Hairdressers, ironmongers and florists opened for business with restrictions yesterday as Spain began the four-phase plan to reopen by end-June, while the 24-hour death tally from the coronavirus pandemic stayed under 200 for the second day in a row.
Red Cross workers handed out masks at Madrid’s metro stations as wearing face protection on pubic transport became mandatory.
Passengers crossing from the holiday islands of Ibiza to Formentera were tested for the virus before boarding.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that six million masks were due to be distributed in Spain, one of the nations worst hit by the global pandemic.
But his fragile coalition government is facing opposition to its plans to extend the state of emergency which allows Madrid to centralise the response to the crisis and co-ordinate the country’s exit from its strict lockdown.
Tomorrow, Sanchez must seek parliamentary approval to extend the state of emergency for another two weeks from the 9th of May in an increasingly hostile political environment.
As the rate of infection has fallen and hospitals have regained their footing, the government has shifted its focus towards reopening the country and reviving a battered economy.
The Bank of Spain says it expects a significantly sharper contraction of the economy in the second quarter from the first – already a quarterly record.
Last week, the government predicted the economy would shrink 9.2% this year.
Showing how Spaniards have kept their hands in their pockets as they hunkered down at home under the lockdown, new car sales practically evaporated in April, with new car registrations down 97% from the same month a year earlier.
In the next stage, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants can open at half occupancy, while groups of up to 10 people will be allowed in public places and in homes.
Three of the Canary Islands – La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa – and the Balearic island of Formentera which have had no new COVID-19 cases in 28 days entered this second phase yesterday.