The Spanish government will decide on Friday in which regions bars, restaurants and places of worship will open under the next phase of a gradual exit from the coronavirus lockdown, although it looked likely that Madrid and Catalonia would not move forward.
In a sign of life returning to normal, Barcelona beaches opened for a short window from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday to allow people to swim and jog. People paddled on boards and swam in the water under the supervision of police.
“This is freedom,” said smiling swimmer Marta Torrents, speaking on the beach dressed in a wet-suit. “To be able to go out to sea and swim – for me, this is perfect.”
Spain has been one of the worst-hit countries globally from the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 26,000 fatalities. The regions of Madrid and Catalonia, home to Barcelona, account for around half of all recorded infections.
The government will decide which regions will move to the second phase of its four-stage exit on Friday and the results will be officially published on Saturday. The country is aiming for a return to normality by end-June.
“There are two areas more severely hit by the epidemic – Madrid and Barcelona – and it is perhaps reasonable that in these two areas the exit goes at a slower pace,” Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias said in a radio interview on Friday.
Spain is emerging from a strict lockdown now in its eighth week which has battered the economy and led to hundreds of thousands of job losses.
The government has loosened the terms this week, with people allowed to take exercise and small businesses like hairdressers receiving clients with restrictions to allow social distancing.
Under the next stage, bars, restaurants and places of worship will be able to open with limited capacity.
In the fourth and final phase, expected around the end of June, beaches will open for sun-bathing and restrictions on shops and restaurants will be further loosened.