Elated Spaniards were dancing the streets, chanting ‘freedom’ and partying on the beaches overnight as the COVID-19 curfew ended across much of the country.
In scenes similar to New Year’s celebrations, hundreds of young people, mostly young people, gathered in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol to applaud the clock striking midnight while in Barcelona, revelers marched to the beach with a glass in hand.
Barcelona police had the odd task of moving people around after the last curfew started at 10pm, only to let them in at midnight when it was over for good.
Some people wore masks but there was little social distancing as friends kissed, hugged, danced and sang.
“Young people, like everyone else, have been very restricted,” Paula Garcia, 28, said on Barcelona beach, a store worker. “Now was the time to give ourselves a little freedom to enjoy the summer a little. “
But social media videos of large groups paying little attention to COVID distancing have drawn criticism from some. “Freedom does not include breaking the rules,” said conservative Madrid mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida, stressing that street drinking gatherings known as “botellones” were prohibited.
‘IT’S TIME TO LEAVE US’
Spain, one of the most affected countries in Europe, has suffered 78,792 coronavirus deaths and 3.6 million cases. But infection rates have dropped and vaccinations are progressing rapidly, allowing most of the 17 regions to lift the curfew until dawn.
Only four regions kept it: the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Navarre and Valencia.
“It was about time they let us out,” said Andreu Pujol, 25, also on Barcelona beach.
“Even so, I am still very unhappy with the handling (of the pandemic). You can see that in this country all they do is make it up as they go.
As impromptu parties unfolded in city centers across the country, police kept a cautious eye, reminding some revelers that drinking on the streets was prohibited.
Madrid’s right-wing regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso has just won re-election after campaigning for more lenient measures, but the city has the second highest infection rate in Spain and still ordered bars to close and restaurants from midnight.
Even so, there was joy at the end of the curfew.
“The right to move freely is fundamental,” said Luis Rigo, a resident of Madrid, on Puerta del Sol.
“I’m happy, of course I’m delighted. “
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