Regional governments may design their own de-escalation policy in bars, restaurants and nightlife venues this summer
The latest coronavirus related row between the central and regional governments of Spain appears to have ended with the Ministry of Health backing down and allowing its regional counterparts the freedom to decide how and when to impose restrictions on the hostelry sector depending on how the pandemic develops over the summer.
The regulations published in the Official State Bulletin on Saturday were to prevent bars and restaurants across the country from serving customers after midnight and to force the closure of bar terraces by 1.00 in the morning. They also banned customers from indoor spaces in areas with 14-day Covid incidence rates of over 150 and made it mandatory for nightlife venues to close by 3.00 in the morning.
But numerous regional authorities disagreed vehemently with the measures and demanded the right to enforce their own rules, including not only Madrid, Castilla y Leon, Andalusia, Galicia, Catalonia, Murcia, Melilla and the Basque Country but also the PSOE-governed La Rioja and Castilla-La Mancha, and after an appeal was lodged by Madrid the national High Court suspended the changes. It was in this context that on Wednesday the Ministry backed down and empowered each regional government to decide on its own de-escalation process in the hospitality sector during the coming months.
This applies not only to bars and restaurants but also to discothèques and other nightlife venues, meaning that the situation could be very different from one region of Spain to another as the summer goes on. The policies outlined by the Ministry are now to serve merely as guidelines or recommendations.
In practical terms, this means, for example, that even in regions where the 14-day Covid incidence rate exceeds 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants (as is currently the case in La Rioja, Andalucía and the Basque Country) the regional government may decide to allow customers inside bars, restaurants and other venues, and that the central administration will not intervene in deciding limitations on opening hours.
On the other hand, in areas with low risk of infection each regional government could opt to enforce stricter measures than those suggested by the Ministry.