Spain’s PM to seek longer but more flexible lockdown

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday he would ask parliament for a 15-day extension until May 9 of the lockdown imposed in one of the world’s worst coronavirus’ outbreaks, but said the restrictions would be more flexible.

“We have left behind the most extreme moments,” Sanchez said at a press briefing. But he added: “These achievements are still insufficient and above all fragile. We cannot put them at risk with hasty solutions”.

Spain’s death toll from the coronavirus rose at a slower pace on Saturday but surpassed 20,000 fatalities, the Health Ministry said. It increased by 565 deaths, down from 585 on Friday, while the number of coronavirus cases rose to 191,726 from 188,068.

Spain began this week to ease a strict lockdown imposed on March 14 by opening up some sectors of the economy, including manufacturing. But most people are still confined to their homes except for essential outings such as food shopping, and not even children are allowed out for exercise.

The country with the third highest coronavirus death toll will move slowly, carefully and progressively towards the “new normality”, Sanchez said.

But he warned it would be a complex task and that the economic consequences of the outbreak will be “very negative”.

Asked if citizens would be able to have regular summer holidays, the Socialist leader said he hoped so but that he could not give an answer, signalling the uncertainty on the scope of any de-escalation phase.

As he seeks a third parliamentary extension of the state of emergency, the next lockdown phase could start being “asymmetric” on April 27, meaning it could be more relaxed for some regions or groups, Sanchez said, without specifying.