Balearic Islands, Basque Country and Madrid will not apply the Ministry of Health's agreement on nightlife

Catalonia insists it is already working on reopening but does not want to advance a date

3 min
People dancing in a nightclub in Sitges at the end of May, during a pilot test for the opening of nightlife.

MadridThe clash between the Spanish Ministry of Health and regions over the agreement on opening times and maximum capacity for the hospitality industry is growing. Both Madrid and the Basque Country advanced in the morning that they would not apply it and they were joined shortly afterwards by the Balearic Islands, governed by the Socialists. The Islands' government had not positioned itself against the measures in the Interterritorial Health Council meeting held on Wednesday. This opens a clash of legitimacy on the role of the Interterritorial Health Council: the Spanish government argues that the decisions taken, even if they are not unanimous, must be binding, while communities claim that it is their competence to regulate on opening times for different premises. The Ministry of Health, however, has opened the door to allowing each community to do what it deems appropriate. In statements to RNE, the minister has defended the measures to "reduce cumulative incidence", but at the same time has avoided raising the prospect of a court case if the regions do not implement the agreement.

Catalonia's rejection of the plan is "more about form - a document presented in a hurry and without consultation - than the content - the [Catalan] Government is already working on the reopening", Catalan Health Minister Josep Maria Argimon has explained. "The ministry drew up the document in a day and in the afternoon they sent to us so we would approve it in the evening," criticized Argimon. Despite this, he reiterated that the Generalitat wants to reopen nightlife to "give people a breather, especially young people and a sector that has been closed for a year". Argimon has recalled that Catalonia already has its own protocol and is working on the specifics and a date for reopening that will soon be addressed in a meeting with the sector.

On the other hand, the president of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has affirmed that it is a "political not health imposition". In her opinion, the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, wants to cover up the pardon of political prisoners with the pandemic. In addition, she considers that regulating the opening of nightclubs until three o'clock for regions with low incidence is an "arbitrary" and "senseless" measure that is not mandatory because it has not been approved unanimously. The Basque president, Iñigo Urkullu, has also indicated that he will not apply the measures because it considers them an "invasion of competences".

As for the Balearic Islands, although on Wednesday did not vote against the decision, the Balearic Minister of Health, Patricia Gomez, asked Darias that autonomies "be allowed to establish criteria based on the de-escalation and the situation of each community". This Thursday Gomez said that the Balearic Islands "have a lot in play" with the start of the tourist season and that it will not allow nightclubs to open yet despite having a low incidence of coronavirus. The idea is to remain closed for at least two more weeks.

No publication in the BOE

The agreement of the Interterritorial Council of Health, however, has not yet been published in the Official State Bulletin (BOE) and therefore is not yet binding. There is a legal debate about whether the decisions of this body have to be complied with or not. The Spanish government relies on the Supreme Court's rejection of precautionary measures of Vox on the travel restrictions imposed on Madrid to argue that agreements must be complied with even if they are not unanimous, while Madrid argues the opposite.

The agreement for the de-escalation establishes different levels of risk, ranging from zero (new normality) to four (very high risk), which will mark what measures can be relaxed. This will be in force until 70% of the population is vaccinated and all people over 50 years immunised. It will be mandatory for all autonomous communities. When the incidence drops, bars and restaurants may open until one in the morning, while for nightclubs the closing time is set at two, but will be allowed to extend until three if the incidence drops to level 1, with a capacity of 50%. Whenever the territory is at zero risk level, or level 1, nightlife venues and nightclubs will be allowed to serve drinks and food, both inside and outside, but customers will have to stay seated at all times, keeping a 1.5 metre distance between chairs. If the risk level is 3 or 4, clubs will not be allowed to open.