Spain’s big cities cancel New Year’s celebrations as Covid infection records continue

Don't expect New Year's celebration in Barcelona this year, where the regional government has reimposed a night-time curfew. (Photo by ANGEL GARCIA / AFP)
Don't expect many New Year's outdoor celebrations in Barcelona this year, where the regional government has reimposed a night-time curfew. (Photo by ANGEL GARCIA / AFP)
Eight of Spain’s most populous cities have cancelled outdoor celebrations to ring in the new year, as the country records its highest national infection rate since the pandemic began. 

By the time the clock strikes 12 on December 31st, as many as one in every 50 people in Spain could have Covid-19. 

That’s the worrying prediction by some Spanish health experts who are seeing how the country’s fortnightly infection rate has snowballed in recent days to the current 1,208 cases per 100,000 – the highest since the Covid-19 pandemic began –  jumping 300 points in just three days. 

In Navarre, La Rioja and the Basque Country the incidence of the virus is already at or above 2,000, meaning that one out of every 50 people in the three northern regions is currently infected with Covid-19. 

They’re unprecedented figures that are forcing regional governments to bring back old Covid restrictions and city halls to cancel the ‘campanadas’, the New Year bell chimes that see crowds bunch up in their town hall squares to ring in the ‘año nuevo’ while eating 12 grapes.

So far Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, Zaragoza, Murcia, Málaga, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Palma de Mallorca have announced they will not be holding or allowing mass celebrations in their city centres. Countless other smaller towns and villages across Spain have also decided they will not hold any gatherings or parties. 

Madrid, where every New Year’s Eve tens of thousands gather at the iconic Puerta del Sol square, is the only big city which has so far not announced it will shelve celebrations. For regional leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso, “it makes no sense to close everything if in a matter of days cases will start dropping”. 

Everywhere else in Spain, there appears to be far more concern. 

Regional authorities in Aragón, Navarre, the Basque Country, La Rioja, Cantabria and Asturias have all agreed to tighten nightlife restrictions further ahead of New Year’s Eve as their infections have been skyrocketing after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Amid these growing restrictions and rising case numbers, frustrated nightclub owners and other party organisers have seen a wave of cancellations in recent days and expect around 50 percent of the attendance of normal years. 

Spain’s Health Ministry on Monday informed of another record number of daily infections – 214,619 new cases – although this includes cases not notified over the Christmas weekend. 

“It’s true that we are dealing with the Omicron variant; we’ll see very high numbers of infections, but not hospitalisations,” Pedro Sánchez said in response to the latest figures, which are more than double or quadruple other daily records set the previous week. 

The stats show that pressure on Spain’s hospitals has increased but not at the explosive pace of previous waves. 

Currently, there are 9,530 patients hospitalised with Covid-19 throughout Spain (7,924 last Thursday) and 1,715 admitted to the ICU (1,515 Thursday). 

In addition, in the last three days Spain’s Health Ministry has announced 120 new Covid deaths in the country, 200 over the last week. 


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