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Andalucia moves into phase three of exit plan as from Monday

By Chronicle staff and agencies

Andalucia is among the regions of Spain that will move into phase three of the country’s strategy to exit lockdown as from Monday.

The shift means greater freedom of movement for residents in the region, who will now be permitted to travel between provinces that are also in phase three.

The move was confirmed yesterday by Spain’s Ministry for Health, which said around 52% of the country’s population - or 24 million people - would benefit from the easing of restrictions.

The decision on whether a region can move into phase three is dependent on public health guidance relating to infection rate and the number of cases.

Further guidance is expected next Tuesday when Spain’s Council of Ministers is due to approve new regulations on the ‘new normal’.

So far, however, there is no confirmation as to how the easing of restrictions in Andalucia might impact on fluidity at Spain’s border with Gibraltar.

Restrictions at the border arise from the wider rules set out in regulations for the state of emergency imposed last March, rather than from specific measures imposed at Spain’s other land borders with France and Portugal.

The border rules - which stop all but essential movement - have not been applied to either Gibraltar or Andorra, but at present only cross-border workers and residents in Spain are allowed to cross from Gibraltar into Spain.

The expectation is that, as lockdown restrictions inside Spain are lifted, controls at the Gibraltar border will be eased too in due course.

Speaking earlier this week in Parliament, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said: “We expect that we will see the freedom to be able to go into Spain released very soon indeed, but it's not possible to give an exact date at the moment.”

Andalucia’s move into phase three means that, from Monday, bar and restaurant patrons will be allowed to sit inside rather than exclusively on outdoor terraces, while children will be able to play outside at any time of day.

Weddings will also be permitted with a limit of 150 guests, while attendance at funerals will also be allowed albeit with certain restrictions on numbers.

Hotels can also open their common areas, though only to 50% capacity, and nature activities will be permitted in groups of up to 30 people.

Conferences of up to 80 people will also be permitted, and zoos and aquariums will also be allowed to reopen subject to public health guidance.

As for movement between Spain and Portugal and France, restrictions will likely be lifted on July 1 despite mixed messages that the move might happen earlier.

On Thursday, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said land borders would reopen from June 22, causing some confusion, as well as criticism in neighbouring Portugal.

"There has been no change in the government's position since day one," Spanish government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero told a news briefing on Friday, referring to the previously announced July 1 date.

Despite relying heavily on tourism, which generates some 12% of GDP, hard-hit Spain has been reluctant to open its borders without a European Union-wide agreement.

In a joint letter to the European Commission, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Italy's Giuseppe Conte called for a reopening plan based on "common, clear and transparent epidemiological criteria", also proposing that EU members agree on infection incidence thresholds for third countries.

In a sign that consumer appetite is beginning to return in Spain, data showed bank card spending rose by 16% in May after plunging in April, when industrial output slumped 34% according to a separate data release.

But in a reminder of the devastation wrought by the virus, Spain fell silent for a minute at midday yesterday, marking the end of a 10-day mourning period for the 27,134 people who have died. There have been 240,978 cases of the infection.

In Madrid, which accounts for about a third of the deaths, reactions to the easing were not universally positive.

"I think it's a bit risky and, if there's another outbreak, I don't know if we will have enough resources," dental hygienist Noemi Seco told Reuters.

"I know lots of people who work in hospitals and we're stretched very thin."