Madrid’s mayor called on people to behave responsibly after thousands of people hailed the end of Spain’s six-month state of emergency by taking to the streets of cities across the country in spontaneous celebration.
At the end of October last year, the Socialist-led coalition government of Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared a state of emergency including a nationwide overnight curfew , restrictions on movement between regions and a ban on assembling more than six people. .
As the clock struck midnight on Saturday and the state of emergency ended, fireworks were set off in Madrid and people gathered in Puerta del Sol, the central square where revelers traditionally congregate. to see the new year. There have been similar impromptu celebrations in Barcelona and elsewhere.
Madrid mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida called on people to remember the rules after scenes of drinking, jubilation and often maskless celebrations spread across the internet.
“Freedom does not mean having drinking parties on the streets because those drinking nights are not allowed in the city of Madrid,” he said on Sunday. “Each of us must understand that we live in a society… and that a street party in Madrid is not freedom.”
Spain is grappling with a fourth wave of the pandemic, which has so far infected 3,567,408 people and killed nearly 79,000. However, the vaccination effort is accelerating. To date, more than 13.2 million out of 47 million people in Spain have received a vaccine, and nearly 6 million have received both doses of the vaccine.
The central government decided not to expand emergency powers, instead allowing regional authorities to decide on the measures necessary to combat and contain the virus. Travel between regions is allowed again, meaning people can go on vacation or visit friends and relatives elsewhere in Spain. Face masks remain mandatory for everyone, except for children under the age of six, those exempt from health and those who exercise or swim in pools, the sea, rivers, reservoirs or lakes – both that social distancing can be maintained.
Sánchez also called for a shared sense of responsibility to help negotiate the pandemic and its consequences.
“The pandemic has once again shown us the value of unity,” he said. said in a tweet Sunday morning. “Our joint action has been essential in the face of the virus and will continue to be so as we embark on the recovery.”
Fernando Simón, the head of the Spanish center for health emergencies, has warned people not to let their guard down despite the state of emergency ending.
“The end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of control measures,” he said earlier this week. “Individual measures will have to continue to be applied and the regional government will continue to apply a large number of measures which will enable them to control transmission.”
While Simón said Spain’s regional governments have the necessary tools at their disposal, he added: “We cannot rule anything out when it comes to the evolution of the pandemic. “
Madrid’s regional government – whose president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has strongly criticized the Sánchez administration’s lockdown measures – has decided not to impose a new nighttime curfew. He also ruled out fining people who meet in groups of more than six, although he advised against mixing households.
Ayuso’s conservative government announced on Friday that bars and restaurants would be allowed to stay open for an additional hour – until midnight – and that stores would be allowed to stay open until 11 p.m.
However, despite the fact that the number of Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the region is 317.6 against a national average of 198.6 – and the fact that 42% of the beds in intensive care units in Madrid are occupied by of coronavirus patients compared to 21% in the rest. from Spain – groups of people will not be fined for gathering in private places and mingling with other households.
” The [regional] The health department recommends that gatherings of people in public places for family, social or leisure activities be limited to six people unless they live together, ”he said in a statement. “Likewise, we recommend that gatherings of people for family, social or leisure activities at home or in private spaces be limited to people of the same family or the same household.”
The announcement came three days after Ayuso won an early election under the campaign slogan Freedom (freedom).