Eight million people in Spain cannot move freely at dawn. Curfews begin to materialize in more and more territories as the delta variant triggers infections, especially among young people. Thus, the prohibition to leave home already affects 16.9% of the population (one in six people). The last communities to impose them have been Catalonia and Cantabria, which have obtained the endorsement of justice to implement them, approval that the Valencian Community has already achieved. Navarra has announced this Friday that it also requests judicial authorization to impose a curfew in almost all of its territory, while Extremadura has not managed to get the justice to grant it to the three municipalities in which it was claimed. Experts urge more measures to contain the transmission of the virus in Spain and not trust the evolution of the epidemic curve only to vaccination.
With the incidence soaring above 537 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days and the epidemic curve runaway among young people (up to 1,666 cases per 100,000 among twenty-somethings), the communities have already begun to withdraw their de-escalation plans and put on the table the most severe restrictions. The first community that obtained the endorsement of justice to impose a curfew, for example, was the Valencian Community, which has a cumulative incidence of 432 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Since Tuesday, 1.5 million inhabitants of the Valencian Community (29.7% of the total) cannot move freely at night. The limitations affect 32 municipalities, all of the province of Valencia except Sant Vicent del Raspeig (Alicante) and Benicassim (Castellón). The capital, Valencia, with 800,215 inhabitants, is among the affected towns.
This Friday, justice has authorized the curfew in Catalonia, which has the highest incidence in Spain with more than 1,100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The community concentrates the majority of those affected by this type of restriction. A total of 5.9 million citizens, 76.16% of the autonomous population, have to be at home between 1.00 and 6.00. There are 161 affected municipalities, the majority in the province of Barcelona and its metropolitan area, although the rest of the provincial capitals of the community will also have a curfew.
“The virus is ahead of us again, in Catalonia and in Spain. It is a situation that could have been mitigated, but we are repeating the mistakes of last summer ”, laments Joan Caylà, member of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology. Precisely, the Catalan Minister of Health, Josep Maria Argimon, has recognized this Friday in Catalunya Ràdio having made a mistake by allowing the celebration of large music festivals in the community and sending optimistic messages, such as that it was already “getting out of the tunnel”. “If everything had been done well we would not be where we are,” he assured.
The curfew has also reached Cantabria after the endorsement of its Superior Court of Justice: night mobility is restricted between 1.00 and 6.00 and affects 90.8% of its population: 529,000 Cantabrians of the 583,000 that populate the community . The incidence in the area is 566 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
The Navarrese Government, for its part, also intends to apply this same measure. With an accumulated incidence of 864, it is not yet known how many municipalities it will affect, since the list will not close until next Tuesday, but the Minister of Health, Santos Induráin, has anticipated that it will reach 80% of the population, this is, about 530,000 people. For its part, the Extremadura Government had requested this Friday the same measure for the Cáceres municipalities of Plasencia (39,860), Jaraíz de la Vera (6,503) and Montehermoso (5,718). But Extremadura judges have refused.
The growth rate of the epidemic curve varies according to the community and the severity of the restrictions that are applied, as well. But as had already happened in previous waves, the territories with the worst epidemiological situation are not necessarily the most restrictive. Thus, the accumulated incidence in Castilla y León amounts to 862.7, which makes it the third autonomous region most affected by the virus. However, it does not impose a curfew or request it for its municipalities with greater transmission. Last week, yes, the Castilian-Leon Government asked the Central Executive to recover the curfew, but its request was not answered and despite the fact that other autonomies have obtained the judicial endorsement to impose this restriction on their own, the Board has not has moved token. Asturias (592.18) and Aragón (646.76) also have significantly higher incidences than territories that have requested a curfew, such as the Valencian Community.
“Neither Madrid, nor Andalusia nor Castilla y León have proposed curfews. It is a political decision that has repercussions. The situation is bad throughout Spain. If I were the health authority, I would not have the slightest doubt to ask the Interterritorial Council the decision to move to a unified policy of restrictions. Not having made decisions on time has led us to this situation ”, regrets Daniel López-Acuña, former Director of Emergencies at the World Health Organization. The epidemiologist also claims “to intensify the screening, tracking and exhaustive follow-up of cases and contacts because there are massive transmission dynamics” and it is necessary to stop them as soon as possible, he warns.
However, there are communities with a better than average epidemic situation, such as Madrid (386.79), which have already stated that they are not in favor, for the moment, of recovering the curfew. “For now we are doing well in Madrid. Be attentive, of course, but what we have to do now is not to continue affecting commerce and the hotel industry as long as it is not necessary, “said Isabel Díaz Ayuso on Tuesday, when the incidence was much lower than this Friday. The Basque Country has opted for an intermediate formula: without decreeing a curfew, it has decided to prevent groups of people who are not living together and crowds from midnight to 6 a.m. to avoid drinking bottles and illegal street parties.
Experts warn that, despite the fact that the vaccination rate in Spain is good and almost half of Spaniards have completed the vaccination schedule, the entire evolution of the current epidemiological situation can not be trusted to the letter of punctures. “Only with vaccines we will not stop the rise of the epidemic curve. And the longer there is high community transmission, the more likely it will be that new variants will appear that escape the protection of vaccines ”, warns Alberto Infante, emeritus professor of International Health at the National School of Health of the Carlos III Health Institute. The health worker is in favor of putting limitations in closed spaces where there are high congregations of young people.
López-Acuña agrees: “Vaccination is essential and is saving us a lot of income, but it is not the solution to stop the fifth wave. It is a complement, not the center. What is failing is that it is not accepted that we are at a time when strong restrictions are required to contain the transmission. The measure that will affect the most, especially in summer, is the curfew, to reduce bottles and night crowds ”.
Nor is the scale that communities use to decide in which areas the curfew is imposed is shared. In Catalonia it is applied where the cumulative incidence is equal to or greater than 400 confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the last seven days. With nuances, it would be the equivalent of 800 in two weeks. However, in Navarra the aim is to limit mobility with an incidence of more than 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, a criterion similar to that applied by Cantabria – which takes into account more indicators, such as the prevalence of the delta variant or the incidence of among the young.
This new curfew that this week has begun to make its way in Spain is different from the previous one. It no longer has the legal umbrella of the state of alarm, which facilitated the restriction of fundamental rights such as this or others that the communities are limiting, such as that of assembly or that of moving between municipalities – in Extremadura, for example, there are several localities that apply perimeter closures. Without that wild card, governments are running into problems to approve their measures against the virus: the Superior Court of Justice of the Canary Islands on Wednesday rejected the curfew for Tenerife. In addition, this curfew, which the communities are setting from 1.00, begins later than the previous one. Before, the beginning of this restriction oscillated between 22.00 and 0.00 depending on the community.
The objective of these limitations is to moderate transmission among the least vaccinated group, young people. Contagions multiply exponentially in places with a lot of social interaction and that are closed. That is why nightlife has already been closed in several autonomies and they are regulating both the curfew and meetings in private spaces.
With information from Juan Navarro, Mikel Ormazabal, Jessica Mouzo Y Àngels Piñol.