Potential new nationwide policy could be thrashed out as the country focuses on the Christmas lottery. Wednesday 22nd of December could produce either a lot of heat or a lot of light. Regardless, there will be a lot of noise.
Pedro Sánchez, the President of Spain is hosting a conference of the Autonomous regions of Spain on Wednesday 22nd December. At the weekend he made a brief statement to announce the meeting, but during his speech he did state "The first conclusion is that vaccination works and that this health crisis can only be stopped with science".
The regional power centres have been in a tug of war with the judiciary as they have attempted to thrust people and businesses into aggressive limitations of their freedom beyond the science of vaccination. Different areas are expressing intentions to demand a variety of measures but there seems to be a coalescence around a series of requests for a standard policy across Spain.
Here are the positions being presented by some of the various Autonomous heads ahead of the conference:
The region have imposed the COVID Pass for entry into food, drink and entertainment venues until January 15. The authority has declared support for a return to an outdoor mask mandate and a wish for a COVID fund to be launched in 2022.
Javier Lambán has called for whatever measures that are imposed are uniform across the country. His recent statement that he recognised the people of Aragón had no patience for further measures suggest he is looking for others to implement draconian measures. He has stated he will wait for a declaration from Sánchez before he acts. Lambán has spoken in favour of a COVID fund.
The Asturian authorities are investigating the possibility of an internal passport to be imposed nationwide. The Asturian President, Adrián Barbón, has recently tested positive for COVID and is in Hospital.
Basque premier, Iñigo Urkullu, has echoed comments made by Aragón President Lambán, saying the diverse measures and actions are "not positive". Urkullu has supported the return of outdoor masks.
Miguel Ángel Revilla, the President of the regional government, has requested common measures across the country. His specific suggestions include vaccination for children and booster doses for younger people but the belief that confinement solves nothing.
Blanca Fernández, the regional spokesperson, has stated it would be logical to adopt mandatory mask wearing indoors and outdoors and control of mass events. This vague wording was combined with strong rejection of restrictions on hospitality and an intention to argue to maintain the COVID fund
Castilla y León
The regional president has expressed support for a return to a mandatory mask mandate outdoors as well as indoors.
The Catalan Generalitat, Pere Aragonès, is expected to propose a widening of Catalan measures across the country. Aragonès has stated he feels masks are not enough and has demanded judicial support for a curfew, limit meetings to ten people, close nightlife, reduce restaurants to 50% capacity and a 70% capacity in shops, culture, sporting events and gyms. Barcelona have cancelled their new year's eve celebration in Avenida Reina Maria Cristina.
Juan Antonio Gonzáles, spokesperson for the region, will hold a position to encourage a third dose but that measures approved will be done so by consensus and are "unequivocal" for all.
The Galicia Xunta has provided their stance as not in favour of judicial endorsement for curfew in opposition to calls from Catalonia. The Xunta is enthusiastic about reinforcing the use of masks and ongoing vaccination.
Isabel Díaz Ayuso, President of Madrid has confirmed she will request a change to requirements for quarantine, including that "fully" vaccinated contacts need not isolate. She interestingly has called for a return to normal schooling after Christmas, citing exhaustion in the population and believe the COVID Passport serves no useful purpose.
The regional Health Minister, Juan José Pedreño, stipulated they are not bringing policy proposals to the table and that it is the President who takes the lead in making proposals. The regional president Fernando López Miras has dismissed plans to impose a curfew as he states "there are not the legal tools to enforce it."
The President of Navarra, María Chivite, has announced she will attend the conference with an intention to "listen and not rule anything out". She did point out that she understood that indoor mask wearing was already mandatory when distance cannot be maintained.
The regional authorities have put their support for a return to an outdoor mask mandate on record.
The escalating tension
Between November 29 and December 5 a survey by IMOP BERBÉS of 704 people found 80% of those questioned were in favour of a policy to put COVID passports in place for entering establishments. 56.9% felt it should "always" be required and 22% only when a minimum of security conditions could not be met.
Spain has not seen the violent confrontations that have taken place across the world as measures are tightened around populations but there is a rising mood of resistance emerging. It is notable that regional leaders are speaking of fatigue and frustration and attempting to force the decision back to the head of Government. Meanwhile the various court decisions have become a breakwater between the population and encroaching restrictions as Sánchez seems unable to take a cohesive decision with a fragile grip on power.
Sánchez has come under pressure from all the Parliamentary groups who have criticised the President and his Government for inaction and over confidence. Criticism is already abound regarding any action anticipated to be taken in the forthcoming meeting. Further criticism expects each regional representative to advocate particular measures with no anticipated plan to be announced.
The right wing party Vox have been the most outspoken mainstream political voice with Macarena Olona, the General Secretary of the Vox Congress, decrying the use of the COVID passport scheme in a press conference. Declaring the measure to have no practical use for public health and merely as a tool of social control. Olona clarified that she was fully vaccinated but as a free Spaniard she refused to submit her right to exercise her freedoms. She described the scheme as something that could be useful to condemn unvaccinated people to civil "death" and used as an "instrument of coercion" to force people to take the jab.
The party called upon the President to lead from the front and stated that they would contest all regional laws and regulations that implement restrictions or the COVID pass as they have done in the Canary Islands and Galacia.
The country awaits the announcement that emerges from the meeting on Wednesday, which will be cynically held in the shadow of one of the most dominant Spanish scheduled news events of the calendar year, the Christmas lottery.
The Spanish have grown weary of expecting any definitive policy announcements from Sánchez who seems able to talk at length without saying anything. Despite the political pre-emptive derision there is a strong indication that a growing number of regional authorities will call for a unified series of measures across the country. This will put the weight, and possibly the target, on Sánchez's back. Something he has worked with furious determination to avoid for the past year or more.