The Spanish government has called on people to behave responsibly and use their “common sense” after pictures over the weekend showed the streets of Madrid and other big cities heaving with crowds despite the country’s ongoing struggle with the second wave of the coronavirus.
Spain has been in a state of emergency since the end of October and is subject to an overnight curfew. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has asked people to drastically curtail their social lives and limit their movements for the common good.
However, a combination of Black Friday, seasonal shopping and the switching on of Christmas lights appears to have brought large numbers of people out on to the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Málaga over the weekend.
On Monday, Silvia Calzón, Spain’s secretary of state for health, urged people to act wisely and avoid large crowds.
“We’d like to appeal to people’s sense of prudence and responsibility,” Calzón said in an interview with Canal Sur radio, adding: “If we really like Christmas, let’s try to make sure we’re all here for next Christmas”.
She pointed out that huge sacrifices had been made to “flatten the curve” and that many families – especially those with vulnerable members – had suffered greatly.
“If we can do things outdoors and avoid crowds, so much the better because we expose ourselves less [to infection] and that means we reduce exposure to the people we love,” said Calzón.
Ignacio Aguado, the vice-president of the Madrid region, played down the crowds, which he described as normal. “I’d rather they were in the streets than [in large groups] at home,” he told LaSexta TV.
Madrid’s mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, said he would not discourage people from heading into the centre of the city, adding that police had a plan for avoiding large build-ups of people.
“As long as people are in the street and sufficiently distanced – and not in enclosed areas – there’s no problem,” Martínez-Almeida told ABC.
However, he urged people to follow the health and safety guidelines and, where possible, to avoid big concentrations of people.
The Spanish government is hoping to avoid another surge in Covid cases early next year by suggesting that Christmas and new year gatherings be limited to six people, and that a 1am-6am curfew be in force on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
“We’re working on a specific plan for a Christmas that will be different but safe,” Sánchez said last week. “This year, we will need to stay at a distance from our loved ones, instead of embracing them.”
The regional government of Madrid is proposing to allow groups of up to 10 people to gather on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and the feast of the Epiphany (6 January). The number of different households allowed to mix would be capped at three.
To date, Spain has logged 1,628,208 cases of Covid-19 and recorded 44,668 deaths.