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CHRISTMAS

LATEST: Spain approves coronavirus plan for Christmas

Travel will be banned between regions over the holiday period, unless it is to visit family, and up to ten people will be allowed to meet around the Christmas table and to see in the New Year.

LATEST: Spain approves coronavirus plan for Christmas
A man takes a selfie infront of Christmas lights in Madrid. Photos: AFP

Spain's Health Ministry proposed extending social gatherings to ten people from the current six limit to celebrate Christmas and New Year and will delay the curfew to 1.30 am.

Thes proposals prepared by the Health Ministry to cover the festive period which in Spain lasts from Christmas Eve until Three Kings Day on January 6th were approved by a committee of regional authorities on Wednesday afternoon,

The plan emphasises the 6M rule that recommends that social gatherings are limited to households or a maximum of six people for those not living under the same roof and that they follow what has been termed “6M” – the six rules to limit coronavirus infection risk.

These are Mascarilla (wearing a facemask), Manos (regular washing of hands) Metros (maintaining a social distance of 1.5 metres) Maximizar ventilacion (maximum ventilation either by meeting outside or keeping windows and doors open), Minimizar numero de contactos (minimizing the number of people in social groups) and “Me quedo en casa” (staying at home when you show symptoms, have tested positive or been in contact with someone who has).

 

However, the plan will allow meetings of up to ten people to celebrate lunches and dinners on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as well as New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day extending the limit from a maximum of six which is set for all other social gatherings at other times.

The 10-person limit includes children, and the official recommendation is for people from the same household to celebrate together without outside guests.

“It is desirable that people restrict their mobility and social contacts as much as possible,” Illa said, encouraging people not to move despite the loopholes. “To sum it up, this Christmas we stay at home.”

Under the plan, each autonomous community in Spain will be required to close their borders to limit movement between December 23rd and January 6th.

But the plan includes “travelling to visit family and close friends” as a valid reason to cross perimetral confinements adding to the list of justifications that include travelling to work or to a place of study, seeking medical treatment or to meet an administrative or legal appointment.

This is an added concession from a first draft proposed last week by Health Minister Salvador Illa but he did not explain how this would measure would be policed, and what proof could be shown that a trip was for family reasons rather than tourism purposes.

Another difference to the original draft a week ago is the removal of a clause that would have allowed the traditional race of San Silvestre, a run which takes place on New Year’s Eve in cities across Spain. Instead, the proposal states: “”No major sporting events can be held and virtual participation versions are recommended instead.”

The plan also sees the cancellation of the traditional cabalgatas – the Three Kings parades that take place across Spain on the evening of Jan 5th – in order to avoid crowds and instead replace with static events that can be broadcast on television.

It also recommends that events that draw crowds, such as “campanadas” – the ringing in the New Year in public squares such as Puerta del Sol when according to tradition a grape is consumed on each chime at midnight, be instead celebrated “virtually” by staying at home and watching on television.

The plans include provisions for elderly relatives who live in residential homes to visit their family at Christmas as long as the visit is “restricted to a single address and maintains a stable coexistence bubble.”

Upon return to their residential home it recommends carrying out a PCR and to take extreme measures of prevention and surveillance in the following days.

University students returning home for the holidays are advised to limit their social interactions for ten days prior to their visit home to limit the risk of infection.

The national curfew will remain in place throughout the period with times set by regional authorities but with the exception that on Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, the curfew be delayed until 1.30am to allow people an extra hour to get home.

Other traditional activities held around Christmas in Spain such as Nativity Scenes and Christmas concerts will be allowed to go ahead as long as social distancing can be guaranteed and occupation limited to 50 percent of the usual capacity.

The proposal allows restaurants to be open over the festive period but with the same limits that are currently in place; limited capacity and maximum of six people per table.

Regional governments may also enforce additional measures over the holidays such as confining people within municpalities depending on the epidemiological evolution of the coronavirus within their territories.  

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Member comments

  1. Does anyone know if we will be able to drive through to Torremolinos from Santander in a small campervan on 30th & 31st December to an empty rented flat. We will have Negative Covid Certificates & necessary paperwork. THANKS

  2. In this article, it mentions “regions”. As far as I know, there’s no such thing as a region, in Spain. What does it mean it this context? Is it referring to Provinces (e.g. Malaga, Cadiz, Sevilla) or to Autonomous Communities (e.g. Andalusia)?

  3. Will my partner be able to travel up from the Valenciana region,to Bilbao to take the ferry back to the UK on 30th December?

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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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