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Andalucia seals off region in Covid-19 move, with knock-on impact at border with Gibraltar

The Spanish Government has since clarified there will be no immediate impact on border flow. An update on this article is available here.

The Junta De Andalucia has announced restrictions on movement to and from Andalucia, in a development that will not impact frontier workers and residents in Spain but will likely curtail cross-border travel for leisure until November 9.

The decision to close off Andalucia’s regional perimeter seeks to stem the spread of Covid-19 and follows the Madrid government’s decision to announce a new state of emergency last Sunday.

The Spanish Government’s decision on Sunday imposed night-time curfews in Spain and empowered regional governments to ban travel between regions under some circumstances if there is concern about rising infections.

Andalucia's measures, announced on Wednesday night by the President of the Junta De Andalucia, Juanma Moreno Bonilla, come into effect at midnight on Thursday, October 29 [meaning as from the early hours of Friday], and will be in place through to November 9. Thereafter, they will be reviewed every two weeks.

Mr Moreno Bonilla announced stricter measures in the provinces of Granada, Jaen and Sevilla, where movement between municipalities will also be restricted. The region will also have a curfew in place from 11pm to 6am.

These were “complex and difficult” decisions, Mr Moreno Bonilla said in a press conference after a meeting of the Junta’s committee of scientific experts.

“We are facing days, weeks, perhaps even months, of difficult times,” he said, adding the Junta was seeking to balance the impact on health and the regional economy.

The nation-wide measures adopted by decree on Sunday allow for movement for work and essential reasons, even where travel between regions is restricted.

But while borders are not directly impacted, regional measures adopted by the Junta on travel to and from Andalucia will almost certainly impact those crossing the border for leisure purposes, much as happened during the Spanish lockdown earlier this year.

During the lockdown, restrictions on movement within Spain meant only cross-border workers with employment contracts in Gibraltar and people resident in Spain were able to cross the border freely.

People wishing to travel for leisure purposes, however, were unable to cross, not because of restrictions at the border itself but because of the knock-on impact of regulations inside Spain.

That is likely to be the practical impact until November 10 of the restrictions announced by the Junta on Wednesday night, although there will be exceptions for urgent travel, for example for medical reasons.

"The President of the Junta has now announced the detail of the measures which he shared with me he was unfortunately expecting to have to impose,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo told the Chronicle, reacting to the news.

“The measures enjoy our understanding and support.”

“Undoubtedly, this will inconvenience some for 10 days.”

“But these inconveniences are the reality of having to deal with the growth of the Covid-19 infection.”

“I am very pleased that, once again, workers - in both directions - and those needing access to health facilities and other essentials, will be unaffected by the measures.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Picardo spoke to Mr Moreno Bonilla to discuss the steps being taken by Andalucia and Gibraltar.

Mr Picardo outlined the steps being taken in Gibraltar to control the spread of Covid-19 and mitigate any impact on cross-border fluidity and air links that are vital to Gibraltar’s economy.

“I had a long, positive and cordial conversation with the President of the Junta today,” Mr Picardo said.

“The control of the Covid-19 infection is a common endeavour that we all share.”

“I was able to share with him the measures we have announced [on Tuesday] and which will come into effect on Friday.”

“We discussed the frontier crossing and I received assurances about essential traffic and workers being able to continue to enter and exit Andalucia, as I confirmed also our random testing facility for cross frontier workers.”

“We will no doubt continue in close contact as the situation develops and as we hope to see all jurisdictions get the numbers of persons infected brought under control.”

The impact on border movement of Andalucia’s restrictions will become clearer in the coming days but already, the Gibraltar Government is urging anyone crossing into Spain to become familiar with the new regional rules including limitations on night-time movement and restrictions on gatherings.

“These restrictions on movement [within Spain] can affect those on shift work etc, so they will need proper documentation,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place told the Chronicle earlier this week.

Andalucia, which is one of the regions in Spain least affected by Covid-19, has nonetheless recorded 121,733 cases since that start of the pandemic, and 2,435 deaths.

On Wednesday the Junta reported 2,042 new cases in the previous 24 hours and 33 deaths of people with Covid-19.

The number of people hospitalised in the region has increased in recent weeks and stood at 2,312 on Wednesday, including 293 in critical care units.

At the peak of the pandemic last March 30, the region registered 2,709 patients in hospital and 438 in critical care units.

Conversely in Gibraltar, the number of cases dropped again yesterday to 101, all of them residents.

The overnight increase in cases was just three, with another 15 people declared recovered from the virus.

Of the active cases, 14 are in the Elderly Residential Services.

There are nine people in hospital with Covid-19 and one in the critical care unit, while a further 550 are at home in self-isolation, according to the latest data issued by the Gibraltar Government.