Masks obligatory in public transport as Spain relaxes measures

A Catholic priest has his temperature checked at the entrance of the cathedral before a Sunday mass in Alcala de Henares, outside Madrid, on 3 May 2020. [EPA-EFE/Fernando Villar]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Saturday (2 May) that face coverings will be mandatory in public transport after phase 0 of the government’s multi-staged de-escalation plan begins on Monday. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported.

“We know that the absolute confinement could not continue forever,” the Socialist prime minister explained and added that the government will distribute six million free masks to promote compliance with the new rule.

“We are starting the de-escalation with enormous uncertainties about the virus… like the other countries around us, but we are starting the de-escalation with some solid certainties about how to control the virus.”

New extension of state of emergency?

The Spanish leader said he plans to ask parliament on Wednesday to approve another two-week extension of the country’s state of emergency, the fourth of its kind, and announced that the government will approve a special reconstruction fund of €16 billion euro for Spain’s regional authorities.

The coronavirus pandemic is estimated to cause the national GNP to fall 9% this year but Sanchez said he is confident Spain will recover by 2023.

Data released on Thursday showed Spain’s GDP had dropped 5.2% in the first quarter, a period that only takes into account two weeks of lockdown.

Millions of people across the country went outside on Saturday to exercise outdoors for the first time in seven weeks. In Madrid, many of the main streets were busy with people on walks, runs or bike rides on Saturday morning.

With the exception of essential workers and people unable to work from home, the vast majority of Spain’s 47 million people have been housebound since 14 March, allowed out only to buy food or medicine.

Avoid overcrowding 

Children have been able to go out with a supervising adult since last Sunday (26 April) and now residents of all ages are allowed outside once a day for exercise.

Health minister Salvador Illa outlined a strict schedule of allotted time slots for different age groups in a bid to avoid overcrowding.

Residents can exercise alone within their municipal area or go for a walk with a member of their household no further than one kilometre from their house.

People over 70s and those who need to be accompanied on a walk by a family member or carer have been given a separate time slot to go outside.

The schedule only applies to towns and villages with a population over 5,000.

Contagion downward trend continues

The government’s roadmap is to gradually dismantle what has been one of the world’s strictest lockdowns.

Unlike countries such as the United Kingdom, France and Portugal, the Spanish government explicitly ruled out outdoor exercise when it declared a state of emergency.

On Saturday, health officials reported 276 fatalities, 1,147 new cases and 2,572 hospital discharges, continuing the downward trend of the contagion in Spain, which has been one of the worst affected countries in the world, EFE reported.

This brought the total number of deaths to 25,100, with 216,582 confirmed infections and 117,248 recoveries, according to figures released by the health ministry.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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