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

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
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.

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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