Chronology of the Coronavirus pandemic in Spain
The lockdown in Wahun China began on 16 January. The peak in China was 4th February although there was a later spike. Cases had diminished in China by 9th March and restrictions began to be lifted.
We received an email from one of our readers, Cheryl Jessop asking if Semana Santa would still go ahead. We replied "As far as we know the Feria is still planned to go ahead. Of course it will depend on events over the next month, but we do not hear any talk of cancellations in local media or social media." We had received several similar emails of the previous week so set up a Coronavirus page to advise tourists of the normality in Andalucia. Things changed very fast over the next few days.
The Moroccan government ordered the suspension of all passenger ferry from Andalucia to Morocco and all flights from Spain from 13-03-2020. This was put into effect immediately between Algeciras and Tarifa to Tánger town and Tánger Med. Ferries to Ceuta and Melilla continued but the Moroccan border was closed except for special openings to allow tourist to cross back into Spain.
Flights between Spain and Italy were suspended
It is was announced that Kindergartens, Schools, Colleges and Universities in all Andalucia would be closed on from Monday 16th March by order of the Andalucia Health Service (SAS).
Andalucia the regional government announced that the Alhambra de Granada, Picasso Malaga, Bellas Artes Sevilla, Medinat al-Zahra in Córdoba, Real Alcázar in Sevilla and all the 27 museums and monuments managed by the Junta de Andalucia were closed from immediate effect. The closure also applied to the theatres and libraries of the Junta de Andalucia (regional government) and to concerts or any cultural event that they had programmed. Sierra Nevada closed for the rest of the season. The Parador chain of hotels closed and like some other hotel chains such as Room Mates have offered use of hotels as hospitals if needed. Many other hotels have closed in response to all the cancellations.
Pedro Sanchez issues a state of Alarm, although no details provided.
In Andalucia on Friday 13-03-2020 the regional government issued an order to close all the bars, cafes, restaurants, shops, parks, and beaches in Andalucia. Only food shops, pharmacies, medical centres, vets, kiosks were allowed to be open.
At a meeting in Seville on Saturday morning the President of the Semana Santa (Holy Week) (5th to 11th April 2020) 'brotherhoods' and the Archbishop asked the Mayor to cancel the Semana Santa processions. The mayor agreed and later issued an official declaration. Saturday afternoon Jerez de la Frontera, Cordoba, Granada, El Puerto de Santa María and Cadiz also cancelled their Semana Santa processions. The decree restricting movement in Spain issued that evening effectively cancels Semana Santa processions in 2020.
Pedro Sanchez, presidente (Prime Minister) of the National Government issued a decree on television in the evening, in effect stopping all leisure activity. It was published in the Boletín Oficial del Estado (BOE) late that evening. Rumours that Spanish air space was to be closed were untrue, however air travel was included in the decree limiting flights to 50% from 17-04-2020.
Feria de Sevilla (Spring Fair) the Mayor of Seville, Juan Espadas announced that the Seville Spring Fair would be postponed until September 2020. No exact dates were given but it will probably be the second fortnight in September 2020. It is the first time that it has not taken place in the Spring since the fair was founded in 1847. It had been due to take place from 26 April to 2nd May 2020. The Mayor had always stated it would go ahead but had conceded two days ago that if it had to be suspended, the first option would be a postponement.
Spain closed its land borders into France and Portugal at midnight and also sea ports to inbound travellers. Airports would cease to admit international passengers on the 22-04-2020.
Pedro Sanchez, President of the Government of Spain spoke to the nation at 21.00, actually 20 mins late. He spoke for two hrs including Q&A and with nothing of substance was said. Journalist´s questions were selected and read out by the chief of communications.
The state of Alarm and associated lockdown on travel and leisure in Spain was extended until midnight 11th April 2020. This was announced by the Government following a call with the regional Presidents. The Andalucian government swiftly announced that it had supported the decision
Since midnight the only people who are now allowed entry into Spain are Spanish nationals, long term residents returning home, cross border workers, health care professionals, freight transport drivers, diplomats, or those on imperative family duty. This does not apply to the land borders of Andorra and Gibraltar. Source BOE Leaving Spain by land is not restricted.
