CORONAVIRUS

What will happen under the ‘new normality’? Here’s how the coronavirus deescalation plan will end

Galicia will become the first of Spain’s regions to end Phase 3 on Monday, with the rest of the country due to pass to this stage on June 21 as the state of alarm is lifted

Riazor beach in A Coruña, Galicia, late last month.
Riazor beach in A Coruña, Galicia, late last month.OSCAR CORRAL

It was on March 14 that the Spanish Cabinet approved the state of alarm in Spain – the lowest of three emergency states included in the Constitution – in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus. Three months later, Galicia will become the first region to enter what the government has dubbed “the new normality,” leaving behind the four phases of the central administration’s deescalation plan. The rest of the country is due to enter this stage at midnight on June 21, when the state of alarm will come to an end and limits on the mobility of citizens will be lifted.

From this date, the regulations approved in a decree setting out the new normality will come into force, and which include, among other measures, the continued use of face masks when social distancing of 1.5 meters cannot be observed, with fines of €100 for those who do not respect the requirement.

The decree will remain in force until the Health Ministry determines that the pandemic no longer presents a danger – i.e. until there is a vaccine or an effective treatment for the Covid-19 disease. Until that happens, these are the measures that will apply to the lives of residents of Spain.

When does the new normality begin in Spain? The so-called “new normality,” a kind of euphemism employed by the central government for when the state of alarm is over but when hygiene and distancing measures remain, begins on June 21 at midnight. For now, just the Galicia region will be entering this stage, given that it is the territory with the lowest rates of coronavirus infections in the last seven days – 0.48 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, only behind the North African city of Melilla.

Does the state of alarm end with the new normality? Yes, the state of alarm finishes at midnight on June 21, with the aforementioned exception of Galicia. The sixth and last extension to the state of alarm was approved in the Congress of Deputies on June 3, with 177 votes in favor, 155 against and 18 abstentions.

When the state of alarm ends, is travel across Spain possible? Yes, from midnight June 21, there will be no more national restrictions on mobility – that’s to say, travel between regions will be possible without the need for justification.

When the state of alarm ends, will there be a complete return to normality? No. The Cabinet approved on June 9 a Royal Decree that sets out the regulations that will be in force during the new normality. This legislation, which will be in force from June 21 in all of Spain, establishes a series of measures that will have to be observed across the country. One of these is the use of face masks when social distancing of 1.5 meters is not possible, with fines of €100 for non-compliance. The rules also include constant coordination between care homes and senior residences and the health system, the adoption of prevention and hygiene measures in the workplace (including the layout of work stations and the organization of shifts to avoid crowds forming), and health checks in airports. The Royal Decree is yet to be approved by Congress.

Does that mean we will be wearing masks all summer? Exactly. They must be used in open and closed spaces where 1.5-meter social distancing is not possible. They will also be required on air, sea, bus and rail transport, as well as in private vehicles if the occupants do not live together.

Will just the new normality decree be in force from June 21? No, regional governments will be able to establish their own rules to limit crowds, limit excessive capacities in premises and restrict some activities.

Will there be more lockdowns? If there are outbreaks of Covid-19 – as happened before the state of alarm was declared in the Catalan municipality of Igualada and a hotel in Adeje, in the Canary Islands – specific lockdowns can be implemented given the danger that new spikes involve for public health. These quarantines would be enforced under a 1986 public health law, but would have to be very specific and limited, such as an outbreak in a municipality. There could be no lockdown on a regional or state level using this law – a state of alarm would have to be implemented once more. “If we have to use it again, of course it will be used again,” confirmed Health Minister Salvador Illa on Friday, in reference to the state of alarm.

Can people travel between regions before June 21? This could be possible in the coming days. All of the territories that are in Phase 3 of the government’s deescalation plan have the authority to permit transit between their provinces and with neighboring regions that are also in the last phase of deescalation or the new normality – as Galicia will be from Monday. Currently, there are a number of regions in talks to allow movement between territories, such as Cantabria and the Basque Country, as well as Galicia and Asturias. From June 15, just Madrid, Barcelona and its metropolitan area, the health area of Lleida and the provinces of Salamanca, Ávila, Segovia and Soria will still be in Phase 2.

Will there be timetables for activities as there were in the first phases of the deescalation? No. Set times for sport and other activities disappear in Phase 3.

Can tourists enter the country from June 21? No. Although there is currently one exception: 10,900 Germans who will arrive from the Balearic Islands from Monday and will not have to observe the two-week quarantine. Other regions are in negotiations with the central government to approve similar deals. Other visitors will have to wait, although Brussels is calling for interior borders to be reopened from June 15, with freedom for all citizens living within the Schengen area. Spain is taking a more conservative approach, however, and will not open its borders until July 1.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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