As Spain enters the ‘new normality’ on Sunday, what will change?

Safety measures such as the use of masks will still be obligatory when social distancing of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained

A play park is disinfected in the Spanish province of Ávila.
A play park is disinfected in the Spanish province of Ávila.RAÚL SANCHIDRIÁN (EFE)

On Sunday June 21, at 12am, the whole of Spain will enter what the government has classed the “new normality.” After three months, the sixth and final extension to the state of alarm will come to an end. The emergency situation was implemented by the government in the middle of March in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus, and, among other things, confined Spaniards to their homes and prevented them from moving freely around the country, or leaving Spanish borders.

Now that the epidemic is under control in Spain, the country is moving to a new phase of deescalation. But it will not be a situation completely free of restrictions. The regions will be taking control of much of the management of the crisis from now on, and each government will be able to establish its own measures. Madrid, the Basque Country, Cantabria, Aragón, Extremadura, Murcia and Catalonia have already announced that they are working on legislation that will limit the capacity of establishments and avoid new outbreaks.

Not all of the country’s 17 regions are entering the new normality in the same circumstances. Galicia was the first territory to begin the stage on Monday. On Friday it was joined by the Basque Country and Cantabria – citizens can already move between these two regions – as well as Catalonia. The rest of the country is in Phase 3, apart from Madrid and four provinces in Castilla y León (Segovia, Soria, Ávila and Salamanca), which are still in Phase 2. All of them will enter the new normality on June 21.

What does the new normality consist of? In this new stage, which begins on Sunday, mobility restrictions imposed by the state of alarm will end but hygiene and safe-distancing measures will remain. The government has approved a Royal Decree that sets out the obligatory use of masks when a safe inter-personal distance of 1.5 meters cannot be maintained, with fines of up to €100 if this is not observed. The rules also establish constant coordination between residences and the health system, the adoption of prevention and hygiene measures in the workplace – the organization of work stations and shifts to avoid large groups of people – and health controls in airports.

How long will the new normality last? The measures in this new phase will be in place until the pandemic is considered to be over, either thanks to the appearance of an effective treatment or a vaccine. The regulations set out by the Royal Decree can be complemented with the rules established by each region.

What are the restrictions that can be set out by the regions? Before the arrival of the new normality, a number of regions announced the creation of legislation to regulate this stage. These measures are mostly aimed at regulating capacity in establishments, as well as events of all kinds, whether they are inside or outside. Madrid, for example, has already announced that nightclubs will remain closed until July 5. Local fiestas can also be suspended – Aragón has taken the decision to do so until September 30.

Can people travel between regions from Sunday? Yes. The biggest change that will arrive on Sunday with the new normality is an end to mobility restrictions in Spanish territory and the chance to take journeys to other regions without need for justification. Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, called for prudence on Friday. “We need to take care,” he said. “This new normality requires us to be conscious of the risks. Journeys should not be made if they are unnecessary, but this is now a case of individual responsibility.”

When can people travel to other European countries? Mobility restrictions within the European Union and Schengen area countries also come to an end on Sunday. The EU had called on countries to reopen on June 15, but the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, announced that the country would wait until June 21. There is one exception: the border with Portugal will not reopen until July 1. For the United Kingdom, the Spanish government is considering implementing a quarantine as a reciprocal measure, given that travelers arriving in that country must self-isolate for two weeks. The British government is considering revising this measure, but not before June 29. The Spanish foreign minister is also holding conversations with the French government to manage the difference in dates for reopening the border, given that the neighboring country is planning to open its borders on June 22.

And what about the rest of the world? The Spanish prime minister said on Sunday that borders with the rest of the world will begin to open on July 1 on a gradual basis. For this to happen, there are a number of requirements: an epidemiological situation that is similar to or better than that of EU member states; certain health conditions in the origin, journey and destination; and reciprocal acceptance of travelers from the EU.

Will there be more lockdowns? If there are localized outbreaks of the coronavirus, as was the case at the start of the crisis in the Catalan municipality of Igualada and a hotel in the Canary Islands, specific lockdowns will be possible. These quarantines will be implemented under a 1986 public health law, which can restrict rights for health reasons, but always on an individual basis and always in very specific and limited outbreaks, such as in a municipality. Lockdowns cannot be implemented on a regional or state level using this law – to do so would require a new state of alarm. “If we have to use it again, of course, we will use it again,” said Health Minister Salvador Illa last Friday about the emergency measures.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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