Q&A: What you can and can’t do under Madrid’s State of Emergency rules

Spain's government on Friday declared a state of emergency in the Madrid area to enforce a partial lockdown to curb rampant virus infections, overriding opposition from the regional authorities.

Q&A: What you can and can’t do under Madrid’s State of Emergency rules
Photos: AFP

Residents in Madrid and eight other municipalities will again be subject to restrictions aimed at stemming the rising number of Covid-19 infections.

“The government has decided to declare a state of emergency… for the next 15 days,” said Health Minister Salvador Illa following an urgent two-hour cabinet meeting called in response to opposition from regional authorities which saw a bombshell court ruling overturn restrictions imposed since last Friday.

“Protecting the health of Madrid's people is absolutely essential,”insisted Illa, saying 66 people had died over the past week and some 500 were “fighting for their lives in intensive care”.   

“Patience has a limit,” he said, pointing the finger at Madrid's leadersfor failing to act.   

“Measures must be taken to protect the health of the people of Madrid and to prevent this from spreading to other regions.”

Here's the answers to questions about how the new rules impact daily life.

The new order was published on Friday in Spain's Offical State Gazette (BOCM) and provides details on the restrictions.

Which areas fall under the restrictions?

The rules impose restrictions in municpalities with more than 100,000 residents within their jurisdiction if three conditions were met.

The criteria is if the municipality has reported more than 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days; it must have 35 percent or more intensive care beds occupied by Covid-19 patients, and positive results in at least 10 percent of PCR tests.   

At the current time, only Madrid capital and eight other municipalities within the Madrid Community meet the criteria, which are the following:

Madrid capital, Alcobendas, Alcorcón, Fuenlabrada, Getafe, Leganés, Torrejón de Ardoz, Móstoles and Parla.

These are the same municipalities that were restricted from last Friday apart from Alcalá de Henares which was removed from the list as its data improved and the cumulative incident rate fell below 500 cases per 100,000.


Are residents confined to their homes?

No. Unlike the strict lockdown imposed in March during Spain's State of Emergency, the restrictions are not designed to confine people in their homes.

Instead movement is restricted to within the city limits. But there are exceptions which include leaving or entering the restricted area for reasons of work, study, to care for dependents – such as the elderly or one's children if they live in another home, to seek medical treatment, take an exam or because of a judicial or administrative appointment.

Exceptions are also made for a “force majeure” and for those returning to their “primary residence”.

So schools and work places remain open? 

Yes, unless there is an outbreak that requires quarantine, offices and schools remain open and you are allowed to leave or enter a restricted zone if going there.

Can I still go to the shops or to restaurants?

Yes, if they are within the limits of your municipality although shops and commercial premises must reduce their occupancy to 50 percent of the maximum and must close by 10pm.

Restaurants and bars will still be open but with a reduced occupancy of 50 percent and with table service only. But on terraces, that limit is extended to 60 percent of usual occupancy as long as social distancing of 1.5 metres can be observed both between people at the same table and between tables.

Groups cannot exceed six people either in public or in private throughout the whole region, although there are exceptions for work or institutional situations.

Restaurants and bars cannot admit new customers after 10pm and they must close by 11pm.

What about home delivery?

That is allowed with no restrictions.

Is there a limit on groups at home?

Yes. The notice published in the BOE states that gatherings both at home and in public spaces should not exceed six people outside of a working or institutional environment. An exception is made for households that contain more than six people.

Will the parks close?

No mention is made of public parks, gardens or children’s playgrounds being closed in the BOE note.

What about religious sites?

The capacity at religious sites will be cut to one-third and funeral attendees reduced to 15 people in outdoor spaces and 10 indoors.

Are there limits on sports and gyms?

Sports centres and gyms will remain open but limited to 50 percent of capacity indoors and 60 percent outside but classes must not involve more than 6 people all together.

What about cinemas, theatres and cultural activities?

These will remain open but limited to 50 percent of capacity and with social distancing observed.

Will we still have to wear masks?


The usual social distancing rules and compulsory mask wearing will remain in place with the same exceptions, which means that when sitting at a table to eat and drink they can be removed.

Can I cross a restricted area?

Traffic will be permitted to pass through the restricted area as long as it is only in transit and its departure and destination points are outside of the restricted zone.

Will public transport be running?

Yes. And you will be allowed to transit a restricted area using public transport as long as your departure and destination points are outside of the restricted zone.

Can I go my second home, a casa rural or a day trip to the countryside?

Unfortunately not, unless it happens to be within the same municipality! That means no weekend trip to the pueblo for a nice autumnal walk in the sierra.

Can I leave for the puente?

No. The over-riding message is that the state of emergency was declared to prevent a mass exodus of people from the city over the three day bank holiday weekend.

Anything else?

The notice has the recommendation that within a restricted zone, unnecessary movement or trips should be avoided.

How will it be policed?

There will be checkpoints on the main roads leaving the city and at transport hubs that will be policed by some 7,000 members of security forces including local and municipal police, Guardia Civil and Policia Nacional. 

Fines can be issued for infractions ranging from €600 to €600,000.

Will we need permits or authorizations?

Always carry identification and whatever documentation you can supply to back up your justification for leaving or entering restricted zone should help at a check point. 

EXPLAINED: How to prove you need to enter or exit Madrid’s restricted zones

What about the “health zones” that already had restrictions from the Madrid health authorities in place?

Those that are within municipalities that fall under the new order will have to follow the new restrictions that essentially means they can leave their borders of their basic health zones and are now restricted to the borders of the wider municipality.

However, there are three health zones that are not within the 9 restricted municipalities covered in the State of Emergency and they will have the same restrictions applied. These are: 

Villa del Prado, Humanes – Moraleja de Enmedio and a health zone in San Sebastián de los Reyes called Reyes Católicos. 

How long will it last?

It came into force at 5pm when the order was published on the Offical State Gazette (BOE) and will be in place for 15 days.

To extend it beyond that period, a new order would have to be approved by Spain’s congress.


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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.