Gibraltar in a separate initiative ordered a lockdown from midnight.
The extension to the Sate of Alarm and renewed lockdown was ratified by Congress.
Testing has increased in Andalucia and 11 drive-through centres have been set up in the cities where mouth swabs are taken quickly and efficiently. These are still limited to medical and security personnel.
One of this issues of the current situation is the lack of detailed information being published by the national and regional authorities. The national government give a daily update with figures at regional level, the region followed up with info at provincial level. The Andalucia health department government used to report each case; sex, age, hospital or home province of the patient.
Matthew Bennett in Madrid has built up a 120.000 Twitter following by including info, mainly public domain but hidden away, that the mainstream media tends to avoid. He tweeted “I've been trying to get more information about the Coronavirus situation in Spain out of the health ministries for 4 weeks. People, locked down in their homes, with a possible mortal danger outside, want to know where the clusters are and what's going on, and that is normal.” By the 28-03-2020 Matthew noticed that "The issue of Coronavirus data in Spain still depends on the region, even for the ones trying to do something. Few are doing so but of those who are, each region is doing it in its own way with different pages, formats and lists of data." He tweeted links to geo data from Catalunia, Basque Country, Castilla y Leon, Canary Islands, and Murcia. Andalucia regional government only published data for the 8 provinces and extended this to the health districts where the data comes from on 10-04-2020.
In Marbella thanks to Maria José Cañete, President of Helicopteros Sanitarios we know “27 people who tested positive for coronavirus are now hospitalized in Marbella hospitals and we sincerely hope that they recover soon." Maria Jose also mentions that they have some Coronavirus tests available. (Source)
It was expected that all hotels, tourist apartments and campsites in Spain would be closed on Thursday 26 March however the BOE published a list of hotels and short-stay accommodation that would remain open during the state of emergency, not for tourism but only to accommodate workers or other acting within the existing lockdown rules. There are about 30 named in Andalucia. More> and an appendix says any hotel can stay open within the lockdown rules. This had followed confusion during the previous week when the British Foreign Office advise to travellers mentioned Spanish hotels would close on the 24th. The following day a Spanish Government spokesman denied the story and said tourist were welcome to stay for the duration of their bookings.
Spanish President of the Government, Pedro Sanchez held his third lengthy Saturday night TV speech to the country on 28-03-2020. As from Monday all non essential workers will be required to stay at home until Thursday 9th April. They will be paid and will have to make up the hours in the future. Many office workers are already working from home and this will continue. Mr Sanchez defined essential as those the defined in the (14-03-2020) decree. There was further discussion on this definition. The measure was clearly directed at construction and non essential manufacturing industry. The sudden announcement was met with criticism for lack of time allowed for preparation.
When BOE was published at midnight it did say the non-essential workers could travel to their work place on the Monday to ensure security (of building sites), collect personal tools and personal belongings and files need to work from home.
We are told a Task Force headed by Theresa Ribera, Minister for ecological (energy and climate change) transition since June 2018 and Fourth Deputy prime minister since Jan 2020). The task force is meeting on a very discreet basis group includes unnamed experts and heads of different government divisions and Foreign Minister Arancha González Laya providing information about measures being taken in other countries. It also includes José Luis Escrivá, the social security minister and economist. It was announced on 14-04-20 by Arancha that a representatives from each of Spain's 17 regions has joined the taskforce. Presumably the first practical task of the group was to recommend to the Prime Minister that Under 14s (accompanied) be allowed a one hour exercise break. Since the detailed rules of that changes several times up to midnight the night before it underlines the complexity of the task. As the regions such as Andalucia started grabbing headlines revealing their plans, Pedro Sanchez took the initiative and on Saturday 24-04-202 mentioned he would be announcing the de-escalation plan next Tuesday. Hopefully Theresa Ribera was not taken by surprise. Duly on the evening of Tuesday 28-04-2020 the "Plan for the Transition to a new Normality" was revealed: four stages over 8 weeks on a province by province basis. Tourist arrivals are not mentioned.
