Spain has lifted the six-month-long national state of emergency enforced to contain the spread of Covid-19. With many night curfews lifted, impromptu street celebrations erupted across the country as the clock struck midnight on Saturday.
Police in Madrid had to step in when revellers in central Puerta del Sol square were seen dancing without masks and singing in groups mimicking pre-pandemic nightlife.
In Barcelona, teenagers and young adults also took to central squares and beaches to celebrate the relaxation of restrictions.
“Freedom!” said Juan Cadavid, who was reconnecting with friends. “(It’s) a bit scary, you know, because of COVID, but I want to feel like this around a lot of people.”
Starting Sunday, local restaurants will be allowed to reopen for dinner until 11pm. However, indoor dining will be limited to 30% of capacity and the limit of four people per table will remain.
In Madrid, there were over 450 incidents in which restrictions were being flaunted where local law enforcement officers intervened. The mayor of Madrid called the scenes showed in videos of street parties on social media “deplorable.”
In an appeal for resident to behave responsibility, Mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida commented on Sunday, “Freedom doesn’t involve holding booze parties in the street because street drinking is not allowed in the city of Madrid. Each one of us needs to understand that we live in a society,” adding that the end of curfews “doesn’t mean that the pandemic has ended.”
With the state of emergency being lifted, the bans on domestic travel across Spain has ended and many curbs on social gatherings will be relaxed. Out of the country’s 19 regions and autonomous cities, only four are keeping curfews in place.
Spain’s center-left ruling coalition rejected the idea of extending the state of emergency, despite the criticism faced from some regional chiefs and opposition figures. This provided a legal umbrella to enact sweeping anti-COVID-19 measures restricting fundamental freedoms. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez believes that with the rollout of vaccines speeding up, the existing protocols should be enough to respond to outbreaks at the regional level.
The number of new Covid-19 cases in the last 14 days dropped on Friday to 198 new cases per 100,000 residents. Although the central Madrid and the northern Basque regions have more than twice that rate. With over 1 in 5 intensive-care beds in the country used to treat Covid-19 patients, hospital beds occupancy rate remains high.