The latest border news 29th May 2020.
As at the time of print from:-
- 1st June French residents living within 100 km may visit Andorra for the day only without quarantine in either country. This privilege also extends to Andorrans wishing to visit 100 Km into France for the day.
- 2nd June France intends to lift the 100km limit to include residents for the whole of France may travel domestically. As with the previous announcement above Andorra has been left out of the protocol and this is being clarified. The indication are that it will apply to Andorrans who then will be free to travel anywhere domestically inside France for as long as they want without quarantine in either country
- 15th June is the date when external borders with the rest of the EU may open and will allow free access to the Schengen area. The spat with UK about quarantine regulations will need to be resolved otherwise for UK and some other countries there may still be quarantine requirements
- All other confinement restrictions currently in effect and not subject to the above exceptions remain the rule.
Note:-30th May 2020 The opening of the Spanish/Andorran border is to be subject to a judicial review to determine whether the current decree which relates to regions in Spain can be extended legally to cover a third country. It has been reported that the Spanish Government is in favour of allowing reciprocal "visiting rights" between Alt Urgell and Aran ( only so far). This of course does not include a jolly to the coast or to Barcelona...
As at the time of print from:-
- 1st June the Andorra border with Spain is open as with France, BUT the Spanish border with Andorra remains closed, so no new traffic or tourists are allowed either way just yet. Andorra has requested as with France that residents of Alt Pirineu regions can be allowed to Andorra and vice versa BUT as of now no such agreement has been communicated.
- 7th June is the possible date of border relaxation, it depends on whether the current state of emergency in Spain is extended in which case the border restrictions may also be extended.
- 1st July is the date announced (intended) for the complete relaxation of all persons who enter Spain without quarantine. I have been informed that the number of scheduled flights to Spain has been way over booked already so until things start to settle after that date it may be difficult to travel ( together with the FOUR hour before departure checkin as will be required). The spat as above with UK may also need to be resolved.
- All other confinement restrictions currently in effect and not subject to the above exceptions remain the rule.
The reopening of the borders- 1 June, 2020
Let me make it clear THE BORDERS ARE NOT OPEN AND SAVE FOR ONE EXCEPTION BELOW THEY WILL REMAIN CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE INTO JUNE.
There seems to be a misconception that the borders will be open next week to everyone. Yesterday I spelled out the agreements and plans (Read below). The ONLY agreed exception to the current closures will be that French residents who can prove they live within 100 km of Andorra can visit for the day only from June 1st 2020. Andorran residents may also travel to France within 100 km of the border only and return the same day. France has included Andorra as a domestic "Department" for these purposes (only). Andorra has requested Spain to be treated the same as with France but up until now there has been no agreement so the borders will remain as they are at least until June 7th.
Other than the above exception, ONLY Andorran residents are allowed entry to Andorra (with 14 days isolation on arrival), potential residents whether via Spain or France will have to wait, DO NOT yet try to get to Andorra, you will end up in 14 days confinement in either France or Spain!!
If in doubt please email me and watch for updates on this as they can come at any time...
Andorra has announced that its borders will be open to tourists (which in effect means anybody) from 1 June, 2020. This is a unilateral decision and the final details and agreements with the neighbouring countries are yet to be set in stone. What does this mean for Andorra and its borders?
Spain:- the state of emergency in Spain, unless extended for another two weeks which may be likely, is due to end on 7th June. This means unless there is an agreement with Andorra, the borders on the Spanish side will remain closed. In effect this means that essential travel only as per the current restrictions will continue for entering Spain, and for Spanish to enter Andorra there are similar essential travel only reasons as their border remains closed. Also to consider are the 14 days obligatory isolation under most circumstances of anybody returning to or entering Spain nand Andorra. This 14 day self isolation may be withdrawn from 1st July to enable Spain to continue with the summer tourist season (Also likely that Andorra will lift isolation to coincide with that or earlier). In summary unless there is an agreement between Andorra and Spain and in spite of the Andorran borders being open then very limited travel in and out will continue.
France:- The French de-confinement process is not in sync with Spain and that is why Andorra, being in the middle, has had to take some decisions of its own. The French border will also open on 1st June, it is expected and will be confirmed very shortly that Andorra will be treated for the purposes of French tourists as a domestic area. This means that anybody within 100 km of Andorra can travel here and will be allowed in. Under this French law however they are required to return home each night and therefore there will be no overnight stays allowed in Andorra under the current situation. Realistically, expect Pas de la Casa to be very busy, and other shopping areas possibly more busy with additional French tourists. It has been announced that those working on the frontline in Pas de la Casa will be closely monitored and tested for any sign of a resurgence of an imported virus. For the French who comply with these current regulations they will be no need to self isolate when they returned to France the same day. By reciprocal agreement Andorrans wishing to travel to France will be able to do so within 100 km of the border and return the same day. Any further travel or reason for travel will as at present have to be scrutinised and the certificate for entry will be required. Just how this can be policed is difficult but really appeals to a continuation of the common sense.
