Spain’s Prime Minister, PEDRO Sanchez, has announced that Spain’s de-escalation of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions will take place in four phases.

The de-escalation will be ‘gradual’ and done so on a provincial or island basis, depending on the curve of the coronavirus.

The first phase is ‘Phase 0‘, which is preparing for the lifting of lockdown restrictions, in which much of the country finds itself now. It also allows for restaurants to open for take away service only.

Phase 1, (11th May) will allow ‘the partial reopening of small businesses under strict security measures, except for large shopping centres.’

Sanchez added that there will be a specific schedule for those aged over 65 to visit shops while the use of masks on public transport will be ‘highly recommended.’

Phase 1 will also see ‘the opening of hotels and tourist accommodations, excluding common areas’, and the return of places of worship as long as capacity is kept at 30%.

With regards to sport, only ‘average training in professional leagues’ will be permitted.

Restaurants will also be allowed to open their terraces to a 30% capacity, but not the inside.

Phase 2, (25th May) will see ‘the inside of restaurants open for table service with capacity limit reduced to a third.’

Cinemas and theatres will also be reopened but with limited capacity, along with monuments and exhibition centres (also restricted to a third of normal capacity). Cultural events can be held with less than 50 people in enclosed spaces or with 400 people for outdoor and seated events.

As for the school year, ‘it will return in September’, said Sanchez, although there will be exceptions in some education centres for children under six whose parents have to work.

Phase 3, (early June) will be the most advanced phase but will still see restrictions. Restaurants for example will be limited to 50% capacity and with ‘strict separation’ between customers.

Sanchez said after Phase 0, each phase will have a minimum duration of two weeks as that is the known incubation period of the virus.

This weekend will still see restrictions lifted on ‘individual physical activity and walks’, as almost every province will enter Phase 0 on May 4.

The islands of Formentera, Menorca, La Graciosa and El Hierro, will enter Phase 1.

The rest of the territories will not be permitted to enter Phase 1 until May 11.

If all goes to plan, provinces will then enter Phase 2 on May 25, with an aim to return to a ‘new normality’ with Phase 3 by early June.

A panel of experts will decide whether or not a province can enter the next stage based on its latest coronavirus data.

“The transition to this new normality will not advance at the same rate throughout Spain,” Sanchez said, “not even within the autonomous communities. This will be done at the provincial level.

“We will descend as a team, but in each territory at its own rhythm.”

DAVID FISHER