SHARE
COPY LINK

FEATURE

‘Let’s not lower our guard,’ Spain’s PM urges after street parties mark end of curfew

Spain's government called Monday for "responsibility", insisting health restrictions were still in place, after weekend images showed people celebrating the end of a state of emergency without masks or social distancing.

'Let's not lower our guard,' Spain's PM urges after street parties mark end of curfew
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Photo: Jose COELHO/POOL/AFP

 “The end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of restrictions. Far from it. The virus threat still exists,” Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo wrote in an opinion piece in El País daily.

“That’s why the authorities will continue to take action and the public must keep on behaving responsibly.”

After more than six months of curfews and a ban on travel between Spain’s 17 regions under a state of emergency which was imposed in late October, Spaniards were afforded new freedoms when the measure expired in the early hours of Sunday.

As the deadline passed, crowds of revellers hit the streets of Madrid, Barcelona and other cities, many not wearing masks or social distancing. The images were splashed across Monday’s front pages, sparking much debate.

Asked about the images during an official visit to Greece, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned against “lowering our guard”.

“Vaccination is progressing well, with very positive results” but “the virus continues to circulate and we must maintain barriers,” he said.

With nearly 79,000 deaths and more than 3.5 million infections, Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic and the images triggered a backlash against Sánchez’s left-wing government.

“Sánchez bears sole responsibility for these gatherings,” fumed opposition leader Pablo Casado who heads the right-wing Popular Party, accusing the government of not having a backup plan after the restrictions ended.

“With Sánchez, we’ve gone from a state of emergency to a state of chaos.”


Photo:GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Right-wing grumbling

Although the Madrid region’s right-wing rulers have repeatedly refused to impose tight restrictions on the local economy, letting bars and restaurants open even when virus cases were rife, they were quick to round on Sánchez.

“Freedom isn’t about having drinking parties in the street,” chided Madrid’s PP mayor Jose Luis Martinez Almeida.

“The central government just wasn’t prepared,” grumbled Juan Manuel Moreno, another PP leader who runs the southern Andalusia region, demanding “effective tools” and inter-regional coordination to manage the public health crisis.

Despite the outcry, the administration in Madrid — where hardliner Isabel Díaz Ayuso was re-elected last week by a landslide — blamed the revelry on just a handful of miscreants.

“We can’t lock up seven million people because of a few hundred youngsters,” said Enrique López, the region’s top justice official.

Madrid regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso. Photo: OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP

 A regional lottery? 

In his editorial, the justice minister insisted there were sufficient provisions within the law “to manage the pandemic in its current state,” noting that 28 percent of the population had already received a first dose of the vaccine.

The regions can still limit the opening hours of shops, bars and restaurants as well as their capacity, but if they want to reimpose a curfew
or close the regional borders, they will need court approval.

In tourist hotspots such as the Balearic Islands or the eastern Valencia region, regional authorities have already received court approval to keep their curfew in place.

On the other hand, in the Canary Islands and the northern Basque Country region, the courts have overturned a request to maintain the curfew.

The Canary Islands have said they will appeal the decision to Spain’s Supreme Court, a measure put in place by the government as backup for regional authorities whose requests are halted locally.

And in such cases, Spain’s top court will move “to unify the criteria used to ratify or deny health measures,” Campos wrote.

“If there is a disparity of criteria, it should be our top court that sets the common standard for the whole country.”

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19

Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death. 

SHOW COMMENTS