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COVID-19

Valencia region paves way for how curfews can return to Spain without state of alarm powers 

Valencia’s public prosecutor’s office has given its seal of approval to the return of curfew hours, setting a precedent for other regions that want to impose restrictions that technically encroach on fundamental rights in post-state of alarm Spain.

Valencia region paves way for how curfews can return to Spain without state of alarm powers 
Photo: Josep Lago/AFP

The regional government headed by Ximo Puig has received the backing of the Valencian district attorney’s office regarding the return of Covid-19 measures such as the curfew and limits on social gatherings as a means of curbing rising infections in the eastern territory. 

In early June, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that these two types of measures should not be implemented since the state of alarm ended on May 9th, considering that such restrictions encroach on fundamental freedoms and are not proportional to the whole territory. 

But on this occasion Valencia’s public prosecutor’s office has considered the limit of ten people in public or private settings across the region as well as the 1am to 6am curfew in high-risk municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants to be balanced and corresponding to the region’s epidemiological situation. 

The curfew measure currently affects 32 municipalities in the region. In the province of Alicante: Sant Vicent del Raspeig; in the province of Castellón: Benicàssim; and in the province of Valencia: Alaquàs, Alboraia, Aldaia, Almàssera, Benaguasil, Benetússer, Benifaió, Bunyol, Burjassot, Catarroja, El Puig, Gandía, L’Eliana, Meliana, Mislata, Moncada, Paterna, Picanya, Picassent, Puçol, Quart de Poblet, Requena, Riba-roja de Túria, Sedaví, Silla, Tavernes Blanques, Utiel, Valencia, Vilamarxant and Xirivella. 

The region made of Valencia, Alicante and Castellón provinces has gone from having one of the persistently lowest infection rates in the EU (around 35 cases per 100,000 inhabitants) to 264 infections per 100,000, a fortnightly infection rate which has spiked in the region as it has done across Spain in a matter of two to three weeks. 

The Generalitat Valenciana government still needs the backing of the region’s high court, but it has already ruled in favour of the curfew twice in the region after the state of alarm (UPDATE: On Monday afternoon, Valencia high court ruled in favour of reintroducing the curfew and limits on social gatherings). 

The court ruling represents the latest chapter in the legal complications that Spain’s legislative system has had to face during the pandemic, with different interpretations by judges resulting in varying measures and regional authorities having to unwillingly lift restrictions in different regions. 

READ MORE: Spain’s top court lifts curfew and restrictions for meetings in the Balearic Islands

Spain’s two states of alarm – which went from March to June 2020 and then October 2020 to May 2021 – gave regional governments the powers to quickly legislate without having to first run coronavirus measures past judges. 

Without this legal framework, the regions no longer had the power to decide and depended on local and national judges, with the Spanish government approving in May a Royal Decree that gave Spain’s Supreme Court the final word on what measures limit fundamental rights.

READ MORE: ‘It’s irresponsible’ – Why Spain’s judges oppose govt’s handling of end of state of alarm

The decision by Valencia’s public prosecutor’s office lays out the legal background for other regions which have called for the return of the curfew (such as Castilla Y León and the Canary Islands) to know how to do so, by acting within proportionality and with an end date set for the end of the restrictions. 

That is what the Supreme Court ruled back in May, stressing that health legislation can allow limits on fundamental rights without a state of alarm as long as it’s “essential and temporary”.

In essence, we may not have seen the end of curfews in Spain during the pandemic, although rather than affecting the whole of Spain or entire regions, it’s likely that regional governments will reintroduce them in smaller areas where Covid cases are particularly high.   

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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. 

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