MADRID: Spain's San Fermin festival, which attracts tourists from all over the world for the running of the bulls through the streets of Pamplona, will be cancelled for the second year in a row because of COVID-19, the regional head said on Tuesday.
But amid much disagreement and handwringing across Spain over how strict pandemic restrictions should be, Pamplona's mayor was quick to say no decision had yet been made.
"An international festival like San Fermin, in which millions of people come to Navarra, won't be possible," Maria Chivite, president of Navarra's regional administration, said.
The local Diario de Navarra newspaper quoted Pamplona Mayor Enrique Maya as saying: "All citizens are aware that, with the available data, it will obviously be difficult to talk about (the festival) as we have known it until now, but today on Feb.2 ... there's no decision made."
In a country where COVID restrictions vary from region to region, and sometimes city to city, such disagreement over restrictions are rife.
Madrid region's conservative leader, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, defended on Tuesday her decision to relax some restrictions in the capital, saying she had not seen any scientific evidence that meals in restaurants were more contagious than gatherings at home.
"Health is many things, not just avoiding infection," she said.
From Friday, groups of up to six will be allowed to gather in outdoor restaurant terraces in the Madrid region, up from four now. A 10 p.m. curfew might be pushed to midnight in Madrid, where people are still allowed to eat and drink inside bars and restaurants, while theatres and museums remain open.
Ayuso has often clashed with the left-wing central government on how to tackle the COVID-19 crisis.
"In the fight against the pandemic there are no shortcuts... It's not advisable or reasonable to start hurrying to wind down (the restrictions)," government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero told a news conference.
The Spanish government decided on Tuesday to restrict air travel with Brazil and South Africa, where new highly contagious variants of the coronavirus have been detected.
Inbound flights will only be able to carry Spanish nationals and residents returning to Spain or transit passengers traveling to countries outside of the Schengen Area with stopovers shorter than 24 hours, it said.
The health ministry will decide this week whether or not to give AstraZeneca's recently approved COVID-19 vaccine to elderly people.
Several European countries including Germany, Poland and Austria have restricted the shot to younger people amid a lack of clinical data on its use in people over 65.
On Monday, Spain reported 79,686 new cases since Friday, slowing from the previous weekend's tally of 93,822 and pushing the cumulative total above 2.8 million. The death toll rose by 762 to 59,081.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Nathan Allen, Belen Carreno; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Angus MacSwan)