Coronavirus: Spain to phase out lockdown and partially reopen bars, says prime minister

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Pedro Sanchez unveiled a flexible strategy to lift one of Europe's toughest lockdowns

World | The Independent

Spain has announced a four-phase plan to lift one of the toughest coronavirus lockdowns in Europe and return to normality by the end of June.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the lifting of the restrictions that have halted public life since March 14 and nearly paralysed the economy, will begin on May 4 and vary from province to province.

During the initial phase, hairdressers and other businesses that operate via appointment will open, while restaurants will be able to offer takeaway services.

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In the next stage, envisaged to begin on May 11 for most of Spain, bars will reopen their terraces but will be limited to a third of their capacity.

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From this point, healthy people with no underlying medical conditions will be allowed to socialise together in small groups, while family members will be permitted to attend funerals.

Advancing through the stages will depend on factors such as how the rate of infection evolves, the number of intensive care beds available and compliance with distancing rules, Sanchez said, without providing concrete thresholds for such evaluation.

Local authorities are responsible for monitoring the conditions in their regions, but the national Health Ministry will have the final say on whether or not a province moves forward.

Remote working will be recommended where possible until reaching the last phase of the plan towards the end of June, when beaches would also be able to reopen with the support of local authorities.

“We are starting to glimpse an outcome that will be a reward for the huge collective effort made over the past weeks,” Sanchez said, warning that the “virus is still lurking.”

Sanchez explained the government had chosen not to set precise deadlines for the easing of the lockdown, unlike countries such as Italy, to avoid missing them in what is a fluid situation.

“The important thing is to resume our activities in order to really avoid this drama that we are living,” Antonio Garamendi, head of the CEOE business association, told RNE radio.

Sanchez warned there would be a recession of “extraordinary scale” this year that will demand an extraordinary response from the European Union.


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