Spain eyes closing bars and nightclubs early as Covid cases rise 

Spain’s Health Ministry has drafted a plan which proposes that bars and restaurants close at 11pm and nightclubs at 1am in areas where Covid cases are spiking over Christmas, as the nationwide infection rate continues to gather pace.

Bar staff clear up chairs and tables at a bar terrace in downtown Burgos, in Castilla and Leon region.
Bar staff clear up chairs and tables at a bar terrace in downtown Burgos, in Castilla and Leon region. A limit on opening hours could return to Spain ahead of the Christmas period. Photo: César Manso/AFP

With Christmas just a month away, Spain is slowly but surely seeing its fortnightly infection rate increase by a larger amount every day, standing at 133 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday November 23rd, triple the rate it was a month ago.

The incidence of the virus is currently highest in Navarre – 376 cases per 100,000 people – but Covid hospitalisations are also starting to rise in regions such as Catalonia, where the Covid hospital occupancy rate has shot up by 61 percent in two weeks. 

The figures are still nowhere near as bad as previous stages of the pandemic, but the prospect of Spain completely avoiding Europe’s latest Covid wave is quickly fading away and health authorities will most likely tighten restrictions ahead of Christmas.

How exactly is the matter at hand.

Spain’s Ministry of Health on Monday proposed that regional authorities focus their attention on limiting opening hours for bars and clubs in places where infections and hospitalisations are up. 

The newest draft version of the nationwide Covid traffic light system suggests that in municipalities where the infection rate is at risk level 2 – 100 to 300 infections per 100,000 people –  bars and restaurants should shut at 11pm and nightlife venues at 1am. 

This would currently encompass half of Spain’s autonomous communities. 

The amended traffic light system, which serves as a guide for regional governments to impose local restrictions, also proposes there should be a return to a limit on the number of people per table (ten), 1.5 metres safety distance between tables, a 50 percent capacity limit and no eating or drinking at the bar. 

These are all measures that Spain has previously had. 

A week ago, Spain’s regional authorities rejected an earlier draft of the traffic light system which raised the threshold for what constitutes low and high risk infection rates.

READ MORE: Spain fails to convince its regions to change Covid risk traffic light system

For many regional leaders in Spain, the main focus now is on getting the Covid health pass green-lighted to limit access to hospitality venues for the 4 million unvaccinated people left in the country. 

In essence, they don’t want their vaccinated citizens to have to endure Covid restrictions once more when they’ve done their part. 

READ MORE: Spain’s regions eye Covid health pass to keep sixth wave at bay

But just as the Covid health pass was rejected by a number of regional judges last summer, it seems unlikely once again that it will get the approval it needs to come into force. 

The country’s Health Ministry has ruled out a nationwide Covid health passport and on Monday the Basque Country High Court rejected once again its use under the premise that it breaches fundamental rights. 

So Spain finds itself at a crossroads in terms of what Covid-19 restrictions it should bring in as a less deadly but still highly transmissible wave of Covid-19 sweeps through its largely vaccinated population. 

A return to the old Covid measures seen throughout the pandemic or a new tactic ahead of the festive period?


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What are Spain’s current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

Spain is currently experiencing an eighth Covid wave. For those who test positive during the summer of 2022, here's a reminder of all the rules and recommendations you need to be aware of, concerning asymptomatic, mild and serious cases.

What are Spain's current rules for asymptomatic and mild Covid cases?

No one wants to get Covid, particularly when the summer season is approaching and many have booked their annual holidays.

But if you do find that you test positive for Covid-19, here’s what you need to know about Spain’s current health rules. 

Whatever questions you have, from wanting to know if you still need to get an official test or inform your doctor, to whether you can go outside and if you need to wear a face mask, we’ve got you covered. 

Q: What if I get Covid but don’t have any symptoms?

A: If you are asymptomatic, in other words you test positive for Covid-19 but don’t experience any symptoms, then it’s not necessary to self-isolate and you are not required to quarantine at home.

Spain’s quarantine requirement for asymptomatic cases was dropped as of March 28th 2022.

