THE NATIONWIDE STATE OF ALARM that´s been in place since 25th October 2020 officially expires when the clock ticks past midnight in the early hours of this coming Sunday morning, 9th May 2021.
The lapsing legislation will deprive authorities of two legal tools they have relied upon to enforce public safety measures over the last half-year, but what´s expected to happen when the state of alarm comes to an end?
The President of the Valencian Community, Ximo Puig, has already clarified that the perimeter confinement will come to an end this Sunday.
The community land border has been permanently closed for all but essential travel since last October, both inbound and outbound, in a bid to reduce unnecessary mobility.
With Spain´s national land border with France open, the Alicante Province will be an open part of the Schengen Area for the first time in more than six months.
From Sunday, Spanish nationals will be able to travel from other parts of Spain to visit locations within the Valencian Community, and international travellers and tourists arriving from the EU will be permitted to enter the Costa Blanca locality unhindered.
State of alarm, the end of the curfew on the Costa Blanca?
The state of alarm provides regional authorities with the legislative powers they need to enforce the curfew, and questions have been raised over its legitimacy once the state of alarm expires.
Ximo Puig has indicated that he intends to maintain the nighttime mobility restrictions as part of a progressive de-escalation process, with the assistance of the judiciary if that proves necessary.
The superior courts of the Valencian Community could be called upon to determine whether measures that affect fundamental rights are proportionate and can be applied. If these restrictions are rejected, it will be the Supreme Court that dictates and unifies the measures that the autonomous authority can impose.
However, local news outlet Las Provincias reports that the President will reduce the active hours of the curfew, meaning that residents and visitors can enjoy longer evenings out.
The curfew currently starts at 22:00 and this remains in force until Saturday 8th May, but the existing legislation allows the curfew to be extended until midnight.
That´s precisely what the hospitality industry is demanding, calling for an increase in both interior capacity and longer opening hours for bars and restaurants in consideration of the community´s low infection rate.
Costa Blanca, the lowest incidence of COVID-19 infection in Spain
The Valencian Community has the lowest COVID-19 accumulated infection rate nationwide, and the latest official data published by the Ministry of Health indicates a 14-day CCI rate of just 42.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
That infection rate has remained stable over the last few weeks, and with only minor fluctuations (44.1 a week ago and 40.0 the week before), the Costa Blanca retains its accolade as the safest place to be in Spain.
By comparison, the Spanish national average 14-day CCI rate stands at 205.5 cases per 100,000 and the Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza come a close second to the Valencian Community, with a 14-day CCI rate of 61.3.
Locally, the recorded 14-day incidence in the Torrevieja health district (the area within which Orihuela Costa´s healthcare is administered) is 41.3, and some neighbouring municipalities, such as Pilar de la Horadada and San Miguel de Salinas have recorded zero active infections within the last 14-days.
Spain´s vaccination campaign has gathered pace over recent weeks and medical teams have administered 17.9 million vaccinations, with 26.7% of the population receiving at least one dose and 5.3 million people vaccinated with both required doses.
The majority of inoculations have taken place using the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, with additional vaccines supplied by AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Janssen´s new one-shot recombinant vaccine.
Masks will remain even after the state of alarm has ended
For the time being, the wearing of a face mask in both indoor and outdoor public spaces is mandatory and will remain so even after the state of alarm has ended. However, contrary to what may have been portrayed in some mainstream news channels, masks are not required in every circumstance.
Spanish legislation already permits the removal of a face mask in any situation where its use is simply not compatible, or if wearing a face mask makes certain essential tasks impossible.
A face mask may be removed to exercise, whilst swimming or cycling, whilst seated at a restaurant table to eat, enjoying a beverage in a cafe or bar, or sunbathing by a community pool or on a beach. Children aged 5-years or younger are not legally obliged to wear a face mask in any location or situation at any time.
People may also remove their face masks if they are experiencing difficulty breathing, and people with long-term acute or chronic breathing conditions are exempted from wearing a mask.
Families on holiday sharing a car do not need to wear face masks whilst inside the vehicle (either in motion or stationary, with or without open windows), and masks are not legally mandated in private spaces such as homes, gardens, hotel rooms, or cabins aboard passenger ships.
With the pandemic in decline and a substantial increase in passenger air traffic between both domestic and international destinations at Alicante-Elche airport over recent weeks, all eyes are on the summer, with hopes that the Costa Blanca will be open to all visitors from June.
Looking for holiday ideas and inspiration for summer 2021? Find out more about our favourite recommended things to do on the Orihuela Costa or join the La Zenia community Facebook group and find out what´s going on in the local area.
Photo credit: LaZenia.com