Shopping, driving, training: New deescalation measures go into effect in Spain on May 4

The government has published five ministerial orders outlining what activities are permitted as the country gradually deescalates its strict lockdown

After weeks of confinement, people in Madrid enjoyed being outside on Saturday.
After weeks of confinement, people in Madrid enjoyed being outside on Saturday.Josefina Blanco (Europa Press)
Pablo Linde

On Sunday, Spain’s Official State Gazette (BOE) published five ministerial orders setting out new measures that go into effect on Monday, May 4. The changes are part of a gradual relaxation of the strict lockdown that was introduced on March 14 in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The government’s instructions also specify the conditions that individual provinces must meet in order to move forward along a four-stage deescalation plan aimed at slowly and safely phasing out the confinement measures.

Mandatory face masks

Starting on Monday, anyone traveling by bus, rail, sea or air must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth. The Spanish government is planning to hand out 14 million face masks at major transit hubs to ensure this rule is observed. Face masks will also be mandatory inside private vehicles when the passengers are not all members of the same household.

“Civil Protection volunteers hand out face masks at Madrid Metro entrances to those who will be taking public transportation, and even to those who will not.”

Road transportation

In private cars and company vehicles whose main activity is not road freight transportation, with seating for up to nine people including the driver, it will be possible to seat two people in each row, as long as they wear face masks and keep the greatest possible distance between them.

On public transportation where all passengers must be seated, no more than half of the seats may be occupied. On buses, the row directly behind the driver must remain empty.

On city and intercity buses and on subway cars with standing space, the rule is that only half of seats may be used and there can only be a maximum of two standing riders per square meter.

Small businesses

Stores under 400 square meters may reopen but customers need to make appointments ahead of time, either by phone or email. Clients older than 65 must have their own time slot, which also has to coincide with the time assigned for daily walks for the 70-and-over population (10am to noon and 7pm to 8pm). There can only be one client for every employee, and stores selling clothing and shoes have to disinfect each item after every use. The premises must also be disinfected twice a day, including at closing time. Employee uniforms must be washed daily at a temperature of over 60ºC. Customers may not use the bathroom unless it is an emergency. If it is not possible to keep a two-meter distance, face masks will be mandatory. All stores must have hand sanitizer available for their clients.


Until now, restaurants have been allowed home delivery. Starting on Monday, customers may also pick up their orders at the restaurant, as long as safety conditions are met. There must be a plexiglass barrier separating workers from clients, and ideally only one employee per client. When this is not possible, the latter will have to remain two meters apart. Hand sanitizer must be available at the entrance and exit, as well as trash cans without lids that have to be lifted by hand. Orders must be placed ahead of time by phone or online to avoid crowds.

A chef organizes take-away orders under the new deescalation measures.
A chef organizes take-away orders under the new deescalation measures. Iñaki Berasaluce (Europa Press)

Building renovation

Renovation work on private homes and business premises is now allowed after being on hold since the introduction of the state of alarm. But this kind of activity is only permitted if workers and residents or employees do not interact, either by establishing exclusive working areas or specific schedules for the construction workers.


As a rule, all archives material should be consulted online, but researchers who need to see documents in person may do so starting on Monday. Up to 10 documents a day be be viewed, and these will then be placed in a 10-day quarantine until the next person is allowed to access them.

Elite sports

Athletes who are designated as “high-performance” by the Superior Council for Sports may train individually in the open air in their province of residence. If necessary, they may access natural areas that are required for their activity, such as the sea, rivers or reservoirs. There is no limit on training times and trainers are allowed to accompany athletes; an additional person may be in attendance in the case of paralympic sports.

Other athletes affiliated with clubs may train individually in the open air twice a day between 6am and 10am and between 8pm and 11pm, within the city limits of their own place of residence. These individuals may also access any natural areas that are required for their training.

Islands in Phase 1

Three of the Canary Islands (La Gomera, La Graciosa and El Hierro) as well as Formentera in the Balearic Islands entered Phase 1 on Monday, ahead of the rest of Spain. Because of their very low coronavirus transmission, these territories will allow residents to gather in groups of up to 10 people as long as safety distances are respected. Small businesses may also reopen without the need for appointments, but only at 30% of capacity. Open-air markets are allowed with 25% of the usual number of stands and 30% of the regular volume of visitors. Up to 15 people may attend funeral wakes. Other parts of Spain will enter this phase on May 11 as long as they meet certain criteria involving hospitals’ critical care capacity and coronavirus transmission rates.

English version by Susana Urra.

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