Spain has opted for a different route to relax the COVID-19 lockdown from other European partners such as France or Italy. The Spanish programme for de-escalation, which is officially called “plan for the transition to a new normal,” will ultimately not have precise dates for the reopening of shops, beaches or bars, as in other nearby countries. But it does have a very important one: the executive wants to have all the de-escalated completed in eight weeks, at the end of June, according to the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez.
The government hopes to reach the “new normal” then, this is with limitations by the presence of the virus, but this would save the summer, a crucial moment in a country where tourism occupies 12% of GDP. By July, when the peak of the season begins, if the evolution of the epidemic permits, the de-escalation would be concluded, although the executive does not yet give dates of the reopening of borders, something that will have to be consensual with European partners.
After four weeks of intense work amid enormous secrecy, the Government on Tuesday presented its formula, very different from that of its partners, based on a four-phase scheme: 0, 1, 2, and 3, and without specific dates for each step.
“The de-escalation will be gradual, asymmetrical, and coordinated. We will do it in phases, the unity will be the province or the island, there will be no mobility between provinces or islands,” Sanchez summed up in explaining the plan at a press conference.
The idea, therefore, is to slowly recover the movement but without moving between provinces until the de-escalation ends at the end of June. Movement between provinces will be allowed for work or some unusual situations like a wake, the president has explained.
What citizens will not be able to do, Sanchez has expressly clarified, is to go to their second homes if they are in another province until the de-escalation is over; this is at the end of June. This is the aim of preventing
the virus from moving from the most affected territories, such as Madrid and Barcelona, to less affected areas on the coasts and villages.
The government has been modifying the plan until the last moment at a long meeting of the Council of Ministers, which has led to a further delay in Sanchez’s appearance. The quote from the 23 ministers actually began late because the text came in too late, and there was no time to study it.
Four phases: 0 to 3 in eight weeks
Phase 0 offers certain less strict conditions. Throughout this phase, businesses will be able to start working by appointment and always complying with security and social distance measures, although the government has not clarified a specific date. The president mentioned the example of restaurants, which while will not be able to open their doors to the public, can serve takeaways. Government sources add other businesses such as hairdressers may open by appointment with individual attention.
In restaurants, the first thing that will open will be the terraces with capacity reductions of 30%. This will be during phase 1, which will start on May 10 for the provinces that meet the epidemiological criteria, the specific figures of which (such as cases per 100,000 inhabitants) have not yet been finalized. On May 4, the de-escalate will begin on some islands such as La Graciosa, Hierro and La Gomera in the Canary Islands or Formentera in the Balearic Islands, which will go directly to phase 1.
During this phase, in the reopening of premises, there will be special opening times for the most vulnerable such as the elderly.
In phase 2, for example, premises that can guarantee separation between customers may open.
School courses will not resume until September, but during phase 2 reopens support schooling will be available for children under the age of six whose parents have to work.
Matters of culture, is a particularly sensitive issue. Like any other business, bookstores could open by appointment from now on, but you will have to wait for phase 2 to open your doors as usual. Museums, will open in stage 2 to a third of their capacity. At that time, cultural shows of less than 30 people or a third of the capacity will begin in enclosed enclosures. Outdoors events will be allowed for up to 200 people whenever they are seated and keeping a safe distance. In phase 2, cinemas, theatres or exhibition halls and outdoor shows will open up to 400 people outside, or 50 in enclosed venues.
In phase 3 you could go to a theatre at 50% capacity, as long as separation can be guaranteed.
Everything is based on the same system; government sources explain: it is about the capacity, the security distance, and the hygiene measures to become more lenient as the phases progress.
Reviews every two weeks
The minimum duration of the de-escalation will be a month and a half. Phases will be reviewed every two weeks as this is the incubation period of the coronavirus. The government plans to keep it no longer than eight weeks, so by the end of June, the “new normal” would be reached, that is, just as the strongest summer season begins.