Coronavirus: Spain plans to ease some restrictions as latest figures offer hope

The country’s daily death toll has dropped to its lowest level in nearly a month

Patrol cars of local police  are seen in Ronda, southern Spain. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

Patrol cars of local police are seen in Ronda, southern Spain. Photograph: Jon Nazca/Reuters

 

Spain’s government is planning to ease lockdown restrictions for children, as the country’s daily death toll from coronavirus dropped below 400 to its lowest level in nearly a month.

Spain has been the second-hardest-hit country in Europe after Italy in the Covid-19 pandemic, with 20,852 deaths attributed to the virus.

Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez has said he plans to seek parliamentary approval this week to extend until May 9th the national lockdown that has been in place since mid-March in response to the pandemic.

However, he has also said that restrictions on the movement of children are likely to be eased next week. Currently, children’s movement is more limited than that of adults, who can go shopping for food or medicine and take dogs for walks. Children are not allowed to accompany adults on these outings unless they would otherwise be alone at home.

“We are very conscious of the reality that children are facing,” Mr Sánchez said on Saturday, adding that the plan was “to give them the opportunity to enjoy some time outside each day”.

Downward trend

New figures released on Monday showed that 399 people had died from the Covid-19 virus over the previous 24 hours. That was the lowest daily death toll since March 22nd and continues a downward trend that began after April 2nd, when a daily death toll of 950 was reported.

The daily number of new infections has also stabilised, with 4,266 reported on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 200,210, the second-highest number in the world after the US.

The government’s head of medical emergencies, Fernando Simón, said recent figures showed that “the spread of the virus is dropping a lot, even more than we had thought”.

Last week, the government lifted some restrictions on non-essential workers that had been in place only for the previous two weeks. The move meant that people in the building industry, manufacturing and other heavy industry were able to return to work.

The government is considering the lifting of further restrictions for adults from the middle of May, although such a measure is likely to be staggered, with some regions easing the lockdown before others.

Censorship allegations

In the meantime, the government has been facing accusations of censorship after the head of the Civil Guard, José Manuel Santiago, said his force was working to “minimise the atmosphere contrary to the government’s handling of the crisis”. Mr Santiago had been talking about combatting false conspiracy theories, but opposition leaders have complained that his comments suggested the Civil Guard was taking on a political role under the government’s orders.

On Monday, Mr Santiago sought to correct himself, explaining that “the most important thing are people, not ideologies”. The government said his previous comments had been a “slip of the tongue”.

Also on Monday, Mr Sánchez agreed in principle with the leader of the main opposition Popular Party, Pablo Casado, to form a parliamentary commission to manage the social and economic response to the crisis. As Spain’s healthcare crisis from the virus abates, the scale of the approaching economic crisis is becoming apparent. The Bank of Spain has forecast that Spain’s GDP will shrink by between 7 per cent and 14 per cent in 2020.