Spain lets loose as COVID curfew and travel ban are lifted

Spain was one of Europe’s worst-hit countries from the coronavirus. But now it’s ended its national state of emergency – in place since last October. A nighttime curfew has been lifted and domestic travel is permitted again. But each region is still free to impose its own containment measures.

Critics say the new policy will lead to confusion and a possible new surge in cases. Madrid has been yearning for this moment: At the stroke of midnight – freedom at last. Euphoric revelers packed into Puerta del Sol square — to sing, dance, beat drums, and drink with their friends.

There were similar scenes across the country, like in Barcelona, where pandemic-weary crowds kicked up their heels in the city center. The emergency decree gave regional authorities a legal framework to enforce nighttime curfews and travel bans. Now for the first time since October, people can move freely between regions.

Restaurants can serve tables again. Along with bars, they are allowed to remain open into the night. Spain’s vaccination drive is picking up pace and the infection rate has stabilized. Some worry that a domestic travel surge and increased socializing will lead to new outbreaks.

But experts say the combined effect of past infections, restrictions and vaccinations all served to turn what could have been Spain’s fourth wave into nothing more than a ripple.