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VALENCIA

How Spain’s Valencia region plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions in March

Residents of Valencia, Alicante and Castellón provinces can look forward to fewer Covid-19 restrictions from March 1.

How Spain's Valencia region plans to ease Covid-19 restrictions in March
Image: AFP

President of the Valencian Government Ximo Puig on Wednesday announced the relaxation of several Covid restrictions, which will come into effect from midnight on March 1st.

This comes after Covid-19 cases in the region have fallen to 176 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, which is now half the national average.

One of the biggest changes is that bars, restaurants and cafes will finally be able to reopen. Dining will however only be allowed on the terraces and capacity will be reduced to 50 percent.

They will also have limited opening hours, although it hasn’t yet been decided if they will be forced to close at 6pm or 8pm. The maximum number of diners allowed at each table will also be announced in the coming days.

16 municipalities with more than 50,000 inhabitants will no long have border closures on weekends between 3pm on Fridays and 6am on Mondays, meaning that from March 1st people will be able to travel freely between them.  

This will affect 2.5 million residents in the towns and cities of Valencia, Alicante, Elche, Torrevieja, Torrent, Orihuela, Gandia, Paterna, Benidorm, Sagunt, Alcoy, Sant Vicent del Raspeig, Elda-Petrer and Vila-real. 

READ ALSO: What are the latest Covid-19 restrictions across all of Spain?

There will however remain a perimital border closure around the whole of the Valencian Community, and travel in and out of the region will be prohibited, except for very specific reasons such as work, education, medical or assisting those in need.

While indoor sports facilities such as gyms and swimming pools are to remain closed, the Valencian government will be allowing outdoor sports to be resumed. The maximum number of people and rules as to whether a mask will be required or not however, has not yet been decided.

During the de-escalation announcements, President Puig also announced that the region’s famed Las Fallas festival will be celebrated virtually for the first time ever.

The nightly curfew from 10pm to 6am will also remain in place and non-essential shops will still have to close at 6pm. Stores have petitioned the government to allow them to close at 8pm instead, but as of yet no change has been made.

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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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