By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – Spain’s Health Ministry on Monday confirmed 17,681 new coronavirus infections over the weekend — the lowest three-day total since Aug. 17.

Six weeks into a state of emergency enforcing curfews, travel restrictions, and a patchwork of local measures, the epidemiological situation has dramatically improved from since early-November peak of the second wave.

Yet, deaths continue to come in, with another 394 lives lost to the disease over the weekend. Since the state of emergency was declared, around 10,000 people have died of COVID-19 in Spain.

While infections continue to drop, Spain’s health minister implored the country’s residents to act responsibly over the upcoming holiday season, when travel restrictions, curfews and gathering sizes are set to be relaxed.

“We can’t put a police officer in every house,” said Salvador Illa in a press conference, underlining that if the country sees a fresh uptick in cases after the long weekend, the government could tighten measures.

Meanwhile, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, told reporters in Brussels that the country was mulling possible changes to entry requirements for travelers.

For now, all arrivals must test negative for COVID-19 in a laboratory test within 72 hours before arrival to Spain or risk a €6,000 ($7,278) fine. However, many have complained that it is impossible to take a PCR test, get the results back and travel in such a short time frame.

Specifically, Laya said authorities were looking at the possibility of accepting faster antigen tests.

Despite cases having dropped, a number of areas in northern Spain still have not allowed bars or restaurants to reopen, triggering a fresh wave of protests in the hospitality sector.

In the city of Gijon, a group of bar and restaurant owners have locked themselves in a church since Friday out of desperation.

“The help the government is giving us is clearly not enough,” restaurant owner Alejandro Rendueles told local daily El Commercio. “We still have to pay all the costs of keeping our businesses afloat and the situation is totally unstainable. They should freeze our bill payments.”

In Galicia, another group of hospitality workers embarked on a 600 kilometer march to Madrid on Monday to demand more financial support for the reeling sector.

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