By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa unveiled the highly anticipated plan for the holiday season on Wednesday, as new daily infections remained below the 10,000 mark.
"The plan can be summed up simply – this Christmas, we stay home," said Illa at a press conference, although the country's anti-COVID-19 restrictions will be generally more relaxed for the holidays.
From Dec. 23 to Jan. 6, people will not be allowed to leave their regions except for reasons like work or to visit family, which will be loosely defined and not limited to legal ties.
"We trust in the responsible attitude of Spaniards," said Illa.
"We're risking a lot this month," he said.
This means some regions, which are currently closed off, may have to open borders to those visiting their families. Others, which are currently open, will have to close to non-essential or family-related travel. The Canary and Balearic Islands will allow free movement.
On Dec. 24 and 31 – Christmas and New Year’s Eve – curfew will be pushed back to 1:30 a.m. (0030GMT). At the moment, curfews vary in each region but range from 10 p.m. (2100GMT) to midnight.
On Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, gatherings of up to 10 people will be allowed. At the moment, most Spanish regions have limited gatherings to a maximum of six people.
The central government also strongly recommends regional authorities to avoid organizing events that could draw crowds and for students visiting their families to limit contacts 10 days before they travel.
Spain has seen contagions drop over recent weeks, but its rate of contagion is still more than 10 times higher than its goal of 25 infections per 100,000 over two weeks.
On Wednesday, the Health Ministry reported 9,331 new infections, a slight uptick from Tuesday, yet just the third day with fewer than 10,000 daily infections since early September.
Hospitalizations continued to decline, with 13,500 active COVID-19 patients currently using 11% of all the country’s hospital beds and 26% of all available intensive care units.
Deaths also dropped from Wednesday, as the Health Ministry reported another 273 COVID-19 fatalities, bringing the official death toll to 45,784.
"We’re heading in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go to bring down contagion," Carolina Darias, Spain’s minister of territorial policy, said at Wednesday’s press conference. "The goal isn’t just to celebrate this Christmas, but many more to come."