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Foreign tourists can book holidays in Spain from July - minister

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People walk past the Fountain of the Fallen Angel as they enjoy the sunny weather at Retiro Park which reopened for the first time in more than 2 months amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Madrid, Spain May 25, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

People walk past the Fountain of the Fallen Angel as they enjoy the sunny weather at Retiro Park which reopened for the first time in more than 2 months amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Madrid, Spain May 25, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

People walk past the Fountain of the Fallen Angel as they enjoy the sunny weather at Retiro Park which reopened for the first time in more than 2 months amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in Madrid, Spain May 25, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

Foreign tourists can book holidays in Spain from July as the two-week self-quarantine for overseas travellers is likely to be suspended by then, the tourism minister said on Monday.

One of the worst-hit nations in the world from the coronavirus, tourism-dependent Spain is gradually easing a strict lockdown though it has kept a quarantine for visitors so as to prevent a second wave of infections.

"It is perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July," Reyes Maroto said in an interview with local radio station Onda Cero.

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.

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

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.

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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.

In nearby Portugal, locals flocked to the ocean in droves on Saturday for their first state-sanctioned beach weekend of the year.

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Social distancing markings are seen on the sidewalk at Carcavelos beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cascais, Portugal May 23, 2020.  REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Social distancing markings are seen on the sidewalk at Carcavelos beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cascais, Portugal May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

Social distancing markings are seen on the sidewalk at Carcavelos beach, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Cascais, Portugal May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante

"It's so great to see the sea and get some sun after two months," said Catarina, who arrived to Carcavelos Beach, half an hour from Lisbon, at 9 a.m. with her husband and daughter.

But despite her relief, Catarina wasn't sure this newfound freedom could last long.

"Most are behaving ... but there are a lot of groups, and that's what causes contagion, isn't it? I don't know, by next month I think we'll all be back in our homes," she said.

The nation of 10 million people has reported just 30,471 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 1,302 deaths, a small fraction of neighbouring Spain's 28,628 fatalities.

Restrictions imposed during a six-week state of emergency starting March 18 are being lifted in 15-day intervals, as long as the number of cases keeps falling.

As temperatures rose, people were itching to get back into the water. "Yesterday was already busy," Jose Primo, a waiter at a beach restaurant in Carcavelos, said. "But today, my God! It's chaos."

Some confusion was caused after Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced on May 15 beaches would open on June 6, but a government decree published two days later stated people could go to the beach from the beginning of this week.

A smartphone app due to be in operation from June 6 is supposed to help avoid crowding by warning which bathing spots are full. In the meantime people are anticipating crowds.

In southern Algarve, savvy beach-goers are reserving beach chairs and umbrellas ahead of time to secure their spot on the sand.

Rui Cardoso, owner of a beach business, told news agency Lusa: "You can really tell people are worried there'll be no space."

Visit our Covid-19 vaccine dashboard for updates on the roll out of the vaccination program and the rate of Coronavirus cases Ireland


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