Spain loosens coronavirus lockdown, death toll passes 17,000 but pace slows

  13 April 2020    Read: 1046
Spain loosens coronavirus lockdown, death toll passes 17,000 but pace slows

Spain, one of the countries worst hit by the global coronavirus epidemic, on Monday started to ease tough lockdown restrictions that have kept people confined to their homes for more than a month and put a brake on economic activity.

Spain’s cumulative death toll from the coronavirus rose to 17,489 on Monday, up 517 from 16,972 on Sunday, the Health Ministry said. Confirmed cases totalled 169,496, up from 166,019 the previous day.

However, this was the smallest proportional daily increase in the number of deaths and new infections.

With signs indicating the situation was taking a tentative turn for the better, some businesses, including construction and manufacturing, were allowed to reopen.

But most of the population were still confined to their homes, and shops, bars and public spaces will remain closed until at least April 26.

People at main transport hubs were handed face masks by police as they went to work on Monday morning.

“The health of workers must be guaranteed. If this is minimally affected, the activity cannot restart,” Interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska told Cadena Ser radio station.

Lockdown restrictions have helped slow a spiralling death rate that reached its peak in early April, but they have tested the resolve of people cooped up inside their homes.

“You finally convince yourself that we are at home for a good cause,” said Benito Guerrero, 28-year-old communication consultant still locked at home in Madrid.

“I wouldn’t want to go back to work again until it is strictly necessary since that would put my health and others at risk.”

Only a few commuters came in and out of Madrid’s usually bustling Atocha train station on Monday morning. Road traffic was light too, with mainly public buses on the streets.

Carlos Mogorrón Flores, a 27-year-old civil engineer in Talarrubias, Extremadura, was planning to return to work on Tuesday after the holiday although he said that was still risky.

“I would have preferred to wait 15 more days confined to home or at least one more week and then come back. You are always afraid of catching it and even more so knowing that your life may be in danger, or your relatives,” he said.

“I live with my parents and sister and they don’t leave the house. That’s what scares me the most.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday the decision to restart some sectors was taken after consulting a committee of experts. Any further winding down would depend on gains made against the virus, he said.

“We are still far from victory, from the moment when we can pick up our normal lives again, but we have made the first decisive steps in the path towards victory,” Sanchez said.

However, some regional leaders criticised the moves, fearing a resurgence of the outbreak.

 

Reuters


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