Spain declares ‘state of emergency’ in Madrid to ensure partial lockdown

Spain’s Socialist-led government has invoked a 'state of emergency' to impose a partial lockdown on Madrid to prevent residents leaving at the start of a three day weekend in a stand-off with regional authorities.

Spain declares 'state of emergency' in Madrid to ensure partial lockdown
Ayuso and Sanchez at a recent meeting in Madrid. Photo: AFP

The move came in response to a bombshell court decision on Thursday that effectively cancelled restrictions covering some 4.5 million people in and around the capital, where the rate of infections is twice the national average.

It escalates a standoff between Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s socialist led coalition government and the conservative-led Madrid regional chief who believes the curbs are illegal, excessive and devastating for the local economy.

Spain's socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez had issued an ultimatum: either the region passes the measures itself, or the government declares a state of emergency to push them through.   

Imposed on October 2nd, the restrictions barred residents of the capital and nine nearby towns from leaving the city limits except for work, school or on medical grounds, and also imposed an 11:00 pm curfew on bars and restaurants.   

Ahead of the cabinet meeting, Madrid's government leader Isabel Diaz Ayuso of the conservative Popular Party, was locked in talks with her administration to decide what to do.

In a phone conversation late on Thursday, Sanchez told her the region could issue an order validating the restrictions or ask the central government to impose a state of emergency to ratify the measures.   

Ayuso and Sanchez at a September meeting in Madrid. Photo: AFP


The third option was for the central government to impose such a measure,he told her, saying that in all three cases, the restrictions would remain the same.

With Sanchez away at a ceremony in Barcelona with King Felipe VI, the cabinet meeting was chaired by Carmen Calvo, one of his deputies.

“We have been continually reaching out to the region to deal with the situation to ensure that these measures are kept in place in order to contain the pandemic in Madrid,” Calvo said ahead of the meeting.   

“We have only one objective: to protect Madrid.. If the community cannot do it, we will.”

The order came into force with immediate effect after being approved at the cabinet meeting.

Details of the state of emergency will be published in the BOE on Friday and will be in place for a minimum of 15 days. To extend the state of emergency beyond that will need the permission of Spain's Congress.

To add to the confusion, despite opposing the partial lockdown of the capital, mainly on economic grounds, when the court over ruled the confinement, Diaz Ayuso urged residents to stay within city limits, especially over the forthcoming three-day weekend for Spain's National Day on October 12th.   

“We remain in a situation where incidence of the virus remains very, very high,” national emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon warned on Thursday, urging people to act responsibly.   

“If people go to their second residence in the mountains, or go on holiday even within the region, it implies risk.”   

Meanwhile, a group of scientific and medical organisations representing170,000 professionals published a letter online pleading for an end to the political infighting.

“You must accept, once and for all, that to deal with the pandemic, key decisions must be based on the best-available scientific evidence and completely disconnected from the ongoing political confrontation,” it said.   

By late morning the petition, which was published on, had been signed by nearly 100,000 people.   

The court refused to ratify the restrictions on grounds they were imposed by the central government and not by the regional authorities.  


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TRAVEL: What Covid-19 entry requirements does Spain still have?

The pandemic no longer dominates daily life and travel, but do Spanish authorities still have restrictions in place for international travellers arriving during the summer of 2022?

TRAVEL: What Covid-19 entry requirements does Spain still have?

Spain’s tourism industry is in full swing again after two difficult years, with more than 38 million international visitors in the first half of 2022. 

All domestic restrictions have ended (with the exception of mask wearing in hospitals, other health-related centres, care homes and on public transport). 

But how about Covid-19 travel restrictions? Are the tests, form-filling and proof of vaccination that made travel to Spain in 2020 and 2021 more complicated still in place?

EU/Schengen Area countries

Passengers arriving in Spain by air or sea from EU and/or Schengen countries are not required to show proof of their Covid-19 status through a certificate (vaccination, testing or recovery) nor fill in the SpTH health control form that was previously needed.

For travellers who live in EU/Schengen nations, travel to Spain is now practically the same as it was in 2019 before the pandemic began, except that they will be required to wear a mask on the plane or inside the ferry (mask wearing on the latter depends on certain conditions).

Non-EU/Schengen countries

For UK nationals, Americans, Indians, Australians and all other third-country nationals arriving in Spain by air or sea, the pre-existing Covid-19 requirements are technically (more on this further down) still in place.

Therefore, non-EU/Schengen travellers arriving in Spain should be able to prove either that they’re:

  • Fully vaccinated. 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.
  • Had a Covid-19 test which came back negative. This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure. 
  • Recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status on entry to Spain. 

The easiest way to show proof of one of the above is by showing your Covid-19 digital or paper certificate issued by the relevant authority of your country. So far, 48 non-EU countries (and territories) have joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate equivalence system, which you can check out here

If the country where you were issued a vaccination, testing or recovery certificate isn’t on the list, then you will have to fill in Spain’s health control form before travel to Spain. 

It’s worth noting that the above requirements do not apply to children under the age of 12.

Is Spain really still asking non-EU travellers to show a Covid-19 certificate?

This really depends on the airport, the airport official and any other number of factors.

It is clear that Covid-19 and the seriousness with which Spain’s Health Ministry and therefore airport border officials treat the pandemic has fallen considerably in recent months.

Many non-EU travellers on Twitter have commented on the fact that they were not asked to show any proof of Covid vaccination, testing or recovery upon arrival in Spain. 

Others who have visited the country during the summer of 2022 have said that they were asked to provide proof of their Covid status.

Therefore, even though for those who go to the trouble of paying for a Covid-19 test which then doesn’t get checked it can seem like a waste of money, it is better to be safe than sorry.

All non-EU travellers should therefore keep in mind that, technically speaking, Spain’s rules still state that arrivals from outside of the EU/Schengen Area by air or sea must have proof of vaccination, testing or recovery, so make sure you carry this with you.