Coronavirus rules in Spain: What you can and can’t do this holiday season

Here is a list of frequently asked questions regarding what to expect over the upcoming Christmas period

Crowds on Preciados street in downtown Madrid on Sunday.
Crowds on Preciados street in downtown Madrid on Sunday.Samuel Sanchez

Central and regional authorities in Spain have just approved a plan setting out common rules for the period between December 23 and January 6. The plan’s restrictions, which regional governments may decide to toughen, have raised a series of questions on what will, and will not, be allowed during that period.

Can I travel to another region of Spain?

Between December 23 and January 6, travel across regional borders will only be allowed if visiting family members and close friends. But each regional government may restrict this rule even further and allow travel only on specific days. The Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands do not need to adhere to these restrictions. A spokesperson for Madrid, however, said on Wednesday that the region does “not feel bound” to follow the rules.

Who are considered family and close friends?

“We all know what we mean by that,” said Health Minister Salvador Illa on Wednesday, noting that this definition includes people who may not have family ties in the traditional sense of the term, but who share strong affectionate bonds.

Can students go home for Christmas?

Yes, although they are being asked to limit their social interaction during the 10 days prior to their journey home. Once home, students are also asked to limit their social contacts, respect their social “bubble” and try to interact with others outdoors rather than indoors.

How many people can I meet with?

On December 24, 25 and 31 and on January 1, there is a 10-person limit on social gatherings, unless they are all members of the same household. Authorities are recommending keeping these gatherings within the same household group. On all other days, the limit will be whatever authorities in that region have determined.

Are children included in the count?

Yes, the 10-person limit includes children as well. There are no exceptions made for them, despite a request to that effect by officials in Galicia.

What time is the curfew?

On Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, the curfew may begin no later than 1.30am, although regional authorities could decide to make it earlier. People may only be out around that time to head home, not to go to parties or other social events. On all other days, the curfew start time will be whatever regional authorities have established.

Can residents of long-term care facilities go out?

If residents of these centers go out for a holiday gathering, they should stay in just one household and maintain a stable group of people around them. A diagnostic test is recommended upon their return to the care home.

Will retail stores, bars and restaurants be open?

These establishments will follow the rules on capacity and opening hours determined by each regional government. Health officials recommend wearing a face mask when not eating or drinking. As for shopping, it is advisable to avoid crowded places.

Is it possible to eat and drink outdoors?

The Health Ministry has said that eating and drinking in the street is not permitted except in designated areas. This rules out the possibility of outdoor binge drinking, known in Spain as a botellón).

Will there be any cultural or sports events?

There will be no major sports events held during the Christmas holiday. Traditional cultural activities of the type held at theaters, auditoriums, circus tents and the like will observe limits on capacity as established by regional authorities.

May I attend religious services?

Religious services held in indoor spaces will follow the rules on capacity established by regional authorities. Traditional events such as the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve will not be exempt from the curfew. Church officials are being urged to offer alternative services online or on television.

Will there be Christmas parades?

Between December 23 and January 6, regional governments will not allow events that draw large crowds unless safety measures can be guaranteed. Instead of moving parades, authorities are asking for events to be held at a single location where attendance numbers can be more easily kept under control. Virtual celebrations are also recommended.

English version by Susana Urra.

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