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STATE OF ALARM

‘A lot of emotions’: Spain ends Covid state of alarm

Spain has lifted a state of emergency in place since October to fight the pandemic, allowing Spaniards to travel between regions for the first time in months.

'A lot of emotions': Spain ends Covid state of alarm
People on the beach on Barcelona in April 2021. PAU BARRENA / AFP

“It’s like New Year’s,” said 28-year-old Oriol Corbella in Barcelona, where the lifting of the curfew was met with shouts, applause and music.

“We’re getting a bit of normality back, of freedom, but we have to keep in mind that the virus is still around,” he added.

“I was fed up with not being able to get out of Madrid,” jewellery designer Blaca Valls told AFP on Saturday, echoing the relief of many in the country over the easing of restrictions.

“I felt frustrated, locked down, with no freedom,” added the 46-year-old who plans to go to Galicia, in northwest Spain, next weekend to celebrate a birthday.

Argentina Enriquez, a 37-year-old Mexican student, said she was impatiently waiting to head to the countryside to enjoy barbecues with friends, play the guitar and go for walks.

“Just being together… a lot of emotions,” she said.

Although the emergency measure, which expired at midnight will lead to more freedoms, it is a headache for the country’s 17 regional governments responsible for health care.

The state of emergency provided them with a legal framework to impose measures — such as nighttime curfews or a ban on non-essential travel between regions — that limited freedoms.

Except for a few days over Christmas when the restrictions were lifted, people have not been able to travel to other regions, go on holiday, or see family.

Discouraged by the surge in infections after Christmas, the authorities did not loosen internal travel restrictions during Easter week, normally a peak travel period in Spain.

But what really angered Spaniards was the fact that foreign tourists were able to pour into the country on holiday while they were banned from travelling to the beach or visiting loved ones.

While intra-regional travel bans have ended and curfews have been lifted, not all of the restrictions are being relaxed in Spain, one of Europe’s hardest-hit nations with nearly 79,000 deaths and 3.5 million infections.

Differing legal views

Regions can still restrict opening hours and impose capacity limits in bars and restaurants.

They can also seek court approval for stricter measures such as reimposing curfews, capping the number allowed at home gatherings or extending a ban on internal travel.

But the courts have offered different rulings, leading to a patchwork of measures across the country.

A court in the eastern Valencia region approved a midnight-to-6:00 am curfew, while the top court in the northern Basque Country said the area could not keep its nighttime curfew.

READ MORE: What are the post state of alarm restrictions in each region in Spain?

To avoid this scenario, several regions have lobbied Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government to extend the emergency.

But his administration has refused, saying the measures could not remain in place indefinitely, pointing out that the infection rate was stable and that Spain’s vaccination programme was progressing rapidly.

Even so, it passed a decree allowing regions the right to appeal to the Supreme Court if a local court strikes down a proposed measure.

At the head of a minority government, Sanchez had faced an uphill struggle to cobble together enough support to approve an extension of the state of emergency.

Train ticket sales up

State-owned rail operator Renfe says ticket sales for next week are up 13 percent over the last seven days.

But after more than a year of restrictions, and with the weather turning hot and sunny, the authorities have warned people against letting down their guard.

Spaniards must be careful “not to get the wrong impression about what ending the state of emergency means… it doesn’t mean an end to the restrictions,” the health ministry’s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon
said on Thursday.

Everyone must continue to behave responsibly, he insisted.

“Nothing can be ruled out in terms of the evolution of the pandemic.”

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COVID-19 RULES

What are Spain’s current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

Spain is currently experiencing an eighth Covid wave. For those who test positive during the summer of 2022, here's a reminder of all the rules and recommendations you need to be aware of, concerning asymptomatic, mild and serious cases.

What are Spain's current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

No one wants to get Covid, particularly when the summer season is approaching and many have booked their annual holidays.

But if you do find that you test positive for Covid-19, here’s what you need to know about Spain’s current health rules. 

Whatever questions you have, from wanting to know if you still need to get an official test or inform your doctor, to whether you can go outside and if you need to wear a face mask, we’ve got you covered. 

