Spain lifts capacity restrictions on outdoor sporting events as coronavirus cases fall

The Health Ministry reported 2,290 infections on Tuesday, the lowest daily figure since July 2020

Spectators at a soccer match in San Sebastián, when capacity was limited to 60%
Spectators at a soccer match in San Sebastián, when capacity was limited to 60%Javier Etxezarreta (EFE)

Starting this weekend, there will be no coronavirus restrictions on outdoor stadiums in Spain. The Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS), which brings together central and regional officials, agreed on Wednesday to set the capacity for open-air sporting events at 100%, and at 80% for indoor centers. The new rules will remain in force between October 1 and October 31.

Until now, capacity at stadiums was restricted to 60% and 40% in outdoor and indoor stadiums, respectively – a measure that affected the first and second divisions of Spain’s soccer league, as well as the country’s top-flight basketball league, the Liga ACB. The new rule now applies to all sporting competitions in Spain. The Spanish Health Ministry initially planned to cap attendance to 80% in outdoor spaces, but agreed to eliminate the restriction altogether in view of the country’s strong epidemiological situation, the advance of the Covid-19 vaccination drive and the fact that some regions wanted the measure to be scrapped.

A total of 95.1% of the over-40 population in Spain has had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine

The Spanish Health Ministry reported 2,290 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the lowest daily figure since July 2020. According to the latest figures, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants has fallen to 62. Asturias is the region with the lowest incidence rate in Spain, with 62 cases, followed by Galicia (35) and Castilla y León. In La Rioja and Valencia, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants has also fallen below 50. Pressure on hospitals continues to ease, with Covid-19 patients occupying 8.47% of intensive care units (ICUs) and 2.36% of all hospital beds, respectively.

What’s more, 76.9% of the population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to the latest figure released on Tuesday. Nearly 74% of the 30-39 age group are completely immunized, a figure that rises to 75.3% for the 12-19 demographic. Some 95.1% of the over-40 population has had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The decision to ease restrictions on Wednesday was backed by all the regions, which are responsible for the vaccination drive and controlling the pandemic in their territories, as well as the Health Ministry. Under the agreement, non-pharmaceutical measures, such as face masks, will remain in place. Eating, drinking, smoking and the consumption of other related products will be banned in the stadium.

The press release issued by the Health Ministry states that “the spectators of the events will preferably be club members, as well as a local audience, and that training will preferably take place without spectators, and, in any event, with set limits on maximum capacity.” The document also indicates that natural and forced ventilation will be used in indoor spaces to ensure “proper air renewal,” and that new measures may be introduced depending on the epidemiological situation.

Easing restrictions

The decision to lift the capacity limits on outdoor sporting events comes as several Spanish regions move to ease other coronavirus restrictions. On Tuesday, the premier of Andalusia, Juan Manuel Moreno said that half the southern region is set to enter level zero on the coronavirus alert system on Friday, meaning restrictions on capacity and opening hours in bars and restaurants will be lifted. In municipalities on level one, hospitality establishments must close at 2am and nightlife venues at 3.30am, and the maximum number of people allowed to a table is 10 for outdoor spaces and eight indoors.

Meanwhile in Catalonia, authorities have agreed to ease coronavirus restrictions starting Thursday. Under the new rules, 10 people will be allowed to be seated at a table in indoor spaces, up from six. The Catalan regional government also said it was “closer” to reopening nighttime venues, indicating that it could take place in “the coming weeks.”

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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