How Spain’s rules about car travel during lockdown have changed

The rules concerning who can be in a car and when it can be driven during the different phases of Spain’s de-escalation plan have been clarified.

How Spain's rules about car travel during lockdown have changed
Photos: AFP

When lockdown was first put in place on March 14th, strict rules were put in place that restricted journeys to only those that were considered essential and limited the occupancy to the driver alone, unless there were exceptional circumstances.

Certain restrictions were lifted when Spain moved in the preparatory Phase Zero of the “Plan for the transition to a new normal” to allow people from the same household to travel in private vehicles of up to nine seats as long as they maintain one seat distance between them.

Further restrictions have been lifted now half of Spain has progressed to Phase One of lifting lockdown and the rules amended to include those living in provinces or health sectors that remain in Phase Zero.

Here’s what the rules now say:

In a new order published on Spain's Official State Bulletin (BOE), which came into force at midnight on Sunday May 10, members of the same household are allowed to travel in the same car, occupying all of the seats and without having to wear a mask.

This applies to all areas of Spain whether they are in Phase Zero and Phase 1.

For those who do not live in the same household but have a legitimate reason to be in the same vehicle, two people allowed to travel in each row of seats as long as they sit as far apart as possible in in vehicles of up to nine seats “providing that they use a mask and respect the maximum distance possible between occupants.”

The change also applies to private hire vehicles of up to nine seats such as a taxi or Uber.

The new rules also state that motorcyclists will be able to take a passenger without the use of a mask provided they live in the same household. If they don’t then masks must be worn or the complete helmets that not only have a visor but also cover the mouth area.



What trips are allowed?

The general rule for driving stipulated at the start of the ‘state of alarm’ lockdown on March 14th had been that only one person (the driver) could travel to buy essential products such as food, medicine or petrol, to travel to work if they couldn’t work from home or to visit and help an older or vulnerable relative.

In Phase 1 there is a lot more freedom when it comes to car use. People are allowed to use the car to travel around within the same province or health territory but are not allowed to cross boundaries into another province.

This means that you are allowed to visit nature spots – such as hiking areas or the beach (in those municipalities where they are open), second homes, or the homes of friends and family all within the same province (as long as those meetings have a maximum of ten people).

You are also allowed to drive to restaurants that have opened their terraces or to commercial premises that have operating with limited number of customers entering at any one time and can observe hygiene measures.

You may also visit outdoor markets that are now operational in Phase 1 and drive to museums, librariries or other cultural centres that are running events (which will have a reduced occupancy and observe social distancing and hygiene measures).

You are also allowed to drive for a stay at a hotel or tourist accommodation as long as it is within the same province. (These are allowed to reopen as long as they can comply with hygiene measures but keep communal areas such as dining rooms closed).


Technical Vehicle Inspection centres which have been closed since the state of emergency was declared on March 14are allowed to reopen during Phase 1 although appointments should be made in advance.

What you are not allowed to do:

The big no-no even in Phase 1 is driving outside of the province within which you live. Police are still carrying out spot checks as well as setting up road blocks on those highways that lead in and out of the city.



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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.