Wednesday 12/8/21

Government postpones new nationwide Covid-19 restrictions

There will not be, for the moment, earlier closing times for bars and restaurants
23 November 2021, Spain, Madrid: Spanish Minister of Health Carolina Darias holds a press conference on the latest updates regarding the coronavirus pandemic and the development of the vaccination campaign. Photo: Europa Press/C.Luján.Pool/EUROPA PRESS/dpa.
Spanish Minister of Health Carolina Darias holds a press conference on the latest updates regarding the coronavirus pandemic. Photo: C. Luján/dpa.

The Spanish central government gave the green light on Tuesday to the so-called new 'covid traffic light'. This is a document prepared by the Ministry of Health that updates the risk indicators on which the authorities base their assessment of the pandemic and the necessary restrictive measures.

The new document establishes a new way of tackling the epidemic in the country. The idea is that, with a vaccination rate of 80% and the majority of citizens protected against the serious forms of the Covid-19 disease, the situation has changed a lot compared to a year ago.

For this reason, the risk indicators are made more flexible. From now on, the incidence level considered as low risk of transmission is increased from 50 to 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. And there will be no restrictive measures associated with those alert levels.

In previous days, several drafts of the document had been known, with new restrictions related to the epidemic situation. The last one included the obligation of bars and restaurants to advance the closing time to 11:00 p.m. and the nightclubs to 1:00 a.m. in the areas with an intermediate alert level (between 100 and 300 cases or with high occupancy in ICUs).

Minister of Health Carolina Darias cleared all doubts on Tuesday and made it clear that for the moment no national restrictions on the hospitality industry will be approved: "The traffic light document has been approved, only the risk indicators, without restrictions. They are working on them, is what I can tell you,” she said.

Regional authorities may continue to approve restrictions such as the Covid passport to access restaurants and pubs in specific areas of the territory with high incidence, as is already the case in Galicia, Catalonia or the Balearic islands. On the contrary, in the Basque Country, the supreme court denied the regional government the possibility of imposing this requirement.

Mild hospital pressure

The central government believes that vaccination has marked a milestone in the way of tackling the pandemic and the incidence and number of infections is no longer as decisive as a year ago. In fact, Spain now has an incidence of 139 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, but thanks to vaccination the impact of new positive cases in hospitals is slight.

The new strategy evaluates the level of alert taking into account several indicators: infections and incidence, but also the level of hospital pressure, which at this time is limited. Therefore, the country is kept at low risk.

Experts welcome this new way of tackling the pandemic. They believe that from now on the study of the severity of the new diagnosed cases should be assessed before imposing further restrictions. If severe cases do not rise and the health system resists this new wave, the disease should be dealt with like any other acute respiratory infection, they argue. 

Experts also say that it would be positive to standardize potential restrictions at the national level, so that there are no differences between what each territory can do.