MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's professional footballers can start training again from next week, prime minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday as he announced plans to relax the country’s COVID-19 lockdown and bring the country back to normality by the end of June.
Players can begin individual training from Monday and could be training together in small groups a week after that as part of a four-phase plan to lift one of the toughest coronavirus lockdowns in Europe.
"Professional sportspeople will be able to train individually from May 4 in the first phase," Sanchez said in a televised address on Tuesday, although the lifting of social distancing restrictions will vary from province to province.
In the following phase, which could begin as early as May 11, training in small groups will be allowed.
The health ministry will reassess the situation every fortnight to determine when group training will be permitted, followed by the possibility of playing competitive games.
"The opening of high-performance centres with hygiene measures and increased protection is being considered as well," said Sanchez.
All football in Spain has been halted since March but by seeking to achieve some normality by the end of June, the prime minister has given hope for a resumption of La Liga, whose chief repeated on Tuesday a desire to complete the disrupted season.
"In Spain football is an important economic engine we need to reactivate,” Javier Tebas said in a statement.
"I don’t understand how there will be more risk playing football behind closed doors.”
Spain has the second highest number of diagnosed coronavirus cases after the United States. They rose to 210,773 on Tuesday with fatalities since the start of the outbreak at 23,822.
But Monday's death toll of 301 was a third down from the record high of 950 earlier this month.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)
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