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BALEARIC ISLANDS

Spain’s top court lifts curfew and restrictions for meetings in the Balearic Islands 

Spain’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled against the curfew and the limit of people in meetings in private imposed by the Balearic Islands after the end of the state of alarm, considering the restrictions disproportionate for the islands’ low infection rate.

Spain's top court lifts curfew and restrictions for meetings in the Balearic Islands 
An 11pm curfew has been maintained in the Balearics since the end of Spain's state of alarm. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP

Spain’s Supreme Court has cancelled the midnight curfew and the limit of six people for meetings in private settings on the Mediterranean islands of Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. 

According to the judges, the measures that were kept in place in the Balearics despite Spain’s state of alarm ending on May 11th go against citizens’ fundamental rights and “exceed the judgment of proportionality” in a region where the fortnightly Covid infection rate is currently 38.8 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 

This puts the Spanish archipelago in the “low” infection risk category for regions and provinces with infection rates below 50 cases per 100,000 people.

In theory, it would also allow the regional government to open bars and nightclubs until 3am under a new set of eased restrictions rolled out by the central government on Thursday.

However, the Balearic regional government is apprehensive about this, especially as they hope to welcome back international tourists soon and want to keep their infection rate as low as possible.

“We’re still in favour of a slow easing of restrictions, we know we have a lot at stake,” Balearic Health Councillor Patricia Gómez told journalists on Thursday.

Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that caution wasn’t enough of a reason for Balearic authorities to keep such measures in place. 

Imposing measures such as a curfew or limits on gatherings is still possible even without the state of alarm, judges argued, but they have to be truly justified in that they serve to protect public health.

The curfew in the Balearics was actually due to end this weekend but the ruling is important as it’s the first time that the Supreme Court gives its verdict on regional curfews.

It also sets a precedent for similar post-state of alarm restrictions imposed in the Valencian region, where there is also a curfew, and Catalonia , Extremadura , the Canary Islands or Aragon , where there are limitations on gatherings.

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FACE MASKS

Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The Spanish government's health experts have agreed not to review face mask usage on public transport until March 2023, a new report has found, by which stage almost a whole year will have passed since other face mask rules were lifted.

Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

Although masks haven’t been mandatory in indoor public settings (except hospitals, pharmacies, care homes and other health-related centres) since April 20th 2022, face coverings must still be worn on public transport in Spain, such as on buses, planes, taxis, metro carriages and trains.

According to a report published in Spanish news site Voz Populi, Spain’s Emergency Unit has agreed not to review Spain’s face mask rules until March 2023, even though all other Covid-19 domestic and travel restrictions were lifted before the summer of 2022.

The article, which cites internal sources from Spain’s government, adds that the country’s Public Health Commission (a body which advises Spain’s Health Ministry on which measures to introduce) has reportedly agreed to shelve any possible changes until March, and as things stand keep the rule in place “for an indefinite time” as “it is not the right time to remove masks due to the arrival of winter”.

The Health Ministry, however, argues that no fixed date for reviewing face mask legislation has been set.

“We’re taking the German approach,” the Emergency Unit source told Voz Populi about the fact that Germany is the only other country in Europe with similar mask-wearing rules to Spain.

On October 1st, new measures were brought into force in Germany stating that passengers over the age of 14 must wear FFP2 masks on long-distance trains rather than surgical ones, with the German government saying it will not review the legislation until April 2023.

Fernando Simón, Spain’s Health Emergencies chief, told journalists recently that “it’s okay to wait a little bit to see how the disease evolves” before making a decision regarding the complete removal of face masks.

However, if Spanish health experts are indeed looking to follow in the footsteps of Germany, there is even a possibility that the return of face masks to all indoor public settings this winter could happen, or at least a debate about it. 

An increase in Covid and flu cases that’s overburdened hospitals this autumn, as well as the emergence of the new Omicron subvariant BQ.1, has resulted in German authorities considering whether they should bring back old Covid-19 restrictions for the winter months.

Spain is also starting to see an increase in Covid and flu infections, and talk of an eighth coronavirus wave is rumbling in the background, but there has been no mention yet by Health Ministry representatives of a possible return to indoor face mask wearing across the board.

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