Spain’s best-known bull running festival in the northern town of Pamplona has been cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis, Pamplona city hall said today.
The San Fermin celebration is centuries old and typically attended by hundreds of thousands of people.
During the celebration half-tonne fighting bulls chase hundreds of daredevils, many of whom wear traditional white shirts and scarves, through the narrow streets of the city each morning.
The municipal council agreed to suspend the event which is held each year between July 6 and 14.
The San Fermin celebration in northern town of Pamplona is typically attended by hundreds of thousands of people
Acting mayor of Pamplona Ana Elizalde told a news conference: ‘As expected as it was, it still leaves us deeply sad.
‘In this context there is no place for fireworks, bullfights or bull runs. We are supposed to wear masks, keep a social distance – measures that are incompatible with what San Fermin is.’
People travel from all over the world to Pamplona to test their bravery and enjoy the festival’s mix of round-the-clock parties, religious processions and concerts.
A 50-year-old lawyer from Colorado who has run with the bulls 99 times at San Fermin cancelled his flight in February.
Peter N. Milligan, who wrote a book about his experiences at the fiesta, had been planning to return to Pamplona this year.
Spanish bullfighter Gines Marin performs with a bull at last year’s festival on July 7 in Pamplona
Bulls charge through streets of Pamplona for annual festival
He said: ‘I was expecting this. Considering the stay at home rules, I would imagine the city would have been overrun if they decided to proceed. Seems like a very smart decision.’
He added: ‘I know this cancellation will be devastating to our friends economically in Pamplona. Fiesta is a tough time to stay healthy under the best of circumstances.’
Spain today recorded a fall in the number of new coronavirus cases but an increase in daily deaths, as 3,968 more people were infected and another 430 died.
The 3,968 new cases – down from 4,266 yesterday – bring the total from 200,210 to 204,178, an increase of 2.0 per cent.
The fall is notable because Spain typically sees an increase in new cases on Tuesdays when delayed weekend figures are fully accounted for.
Deaths increased by 430 today, a higher jump than yesterday’s 399 which takes the overall death toll from 20,852 to 21,282.
This graph shows the daily number of new coronavirus cases in Spain. Today’s figure was 3,968, slightly down from yesterday’s 4,266
This chart shows the daily number of deaths. Today’s figure of 430 is a slight increase from yesterday’s 399
Coronavirus patient Maria Josefa Arias, 76, is taken to hospital by emergency technicians Marisa Arguello de Paula and Itxaso Garcia Giaconi in Galdakao in Spain
Spain has been in lockdown since March 14, and the measures are expected to be extended with slight relaxations until May 9.
Health emergency chief Fernando Simon says the rate of new infections in Spain is continuing to fall despite an increase in testing.
The regular increase in cases of around 2-3 per cent a day is far lower than the 15-25 per cent which was typical at the height of the crisis in mid-March.
On average, Spain’s new infection count for Tuesday has been higher than on Monday, probably because of delays in reporting weekend figures.
However, today’s jump of 3,968 was smaller than yesterday’s 4,266, which had marked a slight increase from Sunday’s figure of 4,218.
Against that, Spain had said yesterday that its 4,266 new cases included more than 1,000 older ones which had only just been confirmed.
There are fears that the true death toll may be far higher than 21,282, which have been amplified since Catalonia started disclosing thousands more deaths last week after taking a tally from funeral homes.
Those Catalan deaths have not been recorded in Spain’s nationwide figures, despite the region’s calls for the government to do so.
Simon, the emergency response chief, has acknowledged that the ‘real number of deaths is hard to know’.
Even families burying their dead are not always certain what their loved ones died of.
In a nursing home near Barcelona, an 85-year-old woman died on April 8 of ‘possible’ Covid-19, said her daughter Amparo, citing a doctor’s death certificate.
Amparo said her mother was not tested, accusing political leaders of not protecting citizens and dismissing the official tally as useless.
‘Additional people have died because (politicians) have not made sufficient testing possible so that we can know the reality,’ she said. ‘We have left them to die alone.’
Police hand out face masks in Spain as the lockdown eases
Health workers wearing white protective suits transfer a patient from her home to the Hospital Infanta Leonor in Madrid on Sunday
Healthcare workers prepare to move a coronavirus patient at the intensive care unit of the Povisa Hospital in Vigo, Spain
The government has defended its count – which only includes those tested – and said that tracking confirmed deaths allows it to better study the outbreak’s evolution.
Suspected deaths should be analysed at a later stage, the government says.
In other countries, such as Italy and the Netherlands, a large number of coronavirus deaths might not have been reported because of under-testing in nursing homes.
From March 1 to April 10, Spain reported 16,353 coronavirus deaths. But according to the National Epidemiology Centre’s database MoMo, there were 22,487 more deaths than normal for the time of year over the exact same period.
A large part of the 6,134 difference is likely related to COVID-19, said Pedro Gullon, a Spanish Epidemiology Society board member.
But it had to be carefully interpreted because it could also include non-coronavirus deaths of people who did not attend hospitals, he said.
A justice ministry spokesman said it was ‘ridiculous’ to say that the real number of coronavirus deaths could be concealed.
The issue is adding to friction between the government in Madrid and regions with a high degree of autonomy, including Catalonia, whose regional leadership has been waging a long campaign for independence.
The leader of the main opposition People’s Party, Pablo Casado, has demanded that ‘all the truth be told’ about the number of dead.
A lawmaker from the far-right Vox tweeted: ‘No smokescreen will cover the deaths you try to hide’.
The San Fermin festival, which dates back to medieval times and was immortalised in Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises was last called off in 1997 after Basque separatist group ETA assassinated a local politician.
Sixteen people have been killed in the bull runs since officials began keeping track in 1910, most recently in 2009 when a 27-year-old Spaniard was gored in the neck, heart and lungs.
The pandemic has also forced the suspension or postponement of major events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Coachella music festival in southern California, and the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Bulls and runners make their way into the arena in Pamplona