CORONAVIRUS

Spanish government will set timetable for walks as part of confinement deescalation

The health minister will confirm the full details of how the adult population will be allowed outside at a press conference later today

A man walks outside with his two children in Valencia.
A man walks outside with his two children in Valencia.Manuel Bruque / EFE

The Spanish government confirmed on Thursday that it will set time slots for adults to go out for walks and to exercise. According to the communication state secretary, the deescalation expert committee, which is headed by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, reached the decision on Thursday “based on the figures which show a positive evolution of the pandemic in Spain.”

The Spanish Health Ministry reported on Thursday that the number of daily coronavirus deaths had fallen to 268, the lowest figure since March 20.

One of the goals of the timetable is to protect seniors, who are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus

Starting this weekend, adults will be allowed to go outside as part of the deescalation of the coronavirus confinement measures. Since Sunday of last week, children under the age of 14 have been allowed to go out for supervised walks within a one-kilometer radius of their homes and for no longer than an hour.

But it is not yet known what conditions will apply to the rest of the population. The health minister, Salvador Illa, said the plan would be organized in collaboration with regional governments and local officials, who have the authority to open municipal parks. “All this has to be discussed at length so that there is not a mass exit of people, so that we can combine children’s outings, couples going for a walk and also exercise,” he said.

A ministerial order will set out how the rest of the population will be able to go out onto the street, what time slots will be involved, as well as the time and distance limits that will be applied. The health minister was scheduled to announce these conditions on Thursday morning, but the press conference has been pushed back to 6pm. At noon, Illa told Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies, that the measures were “being finalized.”

On Monday, Illa met with regional health chiefs to discuss proposals for how trips outside should be regulated. Many of these regional leaders argued that time slots should be set in order to avoid crowds, after photos on Sunday showed families allegedly breaking social distancing measures. The government, however, insisted on Monday that no serious breaches were committed on the first day of children outings.

Some of the regions that proposed setting specific times by age group include Catalonia, 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 plan proposed by the Catalan regional government involves four different schedules. It suggests the following: individual exercise and sport from 6am to 8am, outings for seniors and people with disabilities from 9am to 11am, and children’s outings from 11am to 6pm. The hour between 8am and 9am would be reserved for people who need to commute for work.

The Canary regional government proposed dividing the population into two groups. Under this plan, people who have a street address that falls on an odd number will be allowed to go out on odd-numbered days, for example May 3, 5, 7, and vice versa for street addresses with even numbers.

One of the goals of setting a timetable is to protect seniors, who are the most vulnerable to the coronavirus. Under the government’s “Plan for the Transition Toward a New Normality,” seniors will be allocated a special time to go to shops once these reopen.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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