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Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez set out his government's plans for the country's emergence from lockdown in a press conference on Tuesday evening, outlining a flexible four-phase de-escalation known as the 'Plan for the Transition Towards a New Normality' which has been approved by the Cabinet to re-activate Spain after more than six weeks of confinement. He also advised the country that another two-week extension to the State of Alarm, which is currently due to end on May 9th,  would be requested in Congress.

He explained that the de-escalation will be gradual and asymmetrical based on the actual situation in each region but coordinated central by the Government. He warned that people would not be able to travel between provinces or islands until normality has been restored, perhaps at the end of June, so visits to family or journeys to second residences in another area of the country remains prohibited to avoid the spread of infection from region to region. Some provinces could get to different phases and different times. "Imagine that one province is in Phase 1 and another in Phase 3."

Phase 0 would begin on Monday 4th May which would allow small business to open such as restaurants that can offer food on a takeaway basis as well as venues that can take reservations. This phase also includes hardware stores although customers would have to call and make an appointment to be able to buy a particular product as only one person would be allowed to enter the store at a time. Hairdressing salons will also be allowed to open, although they would need to use the maximum level of individual protection such as masks and gloves. Gyms will be able to offer individual classes whilst individual training will be permitted for federated sports players and professional leagues. The Government is yet to publish details of the conditions for adults to be able to go outside for short periods of exercise from May 2nd.

Phase 1 would allow partial opening of small businesses under strict safety measures in defined regions but this would not include large shopping centres where large crowds could form. There will also be a timetable which allows the over-65s, considered a high-risk group, to shop in retail establishments. The use of masks on public transport will be highly recommended. Hotels and tourist apartment complexes can open but communal areas will remain off-limits. Bars and restaurants will be able to open their outside terraces but only to a maximum of 30% of normal capacity and entry to the interior of the venue will be prohibited. Churches and other places of worship will also be able to open their doors but attendance would be limited to 30% of normal capacity. Moving around a province will be permitted which means that people could begin to visit friends and family in the same province from about Monday 11th May.

Phase 2 will see bars and restaurants allowed to open their dining areas up to a third of normal capacity. Cinemas and theatres will be able to open but only up to a third of normal capacity and with an assigned seating policy. Cultural events will be permitted with up to 50 people in interior spaces and up to 400 for open-air events where all attendees would have to be seated. Schools, which will remain closed until September, would be able to offer classes for children aged under 6 years if their parents have to go to work whilst students will also be able to complete university applications processes and exams. Restrictions will be eased further on sports players.

Phase 3 is the "advanced phase" which will be activated once certain markers have been met. General movement will be relaxed although it will still be recommended to wear masks on public transport. Stores and other public-facing businesses will be limited to 50% of normal capacity with the measures in place for social distancing of two metres whilst restrictions will ease for bars and restaurants. Cinemas and theatres will be able to increase to 50% of normal capacity. Working from home would be preferable until this phase is reached.

Each phase is intended to last two weeks, which Sanchéz explained was the length of the incubation period of the coronavirus, and in the best-case scenario, Spain would return to a sense of normality in two months. "By the end of June, as a country will be in a new normality if the evolution of the epidemic is under control in all territories." He added that there is no set timetable for de-escalation and that it will advance as quickly as the epidemic allows. The markers which will set the pace include the capacity of the country's health systems, the situation in each region, the protection measures applied in the work-place, business and public transport networks, and mobility and socioeconomic data.

The Prime Minister concluded by warning that the virus "has not gone anywhere. It is still lurking." adding that the behaviour of citizens can save lives and help rebuild the country. The four-phase de-escalation would have to be adaptable "because we don't know what we are facing. Science still doesn't know a lot of things about this virus. We have to be cautious."

Source: Original from various sources
Date: Wednesday 29th April 2020





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