Spain’s government called Monday for “responsibility”, insisting health restrictions were still in place after weekend images showed people celebrating the state of emergency’s end without masks or social distancing.
“The end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of restrictions. Far from it. The virus threat still exists,” Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo wrote in an opinion piece in El Pais daily.
“That’s why the authorities will continue to take action and the public must keep on behaving responsibly.”
After more than six months of curfews and a ban on travel between Spain’s 17 regions under a state of emergency which was imposed in late October, Spaniards were afforded new freedoms when the measure expired in the early hours of Sunday.
But the images of hundreds of people joyfully celebrating in the streets of Madrid, Barcelona and other Spanish cities without masks or social distancing made Monday’s front pages and sparked much debate online.
With nearly 79,000 deaths and more than 3.5 million infections, Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic, with the pictures provoking a backlash, particularly politicians quick to blame the government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
“With Sanchez, we’ve gone from a state of emergency to a state of chaos,” fumed opposition leader Pablo Casado who heads the right-wing Popular Party.
In his editorial, the justice minister pointed out that 28 percent of the population had already received a first dose of the vaccine, saying that in areas where it might be necessary to reimpose restrictions on fundamental rights, “judicial authorization must be sought”.
With local court approval, the regions can still limit the opening hours of shops, bars and restaurants as well as their capacity. And if courts deny permission, the regions can appeal the decision to Spain’s Supreme Court.