Spain to keep social distancing on beaches to fight virus

Spain will keep social distancing on beaches even after the lockdown is lifted (AFP Photo/ANDER GILLENEA)

Madrid (AFP) - Spain, one of Europe's top sunshine destinations, said Sunday it will maintain social distancing rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus once a nationwide lockdown ends, even on the beaches.

The government on March 14 imposed a strict nationwide lockdown to fight the pandemic, and two days later it closed its land borders, with only Spanish citizens and residents able to enter the country.

In an interview published Sunday in top-selling daily newspaper El Pais, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said the government did not know when the borders would be reopened, saying it will depend on how "the health crisis evolves".

"It is very important that we continue to follow health recommendations, we must keep up what we are doing now, washing our hands, keeping social distance...even on the beach," she added when asked if access to beaches would be limited once the lockdown ends.

"Until there is a vaccine nothing will be the way it was before. Gatherings will have to have limitations to maintain an adequate safety distance," she added.

Beaches have been closed across Spain with people allowed out of their homes only to work, buy food, seek medical care or briefly walks their dog.

Spain is the world's second-most visited country after France and tourism is crucial for the domestic economy, making up nearly 12 percent of gross domestic product.

It hit a record of tourist arrivals for the seventh year in a row last year, with nearly 84 million foreign visitors.

Now it is one of the hardest-hit nations in the world with nearly 17,000 COVID-19 fatalities.