COVID-19: Enter Phase One of De-escalation

Yesterday, the Health Minister, Salvador Illa Roca signed off on Order SND 399/2020, 9th May to bring certain

Yesterday, the Health Minister, Salvador Illa Roca signed off on Order SND 399/2020, 9th May to bring certain parts of Spanish territory into Phase One of the gradual de-escalation process to a “new normality”. The islands of La Gomera, El Hierro, La Graciosa and Formentera already belong to the Phase One Club and have been enjoying fewer restrictions for a week now. What are the new rules for this second phase out the four outlined by the government?

The good news is that most retail premises and offices may reopen as well as hotels and tourist accommodation, of course under strict guidelines. We’ll get to the “not-so-good” part later. I’m not going to cover all aspects of the Order, so I have as always put in a link above to the original text so you can do your own research.

OBJECT: This Order applies to those activities that have been detailed therein and in the territorios included in the Addendum. Those who may be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 are also permitted to these new freedoms as long as their condition is under control, however, anybody who has been diagnosed with the virus or those who are self-isolating at home due to having come into contact with somebody with symptoms or an official COVID-19 diagnosis ARE NOT PERMITTED to participate.

MOVEMENT AND SOCIAL DISTANCING: We are permitted to travel around or province, island or within established territorial boundaries of reference to the de-escalation process, but this does not include exceptions that may see people travel to other parts of national territory for health or professional reasons, to return to their place of residency, to care for an elderly or dependent family member or for situations deemed necessary.

In any case, we must always respect hygiene protocols as well as maintain the mínimum safety distance of two metres between people, or in its defect, ensure protection such as the use of face masks, gloves and sanitizers. Only a maximum of TEN people are allowed to meet under these conditions, except in the case of people who live together.

GENERAL MEASURES IN THE WORKPLACE: Many of you have anticipated this moment for a long time and I imagine you’ve spent the last few days getting ready, so it is important to read through requirements, conditions and new protocols to put into place before you open doors, if the Order allows it, although the Work From Home option is still preferred where possible. This Order is applicable to those retail establishments and premises where services are provided, as long as the premises are equal or inferior to 400m2. The only exception to this rule are those premises located within commercial centres without direct and independent access to their particular unit from the exterior.

So that I don’t repeat myself, the same health and safety measures listed in my previous article apply for the most part (cleaning and disinfection, safety distance, security measures, sample products, serving customers…), so see that link but the premises must be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day, paying special attention to the most-used surfaces, and then take these other points into consideration. Where the use of public bathrooms is permitted by customers, only ONE person may enter at a time unless they require assistance. The bathrooms must be cleaned and disinfected at least six times a day. Regarding payment, the use of cards is preferrable over handling cash, but the card machines must be cleaned and disinfected after each use as well as the till equipment used by employees if it is not always used by the same person.

The busines owner is responible for implementing the necessary adjustments to the work space, distribution of the shop or office, shifts etc., to maintain health and safety protocols, to ensure that not all employees arrive and enter the premises at the same time and to prevent crowds of customers.

REOPENING OF RETAIL ESTABLISHMENTS AND OFFICES: As mentioned, these activities that were suspended due to the State of Emergency may reopen as long as the main shop or office floor is equal or inferior to 400m2, excluding those located within a commercial centre and does not have direct and independent access to the unit from the exterior as long as the following criteria is met. Note also, this does not apply to those retail establishments and offices that were allowed to remain open:

  • Occupancy must be reduced to 30%. If the shop or office floor is distributed over various floors, the presence of customers on each one must be limited to the same proportion. In any case, the minimum two metre safety distance applies and if this is not possible, only one customer can be admitted at a time
  • Priority service hours for over 65s
  • Car Dealerships, ITV Stations and Garden Centres may reopen to the public regardless of size, using an appointment system
  • All business activities that can reopen under this Order can establish a pick-up point whereby customers may phone in or place an order online and collect it at the premises. This must be staggered so that various customers do not arrive at the same time
  • A home delivery service may be implemented especially for more vulnerable collectives
  • Town Halls may allow open-air markets or non-stationary street vendors (ice cream vans for example) to reopen. Preference will be given to those markets that sell food products as long as the items cannot be handled by customers. The Town Halls must establish requirements for spacing between stalls and whether the normal market area can be extended to cater for new protocols. This is mainly because it will be limited to 25% of the usual stalls and only a third of normal capacity
  • Autoservice, vending machines, self-service laundries etc., must maintain strict hygiene conditions and advise users of the correct use of the equipment by means of signs. In any case, the same hygiene protocols described previously apply
  • Signs must be displayed to indicate maximum occupancy and the safety distance of two metres
  • If a premise has more than one door, ideally, they should be used in a particular way; one (or more) for entering and one (or more) for exiting with clear signs to that effect
  • If there is a parking barrier, ideally this should be left open to avoid contact, but if this is not possible, the security guard should ensure correct use

REOPENING OF HOTEL AND RESTAURANT TERRACES: These establishments may also reopen under this Order according to the following requirements:

