SPAIN has extended its state of emergency for two more weeks from Sunday as the 24-hour coronavirus death toll spiked after several days of falling.
This allows the government to control people’s movements as it gradually relaxes a national lockdown.
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Parliament approved the measure on Wednesday after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who heads a fragile coalition government, mustered enough support from opposition parties to carry the vote.
The decree will be the fourth two-week extension to the state of emergency, and will thus end on May 24.
Spain, where more than 25,000 people have died from Covid-19, has been under a lockdown since March 14 and the current state of emergency ends at midnight on Saturday.
Although the situation is improving, Sanchez says it is necessary to maintain some restrictions on movement to keep the infection at bay.
Sanchez said this morning that it would be “an absolute mistake” to lift the March 14 order at this stage.
He added: “We need a few more weeks of limitations to guarantee health.”
Today’s coronavirus figures in Spain show a rise again in the daily number of deaths by 244 to 25,857.
Tuesday’s increase was 185.
The rebound follows three continuous days of being under 200.
There have been 685 new cases, bringing the total to 220,325 – but this represents a considerable drop on the previous days.
In total, 126,002 people have now recovered.
The fourth extension to the State of Emergency will need to be endorsed by Congress, but the Spanish Executive said it was essential to “defeat the coronavirus”.
However, opposition politicians said they would vote against the move, as they claimed more than 60 days of a State of Emergency was illegal.
The PM told them this morning: “We have managed a partial victory against the virus with everyone’s sacrifice.
“We are not here by chance. Nobody gets it right all the time in such an unprecedented situation.
“There are no absolutely correct decisions, but lifting the state of alarm now would be an absolute mistake.”
During his speech, Sanchez paid tribute to victims claimed by the disease, and announced that he will decree official mourning when “most of the country is in phase one of the de-escalation”.
Spain recently announced new time slots to lift quarantine and allow people out of their homes after one of the hardest lockdowns in Europe.
These were to ensure the elderly are kept apart from kids when the youngest and oldest Spaniards venture outdoors for the first time in months.
The majority of Spain is currently in Phase Zero but will jump to Phase One on May 11 if the regions are given the individual go-ahead from the government.
This would allow the partial reopening of the terraces of bars and restaurants but not the interiors.
Hotels would also reopen but not the common areas.
The phases will then continue up until the end of June when the PM expects a return to normal.
Currently, everyone in Spain has to wear masks when travelling on public transport.
Swimming in the sea is now allowed.
Havoc on economy
But, airports and ports have yet to fully open.
Small businesses such as hairdressers started to open this week with restrictions while Spaniards are now allowed to exit their houses for exercise.
“People are very responsible. I stand back and they stand a metre away and pay with debit cards,” said Madrid stationery shop owner Paola Rodriguez, who has been letting customers in two at a time since reopening this week.
Although she had expected most small shops to reopen on Monday many had not, partly, she thinks “due to fear”.
The lockdown has wreaked havoc on Spain’s economy, which has shrunk by its biggest amount on record, 5.2 per cent, in the first three months of 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic.
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The government predicts the tourism-dependent economy could shrink as much as 9.2 per cent this year.
Today, the European Commission said Spain would be one of the countries hardest hit by the economic effects of the pandemic.
Spain’s GDP will contract by 9.4 per cent, the third highest in the EU after Greece and Italy, while its deficit will be 10.1 per cent, up from 2.8 per cent in 2019.