Feliz Navidad? Coronavirus Christmas could limit parties in Spain, newspaper says


FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a single-use protective mask walks pasts a Spanish flag at Colon square amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Madrid, Spain, November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo

MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish government is to propose a "different" Christmas and New Year under coronavirus restrictions with just six people at parties, although it hopes the "soul and spirit" of the festive season will still shine, El Mundo newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Governments across Europe, which accounts for a quarter of reported global infections and deaths, are trying to navigate a fine line between avoiding super-spreading the virus over the holidays while allowing families to celebrate Christmas.

Quoting a health ministry draft document to be discussed with regional health chiefs, El Mundo said the government would recommend that office gatherings and similar celebrations in the run-up to the holidays be held on restaurant terraces or outside.

They would be limited to six people.

Speaking at a news conference to anounce a nationwide vaccination plan that is due to kick off in January, Health Minister Salvador Illa would not confirm or deny the report.

"Nothing is set in stone, we need to find consensus about it (holiday restrictions). When it's decided we will announce the measures," he said, without elaborating further.

The document proposed "planning a different Christmas without taking out the soul and spirit that makes it one of our citizen's most beloved holidays".

The regional health chiefs could still introduce changes. Catalonia's government said last week it wanted to allow gatherings of up to 10 people for Christmas.

"We will listen (to central government proposals) but we will make our own decisions," Catalan government spokeswoman Meritxell Budo said on Tuesday.

Spain, which has more than 1.58 million COVID-19 cases - western Europe's second highest tally after France - and 43,131 dead - imposed a six-month state of emergency in October, giving regions legal backing to impose curfews and other restrictions.

Families of more than six people living together would still be able to party without the six-person cap, which applies to celebrations with any invited guests on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and on New Year's day, El Mundo said.

The start of the nighttime curfews in force in most Spanish regions would be moved to 1 a.m. from 11 p.m. on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Joan Faus, Emma Pinedo, Jose Elias Rodriguez, Ingrid Melander, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Angus MacSwan)

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