Protective measures have yet to be confirmed by the government here and they are looking at a possible act of Parliament that makes the wearing of masks obligatory for all visitors and residents, amongst other measures currently in force such as hand gels and obeying the local restrictions for shops, bars, and restaurants.
The chart below offers a comparison between the exit strategies of Spain and France as at 25th May 2020
Phase Three of the exit strategy
Phase three started on schedule on Monday 18th May with the opening of some professional sectors such as vets, hairdressers, barbershops and beauty salons and other industrial activities such as publishing, graphics activities, advertising and job placement agencies. There then will be 26,706 in employment in total, a figure that will be considered normal and will certainly give the country a false appearance of normalcy. This is a testing period because the risk of a resurgence is real and in a worst case scenario the unthinkable is for Andorra to go back to the beginning to the dark days of confinement.
If all goes well the complete lifting of all restrictions and confinement will begin June 1st when bars and restaurants and all shops will be allowed open subject of course to the usual protective requirements. The borders are still under negotiation but should see some partial opening in early June.
Phase two of the three planned phases of relaxation
Phase two commenced on Monday 4th May and allowed numerous sectors to return to work, including the construction industry and supporting manufacturers, lawyers, accountants, gestorias and elements of the Government administration, all with the necessary protectioon measures.
Although the expected increase in people and cars materialised there have been no reports of incidents nor thankfully any spike in the virus which may have (and may still do) lead to a return to confinement.
During this phase and on Wednesday 13th May 2020 the Government will allow less restrictions on time and activities outdoors. From tomorrow you will be allowed 2 hours on your odd or even day out or 1 hour each day. The practice of sporting activities is extended, including non-risk mountain activities (hiking, running, fishing) and can be done at any time. Please note that golf is not yet included in this phase 2 . The time slot for over 70s and vulnerable people from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. remains unchanged and must continue to be respected due to the vulnerability of people who are out at that time. The maximum distance of 2 km from the home is extended and it is possible to take your vehicle to be able to travel to hiking or cycling trails.
Professionals in motorcycling, cycling, tennis and basketball, and Club Morabanc Andorra, will be relocated to more suitable facilities and training hours will be extended.
If all goes well the country will change on Monday 18th May to the phase three and open some professional sectors such as vets, hairdressers, barbershops and beauty salons and other industrial activitiesthat still remain closed such as publishing, graphics activities, advertising and job placement agencies. There then will be 26,706 in employment in total, a figure that will be considered normal and will certainly give the country a false appearance of normalcy. This is a testing period because the risk of a resurgence is real and in a worst case scenario the unthinkable is for Andorra to go back to the beginning to the dark days of confinement.
Mathematical predictions for the end of the pandemic.
Mathematical predictions for the end of the pandemic are based on current and historical trends. Globally it is estimated that two thirds of the population must be immune to the virus before it is impossible for the virus to be able to find a new host and spread. This immunity is based on immunity from antibodies from people already infected and possible vaccines that will neutralise the virus. This means then that 5.2 billion people will need immunity to achieve this level from a global population of 6.8 billion. The estimate of when the end of of the global pandemic can be declared then extends beyond May 2022 !!!!
The unknown in all of these figures though are the levels of immunity both in the population, the level that each individual must have to be immune and also the length of immunity that any antibodies will allow. Then we have the unknown of the vaccines and how long these will take. Reports are that trials have begun and look promising but there may be a long way to go. There are already reports of Iranian and Russian hackers in US and UK universities and laboratories, it looks like the road to achieving a cost effective widely available vaccine may be fraught with industrial and international espionage and the rest.
For Andorra the mathematical equations point to June 3rd 2020 as the date when we can announce and the end to the pandemic within the confines of the borders. Yesterday it was announced that those recovered in Andorra now outnumber those still active by 2 : 1. For Spain though it is August 7th and for France August 5th 2020 based on current statistics and trends. This may well of course change when lockdown relaxations and other returns to work etc may give the virus an opportunity to strike back (see the second wave below). Andorra will be at risk as and when border controls are relaxed which is not going to happen until mid to end of June at the earliest.
Fears for the premature relaxation of lockdowns around the world..
