Spain Aims to Lift Virus Lockdown Within Next Eight Weeks

(Bloomberg) --

Spain aims to remove most restrictions on daily life and return to a “new normal” over the next eight weeks, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

The process will be subject to data on the number of Covid-19 infections and won’t follow a strict calendar, Sanchez said in a televised address. Schools won’t return until September. Each province will ease curbs on activity at its own pace in accordance with its particular situation, Sanchez added.

After a six week lockdown that has crippled the economy, the health ministry earlier reported a drop in the number of new virus cases and deaths, continuing a trend of steady decline in Europe’s most extensive outbreak. Fatalities rose by 301 to 23,822 in the 24 hours through Tuesday, compared with Monday’s increase of 331. Total confirmed cases increased by 1,308 to 210,773 after rising by 1,831 Monday.

“The only target is to reach the new normality,” Sanchez said. “We will recover gradually.”

The government had already announced a tentative easing of some curbs. From May 2, people will be allowed to exercise outdoors and go for walks with family for the first time since the state of emergency was declared March 14. Children were allowed out in the company of one adult already from Sunday.

A crucial concern is to avoid a resurgence of the disease. A lack of discipline under looser rules could return Spain to a situation “that’s even more difficult than we’ve seen so far,” Fernando Simon, the government’s top epidemiologist, said Monday.

To help prevent a renewed increase in infections, the government on Monday began the first random tests for antibodies to determine how many people may have been exposed without showing symptoms. Officials said they selected 90,000 residents of all ages across Spain.

Nursing homes, where a large proportion of Spain´s Covid-19 deaths have occurred, will, however, be excluded from testing because they don’t fit into the criteria of “households,” said Raquel Yotti, one of the health officials leading the investigation.

The latest health ministry figures on new infections reflect updated reporting standards adopted in recent days. Previously, the government included people who had virus antibodies in its overall figure, but now the daily total only includes patients who are confirmed positive using a testing technique known as PCR.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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