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What does ‘Phase 1’ mean for traders and the public?

AROUND half of Spain will enter into ‘Phase 1’ of post-lockdown recovery on Monday – a situation already established in the Canarian islands of La Graciosa, El Hierro and La Gomera and the Balearic island of Formentera – and those which will not are hoping to be able to do so in another week.

Among the built-up and coastal areas which cannot move to ‘Phase1’ yet are the Costa del Sol, Granada province, Madrid, most of Catalunya with the exception of two small areas in Tarragona province and one in Lleida, the cities of Valencia and Alicante and their outer metropolitan areas, Elche and its wider zone, and the coastal and inland strip just south of Valencia city covering a distance of about a 40-minute drive.

But the islands, at least half the south coast, and a chunk of the east and south-east coasts will be given a greater degree of freedom this coming week, and – what many residents have long been waiting for – bars and restaurants will open again to the public.

The government has explained what those living in ‘Phase 1’ areas can and cannot do, and what those who are not may be able to do in a week or two, depending upon how the virus develops in their territory and the availability of healthcare facilities in reserve to cope with a hypothetical second outbreak.

Visiting friends and family

This is now permitted to some degree – either meeting in the street or in your or their homes – unless they have tested positive for Covid-19, are recovering and in the requisite 15-day home isolation period, or are showing symptoms compatible with the disease.

Anyone considered ‘high-risk’ due to pre-existing health problems – anything affecting the cardiovascular or respiratory system, anything that compromises their immune system such as being in treatment for cancer, or anything which means contracting Covid-19 would automatically be much more dangerous for them – cannot be visited or have visitors.

The elderly cannot have, or make visits.

Those considered high-risk ‘due to age’ are not permitted to receive visitors, meet others on the street or go to other people’s houses, although it is not clear where the cut-off point is. The immune system starts to weaken from around age 60 to 70, those aged 70 or over have specific time slots for going out walking or exercising unless they live in a town with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, and anyone aged 65 or over is given an exclusive or ‘priority’ slot for supermarket shopping, but people in this age bracket are not, these days, considered ‘elderly’, or even, necessarily, ‘middle-aged’. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) classes those aged 66 to 79 inclusive as ‘middle-aged’, and ‘elderly’ does not start until age 80; however, people of approximately State pension age are thought to be more vulnerable to Covid-19 and the average age of those who have died from the condition is over 73.

So it may be better not to meet up with anyone if you are 65 or more, nor to visit anyone or invite them round if they are in this segment of the population.

How far away can I travel to visit friends and family?

At the moment, those in ‘Phase 1’ cannot travel outside their provinces. In the case of the Valencia region, where 10 in 24 health service catchment areas are in ‘Phase 1’ and the remainder still in ‘Phase 0’ from Monday, it is not clear whether people living in a ‘Phase 1’ zone can travel to another still in ‘Phase 0’ in the same province – but it would appear very unlikely that this would be allowed.

This can also create a situation of awkwardness where, for example, a person living in the La Zenia or Villamartín areas of the Orihuela Costa (Alicante province) could not visit someone living in San Pedro del Pinatar (Murcia), even though they could get there by car in 10 minutes, but they would be able to visit someone in El Verger, over two hours away by road to the north and close to the Valencia border. Likewise, a person in El Verger could not visit someone in Oliva, about five kilometres away, as it would mean crossing into the province of Valencia.

This said, different regions in Spain will have some freedom to set different rules where parts of their territory are ‘unique’ enough to warrant this.

How many people can visit each other at once?

Maximum groups of 10 people are allowed in any one house, including members of the household – a person living alone can have nine visitors, but a couple with three children cannot have more than five.

This is also the case when people gather on the street to meet.

Are there any extra restrictions about meeting up with people?

Everyone who meets must keep a physical distance – if possible, at least two metres – and should wear masks and gloves, wash their hands frequently and step well back from others if they need to cough or sneeze, even with a mask on.

It means you can pop round to see a friend, but should not really give them a hug, just in case.

Of course, nobody is going to fine you if you do hug your friends in their homes, because they will not see you, but the government is appealing to everyone to be as sensible as possible and take every step to avoid passing on the condition.

Even if you think you or they don’t have Covid-19, there is still a chance that one of you might be an asymptomatic carrier, or have already caught it but, as symptoms do not normally show for up to two weeks, have not realised it.

What about travelling in cars, or giving lifts?

Any members of the same household can travel together by car, although where possible, it is strongly recommended that occupants stay at least a metre apart and that nobody uses the front passenger seat.

This is the case in vehicles with up to nine seats, including that of the driver.

In vehicles, except where the driver is alone, everyone must wear masks.

And public transport?

Buses, trains, trams and taxis in built-up areas and between these, for short-haul travel, will be able to operate at between 80% and 100%.

Long-distance and medium-distance transport will only be running 30% of their connections, and only 50% full.

