The Spanish central health ministry and the majority of the regional auhtorities reached an agreement on Wednesday to establish anti-Covid measures that would apply throughout the country over the Christmas period.
The agreed measures (only Madrid voted against and Catalonia abstained) are designed to permit reunions among close relatives but to restrict any other travel around the country in a bid to prevent a third wave of the illness before a vaccine is made available.
Only to visit close relatives
Travel will be permitted across regional borders, although only to visit close relatives. Health Minister Salvador Illa gained the support of the regions after relaxing his department's initial plan to prevent travel between regions except for reasons of force majeure.
While the agreement refers to the period between 23 December and 6 January, several regions have already said that they will only allow travel across regional borders on specific days.
Minister Illa pointed out that the regions had the obligation to comply with the agreement as it was approved during the state of alarm. They will however be able to make the measures even stricter if they find it necessary.
The text rules out all travel across Spain for tourism or leisure pursuits, for example trips to second homes in another region or holiday breaks.
What neither the document, nor Illa himself, was able to confirm despite persistent questioning, was how the authorities would control whether people were travelling to meet up with close relatives. The idea of families issuing "safe-conducts" among members is not, at the moment, being considered.
The plan only states that the regional authorities would be responsible for limiting travel across regional borders.
Ten people can meet up
The pact agreed states that a maximum of ten people can get together during the festive period (including children), unless they already live together.
The authorities strongly recommend that groups are formed by only two households, although more families getting together, without exceeding ten people, has not been prohibited.
The agreement allows elderly relatives to leave care homes to spend Christmas with their families, although it recommends that they only stay at one address and stick to a "stable household bubble".
A Covid-19 test on their return to the care home is recommended.
The agreement also relaxes the existing night curfew times, moving the limit to 1.30am on Christmas and New Year's Eve. The extra time is only to allow people to travel home and not to move from one social event to another, states the text.
Students planning to travel home to spend Christmas with their families are advised to limit their social life ten days before travelling and, once at home, to respect household bubbles and avoid interactions in closed spaces.
While sticking to the guidelines laid down in Wednesdays agreement, each regional authority must now draw up its own measures to help control the spread of coronavirus during the coming unusual Christmas holiday period.
How movement is to be allowed within regions and provinces will be decided by each regional government.