The Ministry of Health carried out this Wednesday without consensus a document of mandatory measures throughout Spain for hospitality and nightlife. It is intended as a common framework in order to face the final stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic, since it would be in force until 70% of the population is immunized with vaccines. Several communities have opposed, the most, Madrid and Euskadi, which have already warned that they will not abide by it. A declaration of coordinated actions of the Interterritorial Health Council is mandatory; Faced with doubts as to whether it was, even if it did not come out by consensus, the Ministry last summer requested a report from the State Bar that endorsed that it was. However, in reality, this new rule affects very few communities, which still have bad data; and it is flexible with nightlife and bars for which they have data that could be improved but present favorable trends.
This is how nightlife reopens: Spain advances to the last and most delicate step of the de-escalation
The declaration of actions first requires fixed rules for food bars and restaurants. It refers to the territories that are already “without risk”, in the so-called “new normal” in the Health ‘traffic light’, taking the incidence and hospital pressure. There they could open the interiors with a capacity of 50%, expandable to 60% if good ventilation is demonstrated, and tables of a maximum of 6. Outdoors they could be at 100%, in tables of 10 separated by 1.5 meters. In places of risk 1 and 2, low and medium, the new document refers to the same “traffic light”, which places similar rules, capacity at most 50% indoors and tables of 6. The notable difference comes when the risk 3 or rises to 4, the maximum. There, the traffic light indicates that the interiors of this type of establishment must be closed.
To calculate risk 1 (low), 2 (medium), 3 (high) or 4 (extreme), it is not enough to look at the cumulative incidence. Health prepared this “traffic light” with the communities with two types of indicators: epidemiological and healthcare. The first would be the accumulated incidence at 14 days and at 7 in the general population; the cumulative incidence at 14 days and at 7 of those over 65 years of age; positivity; and traceability. The second would be the COVID occupation in conventional hospital and ICU beds. If a community exceeded two of the first indicators for a level and one of the second, it was placed at one risk or another. The community, the province, the region, the locality, the island or even the basic health area could be taken as a reference.
Taking into account all of the above, and according to the reports of the Ministry of Health, if taken by communities, they would have to securely close the interiors of the bars in La Rioja and Euskadi. No other is clearly at high risk. The autonomous city of Melilla would also enter by very little, and Madrid would escape and remain at medium risk because it currently has good incidence data at 7 days, waiting to see the evolution. Andalusia also falls off the list, for having good and average data in conventional COVID beds and ICUs. The Minister of Health did not clarify at a press conference on Wednesday if they are going to effectively force the closure of interiors in June, and the Ministry does not respond this Thursday on this issue either. The indicators in people over 65 years of age, a population vaccinated with a dose almost 100% at the national level, are good in all communities. Traceability (the number of cases in which the transmission chain is detected) does have bad percentages in Andalusia, Madrid, Euskadi and Catalonia.
The battle of nightlife
The declaration of actions is also a regulation of the reopening of nightlife and discos. They will be able to open as long as the area is outside the alert levels or at risk level 1. Also with rules: only until 3 in the morning, with only 50% capacity indoors but 100% outdoors, without being able to stand at the bar, and at tables with a maximum of 6 inside and 10 outside. At risk level 2, it could be valued according to the trend, it would have to be favorable. On level 3 and 4, the nightlife must be closed.
Also taking into account all the indicators, those at level 1 would be in a position to reopen safely the nightlife: Galicia, Asturias, Navarra, Extremadura, Valencian Community, Murcia and the Balearic Islands. Those that surely could not be, again, Euskadi and La Rioja.
This decision to reopen comes after strong pressure from the nightlife sector. Their demands have not ceased throughout the pandemic, but especially with the fall of the state of alarm. Andalusia’s decision to open its clubs until 2:00 in the morning triggered a knock-on effect in other communities where the sector has been closed for months or reduced to an afternoon or restaurant activity. Through demonstrations and threats of demand to the atutonomic governments –as has happened in Cantabria–, the businessmen of the night expressed their disagreement with the restrictive measures and the comparative offense with the rest of the hotel industry. They claim to be the “safe option” before drinking bottles, clandestine parties or meetings in homes, although epidemiologists warn that discotheques and poorly ventilated interiors are more dangerous than any exterior.
In any case, Health has opened the hand to allow its reopening if the communities meet a series of requirements. The minimum is to be at low risk of transmission or level 1. At the moment, seven are in that situation and can open their clubs and pubs until 2:00 in the morning (extendable at 3:00). They are Galicia, Cantabria, Navarra, the Valencian Community, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura and Murcia. Regarding the rules, the allowed capacity will be 50% indoors and 100% on terraces, drinks will have to be served and taken at the tables and the maximum opening hours will always be the stipulated one. This will remain unchanged until immunization progresses. On the use of the dance floors there are no specifications.
Andalusia is not on the list of those who are allowed to open nightlife, but it still maintains it and has refused to sign the document. Neither have Galicia and Madrid, claiming the latter is already working on its own in a “gradual de-escalation with controlled measures” for Madrid nightclubs. Furthermore, Catalonia and the Basque Country have abstained for reasons of invasion of competences.