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Coronavirus: What you can and can’t do during Spain’s lockdown

Fiona Govan
Fiona Govan - [email protected]
Coronavirus:  What you can and can’t do during Spain’s lockdown
Photo: AFP

Spain is on lockdown. Everything except supermarkets and pharmacies is closed and from Monday people will not be allowed to leave their homes except to get supplies or for exceptional reasons.


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In a televised speech to the nation, Pedro Sanchez unveiled new measures on Saturday that effectively banned people from leaving home except to go to work or buy essential supplies, in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced the restrictions on movement following a huge spike in the number of cases  soared to 7,753 on Sunday morning and its death toll to 288.


Everyone  in Spain, regardless of the region, will be expected to stay within their homes and police will be given the powers to stop and question people found outside and in vehicles using public roads.

That includes those in the Balearic Islands. the Canary Islands and Spain's north African enclaves as well as across mainland Spain.

Everyone in Spain has been told to stay inside their homes and there will be checkpoints manned by all branches of Spain's security forces to enforce the orders. 

Members of the public who disobey confinement rules could faces fines starting at €100 for minor infractions or up to a year in prison should they “resist or seriously disobey the authorities or officers when they are carrying out their functions.”

Public transport will not be shut down entirely, although it will be reduced by fifty percent, presumably because it still provides the only way to move around for key workers.

An empty Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Photo: AFP

People will only be allowed on the streets and to circulate in private cars under the following circumstances:

To buy essentials from supermarkets or pharmacies

Everything will close except for food shops and pharmacies so you will be allowed to leave the house only to visit to those establishments to buy essentials. Strict measures will be in place at shops to prevent crowding and ensure that consumers and employees remain at least one metre apart from each other to reduce the risk of contagion.

To go to work

Companies have been told to order their employees to work from home when possible but there are obviously some jobs which are essential, such as those who work in healthcare or care for the elderly or if you are employed in one of those places which are needed to be kept open, such as public transport, supermarkets or pharmacies.

To return to your primary place of residence

 If for some reason you are not at your home when the state of alert officially begins, you won’t have to stay where you are but will be allowed to travel back to your primary residence.

To visit needy relatives or vulnerable people

If you are responsible for someone who may live alone and need help, either because they are elderly, disabled or considered vulnerable in some way, you will be allowed to visit them and take them supplies.

To visit the doctor or hospital

Seeking medical treatment is a valid reason to leave the house but phone ahead to check the appointment is still happening as non-essential treatment at hospitals has in most cases been postponed. Do not leave the house to go to the hospital if you have symptoms of the coronavirus but stay home in quarantine and if the symptoms become severe then contact your regional hotline.

To visit financial institutions

We are assuming this is to visit a cash point and take out money because high street banks won’t be opening their doors and operating as normal.

Due to force majeure or need and to carry out unspecified activity that can be justified as a valid reason

No further information has yet been given as to what beyond those activities above might be considered "a force majeure" or "valid reason".


Can I socialize with my friends?

Um no, the whole point is that people need to stay home and socially distance to try and slow down spread of COVID-19. 

All bars, restaurants, cultural spaces have been shut down across Spain and you'll be stopped if you are spotted sitting in a park chatting with friends. The message is very clearly "Stay home and stay isolated". 

You are not even allowed to visit your neighbours home or pop over to a friend's for lunch. The idea is to stop all social interaction to try and slow the curve of contagion.

Tourists in Valencia checking their phones in the sun after the measures were announced on Saturday. Photo: AFP

How long will this last?

The state of alert will be in place for 15 days but could be extended with permission of Spain's parliament.

Should I be stockpiling?

In areas twhere supermarkets have been overwhelmed with people and have seen shelves emptied as panic buying set in, such as Madrid, police have been called in to limit numbers entering the supermarket and to prevent bulk buying of essential goods. 

Authorities insist there is no need to stockpile beyond buying enough to last the household for a week at a time, because the supplies are not threatened.

READ MORE Coronavirus: Why there is no need to be panic buying in Spain

Empty shelves at a supermarket in Madrid. Photo: AFP

Police stops and army on standby

It also mentions all of Spain’s police forces will have the power to stop vehicles on public roads to check their purpose of being there and adds that drivers will be able to refuel at service stations.

The Decree adds that the army may be drafted in if deemed necessary.

If I am on holiday in Spain can I fly home?

The state of alert does not mean that Spain’s borders will automatically be closed but expect a host of cancellations from airlines as the number of passengers drastically drops.  

Holiday companies such as Jet2 have cancelled all holidays to Spain from Saturday but if you are already in Spain on holiday expect provisions to be made for your return. You will need to contact your airline or holiday company and find out what arrangements will be made.

Expect disruptions.

For more details of what to do about getting home if you are on holiday in Spain, read this:

Coronavirus lockdown: What to do if you are on holiday in Spain

Can I give someone a lift?

Authorities have said that only those with valid reason can take to the roads and have ruled out people taking passengers in their car, even if the passengers and not the driver themselves have a valid reason (for example, you cannot take your partner to work).

Several readers have got in touch to ask whether this would apply to taking a house guest, friend or relative to the airport to catch their plane home.

That hasn't been specified as a valid reason so until we get further clarification, don't risk it.

Can I take use public transport or take taxis? 

As long as your reason for being outside the house falls under the rules above then yes, you can use public transport if you maintain social distancing rules that means keeping more than 1 metre apart from other travellers. 

But bear in mind that public transport services, including regional trains and buses, have had their service reduced by half.

Taxis and VTC services are also in operation although you must inform the drivers in advance if you have symptoms of the coronavirus.

Can I go outside to do exercise?

No. Children's playgrounds have been cordoned off, beaches have been closed and parks shut.  People are being told not to go outside to play sport, go for a jog or a bike ride. All such things are banned.

Can I walk my dog?

Yes.Those with dogs are allowed to walk them if they maintain basic social distancing rules such as maintaining a safe distance between other dogwalkers.  It can't be used an excuse for the whole family to go outside though. Rules state that only one person can walk each dog, and that the walks should be kept to a minimum.

Can I take the rubbish out? 

Yes. Rubbish collection is still taking place and taking your refuse out to the bins is allowed.  

Can I go to an official appointment ,such as a NIE cita previa at the town hall?

No. All such services have been suspended.



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Anonymous 2020/03/19 13:57
I do not think the authorities have thought the car ban through enough. I can no longer take my (non driving) wife to work, I do not work so would not exit the car at any point. So she has to take the bus whereby exposing herself to possible virus contact. I think the ban should exclude spouses living in the same residence. Kind Regards

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