home confinement cannot be legally imposed in Spain under the current emergency state approved by parliament in late October and due to expire in May. But the string of increasingly strict restrictions imposed by regional governments is coming close to a de facto lockdown.
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