Most Spanish regions intend to maintain lockdowns over Easter

Foreign tourists must present a negative coronavirus test to enter Spain, while most locals cannot cross internal frontiers. [EFE/Javier Fuentes]

In the latest bid to gain control over the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all Spanish regions have said they aim to keep in place restrictions adopted to reduce mobility between the provinces over the Easter holiday, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

The majority of health representatives of the 17 Spanish “comunidades autónomas” (autonomous communities/regions) also called for nightly curfews and reduced opening hours for the hotel, restaurant, and café sector (also known as HORECA) to be maintained during a virtual meeting on Wednesday (3 March).

The regional presidents of Valencia, Aragón, Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha and Catalonia agreed a joint position together with the Spanish health ministry calling for current measures to remain in place.

Political ‘cacophony’

Yet the not all regions agreed to remain in lockdown, citing fears over the restrictions’ economic impact. Madrid, a city of 6 million inhabitants, has said it intends to ease some restrictions.

Under the state of alarm which is due to expire on 9 May, health-related measures come under the state’s competence, but regions have a certain margin of flexibility to adapt and implement them according to specific needs.

Spain’s health ministry has presented a plan to coordinate the implementation of these measures over Easter to avoid having a patchwork of restrictions across the country, health minister Carolina Darias said.

“The goal is to go down to 50 cases of [per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days]. It is easy to go up and very difficult to go down”, Darias added.

The 14-day incidence of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain is gradually approaching 150 according to the health ministry’s latest data released Wednesday evening. The pandemic in Spain has so far claimed the lives of 70,247 people.

“We are focused on preserving health and continuing to save lives. We call for prudence, responsibility, and common sense. We are on the right track, but we cannot be complacent. We are in the middle of the vaccination process, picking up the pace and it is important that it goes well,” Darias added.

Spain: open to foreigners, not locals

Paradoxically enough, internal frontiers among provinces are closed – with a few exceptions – to Spaniards, while external borders remain open to European tourists, who must present negative coronavirus test certificates at airports and other entry points.

Latest official figures show only 434,362 people – of which 274,242 were tourists – visited Spain in January, a fall of 89.5% compared with the same month last year. The Canary Islands, a popular winter tourist destination, have been hit hardest.

Fernando Simón, director of the health ministry’s Centre for the Coordination of Alerts and Health Emergencies (Centro de Coordinación de Alertas y Emergencias Sanitarias), has warned against “lifting too quickly” in order to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, particularly with regard to tourism, which accounts for about 12.4% of the country’s GDP.

“I am an epidemiologist, I am interested in controlling the epidemic, and obviously my views are different from those of, for example, businessmen. If the conditions of transmission are not the right ones to have a little more openness, I think it should not even be considered”, he said.

[Edited by Daniel Eck and Josie Le Blond]

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