FOR MEMBERS

Will Spain bring back tougher Covid restrictions for Christmas?

Spanish police officers stand guard as people shop for Christmas in the centre of Madrid on December 7, 2020. OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP
Spanish police officers stand guard as people shop for Christmas in the centre of Madrid on December 7, 2020. A lot has changed since last year, but will Spain bring back Covid restrictions as a precaution?Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP
Spain has so far not seen the same spike in Covid cases as its neighbours but some regions experiencing a rise in infections have already suggested they’ll tighten restrictions to avoid a sixth wave over Christmas.

As things stand, Spain has one of the lowest Covid infection rates and hospitalisations across Europe, as well as leading the way in terms of vaccinations among the big countries on the continent. 

For prestigious medical publication The Lancet, Spain is on the cusp of reaching herd immunity, an example to its neighbours of a successful vaccination campaign which highlights the importance of trust in authorities and the public health system. 

“This Christmas is going to be better than the last,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Wednesday, stressing that Spain’s infection rate is “far below” that of other European countries thanks to the “high vaccination rate” and “low denialism”.

“Next year we will be even better. Spain is doing better,” Sánchez assured.

READ ALSO:

But an increasing number of experts are warning that Spain should not drop its guard as infections skyrocket across Europe. 

The Spanish Society of Epidemiology (SEE) has warned that basing Spain’s entire Covid-19 strategy on achieving herd immunity is “insufficient”. 

Face masks and social distancing will continue to be needed over the upcoming holiday period, SEE suggests. 

Professor Rafael Bengoa, a former World Health Organisation health systems director who is now co-director of Spain’s Institute for Health and Strategy, has also said it’s “important to have restrictions” across the country “for most of the winter period”. 

Which regions have hinted at tighter Covid restrictions at Christmas?

Spain’s national fortnightly infection rate currently stands at 63 cases per 100,000 cases, one of the lowest in Europe. 

But the country has moved into the “medium” risk category after surpassing 50 infections per 100,000 last Thursday. 

It’s currently highest in the northern regions of Navarre (135 per 100,000) , the Basque Country (123 per 100,000) and Aragón (104 per 100,000). 

In Galicia, Extremadura, Andalusia, Asturias, Castilla-La Mancha and Cantabria infections are still in the low-risk level. 

Fortunately, pressure on hospitals and ICU wards has only risen slightly so far. 

According to Spanish health ministry data there are currently 1,902 Covid patients occupying hospital beds across the country, 403 in ICU.

Currently, Spain’s 17 autonomous communities have some of the lightest Covid restrictions in place since the pandemic began, with compulsory masks in indoor spaces (unless food and drink are being consumed) the standout measure. 

READ MORE: What Covid-19 restrictions are in place in Spain’s regions in November?

But the evidence suggests this could soon change. 

The Government of Navarra on Thursday announced “it’s not ruling out any scenario” or new restrictions to control its 87 percent rise in cases over the past two weeks. 

Navarran Vice president Javier Remírez even suggested the implementation of the Covid-19 health pass to access bars, restaurants and other venues, a scheme implemented in a number of EU nations but which never took off in Spain. 

“For now, we’re just calling for citizen responsibility,” he concluded. 

Basque president Iñigo Urkullu had a similar message for residents of his region, reiterating for the third time that “it’s in our hands to avoid another spike in cases and new restrictions for Christmas”. 

“Those who haven’t been vaccinated, should go and do it,” Basque health head Gotzone Sagardui said in response to the fact that people who are ending up in hospital are mostly unvaccinated, a scenario repeated across Spain.

Families walk past the Christmas in Barcelona in 2020
Families walk past the Christmas lights in Barcelona last year, when the Spanish government suggested that people only meet with those “in their circle” over the festive period. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)
 

 

In the Balearics, where restrictions on nightlife and other venues were maintained for longer, the fortnightly infection rate has risen to 95 cases per 100,000 people.

Balearic health spokesperson Javier Arranz has suggested bringing back capacity limits on venues and gatherings over the holiday period if Spain looks as if it’s on track for a sixth wave of Covid.

Arranz suggested that Black Friday at the end of November could be a pivotal moment for possible Christmas Covid restrictions.

Authorities in the region of Castilla Y León have also not ruled out bringing back restrictions ahead of Christmas either.

“If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that the situation must be analysed week by week, and although it will depend on many factors, we must all make an effort to prevent the incidence from skyrocketing,” Castilla Y León president Alfonso Fernández Mañueco said on Thursday November 11th. 

With 90 percent of its target population fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Spain is better positioned than any other European nation to avoid a sixth wave of Covid over Christmas.

Could stricter Covid-19 restrictions be introduced nonetheless? 

As a precaution it could be that Spain’s regions – which are responsible for introducing most of their own measures – choose to slightly tighten restrictions to avoid falling into an all too familiar trap. 

What happens over the course of November will decide this. 

READ MORE:


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.