Spanish authorities have warned parents to act responsibly when taking their children out for a walk in order to ensure that the first major easing of the coronavirus lockdown does not become a public health risk.
The sound of children’s voices returned to Spain’s streets on Sunday for the first time in six weeks but the move also fueled chatter on social media amid accusations that some parents were flouting rules.
The government has said that only one adult is allowed to take children out for a maximum of one hour per day and that walks should be within one kilometre of the house.
“The data from the police and state security services shows the majority of people followed the rules and that parents have demonstrated responsibility,” Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain’s interior minister, told a press briefing Monday.
“Failure to follow the rules would be to put your children’s health at risk.”
He added that 157 people had been arrested in the country on Sunday for allegedly breaching the lockdown rules, a number that was in line with the daily average.
Salvador Illa, the health minister, called on a “minority” of parents who failed to adhere to the rules to act responsibly and said authorities would boost their vigilance.
“The actions of 99% of Spaniards was exemplary,” he said.
He did not specify whether continued abuse of measures could influence the government’s next planned easing, which would allow adults to leave their house for exercise from May 2, provided that the number of infections in the country continued to fall.
Spain has been under one of the strictest lockdowns in the world since Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared the state of emergency on 14 March, with citizens only allowed out to buy food or medicines or visit the doctor. Schoolchildren have been taking their classes remotely.
Bryn Gorry, a Madrid-based English teacher and father of one, said he was aware of some parents breaking the rules on Sunday, adding he knew of some people who let their children play with school friends at the park, ignoring physical distancing rules.
“I think after the first day of rule-breaking, people will be better,” he told Efe.
“As the weather changes, houses with no air conditioning, like mine, will become stifling so some outside time will be useful. My kid has been amazing throughout but she is missing the company of other kids,” he added.
Soon after the measure to allow children aged 14 and under out on the street with an adult for a limited time per day came into effect, thousands of social media users shared images purporting to show gatherings of people not adhering to the rules.
The hashtag #niñosenlacalle (“children in the street”) began to trend on Twitter.
By Monday, another hashtag calling for people to act responsibly was the third-most tweeted topic in Spain.
Spain has laid the grisly claim to being one of the deadliest coronavirus hotspots in the world, behind Italy and the United States, but the daily death toll is now dropping.
Health authorities said on Monday said 331 coronavirus patients had died in the last 24 hours, which brings the overall number of fatalities since the outbreak began to 23,521. Over the weekend that number dropped below 300 for the first time in over a month.
More than 100,000 people have recovered from the disease, almost half of the total number of cases detected in the country — 219,764.
The Socialist Party-led coalition government has started an investigation to get a more accurate indication of how many people have contracted the disease by conducting household seroprevalence testing.
Tests will be conducted on 36,000 randomly selected households, with an average of 2.5 members each, throughout the country.
A rapid antibody test will be carried out using a blood sample, followed by a second antibody test.
The study will be carried out in three waves, with an interval of 21 days between them, to see how the virus is evolving.
The health ministry said the investigation will also provide information on the behaviour of the transmission of the virus within households.
The reopening of the country will take place over several phases and physical distancing measures will have to remain in place for several months to avoid a second spike in infections.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]