On October 25 last year, the Spanish government approved the declaration of a state of alarm. It was the second such declaration in the space of seven months. The original state of alarm in March had been very much more restrictive. Confinement (or lockdown) meant just that. The word lockdown has been misused over the past several months, but it was appropriate last March, as people were locked down in their homes and were only allowed to go out for specific purposes.
The response last March was to a crisis for which there was no emergency plan as such. The director of the Coordination Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simón, has admitted that lockdown was the response as no other option appeared to exist. The state of alarm, a constitutional device, was declared for only the second time; the previous occasion was for the air-traffic controllers' strike in December 2010. Under the state of alarm, powers were available to the government which it would not normally have. And these powers meant curbs of personal freedoms.
The first state of alarm came to an end on June 21. Summer had arrived and the picture looked very much better. But the situation was to deteriorate badly. The UK government went early: quarantine for returning holidaymakers. Other governments were to follow. Although the general level of incidence of the virus did start to go down after soaring in August, the government was still faced by a poor situation towards the end of October, and on November 3 it took the further decision to seek a definitive extension of the state of alarm from November 9 to May 9. Congress agreed to the six months after a bitter debate.
This time, there was no lockdown, but there was the curfew. Regional governments had some flexibility in the hours. In the Balearics it was to eventually be from 10pm to 6am; only recently has it returned to an 11pm start. There were restrictions on travel within Spain; a limit of six was imposed for social gatherings in public or private; there were limits on numbers of people in places of worship.
These four measures would have ended today had the Balearic government not sought the legal means to maintain them. The ending of the state of alarm required a different legal approach, and the government was given it by the Balearic High Court. Its decree is an amendment to public health legislation, something that the Partido Popular opposition in Congress had advocated back in October as an alternative to a new state of alarm.
The six months are over, but there is to be - we are told - up to a further month of curfew. The High Court will have to validate a second fortnight of restriction. By early June, a new normality (promised last June) will prevail, says the government. We hope that it does. For now, it is a case of wait and see, while prayers for the summer rest on maintaining the low incidence (and indeed lowering it further), the vaccination and the decisions of foreign governments.