MADRID (Reuters) – Residents of Madrid and Barcelona are eagerly anticipating the opening of parks, museums, churches and outdoor seating at bars this week, as Spain prepares to ease some of the strictest lockdown measures in Europe in its capital and second city.
In Madrid, where for two weeks authorities have begun to let runners and cyclists out for exercise for a few hours in the morning and evening, graphic designer Jimena Ruiz jogged near the wrought iron fence of Retiro park, still shut with a chain.
“I can’t wait for it,” she said wistfully. “I’m really looking forward to running, sunbathing and sitting by the fountains.”
The coronavirus death toll rose by 70 on Sunday to 28,752, the eighth day in a row the daily death toll was under 100, the health ministry said. The total number of coronavirus cases rose to 235,772.
Spain is now in the third month of its national emergency, having endured one of the highest per capita death tolls in the world from the coronavirus, which hit hardest in Madrid.
Madrid and Barcelona will follow other areas of the country where the lockdown has already been eased further. Bars will be allowed to open terraces at 50% capacity and people will be permitted to meet in groups of a maximum of 10.
“A collective effort has allowed us to leave behind the most critical stage,” said government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero on Sunday, urging people not to let their guard down as the lockdown eases.
Madrid’s main hospitality organisation told newspaper Cinco Dias this week it expected only around 10% of bars to open their terraces in the city.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday announced Spain would reopen its borders to international tourism from July. Tourism accounts for more than 12% of Spain’s economic output.
(Reporting by Raul Cadenas, Elena Rodriguez; Writing by Jessica Jones; Editing by Peter Graff)