IT'S A taste of what could come in the near future and one which is hoped will quickly spread to all 19 of Spain's autonomously-governed territories – but one of these has become the first in the country to...
'Phase change' requests: What each region wants and why
'Phase change' requests: What each region wants and why
By thinkSPAIN Team Thu, May 21, 2020
SEVERAL regions in Spain have applied to move forward to the next stage of 'recovery', at least in part, with the majority seeking to shift to 'Phase 2', allowing bars and restaurants to open their insides subject to being a maximum of 50% full, among other new freedoms.
It will not be known until the weekend, or just before, which applications have been accepted and on what basis.
Andalucía, the southern strip of the mainland, has been on 'Phase 1' since Monday, May 11, except the provinces of Málaga and Granada, which were on 'Phase 0' until Monday, May 18 – now, the regional government wants all eight of its provinces on 'Phase 2' from Monday, May 25, and for movement between these to be reinstated, given that many of its built-up coastal areas flow into each other and cross provincial borders.
It is not willing to have a 'two-speed unlocking', with some provinces on 'Phase 1' and others on 'Phase 2', but the central government has already said each phase should be a minimum of two weeks, meaning the only way for most of Andalucía to get its wish would be if Granada and Málaga were left behind for another week – something the regional Parliament is not likely to accept.
In the Balearic Islands, Formentera is already a stage ahead of the rest of the country and has been on 'Phase 2' for nearly a week, and the regional government wants the rest of its territory to follow suit – Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca – and for residents to be able to travel between islands.
The Canary Islands is in the same situation: El Hierro, La Graciosa and La Gomera have been on 'Phase 2' since Monday, and its government wants the other islands – Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura – to join them.
Murcia hopes to move to 'Phase 2', but with 'some restrictions', which regional president Fernando López Miras has not detailed, although he wants the town of Totana to remain on 'Phase 1' in light of five farm workers testing positive for Covid-19 last week.
On the east coast, the Comunidad Valenciana has not requested a move to 'Phase 2'; by Monday, 10 of its 24 area health departments will have been on 'Phase 1' for two weeks, with the other 14 only having graduated from 'Phase 0' four days ago.
Regional health minister Ana Barceló wants to wait until Monday, June 1 before stepping up recovery, as a matter of 'prudence', even though 'the figures are good'.
The Valencia region 'is doing well in epidemiological terms', although a small number of newly-diagnosed cases – around six – means Sra Barceló wants to play it safe.
Regional president of Aragón, Javier Lambán, wants this to move to 'Phase 2', given its very rural, spread-out nature, although the transition may be held up by Zaragoza, Spain's fourth-largest city, being right in the middle.
“If they say that Zaragoza, being a big city, needs to hold back and the rest of the region, or just the provinces of Huesca and Teruel but not that of Zaragoza, can move forward, then we'll agree to a two-speed progress,” says Lambán.
“Zaragoza fully understands this.”
According to regional newspaper, El Heraldo de Aragón, out of the 46 hospital catchment areas with more than 1,000 actual or suspected cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 inhabitants, 25 of these are in Zaragoza city.
Asturias, on the north coast, a single-province region like Murcia, wants to move to 'Phase 2' and is calling for 'greater flexibility' on time slots by age for going out for walks and on the distance from home – currently one kilometre, or, in the case of runners and cyclists, within the same town even if this is more than a kilometre – as well as a change in criteria for numbers in bars and restaurants, based upon physical distance and health and safety measures in place rather than merely a 50% maximum.
Its eastern neighbour, Cantabria, wants to be on 'Phase 2' but with some of the 'Phase 3' criteria applied, based upon town population, and for the extra freedom given to villages of fewer than 5,000 inhabitants to be extended further.
Regional president Miguel Ángel Revilla's request for 'flexibility' includes being able to go surfing, hiking or cycling outside one's own town, since these are sports that do not involve contact with others, as well as being able to go out mushroom-picking, going for walks as a family unit – excluding anyone over 70 - rather than with a maximum of one adult companion from the same household, and for public works and other projects to be able to get under way again in order to restart the regional economy.
Revilla wants to see the criteria on customer numbers in bars and restaurants axed for villages of fewer than 5,000, and for full occupation of tourism accommodation and markets in these, dropping to two-thirds in medium-sized towns and remaining with the current limit of one-third for large towns and for the city, Santander.
He is calling for the massive, open-air safari complex, Cabárceno Park, to be allowed to open with 20% of its capacity, or 2,000 visitors a day, and for the Fuente Dé cable-car up the Picos de Europa mountains to open at 50% of its capacity.
Cuenca and Guadalajara, in Castilla-La Mancha, moved onto 'Phase 1' on May 11, but the other three provinces, Albacete, Toledo and Ciudad Real, remained on 'Phase 0' until May 18 – for this reason, the regional government in the central plains has requested only for Cuenca and Guadalajara to move to 'Phase 2' this coming week.
As the above map (photograph by the official presidential residence, the Moncloa Palace) shows, Castilla y León is only partially on 'Phase 1' (the light turquoise-blue colour which covers most of the country) with about three-quarters of it still on 'Phase 0' (the dark-blue colour which also encompasses the whole of the Greater Madrid region and the wider Barcelona metropolitan area) – from Monday, though, the Castilla y León regional government wants its whole territory on 'Phase 1'.
