(Update 1: Offers fresh angle, changes headline, lead. Adds quotes and up-to-date figures.)
By Jake Threadgould
Madrid, Apr 27 (efe-epa).- Spanish authorities have warned parents to act responsibly when taking their children out for a walk in order to ensure that the first major easing of the coronavirus lockdown does not become a public health risk.
The sound of children’s voices returned to Spain’s streets on Sunday for the first-time in six weeks but the move also fueled chatter on social media amid accusations that some parents were flouting rules.
The government has said that only one adult is allowed to take children out for a maximum of one hour per day and that walks should be within one kilometer of the house.
“The data from the police and state security services shows the majority of people followed the rules and that parents have demonstrated responsibility,” Fernando Grande-Marlaska, Spain’s interior minister, told a press briefing Monday.
“Failure to follow the rules would be to put your children’s health at risk.”
He added that 157 people had been arrested in the country on Sunday for allegedly breaching the lockdown rules, a number that was in line with the daily average.
Salvador Illa, the health minister, called on a “minority” of parents who failed to adhere to the rules to act responsibly and said authorities would boost their vigilance.
“The actions of 99 percent of Spaniards was exemplary,” he said.
He fell short of specifying whether continued abuse of measures could influence the government’s next planned easing of the lockdown, which would allow adults to leave their house for a period of exercise from May 2, proving the number of infections in the country continued to fall.
Spain has been under one of the strictest lockdowns in the world since Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez declared the state of alarm on 14 March.
The population has been largely confined to their houses, and are only allowed out to buy food, pharmaceuticals or visit the doctor. Schoolchildren have been taking their classes remotely.
Bryn Gorry, an English teacher in Madrid and a father of one, said he was aware of some parents breaking the rules on Sunday, adding he knew of some people who let their children play with school friends at the park, which breaches physical distancing rules.
“I think after the first day of rule breaking people will be better,” he told Efe.
“I would have preferred allotted times by age group rather than a general free for all but as long as people don’t disregard the rules too much I think it’s probably a good move.
“As the weather changes, houses with no air conditioning, like mine, will become stifling so some outside time will be useful. My kid has been amazing throughout but she is missing the company of other kids,” he added.
Soon after the measure to allow children aged 14 and under out on the street with an adult for a limited time per day came into effect, thousands of social media users shared images purporting to show gatherings of people not adhering to the rules.
The hashtag #niñosenlacalle (“children in the street”) began to trend on Twitter.
By Monday, another hashtag calling for people to act responsibly was the third-most tweeted topic in Spain.