Spain is moving towards the old normality. In a week in which students have returned en masse to the classrooms in their second start of the pandemic course and presence is making its way into the office - the Government wants officials to abandon teleworking on October 1 - the autonomies also hurry to relax the restrictions that weigh on the street. The epidemic evolution accompanies: the 14-day incidence of covid cases reached 91.21 cases per 100,000 inhabitants this Friday, the lowest figure since August 2020. Although gradually, without major de-escalation and each community at its own pace , the descent of the curve and the high vaccination coverage - 75% of Spaniards have completed the guideline - encourages the autonomies to make more flexible capacities and schedules in restaurants and culture and even open their hands,with the last great bastion of restrictions: nightlife. Thus, this Friday the Basque Country gave the green light to the reopening of nightclubs and as of Monday, Madrid will lift the time limits and expand the capacity in this sector. The Supreme Court's endorsement of the use of the covid passport in Galician hospitality also gives wings to some autonomies, such as Galicia or Catalonia, to study its use as a safe-conduct to relax measures. Experts, however, ask for caution with de-escalation.The Supreme Court's endorsement of the use of the covid passport in Galician hospitality also gives wings to some autonomies, such as Galicia or Catalonia, to study its use as a safe-conduct to relax measures. Experts, however, ask for caution with de-escalation.The Supreme Court's endorsement of the use of the covid passport in Galician hospitality also gives wings to some autonomies, such as Galicia or Catalonia, to study its use as a safe-conduct to relax measures. Experts, however, ask for caution with de-escalation.
The pandemic is not over, insist the epidemiologists consulted. But the epidemic situation gives a respite after the intense scourge of the fifth wave. Hospital pressure has also subsided: there are just over a thousand patients with covid in intensive care, a figure five times less than that registered in the worst days of the third wave, last February. The indicators are all favorable: the virus transmission speed (the Rt, which measures how many people a positive infects on average) was at the beginning of the month (last date for which data are available) at 0.77, that is, below 1, as recommended by health authorities to keep transmission at bay. And, in addition, the positivity of the diagnostic tests that are performed (about 585,000 in the last week) is below 5% (4.77%),the threshold used by the WHO to consider that the pandemic is under control.
There are other positive data. This Friday there were 3,809 hospitalized for covid compared to 30,000 in January. In some autonomies, in addition, they spend several days without registering a single death and have less than 100 hospitalized. Deaths in residences have fallen by half in a single month. There were 176 a week in mid-August and 76 last week.
Elena Vanessa Martínez, president of the Spanish Epidemiology Society, asks, however, not to lower our guard: “We are doing well, but we must be cautious. We have to be vigilant because the virus is going to find itself in a new situation for it: it will cost more to transmit itself [due to the high vaccination coverage in Spain] and this winter, in addition, the other seasonal viruses will appear again and we must see how they will carries the coronavirus with them here ”. José Martínez Olmos, professor at the Andalusian School of Public Health, agrees: “We are moving towards the functional control of the pandemic in our environment, which allows us to coexist with the virus. We are in a hopeful situation, with some expectation of relaxation of measures, but there is a risk of a new wave: there are almost seven million people without vaccination,the incidence is still high and we are not free of a new variant ”.
Spain registers the lowest incidence of covid for more than a year with 91 cases per 100,000 inhabitants
With everything, mask through and present social distance, the pre-pandemic life tries to find its place in the street.
Schools and institutes have already started the new year and, although the virus continues to lurk, the vaccine shield provided by injections against covid gives encouragement in classrooms, especially in institutes - 65.8% of 12-year-olds to 19 years they have already completed the vaccination regimen—.
Also the presence in the jobs gains ground. In fact, according to a report by Red.es, a public entity attached to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, in the second quarter of 2021 only 9.4% of employed persons worked from their home habitually - more than half of the days of their working day—, two points less than the previous quarter (11.2%). Elena Garriga, 40, works at BBVA's corporate headquarters as a credit risk analyst for large corporations and this September she has returned to her face-to-face position: the mask is mandatory and so is social distance, but she can have coffee with companions, he explains. “The return to normality does not appeal to me very much, really. Before the pandemic, we did not know the reality of working remotely.How comfortable it is to work at home, not spending time traveling, not having to eat out systematically ... We did not know that this was a viable and comfortable option. The quality of life has been reduced. I lose two hours of my day getting to work, plus traffic jams, plus fuel consumption, ”laments Garriga.
TRIBUNE I Minutes of happiness
Good data on the evolution of the pandemic have also pushed communities to relax the restrictions that weigh on some of the social activities.
The regional governments have extended the opening hours of the restaurant, the diners per table and the indoor capacity.
Madrid, which has taken the lead in de-escalation, will lift all time restrictions in restaurants, bars, cinemas, theaters and nightlife from Monday, and will raise the maximum capacity in restaurants to 75% indoors (with a maximum of 10 people per table), although it cannot be consumed at the bar or use the dance floor in the discos.