However, the health body that advises Spain’s Health Ministry recommends that you still stay at home and rest and that if you do go out, you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week. 

Q: What if I have mild Covid symptoms?

A: If you have mild Covid symptoms, you fall into the same category as those who have no symptoms for Spanish health authorities.

This means that while it’s not mandatory to isolate at home, you should still rest, wear a mask indoors and outdoors and avoid social contact.

The obligatory quarantine for mild cases was also scrapped as of March 28th, 2022.

Q: What if I have severe Covid symptoms?

A: If you have serious Covid symptoms, Spain’s Health Ministry continues to require a quarantine period of seven days, meaning that it’s mandatory.

It is also still required for those classified as part of the high-risk or vulnerable population, which includes those aged 60 or older, immunosuppressed people and pregnant women. 

Q: Am I allowed to go outside if I have Covid?

A: Yes, as mentioned above, if you have mild or asymptomatic symptoms you are allowed to go outside while you have Covid. However, you should limit your contact with others for a week to make sure you’re not putting others at risk. You should aim to stay at home as much as possible until your symptoms disappear.

Keep in mind that you are highly contagious in the first few days of the illness, so you may want to avoid going out during that time.

Q: Can I go to events if I have Covid-19?

A: Yes, you can leave the house if you have Covid-19, but as you’re expected to limit your contact with others, going to a large event with hundreds of people is not recommended. You could unknowingly be putting vulnerable people at risk. Health authorities still recommend that you avoid gatherings for at least a week after a positive test. 

Q: Do I need to wear a mask if I test positive?

A: The Spanish Health Ministry has confirmed that those who have Covid must wear a mask for “ten days from the diagnosis” of the virus.

They should be worn indoors, as well as outdoors, if a distance can’t be maintained from others. Experts recommend using the FFP2 masks during this time because even if your symptoms are mild, you can still be contagious.

READ ALSO: How likely is it that Spain will make face masks mandatory indoors again?

Q: Can I go to work if I have Covid-19?

A: If you have mild or asymptomatic Covid-19, although the recommendation is to work from home or take sick leave, you can still go in.

However, the health authorities recommend that you wear a mask, avoid contact with vulnerable people and avoid enclosed spaces with little ventilation.

Q: Is it necessary to get officially tested?

A: No, it’s not necessary to get a PCR or antigen done at your local health centre or at a private clinic any more. An antigen test bought from a pharmacy and performed at home will suffice.

Only those with serious symptoms and high-risk groups should get tested now. Although you it’s not necessary anymore to confirm your infection with a test, it’s still useful to test yourself at home so you can avoid contact with others if it’s positive and know when you can get back to life as normal.

Q: Do I have to tell my doctor if I have or have recently had Covid?

A: No, it’s not necessary for everyone to call their doctor if they have Covid, because not all cases are being counted by authorities anymore.

You may, however, still need to call your doctor if you need to sick leave from work. Those in Catalonia will be given an automatic five-day sick leave if they have Covid symptoms, even if they don’t take a test.  

If you are over the age of 60, are immunosuppressed or are in a high risk group, it’s still a good idea to tell your doctor if you test positive.

Q: What do I do if I have come into close contact with someone who has Covid-19?

A: If you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid, it’s not necessary for you to take a test or to self-isolate.

The health authorities do recommend that you take precautions though, such as limiting social interactions, wearing a mask and avoid vulnerable people.

Remember that the days before you test positive, but after you have been exposed to the virus are when you are the most contagious. 

Q: What if I get Covid while on holiday in Spain?

A: If you have a mild or asymptomatic case of Covid-19 while on holiday in Spain, you don’t have to quarantine and you don’t have to inform the local health authorities, unless you are in a vulnerable category.

Like above, Spain’s Health Ministry only recommends that you stay at home and rest, that if you do have to go out you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and that you keep social contact to a minimum for a week.

Different countries have different rules so you may not be able to travel home if you have Covid and may have to wait until you test negative.

READ MORE: What tourists should do if they get Covid while on holiday in Spain?