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

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. 

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)

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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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?