A year of the Covid-19 pandemic in Spain: 16 unforgettable photos

It’s been a year since Spain declared the Covid state of alarm and the country’s 47 million inhabitants went into strict lockdown. This visual gallery of powerful photos reveals just how much our lives have changed in 365 days.

A year of the Covid-19 pandemic in Spain: 16 unforgettable photos
Women dressed in flamenco dresses march during a protest to shed light on the difficulties the flamenco fashion sector is facing over coronavirus restrictions, in Seville on February 26, 2021. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP

Before and after Covid: On the left, Barceloneta beach in Barcelona on a busy summer’s day in 2017, on the right the same beach is seen completely empty as Spain’s lockdown began. Photo: Josep LAGO/AFP
A woman pushes a stroller in front of a deserted Puerta de Alcalá monument in Madrid on April 26th, 2020. After six weeks stuck at home, Spain’s children were allowed out to run, play or go for a walk. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS/AFP
Spanish physiotherapist Vicente Barrios helps a patient who had coronavirus exercise and recover after her illness.  By late April Spanish authorities had begun to investigate the tragedies that took place behind closed doors at the country’s retirement homes, where thousands of people died without proper assistance. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP
Neighbours in a residential building in Madrid dance and clap from their windows to pay tribute to Spain’s healthcare workers on March 28th, 2020. Spain’s death toll from Covid-19 surged over 5,600 in the early days of the pandemic after a record 832 people died in 24 hours, and infections soared over 72,000. At that point Spain had the world’s second-highest coronavirus death toll after Italy with 5,690 fatalities. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS /AFP

Carlos (C), 52, sick with Covid-19, says good bye to his wife and daughter after meeting them for the first time since his admission three months earlier and one week after leaving the ICU. Photo: Josep LAGO/AFP
Medical personnel of Hospital del Mar take COVID-19 patient Marta Pascual (72) back to her unit after popping out for a quick breath of fresh air by the sea. By May, Spain had began its deconfinement plan and was slowly allowing people out on walks and for sport. Photo: LLUIS GENE/AFP


The Uceli Quartet perform for an audience made up of plants during a concert created by Spanish artist Eugenio Ampudia at the Liceu Grand Theatre in Barcelona in June 2020. Spain’s art and culture sector remains one of the most badly hit, with ongoing restrictions preventing a return to the stage. Photo:LLUIS GENE/AFP.
As Spain’s shuttered bars and cafes looked to a post-pandemic future, some enterprising businessmen hoped to restore confidence by installing perspex partitions and temperature-reading cameras to keep customers safe. “We are going to have to change our ways of going out,” said Manuel Gil, a 50-year-old running a pilot project at a bakery cafe in Leganes. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
Pamplona’s San Fermin Festival was cancelled along with countless other festivities and traditions that form part of Spanish culture. The two photos show what Pamplona’s main street looked like in July 2020 compared the usual running of the bulls it hosts every year. Photos: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

A man sunbathes surrounded by a barrier tape to set a secure social distance space at Nord Beach in Gandia, near Valencia on July 1, 2020.  The European Union reopened its borders to visitors from 15 countries but excluded the United States, where coronavirus deaths were spiking once again, six months after the first cluster was reported in China. Photo: JOSE JORDAN / AFP
Healthcare workers in Madrid transfer a suspected COVID-19 patient on a stretcher from her home to a hospital in the capital. After the country’s lockdown easing over summer, infections and deaths rose again during the second wave from June to December 2020.  Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP


A priest waits for believers to arrive at Santiago de Compostela Cathedral around Christmas. Spain experienced its third wave of the coronavirus following a spike in cases over the holiday period. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA/AFP
University teachers wait after being vaccinated against Covid-19 during a mas vaccination campaign at the University of Seville. Spain began its Covid vaccine rollout on December 28th and has so far fully vaccinated around 4 percent of its population. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP


Care home residents rejoice at a cinema on Madrid’s Gran Vía after leaving their homes for the first time in a year, having received their Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS/ AFP
Thousands of Spanish flags are placed in the sand at Patacona beach in Valencia, representing Spanish victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. As of March 15th, 3.2 million people have been infected by the coronavirus in Spain and 72,424 have died from the illness. Photo: Jose Jordan/AFP

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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.