Spain's coronavirus death toll slows, gov't mulls easing lockdown
BARCELONA: The coronavirus death toll curve in Spain flattened further on Friday as the government debated different strategies to start phasing out one of the world's strictest lockdowns.
With more than 15,800 fatalities, Spain has the second highest death toll from the COVID-19 disease worldwide after Italy, and Spaniards have been off the streets since mid-March. But the slowdown in the rate of infection and the death toll has enabled officials to consider a gradual easing of the lockdown.
"The government is preparing new scenarios of de-escalation," Health Minister Salvador Illa told reporters.
Even though several officials have said the formal lockdown will probably continue into May, some restrictions will be lifted on Monday to breathe life into a paralysed economy.
Two weeks ago, the government banned all non-essential workers from the streets, effectively shutting down most businesses. From Monday, though, some job categories such as construction workers will be allowed out of their homes again and some factories will reopen.
Further easing of the lockdown will depend on medical analysis of the epidemic's evolution, Illa said.
"These are very complex decisions that require multi-disciplinary analysis," he said.
Though many people will return to work, social distancing should be maintained, Maria Jose Sierra, the deputy head of health emergencies, said at a virtual news conference.
"We will give a series of recommendations. The most important is if there is a person who shows the slightest symptom, they should contact the health system and remain in self-isolation," she said.
Illa recommended people to wear protective masks and said the authorities would give them away at places such as underground and suburban train stations, adding that the country remains in lockdown.
This means traditional ceremonies and other large gatherings to mark Good Friday, one of the most important days in the Christian calendar, are cancelled.
On social networks, many Spaniards held virtual processions wearing traditional dresses and playing folk music.
In the Castilian town of Cuenca, drummers went out onto their balconies or doorsteps to play folk songs they would usually performa round the town.
The number of daily deaths fell to 605 on Friday, the lowest figure since March 24, the health ministry said. The rate of increase has dropped to 4%, down from 20% two weeks ago. Spain's total death toll stood at 15,843 as of Friday.
"We are seeing the curves are on the decline, even though there are still many cases," Sierra added.