Masks obligatory on public transport in Spain amid de-escalation measures

(Update: changes headline, lede, adds details on de-escalation measures, Pedro Sanchez statement)

Madrid, May 2 (EFE).- Masks will be obligatory on public transport in Spain after residents were allowed outside to exercise amid de-escalation of the country’s lockdown.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced on Saturday that face coverings will be mandatory on public transport from Monday when phase 0 of the government’s multi-staged de-escalation plan will begin.

“We know that the absolute confinement could not continue forever,” he explained.

He added: “We are starting the de-escalation with enormous uncertainties about the virus… like the other countries around us, but we are starting the de-escalation with some solid certainties about how to control the virus.”

He said the government will distribute six million free masks to promote compliance with the new rule.

The Spanish leader said he plans to ask Congress on Wednesday to approve a two-week extension of the country’s state of alarm, which would be the fourth of its kind.

Sánchez also announced the government will approve a special reconstruction fund of 16 billion euro for Spain’s regional authorities.

It is feared the coronavirus pandemic will cause the national GNP to fall nine per cent this year but he said he is confident Spain will recover by 2023.

Data released on Thursday showed Spain’s GDP had dropped 5.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, a period that only takes into account two weeks of lockdown.

Millions of people across the country left their homes on Saturday to exercise outdoors for the first time in seven weeks.

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