Spain has lifted a state of emergency in place to combat the pandemic that had been in place since October, enabling Spaniards to fly between regions for the first time in months.
“It’s like New Year’s,” Oriol Corbella, 28, said in Barcelona, where the lifting of the curfew was greeted with cheers, cheering, and music.
“We’re regaining a sense of normalcy and independence, but we must remember that the virus is still there,” he said.
“I was fed up with not being able to get out of Madrid,” Blaca Valls, a jewellery designer, told AFP on Saturday, echoing the relief felt by many in the region.
“I felt depressed, locked down, with no freedom,” said the 46-year-old, who plans to celebrate a birthday in Galicia, northwest Spain, next weekend.
Argentina Enriquez, a 37-year-old Mexican woman, expressed her eagerness to go to the countryside with friends to enjoy barbecues, play the guitar, and go for walks.
She said, “Just being together… a lot of emotions.”
While the emergency measure, which expired at midnight (2200 GMT Saturday), would result in more freedoms, it is causing problems for the country’s 17 regional governments in charge of health care.
They used the state of emergency as a legal basis to enforce restrictions on freedoms, such as nighttime curfews or a ban on non-essential travel between regions.
People have not been able to fly to other countries, go on vacation, or see family except for a few days over Christmas when the restrictions were lifted.
Since the authorities were discouraged by the spike in infections after Christmas, they did not relax internal travel restrictions during Easter week, which is usually a busy travel time in Spain.
But it was the fact that foreign visitors were allowed to enter the country for vacations while Spaniards were prohibited from going to the beach or visiting loved ones that enraged Spaniards the most.
Although intra-regional travel bans and curfews have been lifted, not all restrictions are being eased in Spain, which has suffered nearly 79,000 deaths and 3.5 million infections.
Differing legal views
Regions can also limit bar and restaurant opening hours and enforce capacity restrictions.
They may also ask the court to approve tougher steps like reimposing curfews, limiting the number of people permitted at home events, or extending an internal travel ban.
However, the courts have issued a variety of decisions, resulting in a patchwork of policies around the world.
A court in the eastern Valencia region upheld a curfew from midnight to 6:00 a.m., while the top court in the northern Basque Country ruled that the area’s nighttime curfew could not be enforced.
Several regions have pressured Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government to prolong the state of emergency in order to prevent this scenario.
His government, on the other hand, has resisted, claiming that the interventions could not be maintained indefinitely, despite the fact that the infection rate was manageable and Spain’s vaccination programme was making rapid progress.
Despite this, it passed a decree enabling regions to appeal to the Supreme Court if a local court invalidates a proposed measure.
Sanchez faced an uphill battle as the leader of a minority government to muster enough support to extend the state of emergency.
Train ticket sales up
Renfe, the state-owned rail operator, reports a 13 percent increase in ticket sales for the coming week over the previous seven days.
However, with the weather turning hot and sunny after more than a year of restrictions, authorities have cautioned people not to relax their guard.
On Thursday, the health ministry’s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon warned Spaniards not to “get the wrong idea about what ending the state of emergency means… it doesn’t mean an end to the restrictions.”
He demanded that everyone continue to act responsibly.
“In terms of the pandemic’s evolution, nothing can be ruled out.”