Spain’s 6-month state of emergency ends with street fiesta

Photo: AP

Wild street parties flooded the streets of Spanish cities marking the end of a 6-month state of emergency imposed to curb the spread of pandemic, Reuters reported. The restrictions including the strict curfew were lifted at midnight on Saturday under unprecedented pressure on the government. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said existing regulations should be enough to respond to outbreaks at the regional level as the rollout of vaccines is speeding up.

In Madrid police had to interfere and disperse a huge crowd of unmasked people who were singing and dancing. Madrid's right-wing regional president Isabel Diaz Ayuso just won re-election after campaigning on looser measures, but the city has the second highest infection rate in Spain and was still ordering bars and restaurants shut from midnight.

Teenagers and young adults also poured into central squares and beaches of Barcelona to mark the relaxation of restrictions. Local restaurants will be able to serve dinner again beginning Sunday and can stay open until 11 p.m. But a limit of four people per table remains and indoor dining is limited to 30% of capacity. With the end of the state of emergency, bans on traveling across Spain’s regions have also been lifted and many curbs on social gatherings were relaxed.

Only four of the country’s 19 regions and autonomous cities are keeping curfews in place. In spite of criticism from some regional chiefs and opposition figures, Spain’s center-left ruling coalition refused to extend the state of emergency, which provided a legal umbrella to enact sweeping anti-Covid-19 measures restricting fundamental freedoms. One of Europe's worst-hit nations, Spain has suffered 78,792 coronavirus deaths and 3.6 million cases. Spain’s number of new coronavirus infections in the past 14 days fell Friday to 198 new cases per 100,000 residents, although the central Madrid and the northern Basque regions have more than twice that rate. Hospital occupation levels remain high, however, with more than 1 in 5 intensive-care beds in the country treating Covid-19 patients.

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