May 3, 2020 / 9:10 AM / 25 days ago

Surfing and strolling, Spaniards reclaim the outdoors

GAVA/MADRID, Spain (Reuters) - Spaniards revelled in a second day of freedom on Sunday, heading outside in time-slots for age groups on the first weekend adults were allowed out since one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns was imposed in mid-March.

People wearing face masks walk along a street, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Madrid, Spain, May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina

Though Spain’s appalling COVID-19 outbreak has shrouded the nation in mourning for more than 25,000 dead, there was much-needed relief on a sunny spring day as people at last headed back to the streets, hills and sea.

Surfer Sigrid Cervera, 44, yelled for joy as she jumped into the waves with her board in Gava, a town on the Mediterranean coast outside Barcelona. “I have not been able to go surfing for ages so I am very excited,” she said.

Joggers ruled the streets early on, before it was the elderly and then children’s turn - all under orders to stay two metres apart under continued social distancing guidelines.

“We can breathe,” exulted one elderly resident of Madrid, Maria Jesus, enjoying a walk in the city centre.

“At home, all you can do is open a window, and you open them every day, but it is not the same as being outdoors.”

One of the worst-hit nations, Spain’s death toll climbed by 164 in the previous 24 hours to 25,264, while cases reached 217,466, according to latest health ministry data on Sunday.

But the declining pace of deaths and infections has led Spain to start unwinding its stay-at-home order, with children allowed out under supervision from last weekend, and adults given permission to exercise outdoors from Saturday.

WIFE HIDDEN IN CAR BOOT

Walks and sports are allowed from 6-10 a.m. and 8-11 p.m., while children have the afternoons, and the elderly are given late morning and early evening windows.

“This is a great relief to me to get out and run again,” said musician Jordi Jornet, 45, who went jogging along the shore in Gava on Sunday after a run in the mountains the previous evening.

Not all were following the rules though: in Logroño, northwestern Spain, police stopped a car driven by a man whose wife was hiding under a blanket in the boot, according to the Interior Ministry. He had said he was taking tools to an allotment.

To prevent overcrowding, Barcelona’s city council barred entry to its urban beaches, so thousands converged instead on the beachfront boardwalk.

In the capital Madrid, where parks and other large public spaces remain closed, runners and walkers shared narrow pavements and walkways.

Government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero described the population’s behaviour as “exemplary”.

But newspaper ABC said Madrid police broke up 29 groups of teenagers drinking on Saturday night, and Cadena Ser radio cited police sources as saying a record number of arrests were made for breaking confinement rules on Sunday.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Slideshow (11 Images)

The relaxation of exercise restrictions is one of the first steps in a four-phase plan to reopen Spain by the end of June.

From Monday, businesses that operate by appointment, such as hairdressers and beauty salons, will resume limited services.

In the next stage, outdoor areas of bars and restaurants can open at 50% occupancy, while groups of up to 10 people will be allowed in public places and in homes.

Reporting by Graham Keeley in Gava; Nathan Allen, Julien Hennequin and Michael Gore in Madrid; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by David Goodman, Elaine Hardcastle and Andrew Cawthorne

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