Many countries are now relaxing their lockdowns and allowing in some parts, businesses, schools, shops etc to re-open albeit with hygiene restrictions and isolation rules. France for example in March 16th started lockdown and on that day there were 1,210 new cases and 21 deaths reported. The French have announced that lockdown will effectively end on 11th May 2020 ( with restrictions nevertheless). Yesterday in France there were 2,838 new cases and 367 new deaths. In Spain, lockdown started on 15th March when there were 1,597 new cases and 98 deaths, yesterday there were 2,706 new cases and 301 new deaths (Today´s figures have just come in at 4,771 new cases and 453 deaths) and Spain too is looking to ease restrictions mid May. Today´s figures are not what Spain is looking for.
Whilst the balance of deaths and economic disaster continue to be juggled in every country, let us remind ourselves in the article below courtesy of Wikipedia just how dangerous an early relaxation can be and also how much more dangerous viruses can get and how fickle human memory can be. Once again as with the closing of the borders in Andorra (The eventual opening of which causes alarm in many areas) hindsight is a useless tool after the event!
The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic affected an estimated 500 million people, which was then a quarter of the world`s population. Estimates reveal that 50 million or many more may have died, sometimes within hours of contracting symptoms. The records are not accurate and are largely estimates. The death rate was estimated to be 2.5%. The first wave was comparatively mild until....
The deadly second wave (Source: Wikipedia)
The second wave of the 1918 pandemic was much more deadly than the first killing an estimated 20 - 50 million after the first wave had claimed the lives of 2-5 million. The first wave had resembled typical flu epidemics; those most at risk were the sick and elderly, while younger, healthier people recovered easily. By August, when the second wave began in France, Sierra Leone, and the United States, the virus had mutated to a much more deadly form. October 1918 was the month with the highest fatality rate of the whole pandemic.
The fact that most of those who recovered from first-wave infections had become immune showed that it must have been the same strain of flu. This was most dramatically illustrated in Copenhagen, which escaped with a combined mortality rate of just 0.29% (0.02% in the first wave and 0.27% in the second wave) because of exposure to the less-lethal first wave. For the rest of the population, the second wave was far more deadly; the most vulnerable people were those like the soldiers in the trenches – adults who were young and fit.
Exercise and fresh air allowances...
On 16/04/2020 the new decree allows persons authorised to have an hour exercise and/or be out in the sun. This means that 16/04/2020 is an EVEN day, therefore those who live in an even numbered property OR in the absence of a number where the building or Xalet name begins with "A" through to "M" may have an hour out subject to the limitations below.
LATE NIGHT CLARIFICATION :- There is confusion over what address number is odd or even. Some ten or so years ago they intended to number all of the buildings in Andorra by giving them a street number (and this was represented by a metal plaque outside) HOWEVER, this is predominantly an unknown exercise and does not figure prominantly in streets and certainly not on residency cards ( Remember Andorrans do not have residency cards and for passports there is no address at all stated). I have spoken with the Government helpline (118) and requested clarification, they have told me:-
- Firstly IF your building has a clearly marked street number then that is the determinant as to whether you are odd or even
- IF no street number then it is the NAME of the building that determines whether you are ODD or EVEN ( "A" to "M" is even and "N" to "Z" is odd)
- BUT if your block is part of a series of blocks whether or not you have a street number, where there is for example BLOCK 1, (EDIFICI 1 etc) BLOCK 2, BLOCK 3 and so on then it is the BLOCK number that counts whether you are odd or even.
- IF an urbanisation but the BLOCKS are lettered "A", "B", etc etc ( up to "P" in some cases) .....THEN "A" will be odd, "B" will be even and so on through the alphabet and that will be the determinant.
- IF in doubt just be sensible and determine your status logically!!
The GOLDEN rule here really is to avoid going out between 1100 and 1400 when the over 70s and vulnerables have their time out. As before in the confinement stage everything is advisory, there are no shootings on sight or fines even as the state of emergency laws have not been enacted (That does not actually include shooting on sight anyway!) Common sense is the protocol as has worked so well already. STAY SAFE..
The schedule is below and depends on your building number as above AND the date as to whether ODD or EVEN.
Please note the following restrictions:-
- Pavements are now to be used as the same direction for traffic, so for La Massana you walk from Garallàs supermarket to Andbank on the right hand side and on return on the other side which will also be on the right as do the cars.
- You can only exercise or go out when the odd or even date matches your odd or even property address as above
- You can only exercise or be out from your property within TWO kilometres thereof (Supermarket distances and time spent there are flexible but you are advised if possible to use your own Parish),
- The maximum allowed time out will be ONE hour every other day depending on whether you are odd or even (Supermarkets flexible)
- You cannot use sports equipment such as bikes and cannot use the car to go to an exercise destination.
