MADRID: Coronavirus lockdowns will be eased in Spain's capital Madrid and second city Barcelona from Monday (May 25) to allow outdoor dining and gatherings of up to 10 people as infections have slowed sufficiently there, the government said.
Restrictions will be relaxed even further in other regions comprising about half of Spain's population.
Spain started phasing out one of Europe's toughest lockdowns earlier this month, but full restrictions had remained in both Madrid and Barcelona because their outbreaks were so severe.
In Barcelona, beaches were opened for walking this week, but public swimming and sunbathing will remain banned.
"Each step we make, must be a safe one," Health Minister Salvador Illa said. "Since the phase-out process is complex, I want to call for individual responsibility."
Bars and restaurants in Madrid and Barcelona will be allowed to reopen on pavements and terraces at half capacity from Monday, churches can also throw open their doors again, and people will be free to travel outside the cities.
Other areas of Spain will move to another phase of the return to normality.
Theatres, cinemas, art galleries, museums can reopen there from Monday at no more than a third of capacity, some schools will restart, and some outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing will be allowed again.
Trips between provinces are still banned, however.
Spain, one of the world's worst-hit countries with 27,940 registered fatalities and 233,037 infections, introduced its lockdowns on Mar 14.
As people have been confined at home, the rate of new fatalities has steadily fallen to fewer than 100 deaths a day.
Though phasing out the lockdown, the government has imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on the few overseas travellers allowed in to try and avoid a second wave of COVID-19.