As much of Spain gears up for New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Health Ministry reported 18,047 new coronavirus infections on Thursday – the highest daily surge in nearly seven weeks.

New infections have been rapidly accelerating all week and much of Spain is relaxing regional curfews and increasing the maximum number of people allowed to gather to facilitate year-end festivities, just like during Christmas.

Yet, parts of Spain that are seeing the highest increases in cases are asking citizens to celebrate at home.

“I beg the society of Extremadura to stay home tonight without celebrations. There’s nothing to celebrate […] we’re in the most complicated situation of the entire pandemic,” said José María Vergeles, health minister of Extremadura region, on Thursday.

The Extremadura government announced stricter measures will come into effect on Friday.

At the very last minute, the government of Valencia, which is also at near-record levels of infection, banned parties with DJs and karaoke for New Year’s Eve.

Madrid, which has also noticed a fresh surge in cases, has its own plans for an unprecedented New Year’s Eve celebration. The national countdown is usually held in the city’s main square to a massive crowd of people.

This year, the Puerta del Sol will be completely blocked off by police to prevent gatherings.

The town of Mojacar also adapted to the pandemic by ringing in the new year at midday instead of midnight to comply with local restrictions.

Another 148 people were reported dead from COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing Spain’s official COVID-19 death toll in 2020 to 50,837.

Spain’s Health Ministry is not expected to update its pandemic figures until Monday, as Friday is a holiday and no updates are provided over the weekend.

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