OPINION: Do Spain’s new restrictions leave you grateful, upset or just plain confused?

OPINION: Do Spain's new restrictions leave you grateful, upset or just plain confused?
People enjoying drinks on a terraza in Burgos. Photo: AFP
The news that the Spanish government has declared a new state of emergency was greeted with a mixture of emotions by Brits in Spain, writes Sue Wilson of Bremain in Spain.

Some people were grateful for the efforts by national or regional government to stem the viral tide. Others were upset at more restrictions being imposed on their already disrupted lifestyles. Perhaps the most common reaction was confusion.

With the announcement coming last weekend, it’s still early days. As time passes, the rules will surely become clearer, especially as regional authorities clarify what is happening in their own area. While there will certainly be some nationwide rules, the regional governments have a degree of flexibility to tinker around the margins.

It’s not possible to gain immediate answers but it’s useful to know where to look.  A good place to start, if you understand Spanish, is the government’s own website. This presents the official bulletins – in this case, Boletín Official de Estado 282, which confirms the government announcement.

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Websites are a great source of information, such as the English language version of the government website, La Moncloa. The Bremain in Spain website provides updates on Covid rules, as well as a dedicated page for updates from the Embassy. The British Embassy itself is also a reliable and well-informed source. Or you may prefer to source information from social media where you have the opportunity for interaction.

The Embassy Facebook page, Brits in Spain, contains lots of information relating to life in Spain and has regular Q&A sessions. You can sign up for email alerts on the dedicated Embassy website for British residents.

Another excellent social media source is the N332 Road Safety Association Facebook page, which provides national information and shares details of regional government measures.

As regional authorities determine their own Covid measures, they will issue specific guidance. The restrictions could be a moveable feast, thanks to a continuous process of measuring and reviewing their effectiveness in controlling the virus.  

For now, we know that the measures came into immediate force on Sunday, for a period of 15 days. The government hopes to gain support to retain them until May 2021, if necessary, thereby avoiding the need for parliamentary approval every two weeks. This laborious process applied to the previous state of alarm and proved challenging at times.

One thing is abundantly clear: we are all subjected to a night-time curfew for seven hours, although the start and end times will be decided at regional level. The curfew will start no earlier than 10.00 pm and no later than midnight. Bars and restaurant will close in time to ensure clients can get home before the curfew starts.  

Penalty fines will be issued for non-compliance, although there will be exceptions for justifiable reasons. In certain areas – currently Madrid and Catalonia – you will need to complete a form and produce it on demand, explaining your reasons for breaking the restrictions.

The same will apply to restrictions on travel between regions, although the ability to limit movement is a matter for the regional governments to decide. The general idea is for people to stay close to home, especially during the upcoming public holidays, where people traditionally tend to travel to other areas. A bitter pill to swallow is the restriction on numbers of people who can meet, now limited to six.

None of these measures are going to be easy to stomach, especially as we approach Christmas and the New Year. After experiencing one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe, we felt enormous relief to regain most of our freedoms in June.

Although we never came close to returning to normal – whatever that is these days – we enjoyed the breathing space during the summer months.

That the virus is fighting back is a scary prospect, but one we cannot ignore. Without further restrictions, more people will become ill and die. The sooner we can slow the spread, the better for everyone’s sake.

There are so many questions as yet unanswered – some we haven’t even thought of yet. Our best approach is to stay informed and use reliable sources. We must limit our personal contact in the real world but online, we can come together – to inform, comfort and support each other.

If everyone cooperates with the new measures, we can get through these tough times together, and sooner rather than later.

By Sue Wilson – Chair of Bremain in Spain

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