BARS and restaurants in the Valencian Community will reopen next week for the first time since January 20.
The return of the hospitality trade offering daytime terrace service is one of a series of relaxations in COVID restrictions that will kick in from March 2.
This week’s daily infection rates have gone down to the comparatively low levels of early October and are now below Spain’s national average for new cases.
But President, Ximo Puig, is continuing to emphasise that ‘prudence’ will dominate relaxations over the next few weeks, as his region will still maintain some of the toughest restrictions in Spain.
He says that he is determined to avoid infection rebounds seen over the last year and the possibility of a ‘fourth wave’ of COVID-19 cases.
Details of the package will be announced tomorrow(February 25), when it is anticipated that this weekend’s perimeter closure of the region’s largest cities will be the last,
Outdoor sports training is set to be permitted again, but indoor facilities including gyms will remain closed until at least March 15.
Puig’s announcement will also be eagerly awaited to see how many people who do not live together will be able to meet either indoors or outdoors.
No changes are expected to the curfew start time of 10.00 pm; the 6.00 pm closure of non-essential shops; and the regional border closure which has been operating since the end of October.
The border shutdown is set to stay in place through Easter to stop travellers from around Spain coming in to spend time at their holiday homes.
Ximo Puig said:-”I want to limit travel between regions at Easter as we look to consolidate what we have achieved.”
The cautious approach over relaxing the restrictions compared to other regions with higher infection rates has brought criticism from a variety of sectors.
Bars and restaurants can only reopen with 50% terrace capacity and a 6.00 pm closing time from this Tuesday.
Hospitality groups met with the regional health ministry this week and were rebuffed over their calls to open up indoors at 30% capacity and to have evening opening hours.
Conhustur president, Manuel Espinar, said: “It doesn’t make sense that the restrictions are more severe now compared to where we were before with many more infections.”
Espinar and his colleagues warned that many businesses with little or no terrace space will not reopen.
Another meeting between the groups and health chiefs is scheduled for March 8 where it is anticipated that further relaxations will be put forward.
Sports bodies were also very unhappy after being told that gyms and indoor centres will remain closed until mid-March.
Juan Carlos Gomez-Pantoja from the Sports Facilities Employers Association said: “We have been treated like restaurants and it simply bears no comparison.”
“This is a nonsense and it means that aside from the first State of Alarm, the Valencian Community would have had its gyms closed for longer than any other part of Spain,” he added.
His views mirrored those of Valencian sporting federations who also attacked the continued closure of all indoor sports-related facilities