Saturday

8th May 2021

Coronavirus: Spain's lockdown will 'last more than 15 days'

  • The Spanish government warned that any company that can produce diagnosis material and protective equipment, such as mask, glasses or gloves, must contact the authorities within 48 hours - under the threat of fines (Photo: Nacho Rascón)

Spain's streets have turned eerily empty since the government declared the state of emergency and imposed a nationwide lockdown for two weeks - aiming to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

However, the Spanish minister for transport, José Luis Ábalos, warned on Monday (16 March) that the lockdown will "last more than 15 days" since this period would not alone be enough for the country to "win the battle" against the coronavirus.

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As of Monday, 7,988 cases of Covid-19 and 294 deaths were registered in Spain, the second-most affected country in Europe after Italy - overtaking the larger nations of France and Germany.

Following the measures taken by Italy - the most affected country in Europe - Spain declared a state of emergency on Saturday which places tight restrictions on movement with exceptions for primary needs or professional requirements.

"We will eventually return to the routine of our jobs and again visit our friends and loved ones," prime minister Pedro Sanchez said in a nationally-televised conference.

"Until that time comes, let's not waste energies that are essential now. Let's not lose our way," he added, urging all to stay home.

Those disobeying the conditions of the state of alert could face fines starting from €100 or imprisonment should they "resist or seriously disobey the authorities or officers when they are carrying out their functions".

In Madrid alone, law enforcement imposed over 200 fines on Sunday.

Nationalisation

On Sunday, the minister for health, Salvador Illa, announced that all private health providers and infrastructure would be temporarily taken over in the interest of the national healthcare system.

The government also mobilised retired doctors, all last-year medical students who are carrying out residencies and physicians who have not yet completed their speciality to guarantee the "existence of professionals to attend all of those who are affected by this virus".

Given the current shortages of anti-virus gear, the Spanish government also warned that any company that can produce diagnosis material and protective equipment, such as mask, glasses or gloves, must contact the authorities within 48 hours - under the threat of fines.

Spain is also taking part in an accelerated joint procurement procedure, which is being coordinated by the European Commission to ensure an adequate supply of protective equipment across member states.

Military forces are prepared to deploy and operate emergency health facilities, such as field hospitals, in the most affected areas of the country, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports.

Additionally, all educative centres, non-essential shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, stadiums, cinemas and museums have been closed since Saturday.

But supermarkets, pharmacies, newsstands and hairdressers are among the businesses that are allowed to remain open.

In Madrid, police drive around the city using megaphones to warn residents to stay indoors for their security.

Teleworking doesn't work for everyone

Teleworking is possible for those businesses that can function through the screen of a computer, but many companies are only partly implementing this option.

"In many cases, the programmes used by civil servants, small and medium enterprises have licenses - and access to the programmes is not always possible," an IT staff member of a multinational warned.

On Saturday, the transport minister announced that public transport by air, sea and motorway would be reduced by 50 percent.

As a result, public transportation in big cities, such as Madrid, Barcelona or Bilbao, was more crowded than on a typical Monday morning rush hour, forcing people into proximity to one another.

Some employees, who are not able to work from home, are forced to take holidays - and others have been fired, especially those working in hospitality.

"As small clinics are not forced to close, my boss has given two option to his employees: go to work or take holidays," said physiotherapist Arancha Garcia.

The Spanish government failed on Saturday to agree on a new package of economic measures to mitigate the impact of coronavirus - although they are expected later this week.

Meanwhile, the region of Catalonia and Basque Country continue to resist the centralisation of power and competencies derived from the decreed state of emergency.

Spain on Monday closed its borders to contain the coronavirus - following the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovakia. Germany and others also partly closed borders.

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