Friday 10th was Good Friday easter bank holiday and Thursday 9th was a regional holiday in Andalucia. Television station replayed Semana Santa processions from previous years.
Spanish President of the Government (Prime Minister), Pedro Sanchez announced on his regular televised press conference on Saturday evening that on essential workers could return to work as long as their employers provided them with gloves and face masks and were able to respect social distances of 2m. Face masks would be given out at metro stations and on public transport from Monday morning.
Spanish President of the Government (Prime Minister), Pedro Sanchez announced on his regular televised press conference on Saturday evening that children up to 12 will be aloud out to exercise from the following Sunday.
There was confusion and clarification during the week as to exactly which children would be allowed out and what they could do. Sanidad, the Ministry of Health in Madrid said children under 14 years, can accompany their parents or adult sibling on walks to supermarkets, banks, and pharmacies. The rational was that these were the already permitted journeys. When so many people pointed out that a walk in the park would be safer than a trip to the supermarket, this was later extended to ‘short walks' within one block of the house. This first step made it clear that running, cycling, skating, nor ball-games were not permitted, later this was modified to only apply between the hours of 09:00 and 21:00 hrs for duration of one hour, keeping within 1km radius of the family home. In the end, ball, toys, cycles were permitted but childrens playgrounds were out of bounds and parks would not generally open. The Health Ministry also clarified that 14-17 year olds were permitted to visit supermarkets, chemists and banks in the same way that adults do.
Marbella was the first town hall to announce the opening its beaches on Sunday 26-04-2020 so that residents can use the beaches for walks with children. Bathing, sunbathing, ball games will continue to be prohibited. The Local Police and Protection Civil monitored the situation to enforce social distancing. The 37 km of Marbella beaches were closed on 14th March and they are being reopened on the recommendations of the Regional Government. Beach rules are complex in normal times as National, regional and local authority divide responsibilities. The rationale is that as the seafront promenade will be popular with parents and children the beach will offer more space to avoid the crowds. Shortly after Mijas made a similar announcement and other seaside town in Andalucia were expected to make similar announcements. Late on Saturday Malaga city anounced the same.
Manuel Moreno, the President of the Junta de Andalucia announced his plan on Tuesday to open the beaches this summer with limits on numbers. He said in a TV interview that this could be accomplished with local police supervising. Families would need to maintain distancing rules and once a beach reached a limit, no more people would be allowed on the beach. He said that he had already told Pedro Sanchez, that the towns and ‘comarcas' of Andalucia could be the first to be released from the lockdown since the Coronavirus confirmed cases and deaths, especially in Huelva and Almeria province were less than other parts of Spain.
In Seville the Mayor announced that the plan to hold the 2020 Spring Fair (Feria de Abril) in September has now been abandoned. One of the main considerations was cost since 2m euro of the budget had already been spent. Stall holders and caseta holders will be refunded their fees. Workman began to dismantle the fairground.
Spanish President of the Government (Prime Minister), Pedro Sanchez announced on his regular televised press conference on Saturday evening that everyone will be allowed to go out for exercise and for walks starting on May 2 if coronavirus figures go down. The de-escalation will occur at different speeds depending on the situation in each region. The prime minister added that the central government will be responsible for the de-escalation plan, despite complaints from regional leaders, a reference to Andalucia (see 21-04-2020)
At Midnight in Seville when the feria would have started, many Sevillanos dressed in Feria suits and sang and danced on their balconies. Lights in apartment blocks were turned on at midnight to represent the 'alumbrado', the turning on of the feria lights.
First truly visible signs of some relaxation of lockdown with children and parents out walking and cycling on this sunny morning.
