A HOSPITALITY chief from the district who retired to Spain has spoken of the strict lockdown restrictions he is facing in the country.

Anton Phillips served as general manager at the historic Langley Castle Hotel, near Haydon Bridge, before his retirement in 2016.

He now lives in the province of Murcia, where there have been only 157 deaths during the coronavirus pandemic, and are currently just 88 active cases of Covid-19.

Anton believes the low numbers have been down to the strict regime of the Spanish government, which is still in place, despite the easing of some regulations.

“Even now, we only leave the house if it is essential,” said Mr Phillips. “From March 14, when lockdown was implemented in Spain, until May 12, when restrictions began to be eased, my wife never left the house. I only went out once a week to purchase food and any medicines we needed.

“During those initial eight weeks or so, there were police on all junctions – if you had no good or valid reason to be out of the house you could be fined.”

Mr Phillips said that on one occasion, he attempted to travel to a shop to buy wood pellets for his central heating. But the shop was closed, deemed non-essential, while he was stopped by the police and told, in no uncertain terms, to go home.

He added: “Travel between towns was not permitted – let alone between different provinces – unless for an extremely important reason.

“It has been mandatory to wear a face mask in all public places, in the street, inside all shops, on public transport, and if you are in a car with another person who is not from your household.

“Even though the infection rate has been falling the Spanish government has been very firm regarding the regulations.”

Despite considerable changes to his way of life, Mr Phillips said the tough stance was in the best interests of the public.

He added: “Where I live, a town of about 15,000 inhabitants, there has only been 14 cases, all recovered, since the onset of the pandemic. There has been a real community spirit which has helped reduce the rate of infection.”

Currently in Murcia, bars and restaurants are only allowed to open up to 50 per cent of their capacity. All customers are seated and served by staff.

Mr Phillips added: “Face masks are mandatory for staff and guests alike. If you are found by police without your face mask its an instant 100 Euro fine.”