After waiting out a seven-week coronavirus lockdown and some of the strictest social distancing measures in Western Europe, adults in Spain are being allowed out to play at last. On Saturday, six days after Spanish children got the chance to exercise outside, authorities offered their counterparts above the age of 14 the opportunity to do the same for the first time since mid-March.
Many across the country enjoyed a balmy spring day, putting on running shoes, breaking out bicycles or simply slipping on a mask and heading out for a walk after the national government in Madrid lifted its ban on nonessential outdoor activities.
"I have been looking forward to this for weeks. I was joking with my friends that I would be the first out in Madrid," one woman out for a jog in Madrid told Reuters on Saturday. "I am very happy to be out after six weeks of yoga videos."
Spain has so far suffered one of Europe's worst outbreaks, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, with more than 213,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and a death toll of more than 24,500 linked to COVID-19, as of late Saturday afternoon. In a desperate attempt to slow the spread of the disease, Spanish authorities declared a state of emergency as of March 14, threatening fines of more than $1,000 for anyone who left their home for any activity but those deemed essential, such as visits to the market or pharmacy.
The rules have proven effective, as the number of new cases reported each day in the country has begun to taper and the COVID-19 fatality rate has recently fallen. But they have also chafed at a population increasingly desperate for outdoor activity. By last Sunday, under pressure from parents and pediatricians, authorities had relented on their blanket ban on children under 14 leaving the house. Lawmakers partially lifted the ban as part of legislation extending the state of emergency through May 10.
Now, the freedom to leave one's home for exercise is staggered: Children have from noon to 7 p.m. and adults from 6 to 10 a.m. and 8 to 11 p.m., while vulnerable adults and the elderly have their own hours set aside between those windows.
Spain is just one of several European nations to begin gingerly easing the lockdowns that lowered much across the continent last month. Germany is reopening playgrounds, churches and museums Monday, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson — a recovered COVID-19 patient himself — has said the United Kingdom is "past the peak" of its coronavirus outbreak, promising a timeline next week for cautiously reopening the country.