Regional border closures extended in parts of Spain

Valencia, Cantabria and Castilla-La Mancha decide to keep their perimeters sealed, while Catalonia plans to partially reopen bars and restaurants

Valencian regional premier Ximo Puig on Monday in Valencia.
Valencian regional premier Ximo Puig on Monday in Valencia.Ana Escobar (EFE)
El País

Several Spanish regions on Tuesday said they will maintain their borders closed in an effort to consolidate a slow downward trend in the coronavirus incidence rate, which remains very high.

The Valencia region, Castilla-La Mancha and Cantabria have decided to keep their perimeters sealed after first closing them in late October. Navarre made a similar decision on Monday.

The state of alarm decreed on October 25 by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez awards regional leaders the power to confine areas with a high count of coronavirus infections. Out of Spain’s 17 comunidades autónomas, only Galicia, Extremadura, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands have failed to impose this type of measure. Madrid only did so on two long weekends to prevent travel to and from the region.

Valencian regional premier Ximo Puig said he would like to extend the restrictions on leaving and entering the region until December 9. “The way circumstances are evolving, normality suggests we should continue with the perimetral confinement of the region,” he said. The 14-day cumulative incidence is 284.29 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, below the national average of 470.26, according to the latest report by the Health Ministry.

Authorities in Castilla-La Mancha have extended their border closures until at least November 24. And in Cantabria, trips across regional lines will be reduced to essential business until December 2. The small northern region is considered to be at “extreme risk” with a 14-day cumulative incidence of 522.65 cases per 100,000.

Food and bars reopening in Catalonia

Closed stores and empty food hall at Maremagnum shopping center in Barcelona.
Closed stores and empty food hall at Maremagnum shopping center in Barcelona. Andreu Dalmau (EFE)

In Catalonia, authorities said on Tuesday that they are planning to let food and drink establishments reopen on November 23, after more than a month of forced closures. The announcement is backed by an improving trend in Catalonia’s epidemiological figures.

The Catalan government’s draft deescalation plan establishes that bars and restaurants will be able to reopen, although they may only operate at 30% of their capacity both indoors and in outdoor seating areas, and must close by 5pm. But these rules could still change after the executive meets with industry leaders, noted government officials.

The sector had been hoping for better terms, including indoor capacity of 30 to 50% in the initial phase of deescalation, as well as 100% in outdoor seating areas, with opening hours extending until 11pm.

The Catalan health chief, Alba Vergés, has asked for prudence and warned that the deescalation process should not be rushed. The regional government’s plan also contemplates allowing movie theaters, auditoriums and concert halls with seating for under 600 to reopen at 50% capacity. Outdoor sports will be allowed as well.

“We are working on a reopening plan with different phases and depending on how epidemiological data evolve, we will gradually open,” said Meritxell Budó, the Catalan government spokesperson. “Management goes beyond the realm of healthcare; the health-economy combination needs to be considered.”

Madrid pharmacy tests

Madrid Deputy Premier Ignacio Aguado inside the regional assembly.
Madrid Deputy Premier Ignacio Aguado inside the regional assembly. Óscar Cañas (Europa Press)

In Madrid, regional premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso has sent a letter to European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen asking for European support for Madrid’s proposal to make coronavirus antigen tests available at pharmacies.

In her letter to the Commission, Ayuso notes that the Spanish drug approval agency, the AEMPS, does not allow pharmacies to administer these tests. But the regional leader argues that these establishments are perfectly equipped to do so. “That is why I would consider it useful if some European authority could validate this new form of testing, not just in Spain but also in the rest of European regions,” said Ayuso.

Shortly before news of this request emerged, Deputy Premier Ignacio Aguado had once again urged the central government to authorize free antigen tests at Madrid pharmacies. Aguado said he would like it if all Madrileños were able to take the test in order to safely join their loved ones over the Christmas holidays.

In Catalonia, the regional health department said last week that it was also planning to expand the use of antigen tests and that it was hoping to include pharmacies as administration points.

With reporting by Cristina Vázquez, Emilio Sánchez Hidalgo and Jessica Mouzo.

English version by Susana Urra.

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