Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has urged people not to lower their guard as the country’s coronavirus state of emergency comes to an end and it prepares to reopen its borders to European visitors.
Speaking on Saturday, Sánchez thanked the nation for its patience, sacrifice and unity over the past 13 weeks, but said there was no room for complacency as the country emerges into “the new normality” of post-pandemic life.
“We are now in a position to advance,” he said. “But we can’t lower our guard. We need to keep it up, and we need to keep on following the hygiene and protection rules with the same sense of personal responsibility we’ve seen up until now. We can all be either a wall against the virus or the means of its transmission. It depends on each and every one of us.”
Sánchez pointed out that the World Health Organization had just said the virus was accelerating. “The warning is quite clear,” he said. “The virus could return and we could be hit by a second wave, which is something we need to avoid at all costs.”
He said the government was building up a strategic reserve of essential products to help Spain’s health system prepare for any future emergencies. “We’re keeping vigilant but we’re also proud of what we’ve managed to achieve together,” he said.
Spain’s state of emergency, which was declared on 14 March, led to one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe and was intended to prevent the collapse of stressed and overstretched intensive care units across the country. Covid-19 has killed 28,315 people in Spain to date and infected 245,575.
When the state of emergency ends at midnight on Saturday, people will be able to travel between the country’s different regions, but masks will continue to be mandatory in public places when physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres is not possible.
Spain will also reopen its borders to visitors from other EU countries and the Schengen area on Sunday, with the exception of Portugal, which has asked Madrid to delay the opening of the land border until 1 July, when Spain will begin welcoming travellers from the rest of the world.
Although the 14-day quarantine requirement for overseas visitors also expires on Sunday, those arriving at Spanish airports will have their temperatures taken and will need to provide contact details.
The Spanish government said on Saturday evening that visitors from the UK will be able to come to Spain without needing to spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival, as had been suggested earlier.
In an interview with the BBC, the foreign minister, Arancha González Laya, confirmed that UK travellers would be allowed to enter the country on the same basis as those from the EU and the Schengen area when Spain’s borders reopen on Sunday.