Spain has begun its journey back to normal life after almost two months of strict lockdown, with residents able to exercise outdoors for the first time in seven weeks.
Residents celebrated their restored freedom on Saturday (2 May) by cycling, walking and running along the streets in Barcelona and Madrid, as the country begins its four-phase plan to lift its nationwide lockdown.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez aims to return the country to a “new normality” by the end of June.
How will Spain come out of lockdown?
Mr Sánchez outlined a de-escalation plan with four phases, each of which is expected to last about two weeks, with the whole process taking no more than eight to complete.
By the end of June, the country will have entered a “new normality” if the outbreak remains under control.
The preparatory “phase zero”, from 4 to 11 May, permitted hairdressers and other businesses that take appointments to reopen, restaurants to offer take-away services, and professional sports leagues to go back to training.
Provinces will progress to less restrictive phases based on their infection rates, local hospital capacity, and how well social distancing measures are being observed.
Some schools will also reopen in late May, although most will stay closed until the new term starts in September.
However, remote working will continue where possible until June and it is now mandatory to wear masks on public transport.
This is the plan for the reopening of businesses and leisure facilities:
- 11 May – small businesses and hotels can open, but social distancing will remain in force. Religious services can also resume on a limited basis, at no more than one third of the building’s capacity
- Mid-May – Restaurants can start opening their terraces, but must not be more than 30 per cent full during the first phase
- Late-May – Theatres and cinemas will reopen, but must be no more than a third full
- End of June – Shops can open at half capacity, with shoppers keeping two metres apart
- Late June – Beaches are expected to reopen
What restrictions have already been lifted?
On Sunday (26 Apr), children aged 14 and under were permitted to leave their homes for walks for the first time since lockdown began six weeks ago.
Some non-essential industry workers have now been allowed to return to their jobs, including those who work in manufacturing, construction and some services. However, they must still adhere to strict safety guidelines.
The rest of the population are still being asked to work from home, with schools, bars, restaurants and other services still closed to the public.
Shops still remain closed, except for supermarkets, fruit stands, bakeries, butchers, pharmacies and newsstands.
The rules are expected to remain in force into May.
Why have some restrictions been lifted?
The move to ease the lockdown restrictions comes after the country reported its lowest daily growth in confirmed coronavirus infections in three weeks.
The number of deaths from coronavirus fell from 619 on Sunday (12 Apr) to 517 on Monday (13 Apr).
However, those who have been permitted to go back to work must still maintain social distancing.
Will travel to Spain be allowed this summer?
Spain isn’t expected to come fully out of lockdown until the end of June, meaning tourists still have a long wait until travel to the country is allowed.
Beaches across Spain currently remain off-limits to everyone, including swimming in the sea, under the Spanish government’s state of emergency rules.
However, the government plans to reopen beaches by late June.
The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is currently advising British nationals against all but essential international travel.
From Monday 23 March, only Spanish citizens, or those who can prove they are a resident in Spain, will be allowed to enter the country through airports, ports or land borders.
This measure was brought in for an initial period of 30 days, although it could be extended.
To enter Spain, you may be required to show proof you are resident, such as a residency certificate or other form of ID with your Spanish home address on it.
British travellers will continue to be allowed to leave Spain. British travellers who are not resident in Spain, should not attempt to travel to Spain.
The following categories of people are also exempt from border restrictions:
- Frontier workers
- Health workers
- Those who are transiting Spain to their country of residence in EU/Schengen area
- Those with a Schengen visa who are transiting Spain to their country of residence in EU/Schengen area
- Those who can prove that they need to enter Spain for essential reasons
What restrictions could be enforced if lockdown is lifted?
Once the physical barriers on the beach promenades are removed, tourists will still have to keep a safe distance from each other even after the lockdown is lifted, both on the beaches and within resorts and hotels, the Minister of Tourism has said.
Minister Reyes Maroto said tourists who return to Spain “will have to sunbathe 6ft apart”, and admitted the tourism sector will have a slower recovery from the pandemic.
While safe distances will have to continue, even on the beaches, Maroto said it is too early to say whether tourists will have to be screened when entering the country, and have their temperature taken at airports.
She also said it is not known at this stage how social distancing measures on the beaches would be enforced.
There are fears many popular tourist spots will be severely affected until at least 2021, although the impact is difficult to calculate, as it is unclear how long the health crisis will last.
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