Spain considering setting timetables for walks as part of confinement deescalation

The Cabinet will today be debating the relaxation of measures, which could involve specific times that seniors and children would be allowed out on the street

Police on patrol in Madrid on Monday, the second day that children were allowed out onto the street.
Police on patrol in Madrid on Monday, the second day that children were allowed out onto the street.©Jaime Villanueva
Pablo Linde

The first trips out onto the street by children in Spain are being used by the Health Ministry to study the relaxation of coronavirus confinement measures for the rest of the country’s population, something that will begin on Saturday if there is no uptick in the epidemic this week. At a meeting on Monday with regional health chiefs, Health Minister Salvador Illa requested proposals for the new rules, one of which being considered by the government is the setting out of timetables in order to avoid crowds.

According to sources from the regional governments, the minister did not confirm any specific measures on Monday, but rather just asked for opinions on how trips outside should be regulated and requested information about the experiences of each region with the first relaxation of the quarantine, which saw children allowed out on Sunday for the first time since March 14 with one of their parents, for one hour, and within a one-kilometer radius of their home. A ministerial order will set out how the rest of the population will be able to go out onto the street, and whether timetables will be necessary, as well as the time and distance limits that will be applied.

A ministerial order will set out how the rest of the population will be able to go out onto the street, and whether timetables will be necessary

Antoni Trilla, an epidemiologist and member of the scientific team that is advising the government, explained to EL PAÍS that “for now, and with all necessary prudence,” the same precautions that apply to minors will be in place. “Especially in terms of safety distance, and a limit to duration and distance from the home, similar to that for children. Reduced mobility and contact eliminated,” he says.

José Martínez Olmos, a professor from the Andalusian Public School of Health, believes that establishing timetables could be a good idea. “For me, it is key for parents to be able to take the children out and not grandparents, which implies that the timetable for children should be compatible with that,” he says.

Some of the regions that have proposed this time limit include the Canary Islands and Andalusia. The latter region’s government believes that the ideal time to avoid contagion would be for seniors to go out for walks in the morning – from 9am to 2pm – and for children to go out in the afternoon, from 4pm to 9pm.

“The virus is here to stay and we have to avoid contact between those who are at greater risk, seniors and children, who can be vectors for the disease,” said the health chief in Andalusia, Jesús Aguirre.

As well as the ministerial order that will lift some of the confinement measures, which is due to arrive in the coming days, the Cabinet will today debate and propose the deescalation plan, which will go further than just sporadic trips out of the house. Health Minister Illa informed the regional governments that he will take into account the plans that they have presented. While the central government in Madrid has powers over these measures, some regions have made their proposals according to their respective territories. Some, such as the Balearics, Extremadura, Castilla y León and Galicia, among others, are calling for different treatment according to the citizens in question, and for rural areas to be treated differently from urban ones, given the incidence of the epidemic and population densities are very different.

The virus is here to stay and we have to avoid contact between those who are at greater risk, seniors and children
Health chief in Andalusia, Jesús Aguirre

Here are some of the other proposals according to region:

Andalusia. The regional government is proposing the reopening of bars and restaurants on May 25: 30 minutes for breakfast and 90 minutes for lunches and dinners. The Junta, as the regional government is known, is planning tables with set distances between them, and a maximum of four diners – excluding large families – who will not be able to share dishes, given that they will be individual and there will be disinfections between sittings.

The Junta has also suggested avoiding sales in stores, and that people be allowed out for walks or exercise from May 1, and that entire families be allowed out from May 10. On May 11, hairdressers, beauty salons and businesses would reopen, and from May 18 funerals would restart without wakes

Catalonia. The plan proposed by the Catalan regional government does not include dates, but instead involves a system of indicators that classify risks according to the areas where people live, their age, illnesses, etc. According to this they will be classified as low, medium, high or very high, which will determine who can go out first and who would have to do so later. The regional government is working with a 48-page proposal, in which it details these measures.

Canary Islands. This region has been one of the least affected by the epidemic, and has an easy task of avoiding new outbreaks given its nature as an island and location. It wants to lead the deescalation process and serve as a testing ground for the process. But for now it will have to wait. Its proposal involves dividing the population into two groups: those who live at addresses with even numbers could go out on even dates, and vice versa. In its second week of deconfinement, the Canarian government would like to open hotels, limiting capacity to 50%. Restaurants, under these plans, would have to wait until the third or fourth week, also with half capacity.

Aragón. The region presented a four-phase plan on Monday that would see the smallest municipalities be the first to leave confinement. In areas with fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, hostelry activity could begin – bars and restaurants – from the second half of May. The limit would be 30 people and a space of at least four square meters per person would be needed, leaving two meters between customers.

The Cabinet will have the final say on these measures, however, and the Health Ministry insists that none of them will be definitive, and will always be contingent on hospital capacity and the control of the epidemic.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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