  • Open-air terraces that must be limited to 50% of the number of tables permitted in relation to the previous year (in the Canary Islands this is determined on the Registration document issued by the Canarian Tourist Board)
  • In this regard, we must define an “open-air terrace”. According to the Order, this refers to all uncovered areas, or when covered, the area is bordered laterally by a maximum of TWO walls or sufaces
  • In any case, the business owner must ensure a physical distance of at least two metres between tables or groups of tables and that a maximum of ten people per table or group of tables is strictly adhered to (respecting of course the safety distance between them unless they are ALL from the same household)
  • The Order allows for the local Town Hall to authorize extending the normal terrace area. This would allow those businesses who perhaps do not meet the open-air definition to reopen or to increase the number of permitted tables
  • Terrace equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between each use from one set of customers to another, paying special attention to tables, chairs and other contact surface areas
  • Single use tablecloths are preferred, but if this is not possible, they must be replaced between each customer and washed at between 60º and 90º
  • Hand gel sanitizer dispensers must be made available to customers and placed and the entrance of the premises. These must be maintained in hygienic and working order at all times
  • The use of menus must be replaced by electronic displays, boards, signs and similar methods to prevent unnecessary contact
  • Self-service products such as servillete holders, tooth picks, salt and pepper shakers, oil and vinegar dispensers etc., must be removed from tables, using single use packets instead. If required, the customer may request use of other methods (asking for the product to be applied to the dish by staff for example)
  • The silverware, plates, glasses, tablecloths etc., must be stored in closed cupboards, and if this were not possible, in a place that is not frequently transited by customers and employees (avoiding hallways to the bathroom and kitchen for example)
  • Bathroom facilities must be used, cleaned and disinfected as previously described

REOPENING OF HOTELS AND TOURIST ESTABLISHMENTS: Those establishments whose activity was suspended may reopen under the following conditions:

  • Generally speaking, restaurant/ cafeteria services within the premises must adhere to the conditions detailed under that section, although only for customers who are staying there and must not be provided in communal areas as these must remain closed
  • The use of swimming pools, spas, gyms, miniclubs, playgrounds (to include ball parks and similar), discos, event halls and all areas that are not indispensable for the accommodation service is not permitted. These areas must be clearly signposted
  • Bathroom facilities must be used, cleaned and disinfected as described above
  • Clear signs must be displayed throughout the premises in the most appropriate languages to indicate the restrictive use of the installations, new protocols to be observed to provent contagion etc
  • The reception area must guarantee safety distances between employees and guests, or protective equipment must be used
  • Objects and surfaces must be disinfected after each use of a guest or between employees if shared. Hand sanitizer must be readily available to guests
  • Prior to reopening, the entire establishment must be cleaned and disinfected
  • Once open, the most frequently used objects and surfaces that come into contact by different people (buttons in lifts and vending machines, banisters, railings, door handles, bells, taps…) must be cleaned and disinfected at least every two hours
  • Guests must be advised of new protocols and restrictions regarding use of the installations PRIOR to confirming a booking. This must be done in writing in a language the guest can comprehend

OTHER APPROVED ACTIVITIES (conditions obviously apply):

  • Social Services
  • Educational Centres and Universities
  • Scientific Research
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Filmmaking
  • Cultural Events
  • Professional Sports
  • Active Tourism and Nature Activities

Fulfilment of requirements of these new measures are responsibility of Municipal Inspection and Police Forces within their jurisdiction. Businesses are not permitted to take any commercial action that may result in crowds of customers within the premises or waiting outside. This does not prevent sales from taking place or offers advertised online, it is a precaution.

There was a lot of speculation about whether the remaining Canary Islands would advance from Phase Zero to Phase One due to the condition about the number of available beds at each hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, however, the Addendum of this Order states all eight islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa) are included.

This Order comes into effect from midnight 11th May 2020, and will remain so until the end of the State of Emergency and any of its extensions. One question that I am sure has already crossed your minds has to do outside tourism, especially those who are in the restaurant and hotel industries, and I’m preparing another article about that.

The other question that has probably arisen is about permittible hours to carry out individual sports activities… I can only conclude that since nothing specific is mentioned within this Order, that the hours established for Phase Zero are still in effect until we’re told otherwise. One change that can be implemented by Autonomic Authorities is when children are able to go outside with their parents as some regions said that climate is a major factor. These hours may be amended to up to two hours earlier or two hours later than stipulated, but any change here will affect the hours for adults and above 70s and dependents as well.

I expect further information about this transtion to Phase One will become available in the upcoming days to resolve any doubts.

About Sabrina L. Williams

Although I was born in the UK, I moved to the Canary Islands, Spain at a young age and I haven't looked back. The Canaries is a fantastic place to live, I mean you can do all types of outdoor activities practically all year round because of the great weather. Horses are my poison but the islands are also a superb spot for water sports so they do attract a lot of attention from people around the world. Anyway, enough about that. Back in 2011, I made one of the biggest, scariest yet best decisions I'd ever made and set-up my own business in the middle of a recession. I love what I do as no two days are the same, plus Spanish law keeps me on my toes as it is constantly changing (often without warning!) so there is always something new to learn. As I've branched out in the world of Administrative Consultancy, I decided to create a blog to discuss topics of interest to others in my industry and my clients, share tips and experiences, to see what new ideas people have for improving their businesses and the like so I hope you'll find the time to join me on this venture...

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