The Camino in times of pandemic |
Right after Spain came out of the estado de alarma (state of emergency) in June 2020 I wrote a post about the new measures that were introduced as the country slowly re-opened and started receiving visitors. It was mostly about the effects of the restrictions on the albergues, although some other general issues were also discussed. We thought then these measures would be temporary but 9 months later, we’re still not out of the pandemia.
The restrictions keep changing as the situation evolves. And it’s hard to keep up with all of them, as they also vary from one region to another. But I’ll try to summarise the situation as it currently is and add a few more Spanish words that have become part of our daily routines.
Spain in times of pandemic
- Spain is under a new estado de alarma (state of emergency) until May 9. What will happen then is impossible to predict. It will depend on what the situation is at the time.
- One of the restrictions implemented under the state of emergency is the toque de queda (curfew). The times vary between regions but it can start from 10:00pm (the earliest) and finish by 7:00am (the latest). In Galicia, it starts at 10:00pm and finishes at 6:00am.
- Cierre perimetral is another term you’ll hear a lot. It means perimeter lockdown and right now most Spanish regions have their borders closed. That means you can’t get in or out of the region unless you have a valid reason, such as work. Walking the Camino does not qualify as a valid reason.
- There may also be local confinamientos (lockdowns), if an area experiences a surge in the number of infections. Noncompliance with these movement restrictions can result in una multa (a fine) of €200 or more (depending on the region and other circumstances).
In terms of the Camino, that means that right now you can only walk to Santiago if you live in Galicia. And even that is not easy, with many accommodations still closed. Otherwise, you can walk within your region but not cross on to the next one. There’s no specific date for these perimeter lockdowns to be lifted. As of today, the one in Castilla y León, for instance, is set to remain in place until May 9… but it could be extended if the authorities deem it necessary at the time.
The vaccination process is going slower than planned, mainly due to the shortage of vacunas. There has been talk about a European pasaporte de vacunación (vaccination passport), but nothing specific has been decided yet. So, it’s hard to know how that will affect travel. Right now, those allowed to enter Spain must present a PCR with a negative result, carried out in the 72 hours prior to their arrival in Spain.
*Update: the EU Digital Covid certificate will come into force on July 1. From June 7, visitors from foreign countries can enter Spain with proof they’ve been fully vaccinated. If you don’t have that, you will need a negative PCR or proof that you’ve recovered from covid.
More info here.
That’s about moving around. But what is the situation of bars, albergues and other businesses?
Shops and the hospitality sector in times of pandemic
In general, shops, bars, restaurants and accommodations are open. But nothing is straightforward these days, so there are several things you need to be aware of.
Mascarillas are compulsory
Measures, measures, measures…
Limited capacity everywhere
Aforo (maximum capacity). You will see notices outside most businesses stating their aforo or maximum number of customers allowed inside at the same time. If this number has been reached, you must wait outside… keeping your distancia, of course.
The use of mascarillas is compulsory and you will also find gel hidroalcohólico at the entrance of business (or sometimes inside, on the counter).
In the case of bars and restaurants, you also need to be aware of their closing times. In Galicia, for instance, up to a couple of weeks ago, they were allowed to open until 5:00pm only. Right now, closing time is 9:00pm, which means that dining out is still not an option. Not to mention that restrictions could become stricter any time. It’s important to stay informed and use reliable sources.
Accommodations are open or, at least, they’re allowed to be open (with restrictions, of course). The Xunta albergues, for instance, were allowed to re-open on March 12, but that doesn’t mean they’re all open. Some have decided to remain closed for the moment, since the number of pilgrims right now is very limited: only those living in Galicia.
Many Caminos have been postponed or cancelled since last year and everyone is impatient to go back. People keep asking when it will be possible to walk the Camino again. The answer will depend on many factors, like your country of residence or the restrictions in place at any given time.
The Camino has been there for over 1000 years and it’s still going to be there when the pandemia is over. Now is the time to be patient and remember that’s it’s not only about us and what we want but also about the people we come in contact with.
Today’s Spanish words