Coronavirus: Spanish Supreme Court rules general curfews cannot be imposed under current health laws | Society
Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that general curfews and restrictions on social gatherings could not be introduced under the country’s current health laws. The decision has considerable implications for the Spanish regions, which are responsible for controlling the coronavirus pandemic in their territories.
When the state of alarm ended on May 9, regional authorities found themselves without a legal framework to introduce coronavirus restrictions on basic rights, such as nighttime curfews and limits on social gatherings. This meant that regional governments had to seek court approval again to enforce such restrictions citing the 1986 Public Health Act. But this legislation has been interpreted very differently by lower courts. Last year, for example, a lower court in Catalonia approved a 10-person limit for public and private meetings on the same day another court rejected it.
In order to avoid a repeat of this legal chaos, the Spanish government – a coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and its junior partner Unidas Podemos – approved a royal decree in May that gave the Supreme Court the final say on coronavirus restrictions. In other words, if a lower court refused to allow a coronavirus restriction, a region could appeal the decision to the Supreme Court – something that was not possible before. The aim was to enable the highest judges in the country to establish uniform criteria for determining when regional governments and central administration can and cannot limit rights and under what conditions.
Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court rendered its first ruling on the matter. In that case, the Canary Islands appealed to the Supreme Court after the High Regional Court refused to allow perimeter lockdown of areas with high transmission rates. The Supreme Court ruled that health laws allow a regional government to “restrict freedom of movement” as long as the measure is “imperative” to stop the spread of the coronavirus and “temporary” – conditions that the Canary Islands no ‘have not met, according to the judges.
In Thursday’s case, the Supreme Court was responding to an appeal from the prosecution regarding the 12 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and the six-person limit for social gatherings in the Balearic Islands – measures that had received the green light from the High Regional Court. The prosecution argued that such restrictions could not be introduced under the 1986 Public Health Act. The Supreme Court ruled in accordance with the prosecution and overturned the restrictions, but said basic rights can be restricted when it is “essential” to prevent transmission. “The problem is not the intensity [of the restriction], but rather its extension, ”said the court. “This [Public Health law] can serve as a legal basis as long as the sanitary measure is sufficiently justified […] Simple considerations of prudence, precautions, social harmony are not enough.
The decision will have a limited impact on the Balearic Islands, given that the nighttime curfew was already scheduled to end on Sunday. What he does, however, sets a precedent for future business.
Valencia relaxes restrictions
The Prime Minister of the Valencia region, Ximo Puig, announced on Thursday that restrictions on coronaviruses will be lifted as contagions continue to decline. As of Tuesday, June 6, the area will no longer be subject to a curfew, and there will no longer be a 10-person limit for social gatherings in private and public spaces. But the number of people allowed to sit at a table will always be limited to 10.
From June 6, the night rooms will be able to reopen until 2 a.m., with a capacity limited to 50% in interior spaces and no limit on exterior spaces. All capacity restrictions in places of worship will also be lifted from this date.
For 11 weeks, Valencia recorded the lowest cumulative number of 14-day cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain and Europe. That data point is currently 35.8 per 100,000 – well below the Spanish average of 118.5.
Puig also said he was in favor of ending the mandatory use of face masks “outside, on the beach, forests and nature parks”.
Madrid sets closing time at 12 noon for “Covid sidewalk cafes”
Madrid City Hall announced on Thursday that catering establishments that have been allowed to open additional seating in parking lots and other sidewalk spaces will have to close them at midnight from Friday.
The move comes in response to an increase in complaints from local residents about additional noise from so-called ‘Covid sidewalk cafes’. Indeed, a group of residents of Madrid’s Chamberí district, where 450 parking spaces have become outdoor food courts, demonstrated last Monday in the city’s famous Puerta del Sol square.
The measure allowing bars and restaurants to extend their seats in parking spaces – without a permit – was introduced last year, and since then more than 3,000 establishments have made use of the initiative.
The new closing time will only affect ‘Covid sidewalk cafes’, not bars and restaurants officially allowed to have street dining.
english version by Melissa Kitson.