Q&A: When will my province in Spain move to Phase 1?

The lifting of lockdown restrictions will take place across Spain in four phase which will be rolled out province by province gradually and asymmetrically.

Q&A: When will my province in Spain move to Phase 1?
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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.

LATEST: Lifting lockdown: These are the provinces in Spain advancing to Phase 1




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. 


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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.