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Spain has lifted the state of emergency since October to fight the pandemic, allowing Spaniards to travel between regions for the first time in months.

“It’s like New Year’s,” said 28-year-old Oriol Corbella in Barcelona, ​​where the lifting of the curfew was greeted with shouts, applause and music.

“We’re getting a little bit of normalcy back, freedom, but we have to keep in mind that the virus is still there,” he added.

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

“I was frustrated, locked up and had no freedom,” added the 46-year-old, who is planning to travel to Galicia in northwestern Spain next weekend to celebrate a birthday.

Argentina Enriquez, a 37-year-old Mexican student, said she was waiting impatiently to go to the country to have a barbecue with friends, play the guitar and go for a walk.

“Just being together … lots of emotions,” she said.

Although the emergency action, which expired at midnight (Saturday, 10:00 p.m. GMT) will create more freedoms, it is a headache for the country’s 17 regional health-care governments.

The state of emergency provided them with a legal framework to impose measures such as night curfews or a ban on unnecessary travel between regions that restricted freedoms.

With the exception of a few days over Christmas when the restrictions were lifted, people could not travel to other areas, go on vacation or visit family.

Discouraged by the rise in infections after Christmas, authorities have not relaxed internal travel restrictions during Easter week, usually a peak travel season in Spain.

But what really upset the Spanish was the fact that foreign tourists could flock to the country on vacation while being banned from going to the beach or visiting loved ones.

While intra-regional travel bans have ended and curfews lifted, not all restrictions will be eased in Spain, one of the hardest-hit nations in Europe with nearly 79,000 deaths and 3.5 million infections.

Different legal views

Regions can still restrict opening times and set capacity limits in bars and restaurants.

You can also get court approval for stricter measures like reintroducing curfews, limiting the number of home gatherings, or extending a ban on internal travel.

However, the courts have made different decisions, which has resulted in a patchwork of measures across the country.

A court in the Eastern Valencia region approved a midnight to 6:00 am curfew, while the Northern Basque Country Supreme Court said the area could not honor its nightly curfew.

To avoid this scenario, several regions have asked Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government to extend the emergency.

However, his government refused, saying the measures could not stay in place indefinitely. He pointed out that the infection rate was stable and that the Spanish vaccination program was making rapid progress.

Nonetheless, a decree was passed giving regions the right to appeal to the Supreme Court if a local court rejects a proposed measure.

At the head of a minority government, Sanchez has had an uphill battle to gather enough support to approve an extension of the state of emergency.

Sale of train tickets

State rail operator Renfe says ticket sales for the next week rose 13 percent in the past seven days.

But after more than a year of restrictions and in the face of the hot and sunny weather, authorities have warned people not to lose their vigilance.

Spaniards have to be careful “so as not to get the wrong impression of what ending the state of emergency means … it does not mean an end to restrictions,” said Health Ministry’s emergency coordinator Fernando Simon on Thursday.

Everyone must continue to behave responsibly, he stressed.

“Nothing can be ruled out regarding the development of the pandemic.”

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