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PANDEMIC

Spain’s Health Minister rules out a new lockdown… for now

Spain’s Health Minister has said that the evolution of the pandemic in Spain is moving at an alarming rate, but has ruled out another strict lockdown for now.

Spain's Health Minister rules out a new lockdown… for now
Image: Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP

Health Minister Salvador Illa has warned that there “continues to be an upward trend” in cases and urged people “not to let their guard down, because complicated weeks are ahead”, reported 20Minutos

He assured people though that nowhere in Spain was currently considering a severe lockdown and home confinement like we saw in March 2020.

These drastic measures “are not on anyone’s mind,” Illa said.

On Monday, January 4th the Health Ministry said there was a total of 30,579 infections and 241 deaths since December 31st.

José Sierra, head of the Centre of the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES) said: “It is too early to assess the impact that Christmas has had on the number of infections”, but it is beginning to be “reflected in the hospitalisation figures and positive tests”.

Since the second week of December, the infection rate in Spain has now reached 272 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Currently, the worst-hit regions are Extremadura and the Balearic Islands.

READ MORE: What are the new restrictions for Three Kings day in Spain?

In a recent meeting with health leaders across Spain’s autonomous communities, all regions expressed concern and many were considering advancing curfews and closing large shopping areas.

Several autonomous communities such as Catalonia and Madrid announced new restrictions on Monday, January 4th. Madrid restricted movement in 18 different areas and Catalonia announced closed municipality borders for 10 days from January 7th. They have also closed all but essential shops on weekends and closed gyms for 10 days.

Read also: What are Catalonia's new Covid-19 restrictions?

Valencia also announced new restrictions on January 5th, along with Extremadura and La Rioja. In La Rioja, they announced meeting of no more than four people from different households from January 7th, and in Extremdura hotels and non-essential shops would have to close in municipalities with more than 500 Covid-19 cases. 

Andalusia have said they will wait until after the Reyes celebrations on January 10th to put any new restrictions in place.

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COVID-19

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon. 

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