Coronavirus: Spain enjoys first exercise freedom for weeks

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Reuters

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A cyclist in Madrid: Spaniards feel a great sense of freedom again

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

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The blockade – one of the most rigid in Europe – was eased for children a week ago, but the amount of exercise time outdoors remains limited.

There are now 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.

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The official death toll in Spain is 24,824, but the death rate has dropped.

Italy has the highest death toll in Europe, followed by the United Kingdom and Spain.

In Barcelona, ​​runners and cyclists packed paths close to the beach on Saturday, the Reuters news agency reported.

In Madrid, residents expressed relief that they were finally exercising outdoors. "Happy, we feel free!" Susana Piego told Reuters.

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Jesus Gutierrez said that "it is basic, for physical and mental health, it is essential to allow people to play sports".

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Since March 14, people are only allowed to leave the house to buy food or medicine, go to work if it is not possible to work at home or walk the dog briefly.

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EPA

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Barcelona's promenades are busy again

A normal Saturday? Not exactly

Guy Hedgecoe, BBC News, Madrid

The Spaniards have taken full advantage of the most recent easing of the national blockade, while taking over the streets en masse since the beginning of this morning.

The lifting of exercise restrictions for adults meant that thousands of runners, walkers and cyclists were able to go out for leisure only in Madrid and other cities, for the first time in seven weeks.

In many areas, the sheer number of people who took to the streets made it look almost like a normal Saturday morning, but social distance was observed and few cars were on the streets.

Other sports were also played. In the southern province of Cádiz, surfers returned to the water this morning, although regular swimming remains prohibited.

Some, however, remain reluctant to venture out.

"I want to go out because it's a beautiful day," said Carmen Pérez, 65, in Madrid. "But I'm a little afraid of being infected."

Until last week, Spain was the only country in Europe where children under the age of 14 could not leave their homes.

From 12:00 to 19:00, only children aged 14 and under may leave, accompanied by an adult. The remaining slots are reserved for the elderly and vulnerable people.

Teens aged 14 and over can exercise once in one of the adult spaces.

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Media captionChildren in Spain can play outside again

Blockages in other European countries are also being eased, although social distance remains in place. Some countries require the use of masks in stores and on public transport.

Small stores reopened in Austria two weeks ago, but now all stores are allowed to start 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, Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar outlined a plan to reopen his country's economy.

On May 18, outdoor workers, including builders, are expected to return to work. The DIY and hardware stores will be reopened.

From that date, 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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