Madrid (Reuters) – Spain released guidelines on Saturday allowing children to go outside after six weeks living under one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, as figures confirmed a daily coronavirus death toll running well below the peak seen early this month.
Spain’s Health Ministry said 378 more people had died after being diagnosed with Coronavirus, up slightly on Friday’s 367, the lowest in the past month, but well down on the high of 950 seen on April 2.
The total of fatalities in one of the countries most badly affected by the virus rose to 22,902 and the overall number of cases rose to 223,759 from 219,764 the day before.
Spain sees enough evidence of the virus being under control to start easing its lockdown. Children were trying out their masks in anticipation of their first taste of fresh air since Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declared a state of emergency on March 14.
The government said under 14s will from Sunday be allowed up to one hour of supervised outdoor activity per day between 9am and 9pm, staying within one kilometre of their home.
Adults can accompany up to three children, who will not be allowed to use playparks and must adhere to social distancing guidelines, remaining at least two metres from other people.
The government has not yet said when confinement measures will be eased for older children.
Spain’s emergency health chief Fernando Simon urged people to “avoid excessive euphoria” over the deconfinement measures and said “we must maintain collective responsibility”.
Top police officials urged parents not to abuse the system and to ensure their children stick to the rules.
On April 13 sectors including construction and manufacturing were allowed to reopen, but with most people still confined to their homes except for essential reasons, shops, bars and public spaces remain closed.
Catalan Regional President Quim Torra announced the region’s own plan to ease lockdown measures, including stipulating specific hours when children of different ages could go outside.
Defending his measures, which ignore Health Ministry guidelines and highlight a rumbling discontent in some regions with the national response, Torra said: “We have the right to have our own deconfinement plan”.
In Pineda de Mar, northeast Spain, volunteer seamstresses were hard at work making face masks for children ahead of the deconfinement measure.
“More than 100 people are making protective equipment,” the town’s mayor Xavier Amor told Reuters. “We started with masks and then we followed the demand of hospitals, health centres, and nursing homes.”
As bars and restaurants eye a gradual reopening one company is devising safety measures to encourage wary clients to return.
Leganes-based LlenaTuBar, whose name translates as fill up your bar, is fitting dining tables with clear plastic screens to protect customers and installing thermal cameras to detect any patrons with a fever.
“It’s a critical situation for the hospitality sector and if we’re locked down much longer, people will struggle to reopen their businesses,” owner Manuel Gil told Reuters.
As the economic fallout from the virus continues to build, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reiterated calls for a pan-European response.
“The depth of the economic downturn and the risk that its effects will persist after the health emergency requires that a foundation be laid for a rapid, balanced, environmentally sustainable and socially just recovery,” Sanchez wrote in a piece for newspaper Expansion on Saturday.
The Health Ministry on Friday changed the methodology for logging cases of the virus. It will no longer count antibody tests and will only include positive results from PCR tests.
Discounting antibody tests puts Saturday’s total number of cases at 205,905 and Friday’s at 202,990.