Spanish regions consider stricter Covid-19 measures ahead of holidays

Central and regional officials are meeting to discuss changes to the Christmas plan due to a surge in infections

A healthcare worker conducts an antigen test during a mass coronavirus screening at Santa Creu i Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona.
A healthcare worker conducts an antigen test during a mass coronavirus screening at Santa Creu i Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona.Lluís Gené (AFP)

With just a few days to go before Christmas, the Spanish Health Ministry will on Wednesday ask regional governments to consider even tighter coronavirus restrictions for the holidays if epidemiological figures keep getting worse. But some regions have already announced new measures, or said these are being considered, ahead of a meeting of central and regional health authorities due to take place on Wednesday afternoon.

When the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Healthcare System convenes, health ministry officials will ask regional leaders to re-evaluate their measures and tighten them in places with high incidence rates.

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez speaking in Congress on Wednesday.
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez speaking in Congress on Wednesday.J.J. Guillén (EFE)

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had already suggested in Congress that in light of worsening coronavirus data, the government might propose stricter measures than those set out in a Christmas plan drafted two weeks ago, when infections and incidence were on a downward trend.

That plan contemplated gatherings of up to 10 people, shorter curfews than the one currently in place, and sealed regional borders that would still allow people to travel across regions to visit close friends and family between December 23 and January 6. Some regions had already tweaked these rules to restrict mobility further.

But now, with a rising incidence rate and transmission picking up speed, the national plan itself may be altered to reflect the new situation. Any changes are likely to affect travel dates, size of gatherings, curfew times and public events.

In Catalonia, acting premier Pere Aragonès said that his “hands will not shake” if it becomes necessary to reintroduce new restrictions after the region had announced a gradual reopening plan. “We have to stop this,” he said inside the Catalan parliament, alluding to a new surge in cases. “We’re not doing well, not at all. We need to speak clearly and frankly; citizens deserve to be treated like adult, responsible people.”

In the Valencia region, health department chief Ana Barceló said that the recent long weekend has negatively affected the downward trend in infections of the last four weeks, and that regional officials will analyze the situation on Thursday to determine whether new restrictions are required, the news agency Europa Press reported. Barceló said that “measures are never unmovable.” The Valencian government already has tighter rules in place than the national guidelines.

The borders of La Rioja will remain sealed until January 15, regional premier Concha Andreu announced on Wednesday. Travel across regional lines will be allowed from December 23 to 26 and from December 30 to January 2 in order to visit close friends and family members. And Cantabria will extend restrictions on hospitality a further 14 days, with indoor restaurant service on hold until then. The measure takes effect on Friday and will extend until January 1.

In the Basque Country, regional premier Iñigo Urkullu has also suggested that Christmas measures may be tightened soon. The situation will be analyzed on Friday by the Advisory Council for Civil Protection of the Basque Country, the Efe news agency reported.

English version by Susana Urra.

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