Spain is officially in a nationwide lockdown for at least 15 days, in order to combat the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19).
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced the measure in an institutional statement on Saturday evening, after his cabinet concluded an extraordinary meeting lasting nearly 8 hours.
‘Spain is facing a public health emergency that requires extraordinary decisions,’ said Sánchez, at around 9pm. ‘This is a global pandemic and is damaging for citizens as a whole. Health experts have explained to us over and over again that this is not a static situation. We have been adapting the scenarios of response to such a dynamic situation. Our mission and determination is maximum, it is to protect Spaniards and to beat the virus.’
The ‘state of alarm’ was first announced by Sánchez on Friday, in accordance with the provision of Article 116.2 of the Spanish Constitution, and it was ratified during Saturday’s cabinet meeting.
Today’s cabinet meeting was also attended by Pablo Iglesias, the second deputy prime minister of Spain and leader of the Podemos party that forms a coalition government with Sánchez’s socialist PSOE party. Iglesias attended the meeting despite being in quarantine after his partner Irene Montero, Spain’s Minister of Equality, tested positive for Coronavirus earlier this week.
Sánchez was originally due to make a statement at 2pm following a morning cabinet meeting. Spanish media has reported that the prolonged meeting and delays in the announcement were also due to disagreements within the coalition cabinet.
From midnight tonight, people in Spain will officially only be allowed to leave their homes to buy food and medicine, commute to work, go to hospitals and banks, buy petrol, walk pets, or take trips related to the care of the young and the elderly.
All retail activity has been suspended, other than food, medicine, newstands and tobacco kiosks, technology shops and services, pet shops, as well as hairdressers and dry cleaners.
‘All classes are suspended, including universities,’ said Sánchez. ‘During the period of suspension, online education activity will continue.’
Sánchez said that the government would guarantee the supply of food and electricity services across Spain.
Spain’s regional police forces will now be under the direct command of the central government’s Home Ministry. All regional health and related emergency services will also now depend directly to the central government’s Health Ministry.
‘The physical presence in commercial premises should be limited to what is strictly necessary,’ said Sánchez, adding that large crowds had to be avoided, and that people should always try to maintain a metre of distance between one another.
He also announced that museums, sports venues, bars and restaurants would close across Spain, with the exception of those that deliver meals to people’s homes.
Sánchez also appealed for unity among regional leaders – with whom he will hold a video-conference on Sunday. Yesterday, Catalan president Quim Torra had insisted that Catalonia should enter lockdown with immediate effect, and not wait for decisions from the central government.
‘We must all leave aside our differences, get behind the Spanish government, and between us all, we will beat the virus,’ said Sánchez, calling on politicians to ‘learn from the 40 years of our Constitution. We are going to provide a joint response, like the great state of regions that we are, with the Spanish government leading.’
He concluded his statement by thanking all of those who are fighting against Coronavirus, from health staff and police, to the armed forces and vaccine researchers.
Health authorities in Spain said the number of Coronavirus infections climbed past 5,700 on Saturday, half of them in Madrid, representing a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours. The country had 136 deaths, up from 120.
Spain now has the fifth-highest number of cases, behind China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.
Europe has now become the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic, with countries imposing a cascade of restrictions in an effort to prevent their health systems from collapsing under the caseload.
Up-to-date WHO advice and facts (in English) about the Coronavirus epidemic can be found here: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance.
Our previous reports on Coronavirus in Spain:
ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 11 March
ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 10 March
ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 8 March