Barcelona loosens lockdown as Girona, Lleida and central Catalonia enter Phase 1

Public transport commuters grow in capital, some small shops and places of worship open but libraries and museums remain closed

A shop assistant disinfecting a T-Shirt in the Alt Penedès county, on May 17, 2020 (by Gemma Sánchez)
A shop assistant disinfecting a T-Shirt in the Alt Penedès county, on May 17, 2020 (by Gemma Sánchez) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

May 18, 2020 11:32 AM

Barcelona and its metropolitan area saw lockdown measures loosened slightly on Monday. Although the Catalan capital was not allowed to move from Phase 0 to Phase 1 of the de-escalation plan this week, certain measures were permitted by Spain after the Catalan government requested a sort of 'Phase 0.5' for the city and its metropolitan area.

These include allowing some small shops to open again without an appointment – yet not all of those allowed to did so –, and opening places of worship at a third of their usual capacity: Barcelona's cathedral hosted its first mass in two months at 9 am.

Although the new regulations establish that museums and libraries can also open with some limitations, the city's network of 40 public libraries decided against doing so.

"We are working to adapt the spaces in accordance with the appropriate health measures to open to the public as soon as possible," read a tweet by the network on Monday morning.

As for museums, the main ones will not open just yet either for the same reason. Many are planning to allow visitors again in mid-June, but are offering online activities this Monday to mark international museums' day.

Bars and restaurants cannot open yet, not even those with outdoor seating areas. Likewise, shops over 400 sqm and shopping malls also have to remain closed.

Three more health regions in Phase 1

This 'Phase 0.5' came into force on Monday morning in Barcelona and most of its metro area. An exception to that are the counties of Garraf and Alt Penedès, which entered Phase 1 on Monday along with the Girona, Lleida, and central Catalonia health regions.

These territories join the Tarragona, Ebre river and western Catalan Pyrenees regions, who have already been in Phase 1 for a week and are candidates to move to Phase 2 next Monday.

Phase 1 also permits small shops to open without an appointment, as well as 400 sqm-sections of big shops and bars and restaurants' terraces at 50% capacity.

Gatherings will also be allowed with a maximum of 10 people in both public and private places.

Set time slots only for strolls and exercise

In both Phase 0.5 and Phase 1 set time slots are also still in force, but that applies only to going for strolls and doing exercise outdoors, not for the rest of permitted activities.

Also from Monday, set time slots are eliminated for towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants.

More public transport commuters

In Barcelona, the first day of this somewhat loosened lockdown coincided with an increase in public transport commuters.

The city's underground saw 9% more passengers than last Monday during the morning rush hour, with the FGC trains experiencing a 21% increase. Yet, 70% fewer people used the metro compared to an equivalent Monday in 2019 and that figure was 79% in FGC trains.

Rodalies commuter trains registered 83% fewer passengers than usual.