Spanish virus lockdown prolonged

MADRID • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday announced the nationwide coronavirus lockdown would be extended two weeks to May 9, hours after the official death toll passed 20,000.

“We have done the hardest part through responsibility and social discipline…we are putting the most extreme moments behind us,” Sanchez said. But Spaniards must not jeopardise the fragile gains made so far with hasty decisions.

The restrictions currently in place would, however, be loosened slightly to allow children time outside from April 27, said Sanchez.

Until now, only adults have been able to leave the house for specific reasons: To go to work, to go shopping for food or medicine, for a medical appointment or to walk the dog.

Spain, which has been under confinement since March 14, has recorded more than 20,400 deaths (at press time) from the virus, the latest Health Ministry figures showed — the third-highest official toll after the US and Italy.

Health officials, nevertheless, said Spain has passed the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak which killed up to 950 people a day on April 2, and pressure is slowly easing on hospitals.

The increase in infections has slowed and the latest daily death toll was 565 people, down from the figure last Friday. The number of people registered as cured has risen to nearly 75,000 (at press time).

But with almost 200,000 reported cases of the virus, Sanchez warned the country that an end to one of Europe’s toughest confinements would be “prudent and progressive”.

And he warned: “If necessary, we will reinforce protective measures again.”

But the official toll, which covers only people who tested positive for the virus in Spain, has been contested in some regions.

Officials said thousands more people have died after showing symptoms of the disease without actually being tested because health services do not have enough of them.

Catalonia has reported that more than 7,800 people have died, while the national toll for the region referred Saturday to more than 3,800.

Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez- Almeida told radio Onda Cero on Saturday that no “mass gatherings” such as concerts or sports events would be held in Spain this sum- mer. — AFP