SPAIN’S COVID-19 lockdown is unlikely to be fully lifted until the end of 2020, the Government has warned.
Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz revealed yesterday that there will be a two-stage plan to ‘re-open Spain’.
The first phase will start in June and will see big businesses begin to return gradually, including banks and companies in the production sector, while most other industries will have their return prolonged until nearer the end of the year, reported Diario Sur.
“We are working on two phases for the de-escalation,” said Diaz, “one for the summer and the other for the end of the year.”
It means the country’s vital tourism industry – responsible for 12% of GDP and 13% of all employment – could effectively miss much of the 2020 campaign.
“Tourism, culture, leisure, airlines, cruises…they are going to have enormous difficulties,” said Diaz in an interview on TVE, “that is why we are designing a plan which will provide a cushioning for this process.”
The main goal of the government is to save as many jobs as possible. It is therefore looking to extend the conditions of the ERTEs (furloughs), as laid out in the March 14 royal decree.
This has seen all affected workers receive unemployment benefits from the government while companies are exempt from paying their social security contributions.
This measure will now remain in place until the end of the state of alarm.
The Secretary of State for Employment Joaquin Perez Rey spoke with the country’s biggest unions yesterday to lay the foundations for an agreement on exiting the lockdown and restarting parts of the economy.
“Government, employers and unions are aware that when the state of alarm ends there are companies that won’t be in a position to be operational the next day. Some will take a few days, others a few weeks, and others more,” said sources from the meeting, who added that the conditions of the ERTE scheme would need to be adapted to different sectors.
The Work Ministry said that following the meeting with unions, the lifting of the lockdown will occur in broadly two phases and will analyse which sectors are going to need more support to ‘turn back on’.
An agreement in writing is expected to be hashed out over the next few days, with sectors such as hotels likely to see their ERTE scheme extended for up to another six months, sources told La Vanguardia.
The tourism sector will be without a doubt the hardest hit. Government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said leaders are working on ‘how to protect the industry’ but confirmed that ‘tourist activity will not begin until it is safe for visitors and workers.’
She added that there also needs to be coordination with the rest of the EU when it comes to lifting travel restrictions.
The Government is also studying proposals to allow children to go outside for daily walks, but under strict conditions.
Catalunya has said it will allow children from the age of six and above to go outside daily within eight or nine days, setting up a potential clash with Madrid, with Health Minister Salvador Illa saying that decision ‘is for the Government of Spain to make.’