Spain mulls curfew in next step to curb coronavirus spread

Authorities in the Madrid region are weighing up whether to introduce a city-wide curfew on residents once the current State of Emergency is lifted.

Spain mulls curfew in next step to curb coronavirus spread
Photo: AFP

The Spanish government said Tuesday it was considering imposing a nighttime curfew to halt a rise in virus infections as has been put in place in other European nations like France and Belgium.

“The possibility of imposing a curfew, I insist, is something we have to consider. We have to study that possibility and we are open to everything,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference.

The minister said “several” regional governments, which he did not name, had proposed the measure and the central government was considering the request but his comments came hours after Madrid regional health chief called for such a move. 

“The curfew would allow … that at some hours there’s no mobility, like France has done for example,” Madrid region health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero told Europa Press in an interview on Tuesday.

But Escudero admitted that there was currently no legal framework for regional authorities to impose the order, adding that they would have to ask the central government to pass the measure.

The curfew would see residents confined to their homes between certain hours following measures that have already been introduced in Paris and eight other cities across France.

The measure introduced by President Emmanuel Macron’s government last weeks orders citizens in France’s most blighted cities to stay inside their homes between 9pm and 6am, unless they have a valid reason to be outside (such as work, medical errands or other exceptions).

His comments came amid growing uncertainty on what would happen once the State of Emergency expires.

The measure was imposed on the Madrid region by the central government after regional authorities made a legal appeal against a Health Ministry order in a political spat that has hampered the battle to control coronavirus infections.

But it expires on Saturday unless the government seeks for the order to be extended, a move which needs the approval of a majority of lawmakers in Spain’s Congress and which is unlikely to occur.

Escudero also suggested that Madrid regional government was considering a return to the plan that saw smaller “health zones” confined based on the epidemiological evidence rather than the situation of a perimeter confinement around Madrid city  limits.

Imposing a curfew would require invoking a state of emergency on a national level and the government would want to have the support of the main opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) to adopt it, Illa explained.


Useful vocabulary

  • un toque de queda – curfew
  • un confinamiento total  – total lockdown
  • un confinamiento perimetral de la capital – a perimeter confinement of the capital
  • entró en vigor – comes into force





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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.