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CATALONIA

Catalonia tightens restrictions over Christmas and New Year

The Catalan government has announced tighter restrictions over the Christmas and New Year period after a surge in new infections.

Catalonia tightens restrictions over Christmas and New Year
Photos: AFP

Regional authorities announced that bars and restaurants must limit their opening times to cover breakfast and lunch only and not open for dinner and that people not travel outside their own county unless it for justified reason.

Starting on December 21st and continuing until at least January 11th, bars and restaurants will only open to the public from 7:30 to 9:30 am, and from 1 pm to 3:30 pm across the whole of the Catalonia region.

Although take away and delivery service will be allowed in the evenings, dining areas must remain shut.

Moreover, the number of people allowed around a table in a bar or restaurant is reduced to four unless they are from the same social bubble in which case, six people are allowed.

Catalan health authorities also decided that bars and restaurants in shopping malls will be closed to reduce social interaction.

“We hope to control the rise in infections without measures as restrictive as last March or October,” said regional vice-president Pere Aragonès during a press conference on Friday morning.

Restrictions preventing movement between comarques (the equivalent of counties) within the region, which have until now been in force each weekend, will be extended to weekdays.


A map showing each comarca within Catalonia. By Rwxrwxrwx -CC BY-SA

The rules ban people from traveling between counties for non-essential reasons but will allow visits to relatives, to visit a second residence or a hotel with the members of one’s social bubble.

 

The 10 pm to 6 am night curfew will remain in place throughout the Christmas holiday, with extensions until 1 am on December 24th and 31st, and until 11 pm on January 5, the eve of the Three Kings holiday.

Social gatherings continue to be limited to 6 people, with exceptions made on December 24th, 25th, 26th, 31st, and January 1st and 6th to allow 10 people from no more than two different social bubbles.

Catalonia maintains a closed border only allowing those to enter or leave if for justified reasons that include work or study but during the holiday period it will allow visits to family and closest friends (described as allegados, a term that has proved controversial) in line with national guidelines set by Spain's Health Ministry.

 

 

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FACE MASKS

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spain's Health Minister has announced that in the coming days masks will no longer be mandatory on planes, buses, trains, taxis and other means of public transport.

Spain announces end of public transport face mask rule

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday confirmed that face masks would no longer be compulsory on public transport, a measure which has been in place in Spain for almost three years. 

“I will raise the proposal of eliminating the mandatory use of masks on public transport”, she said, adding that next week she will convene with the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System to “put this measure into effect”.  

Darias did not specify exactly when this would happen, although government agreements are usually approved the following day in the Official State Gazette (BOE), so the official end to the mask rule looks set to be on February 8th.

The minister did clarify however that masks would still be mandatory in health settings such as health centres and hospitals “as health experts advise”. 

Last week, Darias reported the possibility of eliminating the mandatory mask rule in pharmacies, but this is currently being “weighed up” by health experts.  

Manuel Franco, an expert in Public Health and a member of the Spanish Society of Public Health and Sanitary Administration (Sespas) explained that “the World Health Organisation (WHO) is already considering the decision to lift the public health emergency warning for Covid-19” and adds that “if this goes ahead, it would make no sense to maintain the mask rule”.  

The use of masks ceased to be mandatory outdoors almost a year ago, on February 10th, 2022.

Then, two months later on April 20th, the government announced they wouldn’t be required indoors either, except in health centres and on public transport. 

The latest bulletin of Sentinel Surveillance of Acute Respiratory Infection in Primary Care (ARIs) and in Hospitals (SARI), announced a drop in infections and hospitalisations and said that the rates for Covid-19 remain stable.

The decision to end the mask rule in February comes after health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health said that masks should no longer be required on public transport

On Wednesday, January 25th the director of the Health Alerts and Emergencies Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Health (CCAES), Fernando Simón, assured that the end of the mask rule on transport would be announced “shortly” either “next week or the following”.  

Then, on Thursday morning, government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, stated that the decision to remove the mask on public transport would be taken “immediately, when possible”, but pointed out that the government was looking at the situation in China first. 

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