MADRID (Reuters) – The Spanish government is to propose a “different” Christmas and New Year under coronavirus restrictions with just six people at parties, although it hopes the “soul and spirit” of the season will shine, El Mundo newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Governments across Europe, which accounts for a quarter of reported global infections and deaths, are trying to navigate a fine line between avoiding super-spreading the virus over the holidays while allowing families to celebrate Christmas.
On Tuesday, Spain added 12,228 coronavirus cases to its tally that now stands at nearly 1.6 million, western Europe’s second highest after France. While new infections have slowed in the past month, the death toll rose by 537 to 43,668 – the highest daily increase in the second wave of contagion.
Quoting a health ministry draft document to be discussed with regional health chiefs, El Mundo said the government would recommend that office gatherings and similar celebrations in the run-up to the holidays be held on restaurant terraces or outside. They would be limited to six people.
Speaking at a news conference to announce a nationwide vaccination plan, Health Minister Salvador Illa would not confirm or deny the report.
“Nothing is set in stone, we need to find consensus about it (holiday restrictions),” he said, without elaborating further.
The regional health chiefs could still introduce changes. Catalonia’s government said last week it wanted to allow gatherings of up to 10 people for Christmas, and on Tuesday a Catalan government spokeswoman said it would listen to Madrid’s proposals but will make its own decisions.
Spain imposed a six-month state of emergency in October, giving regions legal backing to impose curfews and other restrictions.
Families of more than six people living together would still be able to party without the six-person cap, which applies to celebrations with any invited guests on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s day, El Mundo said.
The start of the nighttime curfews in force in most Spanish regions would be moved to 1 a.m. from 11 p.m. on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Joan Faus, Emma Pinedo, Jose Elias Rodriguez, Ingrid Melander, Editing by Andrei Khalip, Angus MacSwan and David Gregorio)