TOMORROW MORNING THE ORIHUELA COSTA area moves into Phase One of the de-escalation plan, marking a dramatic relaxation of the extraordinary public safety measures that were introduced in mid-March to combat the transmission of the coronavirus pandemic. So what's changing, and what new freedoms can you enjoy during this phase of the de-escalation process?
On Friday evening the Spanish Government announced the areas of Spain that will move to the next phase of de-escalation.
The published proposals mean that only 51% of the Spanish population will move on to phase one this Monday 11th May, with the Valencian Province split by health departments reflecting the differing capacities and capabilities within the autonomous community.
The areas of Orihuela Costa and neighbouring Torrevieja get the green light to proceed to phase one tomorrow, whereas adjacent health areas in Alicante and Elche are held back in phase zero.
Freedom of movement and health departments, where can you go
Residents in provinces such as neighbouring Murcia, who advance from Phase Zero to Phase One in their entirety tomorrow, can enjoy the freedom to travel anywhere within their province.
But because the Valencian Province moves to Phase One in a fragmented fashion, with only ten of the twenty-four Valencian health departments advancing to the next phase this coming week, residents are permitted to travel only within the area of their health department.
For those of us living here on the Orihuela Costa, this means that we can travel within the Torrevieja health department that covers Benijofar, Rojales (and Ciudad Quesada), and Guardamar del Segura to the north; and Torre de la Horadada and Pilar de la Horadada to the south.
This includes villages, towns, and cities in between these boundaries in addition to inland locations such as Villamartin, San Miguel de Salinas, and Pinar de Campoverde. It is not currently permitted to cross the provincial border into Murcia.
Orihuela Costa shopping, small shops can open their doors to customers
Small retailers with a sale area of 400 square metres or less can open to the public during their usual opening hours, and you are no longer obliged to shop for groceries in the supermarket that is closest to your home.
Stores and shops are limited to 30% of their normal capacity, and customers must maintain their safe distance from other shoppers. A limited capacity may mean you need to queue to enter more popular premises, but even outside, you must always keep a safe distance of two metres from other people.
You'll need to make an appointment to visit a car dealer or a garden centre, and all commercial businesses will need to prioritise service for persons aged 65-years or over. In some cases, shops might be able to serve one customer on the premises at any one time.
Going out on the Orihuela Costa, going to bars and restaurants
Bars and restaurants can open their outside spaces and terraces for table service from tomorrow. Only 50% of the tables may be occupied and these tables must be safely spaced apart by two metres.
Space might be limited, so you may have to wait for a table. Some establishments might require a booking and some venues may choose not to open at all, or only open for restricted times, so check before you travel.
It's worth noting that restaurants are not permitted to give you non-disposable items such as vinegar, oil bottles, or even a menu, so you'll need to order from a chalkboard or an online menu. Always remember to keep the recommended safe distance of two metres away from other diners.
Meeting with friends, and going out socially
You can meet with your friends and family at your home, in public, or at a bar or restaurant at any time you choose.
If you meet within the confines of your home, garden, or private outside space you can invite up to ten guests to join you for a coffee or a meal (ten people in addition to those already residing in the home), or you can go to someone else's home if you're invited.
However, if you meet in a public place such as the street, or a bar or restaurant, there must be no more than ten of you in total. You must maintain a safe distance between your group and other groups, couples, or individuals at all times.
Travel on the Orihuela Costa, getting around
People from the same household can travel in a car but remember that you can only go into a shop on your own. You are limited only by the number of seats in the car and you aren't required by law to wear a face mask. There are different rules for people who do not live in the same household.
Similarly, people living in the same home can ride a motorcycle together as long as each is wearing a full-face safety helmet and protective riding gloves.
Remember that you must always stay within the Torrevieja health department. You cannot drive to a location within another health department even if that health department is also in Phase One, unless the law already allows you to do so, for instance, for the purposes of work or to provide essential care for a relative or dependent.
Other things you might need to know
The time slots for exercise will be maintained throughout this phase, but only for exercise, so you can go out for all other purposes at any time you choose. And remember that anyone showing outward signs of respiratory infection, or any person subject to a quarantine order must stay at home.
Zenia Boulevard shopping centre is forecast to reopen from Phase Two (Monday 25th May), and Orihuela Costa's beaches are scheduled to reopen to the public from Phase Three (Monday 8th June). Local golf courses are permitted to reopen from tomorrow morning.
Phase One of the de-escalation plan comes into effect on Monday 11th May with Orihuela Costa scheduled to reach Phase Two on Monday 25th May, subject to authorisation by the Department of Health and the government.
Looking for holiday ideas and travel inspiration? Find out more about our favourite recommended things to do on the Orihuela Costa or join the La Zenia community Facebook group and find out what's going on in the local area.
Photo credit: LaZenia.com