MADRID - Spain urged foreign tourists on Monday to return from July as one of Europe's strictest lockdowns eased, with streets gradually filling again and some pupils returning to school.
The world's second-most visited nation closed its doors and beaches in March to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, but has seen out the worst and plans to lift a 14-day quarantine requirement on overseas arrivals within weeks.
"It is perfectly coherent to plan summer vacations to come to Spain in July," Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto told radio station Onda Cero as Spain geared up to salvage a tourism industry that normally draws 80 million people a year.
The hard-hit capital Madrid was coming back to life on Monday, with people allowed back into its main Retiro park and a few bars and restaurant terraces reopening.
"This is great, I was really looking forward to it. And so was my dog!" said interior designer Anna Pardo, walking her pet in the sunshine in the Retiro.
Strolling, jogging and chatting, Madrilenos passed through the park's shaded alleys or stopped for a moment to enjoy its small lake, still devoid of the usual rowing boats.
TOURISM STOCKS GAIN
More cars buzzed through streets.
Though bars and restaurants are now allowed to open terraces at 50 percent capacity but cannot welcome clients indoors, few restarted in Madrid on Monday morning, as businesses weighed the value of catering to just a few customers.
While most pupils in Spain still need to stay home and study online, some schools reopened in the northern Basque region.
Spain has recorded 28,752 coronavirus deaths and 235,772 cases, but has seen daily fatalities drop to fewer than 100 for the last week.
The tourism minister's comments, after similar remarks by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, lifted shares of tourism-related stocks, including hotel operator Melia Hotels which rose 14 percent in early trading.
In half of the country, including the popular Canary and Balearic Islands, even more restrictions have been lifted as lockdown has moved one notch ahead to a phase 2.