Spain lifts coronavirus state of emergency after 6 months

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Madrid

Spain lifted a state of emergency it had imposed in October to stem the spread of the virus, allowing citizens to travel to different regions of the country for the first time in several months and enjoy more freedoms.

“I was fed up with not being able to get out of Madrid,” jewellery designer Blaca Valls told AFP on Saturday, echoing the relief of many in the country over the easing of restrictions.

“I felt frustrated, locked down, with no freedom,” added the 46-year-old who plans to go to Galicia, in northwest Spain, next weekend to celebrate a birthday.

Argentina Enriquez, a 37-year-old Mexican student, said she was impatiently waiting to head to the countryside to enjoy barbecues with friends, play the guitar and go for walks.

“Just being together… a lot of emotions,” she said. Although the emergency measure, which expired at midnight (2200 GMT Saturday) will lead to more freedoms, it is a headache for the country’s 17 regional governments responsible for health care.

The state of emergency provided them with a legal framework to impose measures — such as nighttime curfews or a ban on non-essential travel between regions — that limited freedoms.

Except for a few days over Christmas when the restrictions were lifted, people have not been able to travel to other regions, go on holiday, or see family.

Discouraged by the surge in infections after Christmas, the authorities did not loosen internal travel restrictions during Easter week, normally a peak travel period in Spain.

But what really angered Spaniards was the fact that foreign tourists were able to pour into the country on holiday while they were banned from travelling to the beach or visiting loved ones.

While intra-regional travel bans have ended and curfews have been lifted, not all of the restrictions are being relaxed in Spain, one of Europe´s hardest-hit nations with nearly 79,000 deaths and 3.5 million infections.—AP