Galicia becomes first region in Spain to require Covid ‘health pass’ to access bars, restaurants

Galicia is the first territory in Spain to require its citizens to show proof of their Covid health status to gain access to the interior of cafés, bars and restaurants. 

Galicia becomes first region in Spain to require Covid 'health pass' to access bars, restaurants
A waitress serves take-away coffee in Santiago de Compostela. Photo: Miguel Riopa/AFP

From Thursday July 22th, authorities in the northwestern region of Galicia will expect residents of municipalities with a high or very high infection rate have to show proof that they are immunised against Covid-19 or that they don’t have the virus if they want to go inside their local bars and restaurants. 

This can be done by showing proof of a negative Covid test taken within the last 72 hours, a certificate of full vaccination or proof of recovery from the illness over the past six months

The Covid Digital Certificate issued by each autonomous community in Spain (primarily used for travel) allows people in Spain to create a verified digital document displaying any of these three Covid ‘health passes’.

READ MORE: How to get a Digital Covid Certificate in Spain’s different regions

Galician president Alberto Núñez Feijóo made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday in which he spoke about other new restrictions in the region of 2.7 million people, where the fortnightly infection is currently 502 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

READ MORE: What are the new restrictions in each region of Spain in July?

“We can no longer punish the hospitality sector by forcing them to close and that is why we will keep bars and restaurants open,” Feijóo argued while justifying measures similar to those in place in neighbouring France and Portugal.

“It’s the most appropriate formula to weather this situation.”

Galicia is therefore the first region in Spain to confirm residents will need a Covid health pass to do something as quintessentially Spanish as having a morning coffee at the bar or some tapas in the evening.

The measure still has to be ratified by the Galician High Court but bar and restaurant owners have already started asking customers for proof of a Covid health pass or closing their interiors completely to the public to avoid possible fines, according to local news sources.

It’s not the first time Galicia’s right-wing government implements stricter Covid measures than are commonplace in Spain, having previously been the only region to make Covid vaccines compulsory and the only place which requires visitors from other parts of mainland Spain to notify Galician health authorities when they arrive

But how likely is it that other Spanish regions will follow in the footsteps of Galicia and other EU countries and require a Covid health pass to eat and drink out?

READ MORE: Will Spain require a Covid ‘health pass’ to go to bars, restaurants and events like other EU countries?

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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.