MADRID - The Spanish government agreed with regional authorities on Wednesday that a maximum of 10 people per household will be allowed to gather for the Christmas and New Year holidays to avoid spreading the coronavirus, Health Minister Salvador Illa said. The agreement, which applies to celebrations on Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve and on New Year's Day, means a slight relaxation of the current general rule that allows gatherings of up to six people, except in some regions that have defined their own limits. The start of the nighttime curfews in force in most Spanish regions would be moved to 1:30 a.m. from 11 p.m. on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31. Movement of people between regions will be banned between Dec. 23 and Jan. 6, except for visits to family. Illa did not explain how this would work out or be monitored - possibly a tough task considering how many people travel at Christmas precisely to be with family. "It is desirable that people restrict their mobility and social contacts as much as possible," Illa said, encouraging people not to move despite the loopholes. "To sum it up, this Christmas we stay at home." Each region is now free to toughen up the measures on the movement of people. Governments across Europe are trying to navigate between avoiding spreading the virus over the holiday season and allowing people to celebrate with family and friends. The 10-person limit includes children, and the official recommendation is for people from the same household to celebrate together without outside guests. Spain imposed a six-month state of emergency starting in November, which gives regions legal backing to impose curfews and other restrictions. While the rate of infection in Spain has slowed since, its overall tally of over 1.66 million COVID-19 cases is among the highest in western Europe. The death toll reached 45,784 on Wednesday. The holiday rules were agreed under the six-month state of emergency, which will be in place until May. The executive also announced on Wednesday that while the state of emergency lasts, the regions will have to guarantee housing for vulnerable people, and evictions will be restricted. REUTERS
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