Spain extends Covid-19 shutdown to May 9

Madrid, Apr 18 (efe-epa).- Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Saturday that he will ask Parliament to extend the coronavirus restrictions on movement and activity until May 9, though with some exceptions for young children.

Starting April 27, youngsters will be able to go outside for brief periods as long as certain precautions are taken, the Socialist said in a televised address.

He praised Spaniards for their “exemplary response” to the nationwide confinement his government imposed on March 14 and said that thanks to compliance with those measures, “we have saved tens of thousands of lives.”

Spain’s death toll from Covid-19 is 20,043 and the number of confirmed cases is approaching 192,000, but the rate of increase has been on a gradual downward trajectory in recent days.

While acknowledging progress, Sanchez said that the “gains are still insufficient and, above all, fragile.”

“We cannot put (the advances) at risk with precipitate decisions” to re-open the country, he told Spaniards.

Without offering any details, the prime minister said that the rolling back of the restrictions will take place on different timetables in different parts of the country, depending on local conditions.

Sanchez also took the opportunity to repeat his appeal to Spain’s other political parties to begin talks aimed at forging a grand national accord on the “reconstruction” of the economy.

In the same context, he urged the European Union to avoid repeating “the errors of the past” as it crafts a response to the economic damage the pandemic is doing to Spain, Italy and other member-states.

The Spanish leader was apparently alluding to the approach EU institutions took to the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession, which involved requiring government to commit to austerity as a condition for getting financial help.

Failure by the EU to act differently in this crisis could fuel the growth of anti-European populism, Sanchez said.

The government will formally submit the plan for the extension to Parliament next Tuesday and lawmakers are expected to approve it two days later.

Assuming Parliament gives its assent, the continuation of confinement until May 9 is to be formally enacted at an extraordinary Cabinet session next Friday. EFE rcf-ajs/dr

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