The Basque Country also approved this Friday to expand the capacity in restaurants and sporting events: with the new measures that come into force as of this weekend, sporting events will have up to 60% occupancy and cultural events and social networks will allow 75%, as will the hospitality sector. In the Valencian Community, after the Fallas in Valencia, restrictions have been relaxed: on September 7 the curfew and the limitation of meetings to 10 people disappeared; football stadiums or sports halls can be 60% of their capacity outdoors and 40% indoors.
Andalusia, which maintains the closure of bars at 2.00 and the nightclubs at 3.30, has increased the number of diners per table and the indoor capacity to 75%.
In addition, you can dance with a mask on all dance floors that are outdoors.
The restrictions have also been removed in cinemas, theaters, auditoriums, religious celebrations and outdoor sporting events, where 100% occupancy is allowed.
But the most applauded by Andalusians this week is the authorization to hold processions normally.
In fact, this very Thursday the image of the Virgin of Miracles, patron saint of Puerto de Santamaría (Cádiz), the first after the lifting of restrictions, and in Seville they are already preparing this Sunday to see the first in its streets. pictures after two years.
The tendency of the communities is to also give way with nightlife, a sector that, according to the Spain NightLife employer association, has added losses of 30,000 million euros since the start of the pandemic due to the continuous closures it has suffered. Each community, yes, does it at its own pace and in its own way. In addition to Madrid, which is the most open in terms of schedules and capacity, the Basque Country announced this Friday the reopening of nightclubs after 13 months with the blind drawn almost continuously: the capacity will be 50%, but the dance floor with mask Asturias also opened last week and Navarra and Aragón extended opening hours this week. Only the Balearic Islands and Catalonia remain with nightlife closed tight.
Joaquim Boadas, general secretary of Spain NightLife, criticizes the “unequal measures” that exist between the communities: “It seems that there are 17 pandemics”, he protests.
And it requires that a common protocol be applied to generate "safe environments in nightlife", that is, common guidelines that imply the application of the covid passport to enter the entertainment venues.
Young people are also looking forward to a return to the old normality.
Marc Reyes, who is 24 years old and works in the customer service of a company, points to the tiredness of the population: “People are very burned and it shows.
They need to be able to attend a concert organized by the City Council, celebrate a city festival like in the old days ... It is necessary to go back to all those things that seem silly, but they make the population a little bit happier ”, he says.
Water bottle on the beach, in Barcelona last July.MASSIMILIANO MINOCRI / EL PAÍS
Precisely, the endorsement of the Supreme Court to require the covid passport to access restaurants and nightclubs in Galicia opens the door to use the vaccination certificate as a filter to access certain spaces and make the general measures that weigh on some activities more flexible.
In fact, the Canary Islands approved on Thursday to extend the closing hours of those nightlife businesses that, on a voluntary basis, require their clients to obtain a covid certificate to access their interior.
Catalonia, for its part, is studying its use to avoid new closures in the event of another wave.
In Galicia, nightlife operates at half gas depending on the incidence of the municipality (in areas with fewer infections the indoor capacity is 50% and 100% on the terrace). But the decision of the Supreme Court, which caught the community in full deployment of an alternative plan of measures for the hotel industry, may have its usefulness in nightclubs: the regional government is now negotiating a new system inspired by the hospitality model - the capacity will not depend on the incidence, but on the control measures applied by the owner—, but the Xunta always said that the covid passport was perfect for nightlife.
Boadas assures that a covid passport would encourage vaccination among a population group where there is still room for improvement in terms of punctures - 70% of twentysomethings and 63% of kids between 12 and 19 years old have completed the vaccination schedule.
"It is a reason for people who are not vaccinated or who would not go to do a test, do so," says the spokesman for the sector's employer's association.
Public health experts, for their part, are more cautious. Joan Caylà, a member of the Spanish Epidemiology Society, admits that the use of the covid passport “can be an incentive”, but warns that the incidence is still high and the risk of rebound also: “It would be better to use the covid passport than to open the clubs without more in all Spain. That would be a mess. But the pandemic is not over and although vaccination is an advantage, there is 25% of the population not vaccinated. That is a fertile ground for there to be a sixth wave ”. The epidemiologist invites to "take advantage of the decrease in incidence to improve the prevention and control of covid, especially the study of contacts and favoring compliance with quarantines and isolations."
For his part, Alberto Infante, emeritus professor of International Health at the National School of Health of the Carlos III Health Institute, doubts the viability of requesting the covid passport at the entrance of a nightclub: “If we open nightlife, we are facilitating that there are more infections.
There are no more turns to give, although the severity would be less due to the effect of the vaccination ”, he adds.
Martínez urges the gradual and gradual removal of the restrictions, ensuring control of the epidemic situation at each step forward.
"We are on the good way.
But with the incidence we have, we have to be a little more cautious ”, he adds.
With information from
Eva Saiz, Cristina Vázquez, Juan Navarro, Mario de Jaime Moleres, Sonia Vizoso, Guillermo Vega, Lucía Bohórquez