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Campo among areas of Spain to move to phase one of exit strategy from Monday

Photo: Erasmo Fenoy/Europa Sur

The province of Cadiz, including the Campo de Gibraltar, will be among the areas of Spain moving to the next phase of the country's exit from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, with bars, restaurants and places of worship allowed to reopen as from Monday, the Spanish Government announced.

The relatively low number of cases in the Campo, coupled to available hospital capacity, means Spanish authorities say it is safe to move cautiously into this new phase of exit.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the Campo stands at 275 since the start of the pandemic, with 31 deaths recorded of people with coronavirus and 166 recovered, according to Europa Sur newspaper citing health data.

Spain's Health Emergency Chief, Fernando Simon, told a news conference on Friday that 51% of the population would move onto the next phase of easing lockdown measures, including the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

However the country's two biggest cities do not currently meet the government's criteria for easing measures, and neither will there be any immediate change to restrictions ate Spain’s borders.

Madrid and Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, account for nearly half of Spain's cases of infection.

Mr Simon said 51% of the population would move onto the next phase of easing lockdown measures, including the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands.

"I want to insist that this is not a race, decisions must be based on cooperation and caution," Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

Spain's daily death toll from the coronavirus rose to 229 on Friday, up from 213 the previous day, the health ministry said.

Overall deaths rose to 26,299 from 26,070 on Thursday and the number of diagnosed cases rose to 222,857 from 221,447 the day before, the ministry said.

Half of the new cases in Spain in the past 24 hours were in Catalonia.

Nonetheless, Simon said "going outside and improving our quality of life is perfectly compatible with continuing the safety measures".

Spain has been one of the worst-hit countries globally and is just emerging from a strict lockdown, now in its eighth week, which kept people indoors, battered the economy and led to hundreds of thousands of job losses.

The government aims for a return to normality by the end of June.

It loosened the lockdown this week, with people allowed to take exercise and small businesses like hairdressers reopening with social distancing restrictions.

In the final phase, expected around the end of June, beaches will open for sunbathing and restrictions on shops and restaurants will be further loosened.

The debate pitching economic damage against health risks simmers in Spain, where the rate of coronavirus infections and deaths varies widely between regions.

"Businesses and workers are the first to want companies to function normally," said Hilario Alfaro, president of Madrid's Business Forum.

"But we need to first resolve the health crisis, then resolve the economic crisis, and above all avoid reaching a social crisis."

Madrid region president Isabel Diaz Ayuso has argued that the capital urgently needs to reopen for business.

"We're talking about an economic situation so serious that it could turn into a social problem," Ms Diaz Ayuso told Spanish television.