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Q&A: What you can and can’t do under Catalonia’s new restrictions

Spain's northeastern region of Catalonia became the latest region to order new restrictions amid a surge of new coronavirus cases.

Q&A: What you can and can't do under Catalonia’s new restrictions
Photos: AFP

Here's the answer to common questions about what you can and can't do under the new restrictions, which come into force on late on Thursday night and will last until at least November 2nd. 

Can I meet friends for a drink in a bar or a cafe?

No, for the next 15 days, across the whole of Catalonia, all bars, even those with outdoor tables, will be closed.

Can I go out for dinner?

Again, all restaurants are closed except those serving food for home delivery or takeaway.

What about hotel restaurants?

They will only be allowed to serve guests who are staying at the hotel.

So that means hotels are open?

Yes, some but not all hotels are still open, but they have reduced occupancy and occupation limits of 50 percent within public spaces.

Can I meet friends or family anywhere?

Yes, as long as social gatherings are limited to six people maximum meeting either in the home or in a public place such as a park.

That said, the Generalitat is recommending that people avoid social interaction and to avoid trips outside of the home unless they are strictly necessary.

Can I go to work?

Yes, although the regional government has recommended that people work from home where possible. Those who do have to go into the work place are reminded to take extra care with social distancing and tighten hygiene measures.

Are the schools remaining open? 

Yes, schools aren't covered by the new restrictions but are still operating in bubbles and with strict procedures for dealing with suspected outbreaks. 

READ ALSO: What happens when there is a Covid-19 outbreak at a school in Spain?

What about universities?

Classes in person have been suspended until November 2nd under the restrictions at all universities across Catalonia. Instead, classes will be given on line. 

Any changes to public transport?

Public transport will be working as normal, according to authorities with usual services provided. However masks are mandatory and hand santizer gel must be provided at all stations.

Are gyms open?

Yes, but they are limited to 50 percent of normal occupancy and appointments for training or classes must be made in advance.

What about sports events?

All sporting competitions, whether school, state-run or private, have been suspended for the next 15 days to limit travel of athletes around the region. But training sessions are allowed to continue and so sports facilities will remain open.

Can I still go to the shops?

Yes, all shops, stores, markets can remain open but with the occupancy limited to 30 percent as long as they can guarantee clients can maintain a distance of 1.5metres between each other.

What about hairdressers and beauty salons?

Hairdressing salons are allowed to remain open as long as they operate with advanced appointments and limit numbers in the salon but beauty treatments that involve close bodily contact such as massages or cosmetic treatments are suspended.

Can I go to the cinema or theatre?

Yes, but the occupancy of cultural spaces such as these are limited to 50 percent with assigned seats.

Can I go to a park?

Yes, parks and children’s playground will remain open but only until 8pm.

What about amusement parks?

No, these will be closed until at least the end of October.

Are bingo halls and casinos open?

No. These type of places, as well as nightclubs have been closed since the start of the State of Emergency lockdown in March and have not been allowed to reopen.

What about religious services?

Yes, religious services, including mass, funerals and weddings are allowed to continue but with a reduced capacity of 50 percent.

Are the beaches still open?

Yes. A walk on the beach is fine but don't gather with more than six people. 

Can I travel freely within the Catalonia region?

Yes, there is no restriction on mobility and travel is allowed between municipalities and there is no restriction on entering or exiting the region. However, authorities are recommending that people only undertake essential travel.

Will fines be issued for breaking the restrictions?

Yes. Miquel Samper, the regional Interior Minister confirmed that penalties will range from €300 to €6,000 depending on the severity of the breach.

He asked for the collaboration of citizens to report those in breach of the restrictions.

When do the restrictions come into force?  

At midnight on Thursday night and they will last until at least November 2nd. 

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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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