De-escalation in Spain: An update on Barcelona

Pedro Sánchez, Prime Minister of Spain, has been present throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in keeping the country aware of how they should go about winding down lockdown measures. With 17 autonomous communities in Spain, all with differing populations and land sizes, the Spanish government’s plan to phase out measures has had to be adopted differently by these communities. With the smaller areas progressing relatively quickly, popular cities like Madrid and Barcelona have to be more patient as they progress to a new, safer, normal. Due to there being so many sources of information available to us all, we thought best to focus on Barcelona and give you an update on how the city is progressing. We’ll get the big one out of the way now, it is compulsory to wear a face mask in public spaces!

Current situation

Towards the end of May, Barcelona spent time in Phase 1, lagging behind smaller autonomous communities, especially the island communities of the Balearic or Mallorca. This Phase of De-escalation was the first big step towards reaching a ‘new normal’, as the city saw the return of outdoor terrace bars. These, being such a staple to Catalan and Spanish culture, have been missed by the locals, who can now go there in small groups to enjoy a drink and tapas. In addition to this, hotels and other tourist accommodation has been able to open once more, an essential move towards rebuilding the tourism sector of the economy- something that the city relies on greatly. Moreover, libraries have reopened their reading rooms, which still observe social distancing yet allow the locals of Barcelona to access more literature in a safe environment. Lastly, there have been strict time slots for people to observe when practicing exercise outdoors either individually or with members of the household.

As of Monday 8th June, Barcelona has been able to progress to Phase 2. One of the main benefits to Barcelona upon entering this phase is that restaurants can reopen their indoor seating areas, with a 40% capacity (a 10% increase on Phase 1). Another industry that will be open and adhere to this maximum capacity is shops and malls, with a range of shops available to people in Barcelona, this will give people a much needed morale boost as the city progresses from this crisis. As for more cultural activities, there will be a 30% capacity allowed at cultural sites, like museums and cinemas, giving people the opportunity to enrich their day with a film or trip to one of the many UNESCO sites in the city. As for swimming pools, some of them will open at a third of capacity, with athletes only allowed to practice in the sea for exercise purposes alone. Lastly, in this phase, people will be able to meet up to 15 people in a group outside, giving a change to socialise with friends and family in larger numbers.

Fans of football will be happy to know that, as of Thursday 11th June, the Spanish first division, La Liga, and the second division, La Liga 2, will resume their seasons. This is very important to the country as a whole, who avidly follow their teams throughout the season. The past few weeks has seen players and staff of every club in these divisions receive testing for the virus, with it now being deemed safe enough to return to action. The president of La Liga, Javier Tebas, has even said that he would look to have fans return to the stands as soon as possible. Regardless of that meaning that stadiums are only a third, or half full, this is great news for people looking to see a match in Barcelona live before the end the year, with the likelihood being that this would only be realistic for the 2020/21 season, which will start in late August/early September.

Future plans for Barcelona

Time will tell how Barcelona takes to Phase 2 and the test of success, as always, will rely on how the virus progresses. Therefore, it is not concrete as to how long the city will stay in Phase 2. Judging by the trend, it seems that the city will spend some 2 weeks with these restrictions before progressing. This will be towards the end of June, yet it is still important to clarify what is in store for Phase 3. The main difference here will be that restaurants, bars, shops and cultural events will all be able to host up to 50% capacity indoors, and 75% for outdoor spaces. Nightclubs will be open once more, being able to welcome a third of their capacity. As for libraries, all their activities will be able to return, giving people the opportunity to learn together in the same space again for the first time in months. The biggest cultural change in Phase 3 is that beaches will reopen for leisurely use, meaning that sun bathing and going in the sea will be permitted. Although some smaller regions in Spain are at this stage, it is not yet certain when Barcelona will reach this stage. At the very least, the trial of other regions will ensure that when Barcelona does progress, it will be safe to do so.

As for what would come after that, would remain in the hands of the regions. Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, said that the end of the national emergency, which has recently been extended until 21st June, is when regions will be able to decide on their own account whether or not to further step down measures. In addition to this, the Prime Minister has suggested that foreign travellers will be able to enter the country in the month of July. However, it is important to stress that this will depend on the infection rates in your own country, so keep an eye on that before planning a trip to Barcelona or elsewhere in the region. If you are reading this whilst living in Spain, wanting to travel to Barcelona for leisure purposes, then you will have to wait until the city reaches Phase 3 before travelling here. Of course, travel is not at the front of our minds as of right now, however, it is important to keep informed on the places that you have an interest in travelling to.

Sandra Roig is Marketing Director at AB Apartment Barcelona. AB Apartment Barcelona is an apartment rental agency offering over one thousand short and long term apartments across Barcelona.

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