Spain's biggest cities were freed Monday from a strict lockdown that has seen bars, restaurants, beaches and almost all public spaces closed for 10 weeks.
In Madrid, queues formed at pavement cafés from the early morning, as runners and dog-walkers reclaimed the capital's parks and gardens that had been closed since the state of emergency was introduced across Spain on March 15 in response to one of the world’s biggest covid-19 outbreaks.
Spain's health ministry reported 50 new deaths from the coronavirus on Monday, with total deaths now reaching 26,834.
In the first of the three phases in Spain’s lockdown exit plan, venues can open outdoor seating at 50 per cent capacity, with two metres’ distance to be maintained between different tables.
“These first days are going to be difficult because we are only going to have 40 seats compared to the usual 90,” José Manuel Fernández, owner of the Madrid bar and restaurant Tres Mares, said on Monday morning.
“But whatever the customer wants, we will help them to enjoy themselves after 70 days’ absence. The lockdown has been a long slog,” he added.
In Madrid’s emblematic Plaza Mayor, only three of the 19 terrace cafés opened.
“Of course bar owners want to serve people, but it’s obvious that opening under these circumstances is a risk considering all the costs involved,” said Juan José Blardonay, leader of Madrid’s hospitality sector association.
Excluding Barcelona and the Valencia region, which remain with Madrid in phase 1, many of Spain’s coastal regions and all of its islands reached phase 2 on Monday, meaning beaches opened for sunbathing around the country.
Temperatures in the mid- and high twenties along the Mediterranean saw bathers drawn towards beaches, but in some places new guidelines on capacity meant not everyone could find their place in the sun.
Police at Cala Cortina, a cove in Murcia, limited beachgoers to 28 people at a time.
Spain wants to encourage local tourism in June, with the government announcing Monday that the current requirement that international visitors observe a fortnight’s quarantine will be lifted on July 1.
Phase 2 also means weddings with up to 100 guests in an outdoor venue or 50 indoors can be held.
Last weekend, Beatriz Bidón and Pedro Iglesias became one of the first couples to marry post-lockdown in a church in Seville as the rules relaxed to allow small religious gatherings.
“We decided to get married in phase 1 and not delay the decision anymore because there is no need to wait for our new life and the family we want to form, just because we can’t celebrate it in every way we would wish to,” the 29-year-old Mr Iglesias told the newspaper ABC after a ceremony held in the presence of direct family only.
“Later on we can celebrate somehow or have some beers with everyone we would have liked to be here.”