The Spanish government could be forced to pay back fines issued for breaching lockdown as Covid restrictions were ruled unconstitutional.
Spain’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the strict home confinement ordered by the government at the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year was unlawful.
Prime Minister Pedro’s Sanchez’s leftist government declared a three-month state of emergency on March 14, 2020, allowing it to temporarily limit civil liberties such as the freedom of movement to try to curb the spread of Covid-19.
With the pandemic raging, Spain imposed one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns for several weeks, with people allowed to go out only to go to work if they could not do their jobs from home, or to buy food or medicine or visit a hospital.
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The court said in a statement it had annulled some articles of the state of emergency decree related to the free movement of people in response to a lawsuit brought by far-right party Vox.
It agreed with Vox’s argument that the restrictions of movement required the passing of a "state of exception", which unlike a state of emergency would require approval from parliament and not just the cabinet.
The court said it was a split decision, with six judges voting in favour and five against.
The ruling paves the way for the cancellation of fines imposed on people for breaking the home confinement rules during the state of emergency.
Sanchez’s government declared a second state of emergency between the end of October 2020 and May 9, 2021, but this one did not involve ordering home confinement.