- You cannot use exercise equipment that are in parks and cannot use the benches unless you are in the over 70s or vulnerable group (1100 to 1400 hrs)
- You must wear a facemask at all times ( Note this is obligatory BUT is not enforced currently as some people are yet to collect theirs, please see here)
- Only one person or maximum those that share the same address but for exercise please note the distances as below
- You cannot take a car for going to exercise, and especially cycling and mountain sports are prohibited
- The social distance apart is increased to 4 metres for those walking and 10 metres for running and in the same direction as per the pavement requirements above.
I think the main point in all of the above is common sense, this will be difficult to enforce and hopefully will succeed on the goodwill of the community which has been excellent to date....
The plan for the exit strategy
The plan drawn up below is just that, a plan. However for the most part it will likely be adopted by the Government as and when Andorra is ready to relax the confinement. Already being relaxed are the online purchases of non-essential goods, and expect non essential businesses such as construction, electrical, plumbing and other industries to be allowed to return shortly. Whilst Andorra may be able to open as a closed country, the key will be the re-opening of the border, and this is not expected at all in the near term uuntil neighbouring countries have entirely controlled their infections and most likely some way beyond that point. The tourist sector clearly will be the hardest hit here and Andorra being a tourist based industry will suffer badly.
Phase ONE of the Exit Strategy
This will begin on Monday 20th April. There will be THREE phases each of two weeks apart (as set out below) until Andorra is fully open (Other than the borders and schools). This means that by 20th May the third and final phase will come into effect. The Government have confirmed that schools will not be considered for opening until at least 1st June 2020.
The first phase then will include the return to work for 596 businesses employing around a thousand workers in the following sectors and shops:-
- Clothing and textile and manufacturers
- Estate agents for dealing with the reduction in rental contracts as announced by the Government
- Agriculture and garden centres
- Household items
- Electrical applicances and items
- Musical items
- DIY and Bricolage
- All online purchases as offered ( Does not specify locally but bear in mind delivery problems if ordered from outside Andorra)
It is stressed that this is a cautious opening to test the waters, any increase in infections etc will obviously have an impact on this path to opening up Andorra.
Phase TWO in two weeks time and subject to ongoing review will allow construction and all of the associated trades (Electricians, Plumbers, Decorators etc) to re-open but this will be subject to restrictions to be announced. This will allow a further 3,600 workers back to work
Phase THREE in four weeks time will allow the cautious opening of services and leisure including bars, restaurants, coffee shops hotels (all for local custom as the borders will still be closed). It is stressed that each phase is dependent on the previous so this third phase remains at present just a plan subject to the previous phases and results.
As for Government we need to wait and see when those precious wheels will slowly begin to turn oce again, watch this space !!!
The Pyrenean Brown bear a winner in the pandemic
In looking for positive news in the current lockdown many countries are reporting that nature is reclaimin areas that humans have abandoned during the current crisis, this is also the case for the Pyrenean brown bear.
There are now reported to be a population of 52 roaming the wilds of the Pyrenees mountains and foothills, 12 more than the last count in 2018. With the decline of the native Cantabrian bear the most similatr cousin species was introduced from Slovenia in 1996. After a very chequered start where hunters, farmers and other parties objected and also the species was slow to aclimatise, the current tranquility of the mountains is providing welcome news for the species! However, what would happen if you stumble across one !!?
Below as many people curiously asked what happens if you find one while hiking etc..
Experts have issued guidelines on what to do if you come across a bear in the French Pyrenees, as authorities confirm that the bears in the region are now beginning to come out of hibernation this year.
Most bears will smell or hear humans from a long distance, and leave long before you encounter them, experts said.
La Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l'Aménagement et du Logement (DREAL) Occitanie has issued guidelines on what to do in the very rare event that humans might come into contact with a bear.
- People are warned to be especially careful if the bear appears to be injured, has cubs with them, was surprised while eating, or disturbed during their hibernation period.
- Other advice includes making a little noise to alert the bear to your presence if they have not noticed already, and to avoid approaching them any closer, especially if you are within 50 metres of them.
- Keep dogs on a lead, close, and as quiet as possible.
- Keep very visibly calm, and walk away calmly, making sure not to run, or to cross any path that the bear might take to escape.
DREAL added that bears rearing up on their hind legs does not mean they will attack; this is more likely to be a sign of curiosity than aggression.
It also said that of 60 cases it had studied involving confrontations between bears and humans, the bear had run away 78% of the time, and had been indifferent 19% of the time.