Hundreds of people partied across Spanish cities on early Sunday as the emergency restrictions finally came to an end.
In a scene that mimics New Year’s Eve euphoria, several street fiestas erupted across Spain as the 6-month-long curfew that marked the coronavirus finally came to an end. Many young people took to the streets as soon as the clock struck midnight on Saturday.
As the number of Covid-19 infections stabilizes across the country, 17 regions have begun relaxing their Covid-19 restrictions. The Puerta del Sol square in central Madrid was marked by unmasked partying and dancing groups. The police literally had to escort revelers out after midnight. Many slowly cascaded down to the beach with a drink in hand.
End of the state of emergency
The state of emergency gave the nation’s 17 regional governments the authority to take the necessary measures required to control the healthcare situations in their areas. This was fully backed by a legal framework that imposed measures that limited freedoms. Among the restrictions were nighttime curfews or bans on non-essential travel across certain regions. Spain is among the worst-hit European countries with over 79,000 coronavirus deaths and over 3.57 million infections.
Spain’s regions are in charge of controlling the pandemic within their territories. Over the past 6 months, regions had the emergency powers to introduce restrictions on fundamental rights such as that on the curfew and social gatherings, without facing legal challenges. The expiration of the emergency measures will require authorization from the courts as others prepare alternative measures.
Several regional governments have sought court support while others are working on alternative measures should they be unable to exercise such control again. There was widespread concern that the end of the state of alarm will result in legal challenges. The current Spanish government - comprising the Socialist Party and the Unidas Podemos - believes that the regions still have the authority to take drastic steps under the prevailing laws.
A royal decree giving the Supreme court a final say on the restrictions was approved by parliament. Going by the confusion experienced between June and October last year, the government is trying to work with uniform criteria set by the country’s top judges.
Despite the drop in coronavirus cases, Spain remains in a high-risk situation prompting regional governments to impose new restrictions that kick in at 12.am. upon expiration of the emergency measures. Seven of the country’s 17 regions favor maintaining some of the toughest measures permitted by this emergency. In normal situations, regions seek court authorizations for orders before anything comes to effect.
As per the new directives issued, Spaniards are authorized to travel within regions. Local bars and restaurants will remain open up to 11 p.m upon which indoor dining will be limited to 30% capacity - 4 people per table. With the end of intraregional travel bans and restrictions, not all restrictions have been relaxed.
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Regions will place restrictions on their operating hours while imposing capacity limits inside the restaurants and bars. Thus far only four Spanish regions are maintaining the curfew - Valencia, Navarra, the Canary Islands, and the Balearic Islands.
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