Spain enjoys first exercise freedom for weeks

Spanish adults are jogging and cycling again for the first time after seven weeks of coronavirus lockdown.

The lockdown – one of Europe’s strictest – was eased for children a week ago, yet the amount of outdoor exercise time remains limited.

There are now exercise slots for different age groups. Most adults can walk or play sports between 06:00 and 10:00, and between 20:00 and 23:00.

Spain’s official death toll is 24,824, but the rate of fatalities has dropped.

Italy has Europe’s highest death toll, followed by the UK and Spain.

In Barcelona, runners and cyclists crowded paths near the beach on Saturday, Reuters news agency reported.

In Madrid, residents voiced relief to be finally exercising outdoors. “Happy, we feel free!” Susana Piego told Reuters.

Jesus Gutierrez said “it’s basic, for physical and mental health, it is basic to allow people to do sport”.

Since 14 March people have only been allowed to leave the house to buy food or medicine, to go to work if working from home was not possible, or to briefly walk the dog.

Until last week it was the only country in Europe where children could not leave home at all.

From 12:00 to 19:00 only young children are allowed to go outside, accompanied by an adult. The remaining slots are set aside for elderly and vulnerable people.

Lockdowns in other European countries are also being eased, though social distancing remains in force. Some countries require mask-wearing in shops and on public transport.

Small shops reopened in Austria two weeks ago, but now all stores are permitted to start up business again. Hairdressers and beauty salons are also allowed to operate.

Hungary is allowing business travel from some countries.

And in Germany, churches, museums and playgrounds will open on Monday.

Meanwhile, the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar has outlined a plan to reopen his country’s economy.

On 18 May it is planned that outdoor workers, including builders, will return to their jobs. DIY and hardware stores will reopen.

From that date, Mr Varadkar said, it would be possible to meet friends and family in small groups outdoors, and some sporting activity would be allowed, again in small groups.

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