The easing of Spain’s lockdown restrictions will be gradual and coordinated, but not the same all over the country, said prime minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday.
The country’s progress to a “new normal” will go through four phases, each lasting a minimum of two weeks. The process could be complete by the end of June.
While dates weren’t being guaranteed, and many smaller details still need to be announced in the coming days, the phased plan gave a much clearer idea of what the government expects to do.
Details of the already announced plans to allow adults to exercise individually outdoors from this Saturday, 2 May, weren’t given but experts implied that those running or cycling would be required to keep extra distances between them.
There was dismay from the hotel and catering industry that the steps proposed for reopening their sector during the four phases of wind down would not work in practice. Having to use just 30% of their premises meant business would be unviable they said, and representatives called for more flexibility or financial bailouts in the meantime.
Flexible for each province
Each province or island will go through the phases at different speeds according to their individual conditions, which include the capacity of their health services to deal with new cases of Covid-19.
The easing of restrictions begins with Phase Zero, which, the prime minister said, had already started with the permission for children to be taken out for walks.
Phase Zero will come into force completely from 4 May when some businesses that operate by appointment, such as hairdressers, can begin to offer individual services, and restaurants can serve food to take away.
Phase One, which will be in effect in all provinces that comply with certain conditions by 11 May, will allow the opening of some small businesses and the outdoor terraces of bars and restaurants with clear restrictions of up to 30% occupancy only. For the moment, four small islands that have shown no recent Covid-19 cases (El Hierro, La Graciosa and La Gomera in the Canaries and Formentera in the Balearics) are allowed to jump ahead and start Phase One on 4 May.
Large shopping centres will be excluded in this phase to avoid crowds, and special timetables will be introduced for the over-65s in shops and businesses.
Hotels and tourist accommodation will be able to reopen in this phase, but not their communal areas. Religious services will also be permitted with maximum capacity reduced to a third for church premises.
The use of a face mask will be “highly recommended” on public transport.
Phase Two, the intermediary stage, should begin on 25 May in all provinces that comply with the health conditions. Bars and restaurants will be able to open up their indoor spaces, but only for table service, with capacity restrictions.
Cultural events will be permitted with fewer than 50 people in indoor spaces and fewer than 400 outdoors - and all seated.
In Phase Two, people will be able to travel to their holiday homes provided they are in the same province, and people should be allowed to see friends and family in the same province, although under what conditions wasn’t yet clear.
The third phase, which will allow even greater movement, would start on 8 June, said Sánchez, who gave few concise details of what this stage would involve.
There was no clear information given as to when international travel might be allowed again, with the government preferring to wait to for a European agreement, although indications were that it would not come until June, and providing there was no spike in coronavirus cases.
Neither was it clear this week if the government would seek to extend the state of alarm throughout the whole of this period.
Schools will go back in September, said the prime minister, with some exceptions, such as for special support classes and children up to six whose parents are both working outside the home, among others.