Spain allows outdoor dining again in Madrid and Barcelona

MADRID (Reuters) - Coronavirus lockdowns will be eased in Spain’s capital Madrid and second city Barcelona from Monday to allow outdoor dining and gatherings of up to 10 people as infections slow, the government said on Friday.

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Spain started phasing out one of Europe’s toughest lockdowns earlier this month, but full restrictions had remained in both Madrid and Barcelona because their coronavirus outbreaks were more severe.

In other regions, which account for about half of Spain’s population, the lockdown restrictions will be relaxed even further, the government said.

Spain’s overnight coronavirus death toll rose by 56 on Friday to 28,628, while the total number of diagnosed cases reached 234,824, the health ministry said.

“We are very close to practically undetectable levels of the virus,” said Emergency Health Chief Fernando Simon.

But in a separate press conference, Health Minister Salvador Illa urged citizens to act responsibly: “Each step we make must be a safe one”.

Bars and restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona will be allowed to reopen from Monday on pavements and terraces at half capacity. Churches can also reopen and people will be free to travel around their own province.

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Some restaurants in Madrid were hosing down outdoor tables and placing them two metres apart on Friday to prepare for reopening, but others said they would remain closed as they were not yet able to open inside.

“It’s better to open a little later and open with (safety) guarantees,” said Julio Janez, a chef at the restaurant El Asador el Molinon.

Theatres, cinemas, art galleries and museums can reopen in Madrid and Barcelona from Monday at no more than a third of capacity. Trips between provinces remain prohibited.

Though phasing out the lockdown, the government has imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on the few overseas travellers allowed in to try and avoid a second wave of COVID-19.

Reporting by Emma Pinedo, Inti Landauro, Jessica Jones, Raul Cadenas and Elena Rodriguez; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Andrew Cawthorne and Gareth Jones