With the state of alarm in Spain having ended on Sunday, Spain’s regions – which are in charge of controlling the pandemic in their territories – no longer have the sole authority to introduce coronavirus restrictions on fundamental rights, specifically the nighttime curfew, limits on social gatherings and perimetral lockdowns of regions, provinces and municipalities. Now, these measures once again need to be authorized by the courts.
Ahead of the end of the state of alarm on May 9, some regional governments sought support from the courts, while others prepared alternative measures. The Basque government asked for authorization to seal its regional borders, but the request was denied last Friday. This means that there are currently no restrictions on inter-regional travel in Spain.
Seven regions – Andalusia, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid and Murcia – have, however, asked courts to approve perimetral lockdowns in municipalities and health areas where there are high transmission rates of the coronavirus.
Another four regions – the Canary Islands, Navarre, Valencia and the Balearic Islands – requested authorization to maintain the nighttime curfew. Galicia and La Rioja also asked to implement this measure in areas at extreme risk from the virus.
So far, only the Balearic Islands, Madrid and Valencia have been given the green light from the courts. In the Canary Islands, the High Court approved some of the regional government’s measures, but not the nighttime curfew, while in the Basque Country, the court struck down all the restrictions proposed by the Basque government.
Despite the concern that the end of the state of alarm will lead to legal chaos, the central government – a coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and junior partner Unidas Podemos – believes the regions have enough authority to take action under the current laws. It has also said that regional authorities can request the government implement a state of alarm in their territories, if deemed necessary.
As an additional measure, the government approved last week a royal decree that gives the Supreme Court the final word on coronavirus restrictions. Under the new decree, if a lower court refuses to authorize a coronavirus restriction that affects fundamental rights, a region can appeal the decision to the Supreme Court – something that has not been possible until now.
The goal of this is to enable the country’s top judges to set down uniform criteria for when regional governments and the central administration itself can and cannot limit rights and under what conditions. In this way, the government hopes to prevent the confusion that occurred last year between June and October, when judges from lower courts reached contradictory decisions on coronavirus restrictions affecting fundamental rights. The Canary Islands’ regional government has already indicated that it plans to follow this route after the High Court struck down the curfew measure.
Experts, however, warned that these legal processes could delay key decisions and hinder the effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. “Under no circumstance can we lift a restriction from one day to the next in regions where the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is above 250 and there is strong community transmission,” said Daniel López-Acuña, a former director of emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO). “Once this legal framework disappears, there is the risk that we will have upticks from the end of the state of alarm because there will be more movement and interaction,” he added, criticizing the “judicialization of health decisions.”
While coronavirus contagions are on a downward trend, the country remains in a high-risk situation: the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants stands at 202. What’s more, the incidence rate in each region varies greatly – from 41 cases in Valencia to 463 in Basque Country.
EL PAÍS has summarized which measures have been approved in each region and territory of Spain. Next to each territory is the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants reported on Friday.
The coronavirus restrictions in Andalusia will be eased in three phases according to the progress of the vaccination drive and the incidence of the pandemic. The first phase – stabilization – will take place between May 9 and 31, and involve the end of the nighttime curfew and perimetral lockdown of the region. Under this phase, food and drink establishments can open until midnight with a maximum of eight people per table in indoor spaces and 10 people in outdoor spaces, according to the coronavirus alert system. The capacity for civil and religious ceremonies is set at 300 and 500 people for indoor and outdoor facilities, respectively. Nighttime bars and venues can open until 2am, at the same capacity as the hospitality sector. Dancefloors, however, will only be allowed in municipalities on the lowest risk level, and must be outdoors. Face masks must also be worn. For outdoor events, audience members of different groups need to be separated either by an empty seat or maintain a safe distance of 1.5 meters. As for beaches and parks, there are no limits on when people can go. The second phase – progression – will take place from June 1 to 30, and the third – normalization – will begin on July 1.
The regional government also wants to introduce a perimetral lockdown in municipalities where the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is above 1,000, and on a case-by-case basis in areas with smaller populations. These measures are yet to be approved by the courts.
The perimetral lockdown of the region and the nighttime curfew has been lifted. In areas with high transmission rates, social gatherings are limited to six people in public spaces and to four in private spaces.
From Sunday, the regional government will allow the hospitality industry to close at 1am and serve six people to a table. The Asturian government will also ask the High Court for authorization to apply perimetral lockdowns in situations of extreme risk. Capacity in conferences and conventions will be increased to 300 people, with assigned seating. Large-scale events and nighttime activities will not be allowed. In shops that are larger than 300 square meters, capacity will be limited to 70%.
Balearic Islands (60.43)
The regional government of the Balearic Islands has received backing from the courts to maintain a curfew from 11pm to 6am and a six-person limit on social gatherings between a maximum of two households, both in outdoor and indoor spaces. The court also authorized the region to maintain security controls for arrivals to the islands and to restrict capacity at places of worship to 50%. In Mallorca and Ibiza, indoor dining in bars and restaurants is suspended, and a maximum of four people are allowed at an outdoor table. While in Menorca and Formentera, four people can be seated at a table indoors and six outdoors. Bars and restaurants must close at 10.30pm.
Basque Country (447.56)
The Basque High Court on Friday ruled against the measures that the regional government wanted to leave in place after the end of the state of alarm, on the basis that such limits to fundamental rights could only be implemented under the state of alarm. These restrictions included: perimetral lockdowns, a nighttime curfew and a limit of four people at social meetings. Basque premier Íñigo Urkullu announced on Thursday that the region would not appeal to the Supreme Court if their measures are struck down. A non-binding report from the Basque public prosecutor opposed both proposals on the grounds that they violate fundamental rights. Bars and restaurants, however, will close at 10pm with a maximum of four people allowed on sidewalk cafés. Cultural activities and stores must close at 10pm.
