Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose for the first time in three days yesterday, as some businesses prepared to reopen under an easing of the strict lockdown regime.
619 people died in the previous 24 hours, bringing the cumulative toll to 16,972. Confirmed cases increased by around 2.6% to 166,019.
Tough lockdown measures have helped bring down a spiralling death rate that reached its peak in early April, and the new deaths reported on Saturday were the lowest in 19 days while the increase of confirmed cases has roughly halved from a week ago.
All non-essential workers had been told to stay at home, but the government plans to revert back to less stricter curbs today that were in force up to March 27, allowing some businesses to resume.
That has triggered concerns of a resurgence in an epidemic that has caused more deaths in Spain than anywhere apart from the United States and Italy.
Catalonia’s regional leader Quim Torra Tweeted that the government was ignoring scientific advice to “maintain total confinement.”
Antoni Trilla, an epidemics expert and government advisor from the University of Barcelona, had said on Thursday that the stricter confinement measures should be extended.
However, Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva said a less strict lockdown is now sufficient to prevent the disease from spreading.
The coronavirus is weighing heavily on the Spanish economy, with some 900,000 jobs lost since mid-March.
European Central Bank Vice-President Luis de Guindos said Spain’s reliance on tourism would likely leave it exposed to a worse recession than the rest of Europe.
“We’re talking about the worst economic situation since the (1936-39 Spanish) Civil War,” he said.
Industry Minister Maria Reyes Maroto said the tourism sector would be slow to recover.
Restoring confidence in Spain as a safe destination for tourists would be key, and measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as hand-washing and social distancing.