Spanish government proposes limiting Christmas meetings to six people, 1am curfew on New Year’s Eve

The measures are included in a draft public health document being prepared ahead of the upcoming holiday season

Christmas decorations in Alicante last week.
Christmas decorations in Alicante last week.Ernesto Caparros (Europa Press)
Pablo Linde

The Spanish government has proposed limiting family and other social get-togethers over the Christmas season to six people, as well as the implementation of a 1am nighttime curfew on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

The proposals are contained in a draft document titled “Proposals for Covid-19 public health measures for the celebration of Christmas fiestas.” The text recommends limiting social gatherings to members of the same household, and in the case of others joining the celebrations, the total number of people should be limited to six.

The document also recommends that the so-called “6M” prevention measures be observed: the use of masks, regular handwashing, social distancing, maximizing the ventilation of indoor spaces and staying outside if possible, minimizing contacts and staying at home in case of symptoms, diagnosis or contact with a coronavirus case. The text also recommends that citizens avoid or limit social gatherings, adding that if they take place, they should preferably be held outside.

“Leaked” plans

Following criticism from some regional leaders for “leaking” information about the plan to the media, the government on Tuesday afternoon said that “nothing has been decided or is definitive yet” and that it hopes to reach “joint recommendations” with regional governments on steps to take to ensure a safe holiday season.

The Andalusian health chief, Jesús Aguirre, on Tuesday said it was “disloyal” for the government to leak the draft plan with proposals for the Christmas season ahead of a meeting of central and regional authorities due to be held on Wednesday.

“Each region has its own proposals for Christmas, and they were going to be presented tomorrow at the meeting,” he said.

Travel recommendations

Although the document does not mention whether movement between regions will be restricted, it proposes the use of measures that have been shown to be effective at containing contagions, such as “limiting travel.” In other words, the proposal is limited to recommending that citizens avoid all “non-essential travel.” This means that traveling to a different city or region will depend on the rules that have been introduced by the respective regional government.

“The current rules that apply in the destination territory must be consulted beforehand,” the text reads. “In the exceptional case that a trip is going to be made in national territory, both within and between the regions, it must be done safely: following the recommendations indicated in each means of transportation, using a face mask, frequently washing hands and maintaining a physical distance.”

The document recommends that university students set to return home for the Christmas period limit social gatherings before their departure and follow all preventive measures. “Once at home, they must try to limit contact, socialize outside instead of indoors and use face masks,” the draft states.

Three Kings’ parade

The draft document recommends against celebrating the traditional Three Kings’ parade, which takes place across Spain, as well as other events that attract large crowds given the “elevated risk of transmission due to the high number of spectators, the intensity of contact and the difficulty of mitigating the associated risks.”

The text adds that “large events must be individually assessed by public health authorities” following the government’s guidelines. The rest of the rules, with respect to religious celebrations, cultural events, capacity in establishments and curfew hours for other days of the festive season, will be guided by the restrictions in place in each respective region.

The document is still only a draft and must be discussed and approved by the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System, which brings together central and regional healthcare chiefs.

In just two weeks, new coronavirus cases reported by Spain’s regions have dropped from 52,386 to 25,886, according to the central Health Ministry. And the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a key indicator of the progress of the coronavirus, has fallen from 460.26 to 374.52 in a week, a drop of 20% and a level that has not been seen since October 23.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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