The rule about not travelling outside one’s province does not apply if this is for work, where a business is permitted to open, nor for other essential journeys such as for animal care or for looking after disabled or elderly people.

Religious communities and funerals

Churches and other places of worship are allowed to open, but a maximum of a third full; social distancing still applies, as does the requirement to wear a mask. This said, most of Spain’s Muslim community is reluctant to reopen mosques at present, so you should check before attending.

‘Lone funerals’, one of the most heartbreaking aspects of lockdown, will be in the past in ‘Phase 1’, with a maximum of 15 people in attendance if they are outside and 10 if they are inside, who must stay between one and two metres apart; masks are also obligatory.

The priest, faith leader, crematorium worker leading the service, or other, similar person as appropriate, does not count as one of the 10 or 15.

So, I can go out for a coffee at last?

Bars and restaurants are now able to open in ‘Phase 1’ zones, but tables must be a minimum of two metres apart, and no single customer group can exceed 10 people.

Menus and napkin dispensers cannot be used, as these are communal facilities, and all tables and chairs must be disinfected between customers.

Only half of all tables can be occupied.

Where a bar or restaurant is not able to comply with these requirements due to space limitations, they are not allowed to open, but can continue to provide a food delivery or takeaway service, which the customer can collect in person.

Shops, department stores, retail centres

During ‘Phase 0’, shops of under 400 square metres in size not considered ‘essential services’ have been permitted to open, but can only attend to customers by appointment.

Larger shops, such as department stores, and shopping centres, still cannot open during ‘Phase 1’ – although DIY stores and similar can open to traders only – and those retailers given the go-ahead to reopen can only be 30% full at any time.

Customers can enter without an appointment, and the ‘Phase 0’ rule about one staff member per client no longer applies.

Social distancing (two metres) and masks are still mandatory, and a separate priority slot for the over-65s is required.

Premises must be disinfected in full twice daily.

Occupational therapy, day centres, rehabilitation

These will gradually reopen – social distancing and obligatory masks apply – and home carers will gradually be able to restart their visits.

Before the ‘recovery’ phases started, home carers were only permitted to visit where there was no other relative available to take on care duties, or where the person needed specialist help that a layperson within the family could not provide.


Outdoor markets will be able to reopen with ‘Phase 1’ – as long as they are on council-owned, and not private, land – but with only 25% of stalls, social distancing, masks, and hand sanitiser at the entrance.

Limits on the number of people who can enter apply, meaning queues are likely, in which those waiting to step into the market area must stand two metres apart.

No more than a third of the usual permitted safe number of members of the public can go into a market area.

Can I use the communal pool on my residential complex, or the public one in my town?

No, not yet. This is likely to come with ‘Phase 2’ or ‘Phase 3’ or, at worst, and all being well, should be possible sometime in June.

What about sports?

Open-air sports facilities can now start to operate, but only for activities that do not involve physical contact or getting up close to other people. This means tennis and athletics clubs can restart classes and training, but not, for example, contact sports such as judo, nor indoor sports like basketball, squash or badminton.

The public can pop to their local leisure centre to use facilities, if they do not belong to a club or attend a class, but only by prior appointment, for non-contact, open-air activities, and are not allowed to use the changing rooms.

Sports in closed spaces, but not involving physical contact or getting up close and personal, will be permitted once ‘Phase 2’ is announced, and which will probably include gyms.

No spectator sports can take place until at least ‘Phase 3’.

Tourism and entertainment

Beaches still cannot be used purely for sunbathing and relaxation, and some coastal towns will probably keep theirs closed altogether, although others permit walks along the beach where these are less than a kilometre from the person’s home, and a handful have even set up dedicated zones for surfing, sailing and swimming, which again, must be within the requisite one-kilometre radius.

The rule on practising sports ‘anywhere within the same town’ does not permit travelling to the site of practice if this is over a kilometre; it merely means that those who go running or cycling can go as far as they wish within their home municipality.

Hotels will be able to reopen in ‘Phase 1’ provinces, but communal areas – restaurants, terraces, swimming pools, and anywhere not essential for access – are off limits, and disinfecting throughout the day and between guests is required.

Libraries can open for people to sit in them and read as well as to borrow books to take away with them, but limited to a third full, subject to masks and social distancing.

Shows, exhibitions, concerts, cinema films, and similar can now take place in enclosed areas, but with no more than 30 spectators – fewer that this if the people cannot remain at least two metres apart, which will probably preclude theatre plays from taking place as the cast will not be able to remain at a distance.

Open-air entertainment of a similar type is also now allowed, subject to a maximum of 200 people in attendance and standing or sitting two metres apart, wearing masks.

Museums are able to open their doors again to a maximum of 30% of their usual permitted visitor numbers and, of course, applying the usual social distancing, mask requirements and disinfecting (Bilbao’s Guggenheim has confirmed its reopening on June 1), and outdoor and adventure trips, also subject to these regulations and in limited groups, can take place again.

Source: Think Spain

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