Q: What if I get Covid but don’t have any symptoms?

A: If you are asymptomatic, in other words you test positive for Covid-19 but don’t experience any symptoms, then it’s not necessary to self-isolate and you are not required to quarantine at home.

Spain’s quarantine requirement for asymptomatic cases was dropped as of March 28th 2022.

However, the health body that advises Spain’s Health Ministry recommends that you still stay at home and rest and that if you do go out, you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week. 

Q: What if I have mild Covid symptoms?

A: If you have mild Covid symptoms, you fall into the same category as those who have no symptoms for Spanish health authorities.

This means that while it’s not mandatory to isolate at home, you should still rest, wear a mask indoors and outdoors and avoid social contact.

The obligatory quarantine for mild cases was also scrapped as of March 28th, 2022.

Q: What if I have severe Covid symptoms?

A: If you have serious Covid symptoms, Spain’s Health Ministry continues to require a quarantine period of seven days, meaning that it’s mandatory.

It is also still required for those classified as part of the high-risk or vulnerable population, which includes those aged 60 or older, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. 

Q: Am I allowed to go outside if I have Covid?

A: Yes, as mentioned above, if you have mild or asymptomatic symptoms you are allowed to go outside while you have Covid. However, you should limit your contact with others for a week to make sure you’re not putting others at risk. You should aim to stay at home as much as possible until your symptoms disappear.

Keep in mind that you are highly contagious in the first few days of the illness, so you may want to avoid going out during that time.

Q: Can I go to events if I have Covid-19?

A: Yes, you can leave the house if you have Covid-19, but as you’re expected to limit your contact with others, going to a large event with hundreds of people is not recommended. You could unknowingly be putting vulnerable people at risk. Health authorities still recommend that you avoid gatherings for at least a week after a positive test. 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask if I test positive?

A: The Spanish Health Ministry has confirmed that those who have Covid must wear a mask for “ten days from the diagnosis” of the virus.

They should be worn indoors, as well as outdoors, if a distance can’t be maintained from others. Experts recommend using the FFP2 masks during this time because even if your symptoms are mild, you can still be contagious.

READ ALSO: How likely is it that Spain will make face masks mandatory indoors again?

Q: Can I go to work if I have Covid-19?

A: If you have mild or asymptomatic Covid-19, although the recommendation is to work from home or take sick leave, you can still go in.

However, the health authorities recommend that you wear a mask, avoid contact with vulnerable people and avoid enclosed spaces with little ventilation.

Q: Is it necessary to get officially tested?

A: No, it’s not necessary to get a PCR or antigen done at your local health centre or at a private clinic any more. An antigen test bought from a pharmacy and performed at home will suffice.

Only those with serious symptoms and high-risk groups should get tested now. Although you it’s not necessary anymore to confirm your infection with a test, it’s still useful to test yourself at home so you can avoid contact with others if it’s positive and know when you can get back to life as normal.

Q: Do I have to tell my doctor if I have or have recently had Covid?

A: No, it’s not necessary for everyone to call their doctor if they have Covid, because not all cases are being counted by authorities anymore.

You may, however, still need to call your doctor if you need to sick leave from work. Those in Catalonia will be given an automatic five-day sick leave if they have Covid symptoms, even if they don’t take a test.  

If you are over the age of 60, are immunosuppressed or are in a high risk group, it’s still a good idea to tell your doctor if you test positive.

Q: What do I do if I have come into close contact with someone who has Covid-19?

A: If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, it’s not necessary for you to take a test or to self-isolate.

The health authorities do recommend that you take precautions though, such as limiting social interactions, wearing a mask and avoid vulnerable people.

Remember that the days before you test positive, but after you have been exposed to the virus are when you are the most contagious. 

Q: What if I get Covid while on holiday in Spain?

A: If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain, you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to inform the local health authorities, unless you are in a vulnerable category.

Like above, Spain’s Health Ministry only recommends that you stay at home and rest, that if you do have to go out you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week.

Different countries have different rules so you may not be able to travel home if you have Covid and may have to wait until you test negative.

READ MORE: What tourists should do if they get Covid while on holiday in Spain? 

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