HOLIDAY hotspots Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca are emerging from the Covid-19 lockdown and moving into the second phase of the four-part de-escalation of coronavirus restrictions.

The Spanish health ministry agreed yesterday that Madrid – seen as the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in Spain – will finally move to Phase 1, which allows social gatherings of up to 10 people and outdoor cafes to re-open at half their capacity.

Madrid had twice sought the easing of the lockdown this month, but on both occasions was told it failed to meet the requirements laid down by health experts.

Salvador Illa, the Spanish health minister, yesterday broke the news to Madrid authorities, and agreed with their Catalan counterparts that metropolitan Barcelona could also move to Phase 1.

“All of Spain is going to be in at least Phase 1,” said Illa. “And 47% of the population will be in Phase 2.

“The benefits of the state of alarm are indisputable. We are coming out and we are coming out stronger.”

Madrid’s right-wing local authority had moved to take its failure to qualify for the initial stage of de-escalation to the country’s Supreme Court, claiming it had been held back for no good reason by Spain’s governing coalition of the Socialist party (PSOE) and the left-wing Podemos.

They had even demanded to know the identity of the experts on the committee behind the decisions.

There was a limited reopening of bars and restaurants across some parts yesterday, although there are strict limitations on their business activities.

Outdoor seating areas of establishments can only open if they are in a town of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants and a population density of less than 100 people per square km. Indoor opening is also allowed, but only at 40% of capacity.

Meanwhile, Barcelona’s local council – which opened its beaches on Wednesday – will consider taking a “step back” if there is a repeat of the more than 2000 people who took advantage of more relaxed regulations on the first day.

Climate emergency councillor, Eloi Badia, told the Catalan News Agency (ANC) that restrictions could be tightened again.

He said: “If we see that the desire to enjoy the beach, which is in our Mediterranean DNA, is stronger than the regulations, we will have to take a step back.”

The city council said more than 2000 people had walked or taken exercise on a beach in the morning – a tenth of the usual numbers.

Epidemiologist Antoni Trilla told Catalonia Radio: “This cannot go on by any means.”

He said people had to be cautious ahead of summer, and added: “We need to get used to it.”