It says all its provinces – León, Palencia, Burgos, Soria, Zamora, Valladolid, Segovia, Salamanca and Ávila – 'comply with the necessary epidemiological requisites' and that it is 'now time to progress faster in order to rebuild the economy'.
Catalunya is less ambitious, given that the wider Barcelona area is the second-largest focal point of the Covid-19 outbreak in the whole country, but has called for this zone, currently on 'Phase 0', to move to 'Phase 1', with its request to move to 'Phase 2' only covering the districts of Camp de Tarragona and Terres de l'Ebre (Tarragona province) and Alt-Pirineu (Lleida province).
The land-locked western region of Extremadura, bordering Portugal, will have been on 'Phase 1' for a fortnight by Monday, and believes its epidemiological statistics justify both its provinces, Cáceres and Badajoz, moving to 'Phase 2'. Its second deputy president and minister for health and social services, José María Vergeles, has also called for time slots for going out walking to be dropped, although with specific times of day reserved for the over-70s if they prefer not to be in contact with children, as this could increase their risk of contagion.
In the far north-west, Galicia will have been on 'Phase 1' for a fortnight by Monday, and seeks to move its four provinces, of which all bar Ourense – Pontevedra, A Coruña and Lugo – are on the coast – to 'Phase 2'.
Also, Galicia wants the restriction on visiting elderly residence homes and the sick and disabled to be reduced or axed, albeit 'with the strictest precautions in place', allowing these people to finally see their families.
La Rioja, land-locked in the north and a single-province region (along with Asturias, Cantabria, Murcia and Navarra), wants to move to 'Phase 2', but warns its residents that it would 'still be in a State of Alarm due to a health emergency' and that they should not 'drop their guard' – Navarra, similarly, is keen to move to 'Phase 2', but with 'limitations' and 'adapted to the specific nature of the region'.
The Basque Country wants its residents to be able to move between towns and provinces, but 'only for socio-economic reasons', although as movement for healthcare reasons is already allowed, it is difficult to see what motives for travel would, in fact, be ruled out.
It is seeking to move to 'Phase 2', but with bars and restaurants allowed to open their insides to up to 50% of customers, rather than 30% as the 'Phase 2' rules stipulate.
The lehendakari, or regional president, is also seeking to reopen classrooms from May 25 'for specific educational levels', as well as trade fair venues to be used as exam centres, since these would guarantee social distancing better than a standard-sized classroom.
The Basque Country wants these criteria to apply to all three of its provinces: Vizcaya, or 'Biscay', the capital of which is Bilbao; Álava, of which the capital is Vitoria, and Guipúzcoa, the capital being San Sebastián.
Europe's only territories sharing a land border with the continent of Africa, the cities of Ceuta, directly across the Strait of Gibraltar and Melilla, close to the Algerian border with Morocco, both want to move to 'Phase 2' – the former has registered four deaths from Covid-19 and the latter, two, with fewer than 300 cases each reported and over half of these having now recovered.
Melilla's regional health minister Mohammed Mohammed Mohand is calling for 'flexibility' on time slots for going out for walks, allowing children under 14 to join teens and adults aged 14 to 69 inclusive rather than being separated, and for sea transport between Melilla and the mainland to resume.
Mohand does not want air travel or cross-border travel to and from Morocco to restart as yet, and strongly advises against schools reopening – physical distancing cannot be guaranteed in infants, primary, secondary or sixth form, he says, because Melilla has one of the highest numbers of pupils per class in Spain, or even Europe.
Madrid is the stickiest of all – the Greater Madrid regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and mayor of Madrid city, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, are on the right-wing PP, the direct political opposites to the national socialist-led government and a party which has been constant in its criticism of the central authority. Despite Ayuso's own experience of being ill with Covid-19, she is pushing hard for the region to move from its current 'Phase 0' to 'Phase 1' and for its shifting to 'Phase 2' to be accelerated rather than having to spend two weeks on the previous phase.
Given that Madrid has been the worst-hit region by far, with hospitals, mortuaries and residential homes in chaos and staff and authorities unable to cope – compared with even built-up coastal areas which still had beds available for non-Coronavirus patients and large towns with only a handful of cases, if any – Spain's government is not at all keen to risk giving the capital further freedom.
Last week, despite being the only full region still on 'Phase 0', national president Pedro Sánchez agreed to some flexibility in the restrictions, leaving Madrid on what has been dubbed 'Phase 0.5', but this has not pleased Ayuso.
She says keeping the region on 'Phase 0' or even 'Phase 0.5' is 'an attack', whilst the central government accuses her of trying to push for greater 'unlocking' purely for 'personal political interests', at the cost of residents' safety.
Health staff in Madrid have said they do not believe they could cope if more movement and contact between members of the public was allowed, and it has only been two weeks since the pop-up hospital in the IFEMA trade centre was dismantled.
By comparison, in the Comunidad Valenciana, some health authorities which have now been on 'Phase 1' for 10 days only have one, or at most two, Covid-19 patients still in hospital.
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