Coronavirus in Spain: As Covid cases decline, dancing returns to Spanish nightclubs | Society



Young people dance in a nightclub in Madrid on October 8.Luis Seville

Masks are quickly becoming one of the few visible signs that Spain remains in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, even as the country entered the low-risk scenario last week, with less than 50 cases per 100,000 people on a period of 14 days.

In a further sign of the return to normal, nightclubs in many parts of Spain reopened their dance floors this weekend after months of closure. These include Catalonia, Madrid, the region of Valencia, Asturias and the Balearic Islands. Nightlife spots in several other regions – which are responsible for their health systems, the Covid-19 vaccination campaign and coronavirus measures – lifted this restriction earlier this month, and only Murcia and Aragon still prohibit indoor dancing on their territory.

What remains prohibited in most areas is drinking on the dance floor, while face masks remain mandatory. Health Minister Carolina Darias ruled out the possibility of lifting this rule on Friday. “We don’t know how the flu or other viruses will behave. We will take this step at a time, firmly, to bring the accumulated incidence rates even lower, and masks play a vital role in that regard, ”she said.

For entrepreneurs, this was eagerly awaited news. “It was very important to get the dance floors back,” said Joaquim Boadas of the Spain Nightlife Association industrial group. “Without it, the activity loses part of its purpose, and if you don’t make it attractive, people will prefer to organize private parties or botellones [group outdoor drinking binges]. The authorities are finally realizing it, even if it happens late.

Young people dance in the early hours of Saturday at the Sala Apolo in Barcelona.
Young people dance in the early hours of Saturday at the Sala Apolo in Barcelona.Albert Garcia (EL PAS)

Many experts consulted by this newspaper agreed that nightlife is one of the most delicate areas in terms of transmission of the coronavirus. Even though industry leaders claim their places are safe spaces, epidemiologists and virologists like to point out that these are indoor places, usually very poorly ventilated, with loud music that makes people scream – that is to say more aerosols in the air – and the service of alcohol, not conducive to strict compliance with the law.

Much of the above was on display in Barcelona last Thursday. Despite the rules, it was easy to see people drinking in no-go areas with their masks down or completely removed on dance floors, and no safe distance between people. In some places, it was difficult to spot the differences between now and 2019, before the health crisis hit.

Spanish health authorities were reluctant to relax club and bar rules following the bad experience of summer 2020, when these places became transmission hot spots for the second wave of the coronavirus. Although the incidence rate is now similar to what it was in July of last year, there is one key difference: Most people have either been vaccinated – 87.5% of the target population are completely immune, according to the Department of Health – or have acquired natural immunity. by exposure to the virus.

Although vaccination is not a guarantee against transmission, it greatly reduces the risk and makes any infection much milder than it would be without the protection of the vaccine: Spain’s fifth wave was seven times less fatal than waves previous ones.

Employees of Sala Apolo in Barcelona check the Covid passes of customers outside the club.
Employees of Sala Apolo in Barcelona check the Covid passes of customers outside the club.Albert Garcia

Some regions require customers to show proof of immunity via the Covid pass – which confirms vaccination, a recent negative test, or recovery from the disease. The northwestern region of Galicia has reopened dance floors and allowed clubs to remain open until 4 a.m. at 75% of capacity, as long as this and other conditions are met, including a system continuous monitoring of COâ‚‚ emissions. But industry sources said that in practice very few establishments can meet all of these requirements.

In Catalonia, Covid passes were checked at the doors of nightlife venues from Thursday. The industrial group Fecasarm estimates that around 40% of theaters opened that day. Boadas, who is also a member of this association, specifies that the requirement is to encourage young people to be vaccinated. “Many are calling to ask if they can go to a nightclub the same day they were vaccinated,” he said. The answer is no: a 14 day waiting period is required.

In the Balearic Islands, proof of vaccination began to be required on Friday evening, but industry groups estimate that only around 15% of sites will be open in the coming days as the region’s peak season is over. In this regard, there is no change from the days before the pandemic, when all major clubs in Ibiza closed at this time of year for lack of sufficient customers. At the start of last summer, the Balearics tried to relax their restrictions, but an outbreak in Mallorca involving students on their end-of-term trips has dashed any hopes of saving the season.

Most experts agree that if the further easing of restrictions results in more waves, the healthcare system will be ready to deal with it. Technicians at the national and regional levels worked on a new traffic light system for recommendations in the event of new coronavirus outbreaks. No one is ruling out the possibility of a viral mutation that could force authorities to change the rules again.

Pedro Gullón, of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology, said there was no sense in trying to guess what would happen in the coming months. “We don’t know if the epidemic will end now, and trying to predict it, given that it is circulating around the world, would be like licking your finger and holding it to feel which way the wind is blowing,” did he declare. “What is clear, however, is that we need the right surveillance systems in order to provide answers to any problems that may arise.”


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