Spain will reopen its borders to tourists in July and its top soccer division will kick off again in June, the Prime Minister said on Saturday, as one of the world’s strictest lockdowns starts to ease.
Pedro Sanchez’s dual announcements coincided with calls for his resignation over the lockdown’s impact on jobs and the economy from the far-right Vox party, which called a protest through cities across Spain that drew thousands of horn-blaring cars and motorbikes.
“From July, foreign tourism will resume in safe conditions. We will guarantee tourists will not take any risks and will not bring us any risks,” Sanchez told a televised news conference, without giving further details.
Foreign visitors contribute around an eighth of Spain’s economic output and the government curbs - taken to contain one of Europe’s severest coronavirus outbreaks - have shuttered everything from hotels, bars and restaurants to beaches and leisure parks just as its tourism season gets under way.
Close to a million jobs were lost just in March, when the lockdown began, and the Bank of Spain has forecast the economy will contract by up to 12% this year.
Sanchez also said that another national money-spinner, top flight La Liga soccer, would resume on June 8.
Saturday’s protesters called on him and Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias - head of left-wing Podemos, the junior partner in Socialist Sanchez’s coalition - to resign over their handling of the crisis and, in particular, the economic fallout.
“It is time to make a big noise against the government of unemployment and misery that has abandoned our self-employed and workers,” Vox said.
The government says the lockdown has allowed it to get the pandemic under control.
Restrictions on movement are being gradually eased, though residents of Madrid and Barcelona, both national epicenters of the virus, have remained in lockdown.
Both cities will loosen their curbs from Monday, allowing outdoor dining and gatherings of up to 10 people.
Spain has documented more than 28,600 deaths from COVID-19 and more than 230,000 cases, and Sanchez said there would be a 10-day period of national mourning for victims starting on Tuesday.