Spanish police wrong-footed as 25,000 students party at Madrid university

Around 25,000 people joined a massive outdoor drinking party marking the start of term at a Madrid university without observing safety precautions, police said Saturday, admitting they were caught off-guard.

Spanish police wrong-footed as 25,000 students party at Madrid university
Police in Madrid watch over a demo in 2019. File photo: OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

Spanish media said it was the biggest such gathering since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic when large public gatherings were halted to stop the spread of the virus.

“There were thousands of people on the grounds of Complutense University, about 25,000,” a municipal police statement said, indicating the gathering appeared to have been organised online via Whatsapp.

Images on social media showed vast crowds of beaming youngsters gathered on the campus, drinking, dancing and hanging out with hardly a mask in sight.

“Without prior warning from the university or time to prepare an appropriate operation, breaking up a gathering of some 25,000 people is an
almost impossible job,” police said, indicating they had only reached the site after midnight.

Unable to disperse the partygoers the police, backed by drones, tried to keep the peace and ensure there were no incidents, especially on the nearby roads and public transport, staying at the site until dawn.

At the weekends, police in Madrid routinely deploy an extra 200 officers to break up outdoor drinking parties, known in Spanish as “botellones”.

A similar gathering took place overnight in Barcelona, where around 8,000 youngsters joined an all-night party on the campus of the city’s Autonomous University, the rector told the Catalan radio station RAC1.

Although Spain has lifted many of its pandemic safety restrictions, people are still required to wear masks outdoors if they are unable to maintain a 1.5-metre (five-foot) safety distance from those around them.

And large gatherings remain banned, although the numbers vary from region to region.

But some people have dropped their guard given the rapid pace of the vaccination programme, with more than 75 percent of Spain’s 47 million residents now fully vaccinated.

Despite a wave of new infections over the summer due to the Delta variant, cases have once again fallen in Spain which has a national incidence rate of 91 cases per 100,000 people, the lowest in over a year.

According to the latest figures published on Friday, Spain registered 3,222 new cases and 44 deaths over the previous 24 hours, raising its total number of infections to 4,929,546 and its overall death toll to 85,783.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Catalonia to give automatic five-day sick leave to people with Covid symptoms

The Catalan Health Ministry has introduced a new way of asking for sick leave from work for those with Covid-19 symptoms. The leave will automatically be given for five days, without the need to present a positive test.

Catalonia to give automatic five-day sick leave to people with Covid symptoms

Catalan Health Service Director Gemma Craywickel, along with the Catalan Public Health Secretary Carmen Cabezas, announced the move during a press conference on Tuesday.

Workers with Covid symptoms can now ask for sick leave from their job through the Meva Salut website, app or via the appointment website here, without the need to present a positive antigen or PCR test. The new service has been available since Tuesday, July 5th.

All that is needed is to log on with a CIP number and password or digital certificate and click on ‘altres servis’ (other services), followed by ‘Programar visites d’atenció primària’, where you usually make an appointment. 

Those who apply will automatically be given sick leave for the next five days, which will be confirmed via text message or e-mail.

If symptoms persist longer than five days, authorities say you should contact your local health centre to ask for the leave to be extended.

The move was introduced in a bid to take the pressure off local health services who attended 105,024 patients in the last week, 16 percent more than during the previous week.

Around 9.07 percent of people who visited hospitals in the region on Monday July 4th -15,817 patients – had symptoms compatible with Covid-19.

In addition, within the last four weeks, Catalan health services have seen 85 percent more patients with acute respiratory illnesses, thought to be a result of Covid-19 infections.

“The measure aims to free up resources for people who really them,” explained Craywinckel.

“It’s a way of simplifying administrative procedures. We already know what the symptoms are, so there is no need for the patient to explain to us face-to-face or over the phone,” she continued.

The number of Covid-19 infections in Catalonia has risen by 15 percent in the last week, with 2,032 hospital admissions, the highest number since mid-February 2022.

There have also been 51 Covid-19 patients admitted to Catalan ICUs in the last week.

Catalan Public Health Secretary Carmen Cabezas called on people to respect the requirement to continue wearing face masks on public transport and said that vulnerable people should keep wearing masks in indoor public spaces too. 

READ MORE: What are the specific mask rules for public transport and travel in Spain?

This is not the first time the Catalan health authorities have introduced an automatic sick leave system for those with Covid-19.

A similar service was introduced earlier this year during the height of the sixth wave, with a seven-day leave period plus the need to present a positive Covid-19 test.

Andalusia also introduced a similar automatic sick leave system for those with Covid-19 and a positive test back in February 2022.