Spain will lift most lockdown restrictions and reach “a new normal” by the start of the summer, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference, Sánchez said the relaxation of coronavirus measures — which was approved by his Cabinet earlier in the day — will be “gradual” and at different speeds across the country, but should be completed nationwide by the end of June.
“If we must choose between prudence and risk, we will choose prudence,” Sánchez said. “This plan is flexible,” he added, warning that if handled badly, “we can lose what we have achieved.”
Unlike the approach of some other European countries, Spain did not outline exact dates for lifting each restriction.
The restrictions will be dropped in four phases, each expected to last a minimum of two weeks. Provinces (rather than whole regions) will be able to progress to the next phase once a series of indicators have been assessed, including on the capacity of health systems and local case numbers as well as mobility and macroeconomic data.
The government will continue to recommend working from home until at least phase three.
On May 4, the vast majority of Spain will enter phase zero, in which adults will be allowed to exercise, professional athletes will be able to train outside alone and some businesses will reopen but only to offer services booked in advance, such as individual gym sessions.
A few parts of the country where the coronavirus data are more promising, such as some of the Canary Islands and the Balearic island of Formentera, will jump directly to phase one, in which adults will be able to go for a drink on a bar’s terrace. However, they will still be banned from entering other people’s homes. Travel within one’s own province will be possible.
Some small shops will reopen in phase one if they can meet social distancing rules. Bars and restaurants with outdoor space will be allowed to use 30 percent of that space, but customers won’t be allowed inside. Hotels will reopen with restrictions. Religious buildings will open but using only a third of their space.
Although schools and universities will not resume lessons until September, some will open in phase two for exams or for children aged 6 or under if both parents must return to work. Cultural events of up to 400 people will restart in phase two, as long as people can be kept a sufficient distance from each other. Cinemas, theaters and other venues with pre-booked seats will reopen using only a third of their space. Religious venues will see their capacity increased to 50 percent in phase two.
The government will continue to recommend working from home until at least phase three and face masks must be worn on public transport. Restrictions for bars, restaurants and shops will be eased further in this phase, but a 2-meter rule between customers will remain in place.
Traveling among provinces, including to second homes, will not be possible until phase three, with the exception of workers who live in a different province to that of their workplace, and for emergency reasons.
Sánchez also announced he will continue to request rolling 15-day extensions of the state of alarm, which came into force on March 13, and suggested a reform of the Constitution might be needed in order to “shield” the public health system.