Small businesses partially reopen in Spain, coronavirus rate remains low

Madrid, May 4 (efe-epa).- The number of coronavirus infections and deaths in Spain continued their downward trend Monday as the country entered the preparatory stage of its four-phase de-escalation.

Small businesses and hairdressers were allowed to open their doors for the first time since the state of alarm was declared by the center-left government of Pedro Sánchez on 14 March.

There is a strict policy of one customer per employee and clients must make an appointment beforehand.

There were also allocated time slots for older people.

It comes as the government enacts so-called Phase 0 of the de-escalation of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown in an aim to get the engines of the country’s economy prepared for 11 May, when the whole country enters Phase 1 providing the coronavirus trend remains under control.

Health officials on Monday said 164 people had died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the same number registered on Sunday, while the number of new infections was 356 in the same period, half of the previous day’s tally.

The total number of Covid-19 cases confirmed in Spain since the outbreak began is 218,0111 and there have been a total of 25,428 deaths, making it one of the deadliest hotspots in the world.

Overall 121,343 known coronavirus cases have recovered, including 2,441 new hospital discharges between Sunday and Monday.

There were no new coronavirus cases detected in the region of Murcia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands or the exclave of Ceuta in North Africa, according to the health ministry.

Fernando Simón, head of the public health emergency department, said the number of infections had increased just 0.16 percent overnight, the lowest rise in two months.

He warned that a positive trend in figures did not rule out the possibility of a second wave of infections.

Officials added that figures should be taken with caution given the habitual tendency in Spain for there to be delays in data collection over the weekend.

“We have to regard them with prudence,” Salvador Illa, the health minister, said. “But they are positive.”

He added that the aim of the government was to keep the rate of new infections below 1 percent this week.

The initial stage of de-escalation in Spain comes after 50 days of a national lockdown, one of the strictest in the world.

Progression through the four stages of de-escalation will be done on a provincial level and the government hopes to return to what it has billed as a “new normal” by the end of June.

Adults were allowed to leave their houses for a period of exercise on Saturday for the first time since the state of alarm was declared but they must abide by a strict timetable designed to avoid large gatherings of people.

Sánchez’s plan to extend the state of alarm by another two weeks, a process that requires the backing of lawmakers on Wednesday, came up against a potential hurdle after the leader of the opposition Popular Party, Pablo Casado, said he could withhold his support.

Health minister Illa said the measure was crucial.

“It has worked effectively and it is imperative in this complicated phase in which we must not lose to the virus.

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