PM Sánchez: lockdown restrictions to last till late June, will be lifted by province in four 2-week phases

Unlike other countries, the Spanish leader didn’t specify any dates and announced he will request another extension of the state of emergency

The lockdown restrictions will remain in place till late June in Spain. On Tuesday PM Pedro Sánchez unveiled his government’s plan to end the lockdown which, unlike in other countries, will not be pinned to specific dates but will be rolled out in four phases instead, each lasting at least two weeks. A fortnight is the length of the coronavirus’ incubation period. Pedro Sánchez’s plan to shift to “a new normal” will take from six to eight weeks. On May 4 phase 0 will kick off across Spain, although some islands like Formentera —and others in the Canary Islands archipelago— will jump straight to phase 1. This means that some restrictions on local shops and small retail premises will be lifted —excluding large supermarkets— and they will be allowed to trade by appointment. Likewise, restaurants will be permitted to operate a takeaway service and children will still be allowed to go for a one-hour walk daily. Starting this Saturday, outdoor physical exercise will also be permitted.

From May 11, provided four conditions set by the Spanish government are met —Sánchez didn’t give any specifics—, we will enter phase 1 and so forth until reaching phase 3, which will be completed by the end of June at the very latest. This is when people will be allowed back on beaches. During phase 1 bars may set up tables and chairs outside with a 30 per cent occupancy rate, roughly from May 19. In contrast, people will not be allowed to have friends or family round for a meal until the last restrictions have been lifted. Sánchez was very clear on this point: “A beer or a snack outside a bar is fine, having family round is not”. Hotels and other lodgings will also go back to business in this phase, but communal spaces will be off-limits. Since people over the age of 65 are especially vulnerable, a specific time slot will be reserved for them.

Phase 2 will mean punters may go inside bars and restaurants with a maximum occupancy of 30 per cent and social distancing. No service will be permitted at the bar, only to patrons seated at tables. The new school year will begin in September, but phase 2 means that schools may open to provide an ad-hoc tutorial service, to look after children under the age of six whose parents both need to go to work and to hold the university entrance exams. Sports hunting and fishing will also resume. As for leisure and culture, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and similar venues will open their doors provided tickets are sold by name and occupancy is limited to 30 per cent of the venue’s total capacity.

Limited travel between provinces till the end of the year

As was announced at the weekend, the lockdown will be lifted province by province and activities and travel between them will be limited. This is the administrative division proposed by the Spanish government, even though they have expressed a willingness to adapt to “the territorial specifics” of every Spanish region. The Catalan authorities have been insisting for days now that the lockdown should be lifted by public health region, as they have no specific data for each of the four Catalan provinces. These constraints mean that travel between provinces won’t be allowed until the very end of the lockdown. In other words, anyone living Barcelona who has family in Girona will not be able to visit them till the end of phase 3, once we have transitioned to “the new normal”. In contrast, travelling to a second home within the same province will be permitted from phase 1. In Catalonia this is subject to the Spanish Health Ministry agreeing to the Generalitat’s request to use public health regions as the administrative division. In a post on Twitter, Catalan president Quim Torra slammed Madrid for not having agreed to it from the start.

PM Sánchez also confirmed that Spain’s Health Ministry is considering setting specific times for exercising outdoors from next weekend, as a number of regional governments have requested, Catalonia included.

The new committee to steer the country out of lockdown: no military brass

The Spanish government has also made a number of changes to the management of the crisis. Since last Monday, no uniformed military personnel have been present at the press conferences hosted by Dr Fernando Simón, the director of Spain’s Public Health Emergency Coordination Centre, who has become the sole show-runner. Furthermore, starting this Wednesday representatives of the Guardia Civil, Police Force and military will no longer be present at the daily meetings. Spanish government sources have reported that the Technical Committee for the Management of the Coronavirus as been renamed Technical Committee for the Easing of the Lockdown. PM Sánchez will chair the group, which will include the four deputy PMs and the highest ranking government ministers for the state of emergency and deputised authorities: Interior, Transport, Defence and Health. Also in attendance will be María Jesús Montero —the Treasury Minister— and Employment Minister Yolanda Díaz, as well as Dr Simón himself, even though his name didn’t appear in the first press release.

Pablo Iglesias, the leader of Unidas Podemos [and Pedro Sánchez’s coalition partner], has secured a spot on the committee for another of his ministerial team, the Employment minister, after he himself managed to join the committee two weeks ago, even though this was off-limits to all but the top cabinet ministers. PM Sánchez has doubled up on his media efforts by bringing into the new committee his own chief of staff, Iván Redondo, the deputy minister for the Presidency, the deputy minister of Communication and the chief of staff of the vice president for Social Rights.