Canary Islands (90.76)
According to the Canary Islands regional government, the nighttime curfew remains in place, even though the regional High Court did not authorize its extension after the state of alarm. The regional government has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. Currently, there is an 11pm-6am curfew on the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote and 12am-6am curfew in the rest of the archipelago. The High Court did approve a six-person limit on social gatherings in Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Lanzarote and a 10-person limit on the other islands. The security controls in the region’s ports and airports have also been authorized, as well as the other restrictions that were in place before the state of alarm ended on Sunday. With respect to the hospitality industry, in Gran Canaria, Tenerife, El Hierro and Lanzarote, a maximum of six people are allowed to be seated at a table in an outdoor area, and four people in indoor areas. Food and drink establishments on these islands must close at 11pm. In the rest of the region, the limit to a table is 10 and six, respectively, with closing time set at midnight.
The regional health department has published an order that makes it mandatory for establishments to close at 10.30pm after the end of the state of alarm. This rule applies to all businesses with the exception of health services and centers, pharmacies, emergency veterinarian care, social service residences and gas stations. The businesses affected are not able to allow new customers in after 10pm, according to the resolution that came into effect on Sunday and has no end date. There is no curfew, no limits on mobility and no limit on social meetings.
Castilla-La Mancha (202.52)
There is no curfew or limits on social gatherings in Castilla-La Mancha. Food and drink establishments must close at 1am and there is a limit of 10 people to a table. The regional government said that further restrictions may be introduced in areas with high transmission rates.
Castilla y León (169.98)
Authorities in Castilla y León have not requested to seal the regional borders or introduce a curfew. Food and drink establishments can now close at midnight, instead of 10pm. The deputy premier of the region, Francisco Igea, said that this is aimed at preventing a surge of contagions in private gatherings indoors. The region is going to maintain the restrictions recommended by the Health Ministry based on the coronavirus alert system, such as closing down the interior of bars and restaurants in areas where the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is above 150. In principle, these measures will not require authorization from the courts.
The Catalan regional government has put an end to the nighttime curfew. The region, however, asked the Catalan High Court for authorization to limit social gatherings to six people and capacity in places of worship. The court gave the go-ahead for these measures at around midday on Friday. After the state of alarm, restaurants will be able to open until 11pm and shops until 10pm, according to the regional government.
There is no curfew or perimetral lockdown in Extremadura. Food and drink establishments must close at midnight. Up to 15 people can meet for socializing.
The Galician regional government has lifted the perimetral lockdown of the region and the nighttime curfew, except in municipalities where the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is above 500 or the seven-day incidence rate is above 200. The region has also pushed back the closing times of bars and restaurants until 11pm and 1am, respectively. Social gatherings between members of different households are prohibited between 1am and 6am to prevent “homes turning into bars,” said Galician premier Alberto Núñez Feijóo. The premier said that the government will request authorization from the High Court to apply this ban and the curfew in high-risk areas.
La Rioja (269.13)
There will be no nighttime curfew, apart from in areas with extreme risk levels. There will be no restrictions on mobility, apart from in areas that have high risk levels. There will be no limits on social meetings. Bars and restaurants will see their opening hours affected according to local risk levels.
The Madrid regional government lifted the curfew and restrictions on social meetings on Sunday. The ban on gatherings in the home between members of two different households has also be lifted. The measures that still in place are the mandatory use of face masks, the capacity limits on bars and restaurants (50% in indoor areas and 75% in outdoor areas), the ban on bar counter service and the 75% limit on capacity in shopping malls, theaters and cinemas. The hospitality sector can now open from 6am to midnight. The perimetral lockdown of basic health zones – areas that are smaller than districts that contain several primary healthcare centers – are also be maintained. A total of 14 health zones will be confined from Monday.
The regional government announced on Friday that it would be reopening its borders from Sunday and will also scrap the nighttime curfew. Instead, there is now a limit on all non-essential activity from midnight until 6am, according to regional premier Fernando López Miras. He added that municipalities will have to implement restrictions when a medium to high level of transmission is detected and that municipalities will be confined when the incidence exceeds 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants or rises more than 80% on the previous week.
The Navarre regional government has signed an order to extend the 11pm-6am curfew and the six-person limit on social gatherings between two households until May 20. Outdoor dining areas are allowed to stay open until 10pm and up to six people are allowed to be seated at a table, but indoor dining is suspended.
Authorities in Valencia asked the regional High Court for authorization to set a curfew between midnight and 6am, limit social gatherings to 10 people, both in private and public spaces, regardless of whether they take place indoors or outside, and reduce capacity at places of worship to 75%. On Friday, the court ruled in favor of these measures until May 24.
In the North African exclave city of Ceuta, the local government will approve a decree to suspend all non-essential activity after midnight and keep nighttime venues and clubs closed. No more than six people from different households will be allowed to meet.
The North African exclave city of Melilla has announced that it will not maintain the curfew or perimetral lockdown of the city after May 9. It will, however, seek authorization from the courts to set a six-person limit on social gatherings and restrict capacity in places of worship. Although the perimetral lockdown will be lifted, travelers may still have the option of voluntarily taking an antigen test upon arrival, as has been happening since Christmas.
With reporting from Cristina Vázquez, Lucía Bohórquez, Guillermo Vega, Sonia Vizoso, Isabel Valdés, Juan Navarro, María Fabra, Bernat Coll, Eva Saiz, EFE and Europa Press.
English version by Melissa Kitson.