On 14 March 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Spain declared a State of Alarm. Now, almost eight weeks later, it is becoming a matter of some urgency to start reactivating the Spanish economy, as indeed is the case for most of the other European Governments. Each Government has begun to implement their own strategic easing of the current lockdown and our own President, Pedro Sanchez Perez-Castejon, announced the Spanish ‘Plan for the transition to a new normality’. What will this new normal be, well we can be sure that it will not be anything like our old normal, not until a suitable vaccine is available.
If this plan shows favourable results, it is expected it will last for some 6 to 8 weeks, with the State of Alarm, during this period, being extended on a fortnightly basis, until we have reached a sustainable and safe new normal.
The plan will consist of four Phases, with each Province being able to decide upon their own implementation, eg it could be that in Cadiz one is able to enjoy a cool refreshing beer whilst sitting inside an air conditioned luxury bar yet in Malaga only being able to enjoy a beer in the outdoors, sitting on the terrace of the bar and not being allowed inside. How each Province reacts will depend entirely on the increase or decrease in the numbers of reported infection. If the numbers of infections are very low, then it would be possible for some Provinces to skip the first phase, Phase 0, as indeed certain of the Spanish Islands are planning to do, namely La Graciosa, El Hierro, La Gomera and Formentera, these islands will start directly in phase 1.
OK, so what are the Phases and what does each Phase allow, keep reading:
- Phase 0 will run from 2 May to 10 May: This Phase is also called the Preparation Phase. Individual outings for exercise will be allowed, this will actually commence from 2 May. Business establishments can open to hold prearranged meetings with an individual. Professional sportspeople may train individually. Businesses may commence preparation for full opening which will occur in the subsequent Phases. Restaurants may open only to provide take away food services. Hairdressers, opticians, physiotherapists, dentists and florists can deal with their customers individually, provided they take the appropriate protective measures.
- Phase 1 will run from 11 May to 25 May: Small shops, less than 400 square metres, can open but under very strict conditions. This does not apply to shopping malls as they will not be allowed to open. Restaurants will be able to open their terraces to the public, but this will be limited to an occupation level of 50% of capacity. Hotels and tourist accommodation will be able to open too, as long as the common areas are not used (you can just imagine how many hotels will be willing to open under these conditions). The agri-food and fishing sectors will resume activities that are currently closed. Similarly, places of worship may be visited but with restricted capacity. Elite athletic centres can also reopen. Persons from the same household can now, at last, travel in the same car. If you are not of the same household, one drives and the other has to sit in the back. It was thought that visiting a second home within the same province would not be allowed until phase 3 but on 9 March the Government changed its mind and said this was included in phase 1.
- Phase 2 will run from 26 May to 8 June: Intermediate Phase. Restaurants will be allowed to reopen their interior seating but this will be restricted to 30% of the capacity and no bar service can be provided, all drinks will be taken seated at one’s allocated table. In the field of sport, unfortunately, hunting and sport fishing will be allowed again. Cinemas, theatres and places of cultural interest will be opened but, again, with limited capacity. Schools will be allowed to open for certain activities but classes will not resume until September, this will also apply to under six year olds where their parents have to work.
- Phase 3 will run from 9 June to 24 June: Restrictions on general travel will be made more flexible. Shops will be able to increase the number of customers they can deal with up to 50% capacity. Restaurants will also be able to increase their capacity but they must maintain very strict security measures. Starting with this phase people can return to work subject to a safety protocol that the employer has to create and adhere to. The safety standards to be incorporated in the protocol will be announced in due course.
Until the end of Phase 3, travel between Spanish provinces will not be possible.
After Phase 3, we welcome a further “new normal”; although what this will look like is yet to be determined and, we await the publication of information on the restrictions to be taken into account until a permanent solution to the COVID-19 is available.
So, when will it be possible to travel between countries?
A very good question. Travel between countries has been severely restricted due to this Covid-19 pandemic. At 12:00 midnight on 23 March, access for travellers was, and continues to be, restricted at Spain’s external borders. Access is only allowed to returning nationals and residents of Spain, residents of other EU countries or Schengen Associated States to return to their places of residence. Holders of a long-stay visa issued by a Member State and who want to return to that Member State. Cross-border health workers or care workers for the elderly; personnel dedicated to the transport of goods and, finally, diplomatic personnel. All travel however must always be for duly justified reasons appertaining to Force Majeure.
Tourism represents more than 10% of the European Union’s (EU) GDP and almost 12% of employment. In Spain the figure is around 14.5% of GDP and almost 14% of employment; this makes the need to allow travel between countries of the utmost importance. This sector will not be able to recover by virture of internal tourism alone. This is why the Spanish Government, together with eight other EU countries, has asked the EU to create a European Recovery Plan to support the tourism sector as a matter of urgency.
As the main means of international travel is the aeroplane and the obvious problem with this mode of transport is it’s inability to comply with the sanitary measures to help prevent the spread of Covid-19, this poses a big problem and has resulted in several airlines presenting designs of how the cabins could be adapted to isolate passengers and make use of the space, but it will be necessary to agree on binding international safety measures, as we know the EU is not known for it’s ability to agree on much, so we do not expect anything to be decided or implemented in the near future.