Pedro Sánchez has given the details, but not all the details that people wanted. This Tuesday afternoon, Spain's prime minister has outlined his plan for de-escalation of the coronvirus lockdown for the whole Spanish state, which he said would be asymmetrical, gradual and flexible. It has been given a name: the "Transition Plan to a New Normality". This plan, prepared with the help of experts and scientists and passed by the Spanish cabinet, is based on a four-phase lifting of lockdown measures. However, it does not set all the dates for each of the stages, which will be subject to the evolution of the indicators in each of Spain's provinces. Control will at all times be in the hands of the central government. It will begin on May 4th and the horizon is two months: until the end of June. Midsummer.
Thus, there will be four phases with four different levels of re-opening: phases 0, 1, 2 and 3. A series of indicators will determine when each territory moves from one phase to another. The intention is to assess the situation every two weeks and make the decision in a coordinated manner between the state and the autonomous communities. Each phase will last at least two weeks. That way, the transition will last at least six weeks in total. The maximum horizon is eight weeks, until the end of June.
Only one date is set: on May 4th all territories will enter Phase 0, except the three small islands of Formentera, La Gomera and La Graciosa, which will begin directly in phase 1. On 11th May all the territories which comply with the requisites will more to Phase 1.
The territorial unit will be the province, or in the case of offshore territories, the island. Communities may raise exceptions to this, and health minister Salvador Illa will have to validate them. Until full "deconfinement" is completed, movement between provinces will not be allowed apart from exceptional cases, to be listed in the state of alarm decree. Journeys to second residences will not be permitted either if they are in other provinces.
In Phase 0, the preparatory phase, “small openings of economic activity" will become possible. The Spanish PM gave some examples, such as the opening of commercial premises by appointment, and takeaway food in restaurants with no consumption on the premises. He also commented that individual training for professional athletes would be allowed.
In Phase 1, the initial phase, small businesses will be allowed to re-open, but not large stores. In the case of restaurants, the opening of terraces will be possible, without exceeding 30% of normal capacity, and the opening of hotels, excluding common areas and with certain restrictions that will be specified. The opening of retail premises will include a preferential timetable to serve people over 65 years of age.
In Phase 2, the intermediate phase, restaurants will be able to open their interior spaces, with a third of normal capacity and service exclusively at tables. Although the school year will resume later, in September, there will be some exceptions at this pre-summer stage: reinforcement activities, for children up to six years' old if both their parents work, and also for the Selectivitat, the university admission examinations. Cinemas, theatres, auditoriums and exhibition halls will also be able to open up, with a limitation of one third of their capacity. Indoor cultural performances will be possible but limited to less than 50 people, and less than a third of normal capacity. Outdoors, the limit will be 400 people as long as they are seated. Places of worship will have a limitation of 50% of usual capacity. Until the end of this phase, distance working will be preferential.
Finally, in Phase 3, the advanced phase on the path to the "New Normality", general mobility and transport will be made more flexible, although recommendations such as the use of masks on public transport will be maintained. In retail premises, capacity will be limited to 50% and a minimum distance of two metres between people will be imposed. In restaurants, there will be further easing, but maintaining the separation between clients. In this phase the opening of beaches is also contemplated.
A single command
Each phase will last for two weeks. Some provinces are likely to reach the goal before others. In his appearance, Sánchez made it clear that the final say will be in the hands of the minister of health, Salvador Illa, to guarantee that the general lines are shared and "coherent". He admitted that it would be asymmetrical, that it will not be "uniform" for all territories. Thus, there will be evaluations province by province on whether they meet the criteria to advance to the next phase, or even to go back a stage. He also made it clear that the indicators would be "objective and public" and would strictly follow public health criteria. "Each area will advance at the speed allowed by absolutely objective criteria," he reiterated.
To assess the situation of each province, a series of markers established by experts and scientists who advise the Spanish government will be taken into account. These will be: firstly, the "strategic capabilities of the health care system," such as primary care or the number of ICU beds. Second, "the diagnosis and identification of the specific situation of the pandemic" in each area. Thirdly, “the implementation of measures of collective protection in shops, transport, workplaces and any other public space”. Finally, “mobility data and socio-economic data”.
Among the measures proposed in the health field, are the configuration of special centres for people who may possibly be infected with the coronavirus, separate circuits for face-to-face attention for people with symptoms, and the strengthening of in-home care by health professionals.
Renewals of Spain's state of alarm
While the de-escalation continues, the state of alarm will also continue. Pedro Sánchez has confirmed that they will ask for the fourth extension of the state of alarm, from May 9th, and has not ruled out doing so a fifth time until all territories cross the finish line. In this way, the state of alarm could last until the end of June, the maximum time horizon with which the Spanish government is working in its de-escalation plan.
A more political managment committee
In parallel, de-escalation will bring with it a reformulation of the teams which the Spanish government has picked to lead the emergency response. Starting tomorrow Wednesday, the "Technical committee for the coronavirus management" will be converted into the "Technical committee for the de-escalation". It will have a much more political profile. The only specialist left will be the Health Emergency Centre director, Fernando Simón. The right hand of the Spanish prime minister, chief of staff Iván Redondo, enters the scene.
This new committee will be chaired by Pedro Sánchez and all four of the Spanish state's deputy PMs will sit on it: Carmen Calvo, Pablo Iglesias, Nadia Calviño and Teresa Rivera. As well, the ministers who currently hold special status as "authorities" under the state of alarm: Salvador Illa, José Luis Ábalos, Fernando Grande-Marlaska and Margarita Robles, plus employment minister Yolanda Díaz and government spokesperson María Jesús Montero. Meetings will be attended by Sánchez's chief of staff, Iván Redondo, the secretary general of the presidency, Félix Bolaños, the secretary of state for communication, Miguel Ángel Oliver, and the chief of staff of Pablo Iglesias, Julio Rodríguez.