Manual Moreno, President of the Junta de Andalucia announced that he was sending the Andalucia de-escalation plan to Pedro Sanchez the Prime Minister in Madrid. It included opening of hairdressing and beauty salons on 11-05-2020 and restaurants and bars on 25-05-2020, as long as they follow strict containment rules, funerals without overnight vigils from 18-05-2020 and religious services from 02-05-2020. On de-confinement he said little "gradual, asymmetric and controlled" This was well received in local media as though it was a fact rather than a suggestion. The main justification is based on Andalucia’s favourable position relative to other regions. For two weeks the ‘r’ (average contagion rate) has been less than 1 and Andalucia is third in list of cases per 100.000 populations. [Actually 4th since last Thursday behind Murcia, Canarias, Extremadura and not counting Ceuta and Melilla]. Andalucia has enough availability of beds in ICUs. He also repeated his wish for the beaches to open in the summer (with squares separating sunbeds or towels) and that the provinces of Huelva and Almeria are particularly well placed to be in the first phase of de-escalation. Moreno also revealed that 275 of the 786 municipalities in Andalucia have not succumbed to the pandemic and are completely free of the virus and this data will be included in the report Coronavirus rates broken down by municipality. [Something that has been top secret, why release it now? To back the request "that Andalucia is prepared to begin de-escalation by Province, Health district, or Comarca" or because the number are now looking better.]
Duly on the evening of Tuesday 28-04-2020 the "Plan for the Transition to a new Normality" was revealed: four stages over 8 weeks on a province by province basis. Tourist arrivals are not mentioned.
Monday 04-05-2020 Cafes and Restaurants may open for a take away service, ordered by telephone, email or app. Small service shops (but not shopping centers) can open, under strict security conditions, to attend to individual clients who have an appointment made by telephone, email or app. Examples given were bookshops, ironmongers, hairdressers, repair shops. Preference must be given to over 65 yrs 10.00 to 12.00 hrs and 19.00 to 210.00 hrs). Shops must be cleaned twice a day, uniforms washed daily, clients may not use shop's bathroom. One employee attending one client at a time. Clients must not travel between municipalities (except very small municipalities).
On Monday 04-05-2020 a Phase 1 openings were allowed in four islands Formentera (Balearic Islands), a Gomera, el Hierro, la Graciosa (Canary Islands).
Andalucia Government has applied to Ministry of Sanidad for all Andalucia except health districts of Malaga city, Granada city, La Vega and Granada metropolitan area to move into Phase One on Monday 11-05-2020. This decision is based on 14 criteria, however the IA(14d) charts in this section are very indicative. The Ministry of Sanidad has now said that they prepared to to review which provinces that can move up to the next phase on a weekly basis, however as per the original plan provinces must remain in each of the three phases for at least two weeks. This opens the possibility that the Costa del Sol might move to Phase One on Monday 18-05-2020. the earliest that the Costa del Sol could reach the New Normality would be 29-06-2020. One assumes hotels and tourism (with restrictions) would be open for business from that date.
The Ministry of Sanidad (Health) announced, the provinces that would pass to Phase One on Monday 11-05-2020. In Andalucia Huelva, Sevilla, Cadiz, Cordoba, Jaén and Almeria provinces will pass to Phase One on Monday. Malaga (which includes the Costa del Sol ) and Granada will not. In total 51% of the population of Spain will pass to Phase One on Monday. Madrid and most of Catalonia will not. Phase One includes the opening of bar terraces to 50% capacity and meetings of up to ten people.
Andalucia Government has applied to Ministry of Sanidad for all Andalucia except health districts of Malaga city, Granada city, La Vega and Granada metropolitan area to move into Phase One on Monday 11-05-2020. This decision is based on 14 criteria, however the IA(14d) charts in this section are very indicative. The Ministry of Sanidad has now said that they prepared to to review which provinces that can move up to the next phase on a weekly basis, however as per the original plan provinces must remain in each of the three phases for at least two weeks. This opens the possibility that the Costa del Sol might move to Phase One on Monday 18-05-2020. Politicians and Tourism leaders were very disappointed with this decision and critisized the Madrid government for not allowing Malaga province to 'split' into health regions for the purpose of de-escalation.
Teresa Ribera the Spanish Government Minister responsible for the de-escalation plan said in an interview with EFE (state press agency ) regarding the return of international tourists, “Our idea is that we could work with safe origins and destinations and this is more likely to be in July than June.”