Spanish health officials meet today to discuss Christmas measures across Spain

Health officials are meeting today in Spain to draft a common set of guidelines to celebrate safely – measures might include exceptions to sealed borders for people visiting relatives

Spanish authorities are hoping to walk out of the  meeting  today of central and regional health officials with a joint coronavirus plan for Christmas.

Policymakers have been trying to hammer out a common set of restrictions and recommendations for the holiday season, when a lot of travel is expected to take place as friends and family gather for Christmas celebrations.

Government sources have said that one of the options on the table is allowing meetings of up to 10 people, as proposed by officials in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Madrid. This is up from the government’s original suggestion of six-person gatherings.

Spanish officials are also thinking of keeping regional borders sealed wherever these confinements are already in place, with one exception: travel across regional lines would be allowed for family gatherings. The idea is to let families come together for Christmas on a year that’s been marked by one of the world’s strictest lockdowns, besides other restrictions on mobility, but no final decision has been made yet.

As Spain struggles to contain a second wave of the coronavirus, many regional governments have sealed their borders in an effort to restrict movement. Only Galicia, Extremadura, Madrid, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands have not introduced such restrictions, although Madrid will impose a temporary regional confinement between December 4 and 13 to prevent travel during two back-to-back holidays. Most regions have imposed some kind of border closure, either at the regional, provincial or municipal level, and do not allow travel except for essential business such as work or medical appointments. These closures are set to undergo review in the coming days.

If the planned measures are adopted, the same government sources said it will mean that family members can travel across regional borders to visit relatives, but a group of friends may not go spend a few days in a holiday rental located in another region if border restrictions apply there.

Health Minister Salvador Illa has repeatedly said that regional governments will have the last word on these matters. Whatever document comes out of the meeting on Wednesday, its contents are expected to be recommendations rather than mandatory measures. But no matter what restrictions apply, Illa has already warned that this year, Christmas is going to be “different.”

“December is a month of noticeably higher mobility and increased social contacts. And these are the two transmission vectors for the virus,” he told the Senate on Tuesday. “That is why I’m hoping that at the meeting we will be able to agree on measures.”


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