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COVID-19 RULES

How Spain’s regions are tightening Covid restrictions for New Year’s Eve

Spain is ending 2021 with its highest Covid infection indicators on record, spurring many regions to tighten restrictions specifically for New Year's Eve celebrations. Here's how your plans could be disrupted depending on where you are in the country.

 New Year's Eve in Spain covid
Expect cancelled celebrations and tighter restrictions specifically for New Year's Eve in Spain this December 31st. Photo: Pau Barrena/AFP

The sixth wave of the coronavirus in Spain is growing incessantly as the country prepares to ring in a new year. 

Daily infection records are being set on a daily basis (100,000 new cases reported on Tuesday) and Spain now has the highest national infection rate since the pandemic began, with health experts warning that as many as one in every 50 people could be infected with Covid-19 in the coming days. 

As a result, many Spanish regions have announced extra restrictions for Nochevieja, as New Year’s Eve is called in Spanish.

Regional authorities have already tightened Covid restrictions for Christmas and early January – which can be found here – but the following article covers specifically what the rules will be in each part of Spain on the night of Friday December 31st.

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 over the New Year period. Countless other smaller towns and villages across Spain have also decided they will not hold any gatherings or parties.

Here are the restrictions and cancellations announced by regional authorities for New Year’s Eve in particular:

Andalusia

Before Christmas, the Andalusian government made Covid passports or a negative diagnostic test mandatory for entering hotels, bars, restaurants, other leisure establishments, care homes and hospitals. In Granada, the council have cancelled the New Year’s Eve party in the Plaza del Carmen to avoid contagions. 

Aragón

Aragon has introduced new restrictions: it has brought forward the closure of the hospitality businesses to midnight and nightlife venues must now close at 02:00am . There’s now a maximum table capacity of ten people, and eating standing up – as is popular in Spain – is no longer allowed.

Asturias

In Asturias the interiors of nightlife establishments are closed for a month and other hospitality establishments must close by 01:00am. Like other regions, a COVID passport is now necessary to access residences, bars, restaurants, cultural and sports establishments.

Balearics

The Balearic government plans to deploy police officers on New Year’ Eve to ensure hospitality venues stick to the rules. COVID certificates are mandatory to access restaurants, regardless of their capacity. Health workers must also have the vaccination certificate, or, failing that, undergo three weekly PCRs, and in Menorca restaurants have been closed.

Basque Country

Hospitality businesses must also close from one in the morning in the Basque Country, in line with its neighbouring communities. The measure will reportedly run until January 28, and New Year’s parties are prohibited. COVID passports remain compulsory for entry into most venues.

Canary Islands

The Canary government wants to introduce a curfew for New Year’s Eve from midnight until 6am on the islands with very high infection rates, a decision which is pending court approval. In Gran Canaria and Tenerife capacity at hospitality venues has been capped at 50 percent outdoors and 33 percent indoors, and there are limitations on the number of people who can meet in public or private spaces – six at a maximum. Hospitality venues must close at 02:00, and a curfew for the 31st and 6th may follow.

Cantabria

Cantabria has completely closed nightlife venues for New Year’s Eve and most of January and has limited capacity to 75 percent in hospitality and sports or cultural activities in towns and villages at level 3 incidence level. In municipalities at level 2 and 3, the COVID passport is needed to enter bars, restaurants, hotels, nightlife, cultural events and mass and sporting events.

Castilla-La Mancha

Castilla la Mancha is yet to impose restrictions over New Year.

Castile y León

Castilla y León is yet to impose restrictions over New Year.

Catalonia

Catalonians have already had a Christmas curfew from 1:00 to 6:00 in municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants or an incidence rate of more than 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and meetings have been limited to ten people both indoors and outdoors. Bar and restaurant capacity will continue over New Year, as in cinemas and theaters, at cultural and sports activities. Nightlife venues have been closed, and eating and drinking at events has been limited.

Valencia region

The COVID passport is already necessary to access leisure and restaurant venues in Valencia, regardless of capacity, and also in recreational spaces and events and celebrations of more than 500 people. It’s also mandatory to enter hospitals and residences, as well as in gyms or cinemas, circuses, sports facilities and venues where food or drink is consumed.

Valencia, Alicante and Elche have already cancelled New Year events.

Extremadura

There are no new New Year specific restrictions in Extremadura.

Galicia

Officially, nightlife venues can stay open until 3:00 in the morning for New Year, although the Galician government is considering the possibility of closing them, and from December 31st to January 18st bars and restaurants must close at midnight every day except Friday and Saturday, which is extended at 1:00 in the morning.

A special curfew is in effect in the community between 3:00 and 6:00. Incredibly, you can only walk on the street alone or with people from the same family unit. Like in many regions of Spain, a COVID certificate is mandatory to enter bars and restaurants, nightlife, hospitals, nursing homes, sports facilities and gyms, and other mass events. In restaurants and bars, tables are limited to a maximum of 8 indoors and a maximum of 10 people per group on terraces.

La Rioja

Bars and restaurants will close from 1:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., and nightlife venues at 2:00 a.m. until January 15, with limits of 10 people per table at restaurants.

Madrid

Madrid is leaving it last minute. Government has already reduced capacity for New Years’ celebrations at Puerta del Sol to 7,000 people, and five other planned events across the region have been cancelled.

The final decision to cancel these mass events will be made and announced sometime on the 29th or 30th.

Murcia

In Murcia, restaurants and nightlife will close at 1am, and diners are limited to 10 people indoors and 12 on terraces. There are also restrictions on dance floors and an overall reduction of capacity to 30 percent.

Navarre

In Navarra hospitality and nightlife establishments will close  between 1:00 and 6:00. Tables are limited to 10 people, and eating and drinking at the bar is banned. 

COVID passports are mandatory to access many bars and clubs, restaurants with a large capacity, and for all kinds of indoor cultural shows, care homes, hotels and gyms.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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