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Regional government confident that Malaga and Granada will be in Phase One next week

Malaga bar workers measure the distance between tables in the hope that next week they’ll be able to serve customers.
Malaga bar workers measure the distance between tables in the hope that next week they’ll be able to serve customers. / SALVADOR SALAS
  • The Costa del Sol and Costa Tropical were left out of this week’s easing of lockdown restrictions, stopping many businesses from reopening

The regional government has said it is confident that all eight provinces of Andalucía will be in Phase One of the government’s staged plan to ease Covid-19 lockdown restrictions next week. This follows the surprise announcement last Friday from Madrid that the provinces of Malaga and Granada would be held back in Phase Zero, delaying the further relaxation of restrictions on movement and the planned reopening of small businesses and pavement terraces.

The decision was slammed by the regional government, whose president, Juanma Moreno, called for an immediate review of the situation. He said that holding back Malaga and Granada had damaged the reputation of the Costa del Sol and the Costa Tropical as tourist destinations, just as they were trying to recover.

The outrage was echoed by representatives of the tourism industry, as well as mayors of numerous coastal resorts.

The Junta de Andalucía, in a report submitted last week to the government, had expressed its concerns about Malaga and Granada city areas not meeting the requirements, however it had expected the government to divide the provinces into health districts so that Phase Zero restrictions would only be maintained in the city areas if at all.

The government responded to the complaints, stating that the Health Ministry’s decisions were based only on scientific criteria. These included the number of cases of Covid-19 registered per 100,000 inhabitants in the previous two weeks and the area’s ability to step up availability of hospital beds at short notice in the case of a new spike in infections.

This week, though, the regional authority insinuated that other criteria had been behind the decision. Speaking on Monday, the regional vice-president, Juan Marín, and regional government spokesperson, Elías Bendodo, said that the Health Ministry had changed its mind in just one hour last Friday. Officials in Madrid had called the regional Health minister, Jesús Aguirre, first to say that both provinces would be held back in Phase Zero and then again to say that only the districts would be left out. Finally the former version was announced at the briefing later that evening.

The regional ministers also produced figures that showed more coronavirus cases in the Basque Country, which did go through to Phase One, than in Malaga, and complained that other provinces had been subdivided into their respective health districts.

Fast track to Phase Two

Meanwhile the regional authority has prepared a further report with “reasonable and objective” arguments for Malaga and Granada’s promotion to Phase One this coming Monday 18 May, Moreno said.

While confident that the two tourist areas will see their restrictions relaxed, the president criticised the government’s “excessive opacity” and called for “common, transparent, objective and comparable” criteria to be used for all of Spain’s regions.

“We’ve sent more documents to the ministry with seriousness and transparency,” said regional Health minister Aguirre on Wednesday.

Looking beyond next week, Juanma Moreno said he was optimistic that the region would be able to move further forward into Phase Two of the plan on 25 May.

Aguirre said on Wednesday that he would request that Malaga and Granada stay in Phase One for just one week, so all eight provinces can progress together.

The government will first have to decide whether Malaga and Granada can move to Phase One on Monday, however. The decision is expected to be announced later today (Friday).