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Spanish police carry out random checks as Madrid’s partial lockdown begins

Police set up temporary checkpoints over the weekend, as residents of Madrid and nine nearby towns began a partial lockdown where they can't leave the city except for school, work or medical reasons.

Spanish police carry out random checks as Madrid's partial lockdown begins
A local police officer checks a driver's identification in a traffic checkpoint, to control people's movement in Madrid, on October 3, 2020. OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

“Nothing has changed, it's just like any other day in the neighbourhood,” shrugged Martinio Sanchez on a busy street in Madrid, a city in partial lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“They should have done this in August and maybe we wouldn't be where we are right now,” said the 70-year-old as he walked his dog through the eastern neighbourhood of Ciudad Lineal.

Some 4.5 million people are affected by the closure, which came into force at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT) on Friday as the region battles a soaring infection rate of 730 cases per 100,000 people, compared with just 300 per 100,000 in the rest of Spain — in itself the highest rate in the European Union.

For the next 14 days, residents of the capital and nine nearby towns, will not be able to leave the city limits except for work, school or medical reasons.

But they are not confined to their homes and can circulate freely.

UPDATED Q&A: What you can and can't do under Madrid's new lockdown rule

Hours after the city limits were closed off to all non-essential traffic, masked police could be seen setting up temporary checkpoints and stopping cars for about 20 minutes before moving on, an AFP correspondent said.

People wearing face masks cross a street as local police officers control people's movement in a traffic checkpoint in Madrid, on October 3, 2020.  OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

“It affects me because because I work outside Madrid and I cannot move around with the freedom I'd like to,” 45-year-old sales manager Alberto Sanchez told AFPTV, saying the regional government should have acted much earlier.

“It could have been different if the Madrid region had done its homework and started hiring contact tracers four months ago and following advice from Europe and the government,” he fumed.

But inside the city, little appeared to have changed with life largely carrying on as normal on a brilliant October morning with a sharp autumnal chill in the area.

“Everything's open and you can't see police anywhere. We can move around Madrid but you can't go out to the nearby villages or to the mountains,” said Feliza Sanchez, 78.

“I don't know how this is going to change the situation we have at the moment.”

Sitting on a bar stool nursing a beer and a slice of Spanish omelette, Jorge Alvarez said the restrictions wouldn't have much impact on his life.

“In principle, nothing will change. I will continue to live a normal life because you can't lock yourself up inside your house and not work,” said Alvarez, a 49-year-old metal worker.

“Who knows if it will stop the virus spreading? But obviously people in the bar and restaurant industry are going to lose a lot of money,” he said.

Hospitality industry hit

For those in the bar and restaurant sector, who must reduce their indoor seating capacity by half and close by 11:00 pm, the new rules are a huge blow, particularly in a country where people tend to socialise late into the night.

Men have coffee at a cafe in the neighbourhood of Vallecas in Madrid on September 17, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

“It's going to affect us terribly,” said Baldomero Cubas, 50, who manages the Cerveceria Santa Ana in the city centre.

“With this measure many bars will think about closing, because if we were struggling before, now we can only have 60 percent seating capacity outside and 50 percent inside. And on top of that, with closing by 11, we're looking at a loss rather than breaking even.”

ANALYSIS: Why Madrid and not Barcelona is the epicentre of Spain's coronavirus second wave

And some fear they simply won't survive, such as Jorge Luis Ortega Pina, who owns the Degustando tavern, a tiny but popular bar in Ciudad Lineal with counter seating for barely 15 people.

“I will almost certainly have to close,” the 50-year-old says, standing behind a gleaming counter. He adds that he has done everything possible to try and create distance between customers.

“With these restrictions I will be lucky to bring in 1,500 euros ($1,750) a month and we are a family of four. I've no idea how I'm going to manage.”

People, he said, had been brought to their knees by the economic devastation caused by pandemic which had left many people struggling to survive, even with financial help from the government.

“There are going to be riots in the street,” he warned, saying even the charity sector was struggling with the sheer numbers of people in need.

“Caritas is overwhelmed, the Red Cross is overwhelmed, everything is just falling apart,” he said.

The corona virus has now killed nearly 32,000 people in Spain and has infected around 760,000.

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

FACT CHECK: Do you still need Covid documents to travel to Spain?

There has been some confusion in the Spanish and English-language press following the announcement this week that Spain has scrapped its Covid health travel form. Here’s what Brits, Americans and other international travellers need to know about Spain’s existing travel restrictions. 

FACT CHECK: Do you still need Covid documents to travel to Spain?

(Scroll down to the bottom if you want the quick answer).

In recent days, Spanish authorities have made two important announcements regarding the country’s Covid-19 entry rules for foreigners. 

Firstly, Spain extended until November 15th the requirement that non-EU visitors must show a Covid-19 vaccination, test or recovery certificate to enter the country. 

A few days later, the Spanish government announced it would no longer require any international travellers to fill in and show its SpTH health control form.

For those who are unfamiliar with Spain’s complex Covid travel rules, the two changes seemed to contradict each other, or suggest that Spain had U-turned on its decision. 

Indeed, UK newspapers such as The Independent wrongly ran with “Spain finally drops all Covid travel restrictions”, a headline it has since amended. 

Even Spain’s national broadcaster RTVE stated that Spain had ditched the Covid passport requirement.

Both these statements are incorrect.

To clarify, a Covid-19 certificate or passport is one document, and Spain’s health control form is another; they are not the same. 

A Covid-19 certificate is issued by authorities in the country where you were vaccinated or tested, whereas the SpTH form was issued by Spanish authorities.

In any case, the SpTH health control form is now officially not required and will not have to be completed by any international traveller arriving in Spain by air or sea.

The discontinuation of this travel form means that non-EU tourists such as Americans, Australians and Canadians and all other non-EU travellers no longer have to complete this step before arrival in Spain.

For British tourists visiting Spain nothing changes in this regard as the UK has long been on the list of 48 non-EU countries with a certificate equivalency deal with the EU, which exempted their nationals from having to fill in Spain’s health control form. 

Now for the other important matter. 

Non-EU tourists visiting Spain still need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery to visit Spain. 

It applies to all non-EU travellers over the age of 12, but it does not apply to EU citizens or third-country nationals who reside in the EU.

This long-standing Covid travel rule remains in place until at least November 15th 2022.

There was no U-turn in this regard as there is no mention of the Covid-19 passport or certificate being ditched in the Spanish state bulletin (BOE) that focused on the cancellation of the SpTH form. 

Therefore, non-EU tourists such as Britons, Americans, Australians, Canadians or New Zealanders still have to show one of three documents to be able to enter Spain. These are: 

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate –  Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior of departure or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior of departure. 
  • A recovery certificate –  This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status.

Face masks are also still required on planes which are bound for Spain, but you don’t have to wear one at the airport.

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