Relaxing lockdown: what we know so far

From May 2 strolls may be allowed, and other measures will be different depending on the area, but who will lead it and how is still up in the air

Families out for a walk in Cervera on the first day of children being allowed out since lockdown began, April 26, 2020 (by Anna Berga)
Families out for a walk in Cervera on the first day of children being allowed out since lockdown began, April 26, 2020 (by Anna Berga) / Guifré Jordan

Guifré Jordan | Barcelona

June 13, 2020 11:15 AM

The authorities, both in Catalonia and Spain, have been progressively taking the spotlight off what is happening to hospitals and putting in on how to move towards the end of lockdown. 

Last week a slowdown on the pressure on ICUs was more obvious – on Saturday, the Catalan health minister Alba Vergés said 902 such beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients, and 200 more by people suffering from other diseases. While the capacity of ICUs has been extended during the crisis to some 1,800 beds, usual capacity is around 600. 

Workers and children, first ones to leave home

Yet, with caution and with an eye on the daily figures, the loosening of lockdown has already began. 

Despite the Catalan government's opposition, Spain has allowed all workers to go back to their workplaces since April 13, although Madrid says the "preference" is working from home if possible for still two more months. This has seen an increase especially in private transport.

From April 26, children under 14 have also been allowed out for a stroll for an hour a day, with an adult and not further than 1km away from home – they can leave home any time from 9am to 9pm, with the Catalan executive not succeeding in introducing time slots per age range to avoid crowds.

Ultimately, with the state of alarm it is Madrid the final authority in charge of the crisis.

May 2, everyone allowed out for a stroll and do sport?

Residents of Spain will be allowed out of their homes to do exercise on the street and go for a walk from May 2, evolution of the coronavirus pandemic permitting. 

That's what the Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, said on Saturday evening, without further details.

Measures different by territories cause controversy

Sánchez also said on Saturday that de-escalation of lockdown measures will be "gradual" and "always by following the World Health Organization guidelines."

Madrid plans to apply different measures by territories, as regional authorities across Spain demand, but they want to apply this "asymmetrical" de-escalation by province.

Yet, in Catalonia this has not been welcome. 

"We want to relax confinement by health regions and basic areas of health," said on Saturday the health minister, Alba Vergés. "What is certain is that it won't be made by provinces." 

She mentioned as an example the province of Barcelona, which includes the densely populated capital a well as villages in the Pyrenees. 

What will happen in May and June? 

And who will be next to be allowed to somehow return to normality? Spain will probably reveal the de-escalation plan on Tuesday, when a cabinet meeting will approve it. At the very least, the measures to be taken in May and possibly June may be revealed. 

Pedro Sánchez said that the plan will not allow that all sectors return "at once" to normality, but in stages and sectors, as well as taking into account the impact of Covid-19 in each territory

On Saturday, the Catalan government approved its three-phase loosening of lockdown plan, with the current situation, a gradual end of confinement and a "new normality."

The document highlights that "epidemiologic surveillance" will be essential at all times, as well as primary care, the whole health system and a digital strategy to communicate updates, with mobile apps using a key role. 

A draft of the plan mentions that first, all healthy workers would be permitted to leave home to work and then all healthy people would be allowed out. This would be followed by the opening of schools, bars, and restaurants as well as the go-ahead for events with under 30 people. Eventually, events with over 30 people would be able to take place.

Controlling temperature of users in public transport or in universities, as well as a health passport had also been mentioned by the Catalan authorities in such draft – although was later played down.

Retailers, bars and restaurants could also be among the ones targeted in the plans to be announced by Spain on Tuesday. 

When will be able to attend concerts or sports events?

Big events such as festivals, concerts and sports events look the furthest away from being allowed. 

Expert Oriol Mitjà, Catalan government advisor, said that without some sort of health passport, concerts might not be held in the next one and a half or two years

He was also sure that sports venues like FC Barcelona's Camp Nou would not open again until September. 

Who will be in charge of de-escalation?

The Catalan government has expressed outrage at Spain expanding its authority ever since the state of alarm was launched on March 14. 

President Torra has already asked for powers to be devolved on time to be in charge of the end of lockdown. 

Yet, while Spain's authorities have said that regions and regional presidents should play a key role in this phase, Pedro Sánchez has already confirmed his team will lead the process

So far, the Catalan government has not disobeyed Madrid, but has insisted on proposals that sometimes have been later accepted and enforced by Sánchez, or at least partly, eg. a lockdown of non-essential workers, relaxing lockdown for children and enhancing lockdown to Igualada area.