CORONAVIRUS

Spain prepares for next phase change of coronavirus deescalation plan

Madrid authorities said they will not request to move to the final stage, but instead wait until the state of alarm comes to an end on June 21 and the entire country enters the “new normality”

A man uses hand sanitizer before entering a store in Madrid.
A man uses hand sanitizer before entering a store in Madrid.(Foto: Europa Press | Vídeo: Atlas)

Several regional authorities in Spain have filed their proposals to move to a new phase of the coronavirus deescalation plan to the central Health Ministry. The state of alarm in Spain will officially come to an end on June 21. After this date, Spain will be under the “new normality” following a prolonged coronavirus lockdown and deescalation process.

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More than half the country entered Phase 3 on Monday, which is the last step before the “new normality.” Under this stage, regional governments resume authority of the deescalation process and decide how long this final period should last. Regional authorities can also decide to end the state of alarm before June 21.

The rest of the country – Castilla y León, the Valencia region, Madrid region, the North African exclave city of Ceuta, the provinces of Toledo, Ciudad Real and Albacete in Castilla-La Mancha, and the healthcare areas of Catalunya Central, Girona, Lleida and Barcelona in Catalonia – remains in Phase 2. Under the government’s deescalation plan, each phase must last a minimum of 14 days. But several of these regions have requested to move to Phase 3 despite having only been in Phase 2 for a week.

Madrid stays in Phase 2

Madrid is the only region not to have issued a proposal to move to the final stage of the deescalation plan. “The possibility of moving to Phase 3 has not been considered because from June 21, if everything goes as planned, the state of alarm will end and with it the phase system,” explained Ignacio Aguado, the deputy premier of Madrid, on Wednesday. This means that Madrid will move directly from Phase 2 to the “new normality” when the state of alarm comes to an end.

Regional authorities in Catalonia have so far only requested that the healthcare areas of Catalunya Central and Girona move to Phase 3. Lleida and the city of Barcelona and its metropolitan areas are likely to remain in Phase 2, but the Catalan health chief, Alba Vergés, has said that “nothing has been ruled out.” The deadline to submit phase change requests ended on Wednesday, but a spokesperson from the Health Ministry said it is a “flexible process.”

Valencia to enter Phase 3

In Valencia, the regional government asked the central Health Ministry on Tuesday for permission to enter Phase 3. Regional authorities also want to allow movement with the neighboring regions of Murcia and the Balearic Islands, and later with Castilla-La Mancha and Aragón. The Valencian government is also expected to allow movement between the provinces.

In Castilla y León, regional authorities requested to move to the last stage, with the exception of the provinces of Salamanca, Ávila, Segovia and Soria. Health chief Verónica Casado said that the proposal was supported by the region’s positive coronavirus figures, and added that after being cautious during the first three stages, now is the moment “to take a little risk” and accelerate the deescalation process.

The regional government of Castilla-La Mancha has also asked that the provinces of Toledo, Ciudad Real and Albacete move to Phase 3. And Ceuta, which slowed down the deescalation process last week following an outbreak of coronavirus cases, has also requested to enter the final stage.

Galicia considers lifting state of alarm

Meanwhile in Galicia, the regional government is considering lifting the state of alarm next week. The northwestern region entered Phase 3 on Monday, meaning it has the power to end the emergency measures before the official June 21 deadline.

The premier of Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, said that the government will announce on Friday whether the region lifts the state of alarm from Monday, June 15. According to Feijóo, who is up for reelection on July 12, Galicia has the lowest coronavirus transmission rate in Spain, with 0.4 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, compared to the national average of 4.2. Data from the Galician healthcare service Sergas shows that only 10 coronavirus patients remain in hospital, none of whom are in intensive care. According to regional authorities, there are 472 active cases, while 10,338 patients have recovered from the disease.

“For more than seven days, we have been the region with the lowest contagion rate in Spain,” said Feijóo.

Movement between northern regions

Regional governments in Spain’s northern regions, which have all entered Phase 3, are discussing the possibility of allowing movement between the provinces of each territory.

Basque premier Iñigo Urkullu said on Wednesday that he hopes travel between his region and neighboring Cantabria will be allowed from Monday. But he added that “all the data” will be analyzed so that the free movement of people “does not create unwanted situations in any other region.” Urkullu said he has held several conversations with Cantabria premier Miguel Ángel Revilla on the subject, and that both agree.

The northwestern region of Galicia also favors re-establishing transit with the neighboring Asturias. Authorities in the latter region will on Thursday discuss the suitability of asking the central government to allow movement between Asturias, Cantabria and Galicia starting on Monday,

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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