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Sánchez says Spain will reopen to foreign tourists from July

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Via Financial Times

Spain’s prime minister has said that international tourism will be allowed to restart from July as he set out the next steps to combat the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in a national address.

“Together we have stopped the worst calamity of the century. Now the challenge of rebuilding our country lies ahead of us,” Pedro Sánchez said on Saturday.

Like Greece, which will reopen to international visitors next month, Spain is heavily dependent on tourism, which accounts for about 12 per cent of its gross domestic product.

Mr Sánchez called on businesses involved in tourism to prepare to reopen and urged Spaniards to plan their summer vacations, adding that the government was preparing additional health measures to avoid outbreaks when foreign visitors are allowed back into the country in July.

“Spain needs tourism and tourism needs security,” Mr Sánchez said, noting that more than 80m tourists travel to the country each year.

Mr Sánchez also announced that Spain’s football league, La Liga, will return from the week of June 8, and that his leftwing coalition government will next week proceed with a minimum income scheme. He said this would cost €3bn annually and would provide grants to 850,000 households below the poverty line starting in June.

The new measures come as Spain negotiates a complicated exit from lockdown amid a political scene fraught with increasing polarisation.

On Friday Mr Sánchez’s government finally gave the go-ahead for Madrid and Barcelona, the two worst-hit cities, to begin phasing out the restrictions put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19.

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Madrid’s continued lockdown was especially contentious, as the government had twice rejected requests to loosen it — leading officials in the region, which is led by Mr Sánchez’s political opponents on the centre-right, to complain of political bias.

Hours before the prime minister’s address on Saturday, thousands of protesters drove through Madrid and regional capitals in Spain, calling for the resignation of the government of Mr Sánchez in a series of demonstrations backed by the far-right Vox party.

Mr Sanchez has faced criticism over his use of the “state of alert” — an extraordinary legal order that grants increased powers to the government — to manage the coronavirus pandemic in the country, one of the world’s hardest hit.

Demonstrators take part in a ‘caravan for Spain and its freedom’ protest by far-right party Vox in Seville on Saturday © AFP via Getty Images

“The threat to Spain’s freedom is carried out by an illegitimate government that has become a criminal government, unable to protect [its] people, directly responsible for the worst management of this crisis on the entire planet,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal said at the protest in Madrid.

In central Madrid’s upscale Salamanca neighbourhood, protesters clogged streets with flag-draped vehicles, bringing transit to a halt. Protests also took place in Barcelona, Málaga, and other cities.

“When we get past the healthcare part of this, the government has to change because they will take Spain to ruin — economically, socially, in every possible way,” said Ana Pérez, who works in a family construction business and drove her two children to the Madrid protest.

According to government figures, 28,628 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus and some 3.4m are on Spain’s furlough unemployment scheme. The government expects GDP to shrink by 9.2 per cent this year.

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