Spain gives children OK to accompany adults on essential errands, take walks

(Update: Reledes, adds info on change in confinement rules for children)

Madrid, Apr 21 (efe-epa).- The Spanish government on Tuesday authorized children under age 14 to take walks out in public starting on 26 April just hours after announcing that they would only be able to venture out of their homes in the company of an adult on trips to buy food or medicine, or to go to the bank.

This is a measure designed to provide partial “relief” from the strict quarantine measures imposed in Spain since March 14, when the government decreed a state of alarm and imposed drastic limitations on people’s movement in an attempt to limit the spread of the highly contagious and sometimes deadly coronavirus.

At a press conference, Health Minister Salvador Illa announced the additional change regarding children’s ability to leave their homes after health organizations, regional authorities and political parties levied harsh criticism on the national government for initially failing to include this provision in its partially-eased restrictions on the nation’s youngsters.

“We know how to listen,” the minister said.

Even the leftist Podemos party, which governs in coalition with Spain’s Socialists, had asked that the original measure be rectified.

Now in the sixth week of confinement, Spain’s students at all educational levels have been obligated to remain in their homes with classes suspended.

Addressing the Spanish Senate, Illa said Tuesday that the country is still not in the “de-escalation” phase of the pandemic that would allow authorities to gradually ease other aspects of the confinement measures, specifying that moving further in this direction would depend on how the pandemic develops from here on out.

Pediatricians and parents’ associations – along with some regional governments – had asked for a relaxation of the prolonged lockdown as it applied to children to help prevent potential physical and psychological harm to Spain’s youngsters.

“The majority of children have stayed in their houses, for which reason the probability that they are infected is very low,” Maria Jesus Montero, the spokesperson for the Socialist Party-led government, told a press briefing earlier on Tuesday in making the original announcement of the measure approved earlier in the day by the Council of Ministers and which affects a total of 6.8 million children.

“We propose that their leaving the house be controlled. We are not relaxing the confinement measures. It is the responsibility of the adults to comply with the measures,” she added.

Montero said the age bracket of one to 13 was selected for partially eased measures at this time because teenagers aged 14 and up were already able to leave the house for errands such as picking up groceries.

According to the lockdown measures currently in place, only one person from each household is allowed out for errands at any given time.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said over the weekend that he would submit a proposal to extend the lockdown until 9 May, although such a move must be approved by lawmakers.

The Spanish Health Ministry said on Tuesday that 430 people died in the past 24 hours after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the pandemic’s official death toll in the Iberian nation to 21,282.

Tuesday’s figures represented a small uptick from the fatality count on previous day, a situation that is frequently the case as the figures are often revised to retroactively correct delays in data collection over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the number of infections detected in the last 24 hours fell to 3,968, a drop of around 300 cases compared to Monday and around 1,000 fewer cases than on Tuesday last week despite the fact that the government has boosted its testing.

Fernando Simon, the head of the department of public health emergencies, said: “We continue to maintain a clearly downward trend in recent days.”

Authorities have detected 204,178 positive Covid-19 cases since the outbreak began with 9,636 of those picked up by antibody tests, meaning the carrier had overcome the disease but not shown any symptoms while contagious.

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