Life & Leisure

Tourists pack bags, Covid-19 cases jump again in Spain

Madrid, Mar 18 (efe-epa).- Spain’s government on Wednesday said it would facilitate the return of foreign tourists in its territory amid a lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus while Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned that the “worst was still to come.”

The announcement from Spain’s foreign minister came after the United Kingdom’s Foreign Office told all British tourists in Spain to return after the Spanish government ordered the closure of all hotels and short-term accommodation such as holiday apartments and campsites from 24 March.

Arancha González Laya called on foreign tourists in Spain to respect the rules of the nationwide lockdown, which has kept some 47 million people homebound since the government declared a state of alarm on Saturday.

“You’re welcome in Spain, but if you are here you have to obey the restrictions on the movement of people that we have introduced,” she told a press conference in English.

“We are working with the authorities to facilitate the return to your countries in an orderly manner.”

She also urged all Spaniards who were currently on vacation to consider travelling back to Spain as soon as possible.

There were currently 3,500 Spaniards registered as tourists abroad, she said.

Several airline companies such as Ryanair, which offers cheap links between the UK and popular tourist destinations like the Canary Islands and the Balearics, said most of their flights would be grounded due to government restrictions.

Prime Minister Sanchez has called for political unity to confront the coronavirus pandemic as figures rose by more than 2,500 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to more than 13,000 since the outbreak began.

Addressing an almost empty parliamentary chamber a day after he unveiled an emergency economic plan to help businesses and families, Sanchez said he would review the state of Spain’s universal healthcare system once the health crisis subsided.

Kept away by the Covid-19 outbreak in Spain, only 30 or so MPs turned up for the debate, in which Sanchez gave further detail on his record-breaking economic bailout, which is worth around 200 billion euros, or 20 percent of the nation’s GDP.

The session got underway as the health ministry said the total number of people infected with Covid-19 since the outbreak began in Spain had hit 13,716.

Fernando Simon, who leads the emergency public health department at the ministry, said at least 598 people had died from the disease and 1,081 had recovered, meaning there were still over 12,000 active cases.

He warned however that those figures could jump in the coming days as the health ministry puts its quick testing equipment into action in a bid to diagnose patients with even light symptoms of Covid-19.

By rolling out the quick testing kits, the government would be able to paint a clearer picture of the transmission of the disease and draw conclusions as to whether it was increasing or decreasing.

Asked whether he agreed with the prime minister that the worst was yet to come, Simon said he did not expect there to be an “avalanche” of serious cases but said there would be an increase in overall numbers.

He said 774 people were in ICU.EFE-EPA


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