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What changes about life in Spain under the ‘new normal’

Spain’s deconfinement plan ends on June 21st and a period of ‘new normality’ will be ushered in as the country tries to get its economy back on track without it leading to another Covid-19 outbreak.

What changes about life in Spain under the 'new normal'
Photos: AFP

When does it start?

Spain’s state of emergency will end on Sunday June 21st and on Monday June 22nd the country will begin its period of “nueva normalidad”, as the measure approved by decree on Tuesday by the Spanish Cabinet has been dubbed.

How long will the ‘new normal’ last for?

Technically an end date hasn’t been set in stone yet.

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa announced that the decree will be in place until the government declares “that the crisis is over,” in other words until the health epidemic is under control or there is an effective treatment or vaccine against Covid-19.

Latest international estimates point to a vaccine being provided for the general public at the earliest in 2021.

Will the ‘new normal’ start on June 21st across all of Spain?

Yes, even in cities like Madrid and Barcelona where higher-than-average infection rates have kept residents a phase behind the rest of the country.

According to the government, they will go directly from Phase 2 to the ‘new normal’, without having to first endure Phase 3. 

How is the ‘new normal’ different from Spain’s de-escalation phases?

The most important measure that will be kept in place after June 21st is that face masks will still be compulsory in public places where social distancing between people can’t be observed.

The new safety distance will be of 1.5 metres rather than 2 metres.

Those who don’t wear a mask in enclosed spaces or on public transport will face fines of up to €100.

The decree also opens up the possibility of punishing non-face mask usage in open spaces, although the application of these penalties and measures will be up to regional authorities to decide on.

“In the new normality there is no central control,” said Spain’s Health Minister Illa on Tuesday.

“Regions in Phase 3 already have the power to lift the state of alarm when they consider it fitting.”

Under the ‘new normal’, technically all public spaces and business activities will restart in Spain, but with the necessary hygiene and social distancing measures in place.

Local authorities are likely to limit the attendance capacity of places that are often crowded during summer such as beaches.


 

Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen but dancing won’t be allowed.

Spain’s football leagues will restart on Thursday June 11th but without any fans in the stadiums and it still remains unclear when larger events such as music festivals will be allowed during the ‘new normal’. 

How about travel?

From June 22nd, all travel within Spain’s 17 autonomous communities will be allowed, unless a serious new outbreak in a particular region were to mean that restrictions had to be put in place there.

Under Phase 3 of the de-escalation plan, running from June 8th to June 21st, travel between the provinces that make up a region is allowed in some autonomous communities.

As for international travel, Spain along with most countries in the EU and Schengen area will open their borders to non-essential travel from June 21st – brought forward from the original date of July 1st.

Spanish authorities are yet to confirm when travel from outside of the EU to Spain will be allowed.  

Q&A: What we know about travelling to Spain this summer

 

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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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