Spain is on a preventative lockdown to help stop the rapid spread of the Coronavirus throughout the country. As the Canaries are part of Spain, all approved legislation applies to us too. I haven’t posted anything publically since we were officially put on lockdown at midnight on Saturday 14th March 2020 because my primary concern has been for my amazing clients and their businesses, so references to yesterday’s email etc is because of the information they were sent as matters were unfolding. Apologies by the way to my registered monthly clients because you may receive this information automatically again as suscribers to this blog (I will try to stop that from happening), but at the same time, I want to say how in awe I am of all of you because you are handling this extreme situation like troopers even though many of your businesses were the first to be affected by the lockdown. I am really proud to count you as clients and I wish you the very best as you navigate daily uncertainties about the future of your businesses while at the same time many of you are also looking after small children, elderly parents, siblings and dependents. It gives me a glimmer of hope…
There is a lot of confusion out there about what we are and are not allowed to do so I am going to detail the information taken from the Royal Decree 463/2020, 14 de marzo (unfortunately only in Spanish) that I read through carefully this morning (Sunday 15th) coupled with the Decree approved on Friday 13th March 2020, information in the media etc.
The initial duration of this lockdown is 15 days. The Central Government is the competent authority on this state of emergency, followed by the Ministry of Defense, the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda as well as the Health Ministry in their respective fields. These ministries are commissioned with issuing mandates and instructions to guarantee life continues as normal as possible under these extreme circumstances as stipulated under Organic Law 4/1981.
Security Forces (Police and Guardia Civil…) are under strict orders of the Interior Ministry to ensure public safety and that people comply with the lockdown. These forces are authorized to do checks on people, vehicles, establishments to ensure no prohibited activities are being carried out in opposition to the lockdown. As citizens, we are obliged to collaborate their efforts to maintain normality.
In addition to the approved activities detailed in yesterday’s message, please note those in bold:
• To buy food
• To purchase medication and essential products
• Doctor and hospital appointments (if these appointments are not crucial, they recommend rescheduling for another date)
• Bank matters
• Going to and from the workplace from your primary residence to carry out business or professional services (besides those that have been strictly prohibited)
• To take care of elderly family members, minors and dependents (those who suffer a disability or those who are considered vulnerable
• Forces beyond your control or extreme circumstances
• All activities must be done individually, unless you are accompanying persons who suffer a disability or for a justified reason (i.e., if you are going to the supermarket, you go alone)
Closure of establishments open to the public and retail establishments remains in effect, excepting (those in bold have been amended from yesterday’s email):
- Food provisions (supermarkets and similar)
- Establishments that sell essential products
- Medical centres
- Establishments that sell Orthopaedic products
- Sanitary products
- Hairdressers (as strange as this is, it is for hygiene purposes for those of reduced mobility who are unable to wash their own hair, although the Associations are trying to change this because they feel these business owners are being put at unnecessary risk)
- Sale of media/press and stationery
- Petrol stations
- Off-licence/ Tobacco
- Sale of electronic/ technological equipment and telecommunications
- Internet commerce
- Telephone and correspondence
- Drycleaners and Laundry service
- Sale of food for domestic animals
If your business activity is not listed under those that have been prohibited by the government, you may proceed as normal, but you must do so individually, i.e., travelling to and from the workplace alone, not in groups. If you look at the last two pages of the decree, there is a complete list of activities that are not permitted to operate. You may be questioned by the police so they can verify why are not in your home and where you are travelling to, so be clear in your responses. Any other activities or establishments that by the authority’s judgement may suppose a risk of contagion have been suspended. In any case, what the government hopes to achieve is to reduce crowds and consumers and employees must always maintain the minimum safety distance of 1 metre.
All hospitality and restaurant activities have been suspended, except those that provide home delivery services. Again, this is due to those who may not be able to cook for themselves, but safety measures apply.
Religious gatherings, civil ceremonies to include funerals must adopt measures to prevent crowds. My brother-in-law who lives in Lanzarote is a funeral director, and he says that since last week they are only permitting a maximum of ten people in attendance at funerals for health and safety purposes.
The National Healthcare system falls under the jurisdiction of the Health Ministry, whose operation must remain intact at this critical time. In this way, they will make sure that supplies are distributed evenly throughout Spanish territory (equipment, medication, personnel etc). They may also take control of private clinics to ensure the health service does not risk collapse.
The competent authorities will issue the necessary orders to ensure continuity of provisions, i.e., that production flows so that supermarkets and establishments that sell essential items remain well stocked. The President of the Canarian Government issued a statement to reassure us that there is more than enough food and essentials in the island and for people to stop buying in bulk, instilling us to be more considerate of others. Somebody will have to please tell me why the panic and literal fighting over toilet paper! If required, the Armed Forces and Security Forces are equipped to intervene in case of an emergency situation.
With regards to public transport (by road, rail, air or sea), those that are not under public contract may reduce their offer/ occupancy by at least 50%. Those that are bound by public contract will retain the normal offer, but this may be reduced for health and safety purposes should the situation worsen. These public areas must be deep cleaned at least once a day and the operating companies are obliged to warn potential passengers that it is inadvisable to make use of public transport at this time if avoidable. Measures must be applied to ensure the maximum separation between passengers. The authorities may adopt other measures to limit public transport if the risk of contagion increases.
The police are patrolling towns etc to make sure we all comply with this lockdown and they are authorized to issue fines and even detain those who refuse to accept the new rules or resist their instructions. If you have dogs, you are permitted to take them outside so they can do their business, but this must not be used as an excuse to meet up with fellow dog owners or to go for a leisurely walk around town.
What concerns most of us is sustaining our businesses. Next Tuesday, the government is set to convene to discuss financial measures to reduce the effects of the lockdown for employees, business owners, sole traders, the most vulnerable families and collectives; flexible measures to try to prevent employees from losing their jobs; economic support to guarantee solvency and additional funds for investigation and hopefully a vaccine against the coronavirus. We already know that proposals include financial aid for parents who have to stop working to look after their children who are no longer able to attend school, payment of taxes over six months; the first three months interest free and deferred payment of Social Security contributions for affected businesses especially the tourist sector. The Decree approved on Friday before the lockdown indicates the fund created in December 2019 for the Thomas Cook insolvency fiasco of approximately 200 million euros may also be diverted to affected business who may apply for a line of credit via ICO. I’m sure more information on this will become available in the upcoming days.