Spanish government announces plans to ease COVID-19 lockdown measures

A handout photo made available by the Spanish Prime Ministry's press office shows Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (L) during a video conference call with main opposition party People's Party (PP) leader Pablo Casado (R), at La Moncloa Palace, in Madrid on 20 April 2020. [EPA-EFE/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa]

Spain’s government has announced plans to ease its coronavirus lockdown measures as Monday’s death toll dropped under 400, the lowest since 22 March. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.

While Spain has been one of the worst countries affected by coronavirus outbreak, with around 200,210 officially registered cases and 20,800 deaths, Spain’s daily death rate has been declining with 399 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, the lowest since 22 March, and 4,266 new infections.

In the past, figures have been lower over the weekend, and a slight rise in the number of deaths and infections has often been recorded on Monday and Tuesday owing to a delay in collecting data from autonomous regions, Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Emergency Coordination Center, told reporters on Monday (20 April).

The downward trend is also evident in the reduced number of hospitalisations and patients admitted to intensive care units. A total of 80,587 people have recovered from the virus, while 3,230 were discharged from hospitals between Sunday and Monday.

On top of that, Spain has gone from performing 200,000 to 700,000 COVID-19 tests, Simón said.

“We are doing almost four times more PCR tests, and the cases are going down a lot, even more than we thought,” he said adding that the government still “aims to test as many as possible because being able to assess the evolution in this way gives us a guarantee that the control of the pandemic is being achieved,” the expert added.

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Spain on Sunday (19 April) recorded 410 fatalities from the novel coronavirus, its lowest daily death toll since 22 March. EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.

Spain has had a shortage of face masks since the start of the pandemic but since non-essential workers resumed activities on 13 April, the government has urged people to start using them when travelling on public transport and where possible.

More than 900,000 face masks and more than one million latex gloves that had been sent from Shanghai to Spain were expected to arrive on Monday, said General Carlos Pérez, Chief of the Defence Staff.

Spain has one of the strictest confinement measures in Europe with adults only allowed to leave their homes individually to buy food or medicine, travel to work or walk their dogs.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced over the weekend that restrictions would be relaxed and children would be allowed to go outside with their parents from 27 April.

By this time, youngsters in the country will have spent seven weeks inside their homes, which in the cities often means in small apartments without any outdoor space.

Asked by reporters how the transition for children to be allowed outside would take place, Simón explained that things would not go back to normal immediately and that, while he did not have the details of what the government would decide on the matter, social distancing would be key and children would not be able to gather in groups to play.

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Growing political tensions

The proposed de-escalation came amid growing political tensions, especially between the left-wing coalition government of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos, and the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP).

Sánchez held talks with PP leader Pablo Casado on Monday as part of a national pact to deal with the economic and social fallout from the pandemic, although Casado had previously refused to meet with Sánchez, saying his offer had not been “sincere”.

While the prime minister’s meeting with Casado will end his talks with different party leaders, apart from the far-right Vox party and pro-Catalan group CUP, which have declined the invitation, Sánchez nevertheless still plans to meet with regional governments, municipalities, unions and business organisations next.

“In my 40 years of service, if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that people come first, there are no ideologies. All of us here, all of you, are a team,” Brigadier General José Manuel Santiago, Chief of Staff of the Civil Guard, told reporters on Monday.

So far, while the crisis has already wiped 890,000 jobs from Spain’s labour market since the lockdown came into effect, at least 3.9 million workers have been temporarily laid off, especially in the retail and tourism sectors, which represent some of Spain’s most important industries.

[edited by Daniel Eck/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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