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CATALONIA

Catalonia to lift mobility restrictions after four long months

Catalonia announced on Thursday that it will lift border closures of the comarcas from next Monday, March 15th, meaning that residents will be able to leave their city confines for the first time in four months.

Catalonia to lift mobility restrictions after four long months
Image: Pau BARRENA / AFP

This was confirmed by the Minister of Health Alba Verges, along with the Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon in a press conference today, March 11th.

They stressed, however, that you will only be allowed to leave your comarca (the name given to different territories within the Catalonia region) with the other people you live with.

In Barcelona, the comarca refers to the city of Barcelona, along with the towns of Badalona, Santa Coloma and Hospitalet de Llobregat. This means that residents will now be able to travel further afield.

This is the first time in four months, since October 31st, that residents will be allowed to leave their city or neighbouring towns.

Interior Minister Miquel Samper said that from Monday, police will be able to ask for a self-responsibility certificate, a document explaining your reason for travelling, as well as a certificate of coexistence from your town hall. If you’re living in Barcelona, here’s how to get your coexistence certificate. You will also find Catalonia’s self-responsibility form in English to print and fill out here.

Police commissioner David Boneta said that there would be an average of 400 daily checks throughout Catalonia, particularly on the borders with other autonomous communities, on motorways and at AVE stations.

The Catalan Health authorities had some difficulty explaining that there would still be restrictions, but inter-county travel would be allowed under certain circumstances. Like many restrictions during the pandemic, it seems that the rules are not entirely clear cut, however a full list of reasons you can travel outside your comarca can be found on the self-responsibility form mentioned above.

These new rules will come into force at midnight on March 15th and end at 11.59pm on Sunday March 28th, although the Generalitat has said they will most likely be “maintained and extended over time”.

Catalan authorities will also allow the opening of non-essential shops of less than 800 square metres at weekends with a capacity of 30 percent. Up until now, only non-essential shops of less than 400 square metres could open Monday to Friday only, at a capacity of 30 percent.

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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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