EXPLAINED: How Spain plans to reopen nightclubs and hold big events soon

Spain’s national government is confident that the country’s falling infection rate and advanced vaccination campaign means some regions are now ready to kick-start their nightlife scene again and hold events with up to 10,000 attendees. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How Spain plans to reopen nightclubs and hold big events soon
The Catalan town of Sitges recently held a clinical trial in which people were asked to go out and party, all in the name of science.Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP

What is the latest?

Spain’s Ministry Health has put the ball in the court of the country’s 17 regions and two autonomous cities and proposed that they gradually start to reopen nightlife venues and hold big events. 

If the autonomous communities agree to it, it would not only signal the return of one of the most quintessential parts of Spanish culture – its buzzing nightlife scene and its love of festivals (both traditional and modern) – but also represent a lifeline for one of the sectors that’s suffered the economic impact of the pandemic for the longest time.   

What is being proposed for pubs and nightclubs?

The department headed by Carolina Darias has suggested pubs and nightclubs reopen or are allowed to host more revellers in areas where the fortnightly infection rate is below 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The lower the infection rate, the longer nightlife venues in that area should be able to open, Sanidad (Spain’s health department) has also put forward. 

So for example, in a region or province with a fortnightly infection rate below 50 cases per 100,000 people, discos and bars would be allowed to stay open until 2 am and house 50 percent of their usual capacity of partygoers indoors and 100 percent in outdoor terraces.

Eating and drinking should still only be allowed while sitting at a table, Spanish authorities have stated.

For indoor venues the Health Ministry’s proposed limit per table is six people and for outdoor terraces ten people per table.

Smoking or vaping should not be allowed unless a safety distance can be kept, health authorities have said.

How about for festivals, concerts and other big events?

Municipalities with a medium risk incidence rate below this figure should also be able to hold mass events, Spain’s national Health Department has suggested. 

The proposed capacity for large gatherings would be between 30 and 50 percent of a venue’s usual capacity, with anywhere between 2,500 and 10,000 attendees allowed.

Regions should also factor in whether the event is being held outdoors or indoors, or whether partygoers would be seated or standing up, to ascertain how strict restrictions should be. 

Masks would be mandatory in all cases (even though Spain is currently considering allowing people to not wear masks outdoors) as there are fewer guarantees that in crowded events the safety distance of 1.5 metres can be kept.

Smoking or vaping should not be allowed at any of these large events, health authorities have said.

People gather at a terrace bar during a trial clinical study for a possible reopening of nighlife party on May 20, 2021 in Sitges. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

Which regions would make the cut?

According to the latest epidemiological data, Andalusia, Aragón, Madrid, Melilla, the Basque Country and La Rioja have fortnightly infection rates above 150 cases per 100,000 and therefore wouldn’t currently be encouraged to kick-start their nightlife or party scenes yet. 

In other regions, whether they have fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 people, 50 to 100 infections per 100,000 or 100 to 150 cases per 100,000 would determine which specific measures should be introduced. 

But the regions have the final say, as evidenced by the fact that in Andalusia pubs and nightclubs can currently stay open until 2am. 

In Catalonia on the other hand, the regional high court decided on Tuesday June 1st that nightlife venues should remain closed even though associations representing the establishment have pleaded for them to lift the ban to ensure their survival. 

These recommendations have been included in the Health Ministry’s latest Document of Coordinated Actions (DAC), a ‘ traffic light ‘ guide which is meant to assist the autonomous governments to decide what the Covid-19 restrictions should be in their region. It’s due to be reviewed by Spain’s Public Health Commission, a separate body which assists Sanidad (the Health Ministry) with the national Covid-19 strategy.

In all cases, Spain’s central Health Department suggests that the regions keep a record of revellers at these nightlife venues and events for one month for traceability purposes.

It may still be a while before la fiesta (the party scene) in Spain returns to what it used to be, especially in indoor venues, but the Spanish government’s proposals reflect a change in stance and a small step towards normality, the new normality (la nueva normalidad).


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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?