The whole of Spain (apart from four islands which are pioneering the plan) entered a preparatory Phase Zero on Monday as the first step in a de-escalation of a lockdown that has been in place since March 14th.
It is the first step in a four phase plan put in place by Spain’s government under the name “The Plan to Transition to a New Normal”.
Each of the four steps – Phase Zero, Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 – see a lifting of restrictions which will last at least two weeks before a thorough assessment can determine whether the next phase can be introduced.
The phases are to be rolled out asymmetrically province by province depending on the evolution of the coronavirus in each zone.
How will each province’s readiness be determined?
The government has said that exhaustive analysis will be used to determine whether a province is ready for the next step in lifting lockdown.
The health ministry has said it will also use certain other factors to determine a province’s readiness.
These include the ability to trace and isolate those infected and rapidly contain sources of potential contagion, early-warning systems and epidemiological monitoring, the capacity of the primary healthcare and hospital systems – which include how many ICU beds are available and guarantee of sufficient numbers of healthcare professionals.
The health ministry will also assess what it calls “the epidemiological evolution” of a province in terms of transmission and active cases.
Four islands are already in Phase 1
Some of Spain’s islands have already advance into Phase 1 of the plan because they have seen very low coronavirus transmissions and no deaths.
In the Canary Islands these are La Gomera which had only ten cases of coronavirus confirmed, El Hierro with four, and La Graciiosa which is the only province in Spain to have no cases at all. The Balearic island of Formentera has also moved to Phase 1 after registering just 7 cases in total.
This means that residents there are already enjoying the ability to meet with friends and family in groups of up to ten people – while observing the rules of social distancing of course. It also means that small businesses can reopen without the need for prior appointments or reservations, although they can only operate at 30 percent capacity.
Open-air markets are operating again, though with 25 percent of the number of stalls and capacity of visitors limited to 30 percent the normal numbers.
Funeral services of up to 15 people are also allowed.
More islands to follow
Ibiza and Menorca in the Balearic Islands are likely to be among the first provinces to join the other islands in Phase 1 as they have reported no new cases for several days.
What's the timeline?
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has insisted that a firm timeline on when exactly provinces will be allowed to open up is just not possible as yet. But he said that the best case scenario would see some provinces reach the “new normal” by the end of June.
May 4: The whole of Spain (apart from four islands which advanced to Phase 1) entered the preparatory stage 0.
May 11: Some provinces are expected to be able to advance to Phase 1
May 25: If all goes well then this will be the start of Phase 2.
June 8: Phase 3 will begin for those provinces who have progressed well.
June 22: If there have been no backward steps and each phase lasted the minimum two weeks before a province advanced to the next one, then this could be the date when the first provinces reach “the new normal” – although the governent has yet to outline what that will look like.
However, the Prime Minister did stress than there may be delays or backward steps in any province and at any phase if the eveolution of the coronavirus dictated it.