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Spain’s Andalusia to allow travel between provinces after three-month wait

Andalusia's regional government has announced that provincial border closures will be lifted on Thursday April 29th, whilst the region’s borders and other restrictions remain in place. 

Spain's Andalusia to allow travel between provinces after three-month wait
From Thursday April 29th, it will no longer be necessary to have a justified reason to travel between Andalusia's 8 provinces. Photo: Ander Guillenea/AFP

Travel between Andalusia’s 8 provinces will be possible again on Thursday after three months of border closures to stem the spread of Covid-19 infections. 

Andalusian regional president Juanma Moreno made the announcement after meeting with the committee of experts that advises the Andalusian Government on the management of the coronavirus crisis.

Residents of Andalusia will therefore be able to travel again to Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga and Seville provinces without having to provide a justified reason for crossing their provincial borders. 

However, many of the other restrictions in the region will remain in place until at least May 9th, which marks the end of Spain’s state of alarm.

These are:

Andalusia’s regional borders closure will remain, with travellers having to provide a justified reason to leave or enter the autonomous community, such as going to health or educational centres, to take care of elderly relatives or dependants, to return to a usual place of residence or work/administrative reasons. 

The curfew from 11pm to 6am will continue.

A maximum of 6 people can meet outdoors and 4 indoors in bars and restaurants.

Shops and bars can stay open until 10.30pm. Restaurants can stay open an extra half an hour, but that coincides with the curfew time. 

Municipal border closures will remain in places where the infection rate has surpassed 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In the majority of cases, shops and bars can stay open in these municipalities until 10.30pm. 

Municipalities where the infection rate is over 1,000 cases per 100,000 people have to keep all non-essential retailers and services closed.

Andalusia, Spain’s largest and most populated region with 8.4 million inhabitants, currently has a fortnightly infection rate of 237 cases per 100,000, a rate which has been dropping gradually over the past days.

A total of 8.2 percent of its population has received both doses of the Covid-19 vaccine; 21 percent have received at least one dose.

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COVID-19

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.

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