SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19

IN PICS: Parks packed, terraces open as Madrid and Barcelona celebrate Phase 1

Hundreds of Madrid residents flooded to the city's parks as lockdown measures were finally eased in the Spanish capital and in Barcelona, while beaches reopened in parts of the country after months-long closures.

IN PICS: Parks packed, terraces open as Madrid and Barcelona celebrate Phase 1

As well as reopening the gates of the capital's parks for the first time since mid-March, residents in the two cities can now meet in groups of up to 10 people in homes or on the terraces of bars and restaurants.   

 

The easing measures come as the Madrid region, the city of Barcelona and large parts of Castile-Leon in the northwest, formally enter the first phase of rolling back one of the strictest lockdowns in the world.

These areas have been on a slower track as they bore the brunt of the pandemic in Spain, which has killed more than 28,700 people, one of the world's highest tolls.

In Madrid, hundreds of people turned out to enjoy an early-morning stroll in sun in the city's famous Retiro Park, with scores of runners jogging down its wide avenues and past the boating lake.

READ MORE: 

“The reopening of Retiro brings me a feeling of serenity, gives me comfort,” said Rosa San Jose, a 50-year-old teacher wearing gym clothes and a mask who was out for a walk before starting the online school day.

All of Madrid's parks were opened to the public from Monday including Retiro in the centre of the city. 

 

Elsewhere in the city, the San Gines coffee shop, famed for its churros and chocolate, laid out six tables on the pavement, down from its normal 13 to ensure social distancing.


 

For now, the inside seating areas must remain shut.    

“We've been open for 125 years and it's the first time we've ever had to close,” manager Daniel Real told AFP.  

“Soon we'll go back to being open 24 hours a day like before, but for now we're not working nights as there are no tourists and because the nightclub that brings us a lot of clients is closed.”

READ ALSO: 

Freedom, with limits

Elsewhere, regions incorporating just under half of Spain's nearly 47 million inhabitants were moving into phase two of the three-stage rollback that is due to be completed by the end of June.

For now, all new freedoms in public must be conducted while wearing a mask where it is not possible to keep a distance of two metres (six feet).    

With the summer heat picking up, beaches along Spain's northern coastline as well as some areas in the south, including the Canary Islands and the Balearics, are now open for swimming, subject to safety measures.


The beach in Palma reopened on Monday. Photo: AFP

 

The health ministry recommends limiting the number of beachgoers, creating boundaries and spacing umbrellas four metres apart.    

But for now, only locals will benefit, with travel between regions still forbidden and any foreign visitors landing in Spain compelled to undergo 14 days quarantine.

Spain has said it will open the borders to foreign tourists in July. 

But the government's slow process of lifting the restrictions have a political backlash from rightwing parties as well as a growing wave of protest on the streets.

On Saturday, thousands joined protests in their cars in major Spanish cities at the call of the ultra-rightwing Vox, with drivers honking their horns, waving Spanish flags and banging saucepans to denounce the government's handling of the crisis.

READ MORE: Protests and political tension grip lockdown Spain

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19

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.

SHOW COMMENTS