When the National State of Emergency came to an end on May 9, the Government of Pedro Sánchez in Madrid made it clear that all 17 of Spain’s autonomous communities had “sufficient means to face the pandemic.” A number of the regions, including Andalucía, had warned of problems ahead until the vaccination campaign is effective for the entire population.
From May 10, the regions had no authority to introduce coronavirus restrictions on fundamental rights, specifically the overnight curfew, limits on social gatherings and lockdowns of regions, provinces and municipalities. The Basque government asked for authorisation to seal its regional borders, but the request was denied, while Andalucía was amongst seven others which went to court to get approval for lockdowns in municipalities and health areas where there are high transmission rates of the coronavirus. Others wanted to be able to re-impose the curfew overnight.
So from May 10, Andalucía activated a three-phase programme to reduce restrictive measures, with the first phase, “stabilisation,” scheduled to continue until May 31. This saw the curfew abolished, the borders of the region re-opened and a relaxation on opening hours for the leisure sector. The second phase, “advance,” will continue throughout June, with the final phase, “normalisation,” beginning on July 1.
However, the Junta de Andalucía asked the courts for additional powers to impose lockdown on municipalities where the cumulative rate of coronavirus cases over a 14-day period exceeds 1,000 per 100,000 inhabitants. Thanks to a royal decree passed ahead of the end of National State of Emergency, the Supreme court has the final word on disagreements on coronavirus restrictions which arise between the regions and central government.
As the State of Emergency ended, Pedro Sánchez claimed the country was “100 days away from group immunity.” However, the Health Ministry in Madrid warned that the wild street parties reported in some cities as the six-month of emergency period ended could lead to a fifth wave of cases.
At the same time, the Ministry gave the total number of coronavirus-related fatalities in Spain as 78,895, while incidence rates and hospital and ICU patient numbers were all continuing to show a steady decrease. The national incidence rate stood at a little under 189 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, having fallen from a fourth-wave peak of over 230 a fortnight earlier, while only four regions – the Basque Country, Madrid, Navarra and Aragón – remained above the “extreme risk” threshold.
Restrictions were further eased in the region on May 13, as the President of Andalucía urged young people to exercise “maximum responsibility” with their newly-returned freedoms. Juanma Moreno reminded them they are “not immune” and called for common sense, “to avoid the drama of taking home the disease that could end the lives of loved ones.”
By May 17, the Ministry of Health said that it was “very likely” that the requirement to wear a face mask could be relaxed “in not many days.” However, the good news came with a warning that such a measure may not apply to the entire population and would be likely to remain in place in areas with a high incidence of cases.
And three days later, Málaga was declared to be the only province in Andalucía to be on the low-risk Level 1, with no municipality on lockdown or forced to close non-essential businesses. This triggered a further easing of restrictions related to the capacity of events and premises, while beaches and swimming pools were free of all measures, provided that social distancing was maintained between groups.