Council of Ministers. Coronavirus COVID-19

Government approves de-escalation plan which will gradually be implemented until end of June

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Tuesday 28 April 2020

The Council of Ministers approved the Plan for the Transition towards a New Normality which establishes the main parameters and instruments for the adaptation of the whole of society to the new normality, with the utmost guarantees of safety, after the crisis caused by COVID-19.

During the press briefing he gave after the Council of Ministers, the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, argued that the aim of the plan is to "get Spain going while protecting the health and lives of its citizens and keeping our health system safe".

Pedro Sánchez stressed that the de-escalation will be gradual, asymmetric and coordinated, and that not all activity and mobility will be recovered at once, but rather over four phases. He also clarified that the territorial unit where permitted activities are carried out will be by provinces or islands. "Mobility between provinces and islands will be banned until the new normality is re-established".

Gradual, asymmetric and coordinated de-escalation

Pool Moncloa / Diego del Monte y Jorge VillarThe President of the Government explained that the de-escalation will take place according to the control of the epidemic in each province and at the rate the health situation in that area allows, in line with objective criteria. Progress from one phase to another in each location will be determined according to the strategic capacities of its primary healthcare and hospital system; its epidemiological situation; the implementation of collective protective measures in shops, on public transport, at work centres and in any other public space, and on the mobility and economic figures.

These markers will be public, announced Pedro Sánchez, "so that people can see the criteria on which the political decisions are based that will determine the return to the new normality in each location".

"The process will not be uniform; it will be asymmetric and at different speeds, but coordinated, whereby it is governed by the same rules", stated the President of the Government. This coordination will fall on the Government of Spain, and the Minister for Health will take the necessary decisions as the delegate authority. However, the opinion of the regional and local authorities will be taken into account, which will primarily be in charge of managing this situation. In fact, measures may be taken in areas that do not coincide with the province if justified by the regional government.

De-escalation phases

In the current preparatory phase, or phase zero, the President of the Government announced that, in addition to the measures designed so that children can get out into the streets for an hour and adults can do individual exercise, the opening of premises and establishments with a prior appointment for the individual attention of customers will be allowed, as well as restaurants with a take-away service, although it will not be permitted to consume food or drink on the premises.

Professional and federated athletes may begin to train on an individual basis.

In the initial phase, or phase one, the President of the Government stated that shops may open under strict safety conditions, except shopping centres, where a build-up of people is more likely.

Restaurants may open their terraces with a limit on capacity of 30%, which extends to bars, hotels and tourist accommodation, excluding common areas. The agri-food and fisheries sector may resume its previous activity, albeit subject to certain restrictions. Places of worship may open, but with a limit on capacity of 30%.

As regards sport, the President of the Government announced the re-opening of high-performance sports centres, with strengthened hygiene and protection measures, and authorisation for training of players in professional leagues. The use of face masks will be "highly recommended" for those citizens using public transport.

In the intermediate phase, or phase two, the inside of hotel and catering premises will only be permitted for table service, with a separation between tables and a maximum capacity of one third.

Pedro Sánchez specified that the academic year will begin in September in general, although education centres may open earlier with the aim of guaranteeing support activities, whereby children may attend in the event that both parents work in situ or to hold university entrance exams.

Cinemas, theatres and auditoriums will open with a one-third capacity, with pre-assigned seats. Exhibition sites, conference centres and visits to monuments will also re-open with a one-third capacity. Open-air events and shows will be permitted when fewer than 400 people congregate sitting down. Places of worship must limit their capacity to 50%.

In the advanced phase, or phase three, the President of the Government indicated that general mobility will be made more flexible, although the recommendation of the use of face masks outside of the home and on public transport will be maintained.

Shops will have a limited capacity of 50%, and a minimum distance of 2 metres will be established between people. The restrictions on capacity will be eased up somewhat in restaurants, although strict conditions to separate the public will be upheld.

Pedro Sánchez pointed out that the Ministry of Health will issue Orders that specify all the circumstances.

Minimum period of two weeks per phase

The minimum duration of each of the de-escalation phases has been set at two weeks. In the best possible scenario, remarked Pedro Sánchez, the duration of the process will be one and a half months, and eight weeks at the most, "such that by the end of June we would be in the new normality if the spread of the epidemic is controlled throughout the country".

As from that date, the social and economic restrictions will be lifted, although epidemiological monitoring will be ongoing as will, above all, hygiene and personal protection measures until such time as a vaccine is found.

First territories under phase 1, as from 4 May

If the spread of the pandemic is maintained within the current parameters, then individual physical exercise and walks with the people you live will be allowed throughout Spain.

Similarly, and due to the minimum occurrence of infections, the islands of Formentera in the Balearic Islands, and La Gomera, Hierro and La Graciosa in the Canary Islands will enter phase one on 4 May. Those provinces that meet the requirements will enter phase one on 11 May.

As from that date, compliance with the markers set for each province or island will be assessed each fortnight.

Individual responsibility and social discipline

Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la BellacasaThe President of the Government explained that when drawing up the plan, the main international experiences were analysed and the best practices identified to recover daily life and economic activity without endangering collective health. Furthermore, the contributions from regional governments and local authorities were taken into account.

Pedro Sánchez considers that the leading figures in this de-escalation stage will be the Spanish people themselves and called again for individual responsibility and social discipline. "Through our behaviour we can save lives and recover our country". In contrast, any irresponsible conduct will be held against those responsible, although this may prejudice everyone", he said.

The President of the Government warned that the process will be "more dangerous and difficult" than the lockdown, since it will require combining respect for the rules on hygiene and social distancing with the recovery of mobility and social activity. "The virus has not gone away", he recalled and, until such time as we have a vaccine, he reiterated the need to be cautious and prudent, stressing that impatience must not endanger what has been achieved with "a great deal of sacrifice over these last six weeks".

On this point, he thanked "healthcare workers for their selfless work", and for the "efforts and sacrifice" of all citizens, which has meant that thousands of lives have been saved.

Tribute to those who died

Pedro Sánchez expressed his condolences to the families of those who have died in this pandemic. When it is totally under control, we will pay tribute publicly.

Other agreements

The government approved a Royal Decree-Law of urgent measures to recover court activity after COVID-19. The text contains organisational, procedural and safety at work measures for the gradual return to activity of the courts and tribunals, which prioritises the health of the professionals that work in this field.

Non official translation