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COVID-19

Travel within Spain: Where can I go during Phase 3?

As more than half of Spain’s population moves into Phase 3 of the country’s de-escalation plan, we find out which autonomous communities are allowing travel between provinces and when it will be possible to embark on cross-regional trips.

Travel within Spain: Where can I go during Phase 3?
Photo: AFP

Most Spanish regions entered Phase 3 on Monday June 8th, the final stage of the state of emergency before it ends and the ‘new normal’ begins.

Phase 3 is characterised by a greater capacity for bars, restaurants, shops and cultural venues but also by more freedom of movement within Spain.

Travel between Spain’s 17 autonomous communities will technically not be allowed until June 21st, meaning for example that anyone living in a landlocked region of Spain cannot cross regional borders for a visit to the coast.

However, regional authorities in areas that have low levels of new Covid-19 infections are currently debating whether to allow cross-regional travel before June 21st, especially between bordering provinces in different autonomous communities.

In the case of Spain’s northern regions – Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country – the intention is to allow unrestricted travel between them from June 15th, a week ahead of the end of Phase 3.

What has been confirmed already is the regions where interprovincial travel is now allowed, a welcome message for many looking for sea and sand as summer temperatures fast approach.

The autonomous communities that allow travel between provinces starting on Monday June 8th are as follows:

-Andalusia
-Aragon
-Asturias
-Balearic Islands
-Canary Islands
-Cantabria
-Galicia
– La Rioja
– Melilla
– Murcia
– Navarra
– Basque Country

Madrid, the Valencian region and Castilla y León will either enter or remain in phase 2 on June 8th, meaning travel between provinces will still not be allowed there.

In Catalonia, residents can move between the low-risk areas of Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre. The Alt Pirineu i Aran area, also in phase 3, remains an independent territorial unit within Catalonia as it is surrounded by areas that still remain in phase 2.

In Castilla-La Mancha, travel between Guadalajara and Cuenca, the only provinces that are in phase 3, will be allowed.

Extremadura is the only community in phase 3 that will not allow travel between its provinces, Cáceres and Badajoz, at least until June 15th. 

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COVID-19

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.

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