Spanish government criticised over handling of health crisis

Madrid, Apr 22 (efe-epa).- The Spanish government has been repeatedly denounced over its management of the Covid-19 health crisis, with the latest rebuke regarding the rules for children going outside.

Despite the executive adhering to the recommendations of experts and World Health Organization guidelines, it has received harsh criticism and accusations of improvisation, particularly from other political parties.

Among these issues has been what the opposition described as a “lack of foresight” in the face of the arrival of the epidemic in Spain, which has been one of the worst-affected countries in the world.

There was a shortage of protective material for health professionals, the purchase of a batch of faulty coronavirus tests and the distribution of thousands of defective masks to medical staff, which were later recalled.

Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Emergency Coordination Center, told reporters earlier this week: “We are very exposed to all kinds of criticism. This team here is a technical team and we all work as honestly as possible.”

Residents are in their sixth week of mandatory lockdown, one of the strictest in the world, in a bid to curb the spread of infection and ease the pressure on the health service.

Spain’s population is only allowed to leave their homes to travel to work, buy food or medicine or go to the bank.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has said he wants to extend the country’s state of alarm until 9 May, a proposal which will go before the Congress of Deputies, Spain’s lower house, on Wednesday.

Authorities announced on Tuesday that children under 14 years old could accompany an adult on essential errands from 26 April as partial “relief” from the strict measures.

Minors were not to be allowed outside to exercise or play, a move which the government said was in line with “experts’ recommendations”.

The decision was strongly criticised by parent groups, health organisations and left- and right-wing political parties, including Podemos which governs in coalition with the Socialist Party.

A few hours after the announcement health minister Salvador Illa reported a change in criteria so that children will be able to go for walks and said the details would be clarified in the coming days.

“We know how to listen,” he added.

The minister stressed that Spain was not yet in the “de-escalation” phase to wind down its lockdown, which will depend on whether the rate of infections and deaths continues to decline.

There have been more than 204,100 confirmed cases and 21,200 deaths in the country, according to data from John Hopkins University in the United States.

Spanish authorities have said the population has been sticking to the confinement measures, although police have arrested hundreds of people and received thousands of complaints for non-compliance.

Álex Pastor, the mayor of Badalona, a small city in Catalonia, resigned on Wednesday after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while over the alcohol limit during the lockdown. EFE-EPA


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