Millions of Spanish children will be able to leave their homes for the first time in six weeks on Sunday, as their country takes another step towards lifting its coronavirus lockdown.
Children under the age of 15, who number nearly seven million, will be able to go out for one hour each day accompanied by an adult family member. They will not be able to venture more than one kilometre from their home or enter public parks.
Coronavirus has caused 22,524 deaths in Spain, which has had one of Europe's strictest lockdowns since mid-March. Under its conditions people have only been allowed to leave their homes to buy supplies or to travel to their workplace if they are not able to work from home.
In explaining details of Sunday's new regulations, deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias said that the willingness of Spain's children to stay at home had been crucial in helping the country overcome the virus.
He also apologised for the government’s handling of this issue. It initially announced a more timid easing of restrictions for children, only allowing them to accompany their parents on errands, a proposal which drew widespread criticism followed by a revised policy.
“When we have to take decisions that are very difficult we sometimes get it wrong, and that’s why we’re saying sorry,” Mr Iglesias said.
Margarita Llorente Delmas, who has been in confinement in Madrid with her two sons aged 15 and 12, welcomed the measure, but not the way it was unveiled.
“I think it’s a good thing that they’re doing this now with controlled measures, it’s fundamental, it’s necessary,” she said. “The government is right to do this, although when they got it wrong on announcing it the first time round it was a mistake which made me wonder if I can trust their future decisions.”
In mid-April, several industries returned to work after a two-week hiatus, and the latest easing of restrictions comes as the virus’s impact appears to be on a downward trajectory. On Friday, the country reported 367 deaths over the previous 24 hours, 73 fewer than on Thursday, and continuing a downward trend since the beginning of April, when nearly 1,000 deaths were being registered daily.
Bending the curve
For the first time since the crisis began Spain has seen more people given the all-clear over the previous 24 hours, 3,105, than new infections, 2,796.
“This time we are bending the curve,” said health minister Salvador Illa.
This week Spain’s congress agreed to extend the lockdown until May 10th. Prime minister Pedro Sánchez has said that his government plans to lift more restrictions in the second half of May.
Some regional governments are beginning to draw up plans with a view to returning to normal. Basque president Íñigo Urkullu has proposed holding a regional election in July, after it was postponed from the beginning of this month. He has also suggested the reopening of some businesses in his region in the second half of May. However, the central government has said it must have the final say on any such measures related to the lockdown.