Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced a four-phase plan to lift the lockdown enforced on the nation to control one of the world’s worst outbreaks of coronavirus with an aim to return to the ‘new’ normality by the end of June.
The lifting of the strict measures will begin on Monday and vary from region to region depending on factors such as how the rate of infection evolves, the number of intensive care beds available locally and how regions comply with distancing rules.
In a televised address Sanchez said schools won’t return until September and each province will ease curbs on activity at its own pace in accordance with its particular situation.
After a six week lockdown that has crippled the economy, the health ministry earlier reported a drop in the number of new virus cases and deaths, continuing a trend of steady decline in Europe’s most extensive outbreak.
Total confirmed cases increased by 1,308 to 210,773, “the only target is to reach the new normality,” Sanchez said. “We will recover gradually.”
The government had already announced a tentative easing of some curbs. From Saturday, people will be allowed to exercise outdoors and go for walks with family for the first time since the state of emergency was declared March 14. Children were allowed out in the company of one adult already from Sunday.
A crucial concern is to avoid a resurgence of the disease. Fernando Simon, the government’s top epidemiologist, says a lack of discipline under looser rules could return Spain to a situation “that’s even more difficult than we’ve seen so far.”
To help prevent a renewed increase in infections, the government has begun the first random tests for antibodies to determine how many people may have been exposed without showing symptoms. Officials have selected 90,000 residents of all ages across Spain.
Raquel Yotti, one of the health officials leading the investigation said nursing homes, where a large proportion of the country´s Covid-19 deaths have occurred, will, however, be excluded from testing because they don’t fit into the criteria of “households.”